Syrian Refugees: School Girls in Exile

I traveled to Jordan and Lebanon in September for The Oregonian for a series of stories about Syrian refugees. I was there with my Oregonian colleague, Rich Read. You can see our coverage here: http://topics.oregonlive.com/tag/syrian-refugees/posts.html 

Roqaya lost both parents and two siblings in a massacre in Homs. Three of Batool's cousins were killed by snipers. Julanar longs for the songbird that flew outside her bedroom window. She wants to go home to become an engineer or an architect so she can help rebuild her country. Noor wants to be a surgeon, because she says it seems like an important time to become something useful.

These Syrian girls, all in one ninth grade class at an overworked school in Mafraq, Jordan, are coming of age during war. It's a mortifying journey. Some live now as orphans, some in refugee camps, others in unfinished apartment buildings.

Besides the common bond of being a refugee the girls share something else and it's often the fuel that keeps them going. They  want to go home to Syria and begin to rebuild their country.

Their school is a mess. Administrators at Al Robaych Bent Al Moawath school are running double shifts, teaching Jordanian kids in the mornings and Syrian kids in the afternoon; all with no additional resources. The burden has left the school short on everything from water to paper.

Suhair Hayek, one of the girls teachers, says she can hardly keep her tears inside her eyes when she thinks about the girls. Some she says, have lost their dreams, some cling to hope. Hayek says what the girls need is a chance to forget their suffering and enjoy their youth. "They escape from death,'' she says. Now, they need to search for life.

Rich Read and I met the girls at their school and have remained in contact with them through their teacher, Suhair Hayek. Some of them wanted to write a few words about they experiences and dreams. Hayek translated their writing and emailed them to us.

I am Azzari. I'm 14-years-old. I was born in Homs in Syria. We came to Jordan Jan. 3, 2013 because of the war in Syria. I'm very sad because a lot of people were killed in my country and because I miss my friends. I can't feel any kind of happiness here in Jordan because many of my relatives and friends have been killed. Life is so hard. 

I am Azzari. I'm 14-years-old. I was born in Homs in Syria. We came to Jordan Jan. 3, 2013 because of the war in Syria. I'm very sad because a lot of people were killed in my country and because I miss my friends. I can't feel any kind of happiness here in Jordan because many of my relatives and friends have been killed. Life is so hard. 

I am Bushra from Damascus. I am so sad and a pessimist toward the life here in Jordan. But we do feel safe here and somehow, a comfort. I wish nothing happened to my hometown. I wish we had stayed there in our home, which we lost and I miss still. I believe that victory will be one day sooner or later and everything will be okay. I want to learn and I want to be a teacher because knowledge is power.  I love you my hometown, Syria! 

I am Bushra from Damascus. I am so sad and a pessimist toward the life here in Jordan. But we do feel safe here and somehow, a comfort. I wish nothing happened to my hometown. I wish we had stayed there in our home, which we lost and I miss still. I believe that victory will be one day sooner or later and everything will be okay. I want to learn and I want to be a teacher because knowledge is power.  I love you my hometown, Syria! 

I'm Julanar, from Syria. The thing I miss most since I've left Syria is my bird. I used to see and listen to it singing when it flew by my room. It was an amazing sound. I long for my friends and the time we spent playing and laughing. I am very say. I'd like to be an engineer or an architect when I grow up. I want to help in the building of our believed country. I am 14-years-old.

I'm Julanar, from Syria. The thing I miss most since I've left Syria is my bird. I used to see and listen to it singing when it flew by my room. It was an amazing sound. I long for my friends and the time we spent playing and laughing. I am very say. I'd like to be an engineer or an architect when I grow up. I want to help in the building of our believed country. I am 14-years-old.

My name is Noor. I'm 14-years-old. I want to be a surgeon because I think it would be useful to my country and it seems important now to do something useful. We came to Jordan in February, 2013.

My name is Noor. I'm 14-years-old. I want to be a surgeon because I think it would be useful to my country and it seems important now to do something useful. We came to Jordan in February, 2013.

I am Daiana. Iam 15-years-old from the besieged city of Homs. I long for my hometown, my street, my friends, my school. I used to spend most of my time with my friends, studying, playing and laughing. Foreignness is very difficult and no one can feel it except those who try it. My wish is that the war ends fast and we can return to Syria. I believe that we must learn to rebuild Syria and make it more developed, more fearless and more powerful. I like teaching so that's how I will help Syria to rebuild. I came here in the middle of 2012.

I am Daiana. Iam 15-years-old from the besieged city of Homs. I long for my hometown, my street, my friends, my school. I used to spend most of my time with my friends, studying, playing and laughing. Foreignness is very difficult and no one can feel it except those who try it. My wish is that the war ends fast and we can return to Syria. I believe that we must learn to rebuild Syria and make it more developed, more fearless and more powerful. I like teaching so that's how I will help Syria to rebuild. I came here in the middle of 2012.

I am Roqaya and I am 14-years-old. I will be a surgeon to help my people in Syria. I'm here with my brother and sisters only. We are from Homs but there is nothing there for us now. Roqaya's older sister Safyed, did not want to have her picture made but she did want to share this: I'm Safyed and I'm 15-years-old. I am extremely sad and sometimes breathless.  I remember how I lost my father, my mum, my sister and my little baby brother. I lost my hometown, my sweet home, my school, my relatives. All of them. I lost and miss them greatly. Sometimes I can't imagine that we are here without them. Kids have lost their childhood in this war. People have become homeless. Foreignness is strange. Life has become so hard and miserable. There is no happiness, only nostalgia in our hearts for our family and our hometown and what was before now.

I am Roqaya and I am 14-years-old. I will be a surgeon to help my people in Syria. I'm here with my brother and sisters only. We are from Homs but there is nothing there for us now. Roqaya's older sister Safyed, did not want to have her picture made but she did want to share this: I'm Safyed and I'm 15-years-old. I am extremely sad and sometimes breathless.  I remember how I lost my father, my mum, my sister and my little baby brother. I lost my hometown, my sweet home, my school, my relatives. All of them. I lost and miss them greatly. Sometimes I can't imagine that we are here without them. Kids have lost their childhood in this war. People have become homeless. Foreignness is strange. Life has become so hard and miserable. There is no happiness, only nostalgia in our hearts for our family and our hometown and what was before now.

I'm Reham. I'm 14-years-old. I am from Damascus. I love my hometown and I love Syria. I wish I could go back at this moment. I miss my country so much. I miss my friends, my school, my class, my books and my teachers. But I miss most of all my home where I lost my father who became a martyr. May Allah be with Syria.

I'm Reham. I'm 14-years-old. I am from Damascus. I love my hometown and I love Syria. I wish I could go back at this moment. I miss my country so much. I miss my friends, my school, my class, my books and my teachers. But I miss most of all my home where I lost my father who became a martyr. May Allah be with Syria.