Inside Za'atari

Zaatari Web-5

Just past the road at the far edge of Za'atari we came across this boy standing alone on a freshly tilled mound of earth. We had been told earlier that this was the location of a mass grave for the camp. I walked towards him and sat down about a meter and a half away. He didn't move. My colleague asked him in Arabic if he was grieving for a loved one. He said nothing; he just stared at the ground. The truth, even if it's about the emotions of a moment, is allusive and often left to speculation in Za'atari.

While children run up to photographers flashing peace signs and asking to have their photo taken, most adults at Za'atari are vehemently against being photographed. For the women, this is cultural. For the men, it's due to fear that Assad will add them to a kill list and hunt down their family members who remain in Syria. So when men like Abdul Suliman (featured above) allow their photo to be taken it's a sign of trust and honor. For some it's also a fuck you to Assad and his cronies.

The days in the camp are long and hot. These men sat in the shade killing time and telling me how much the love America for helping the Free Syrian Army.

It's not uncommon for the wind to pick up covering everything in dust and sand.

After a short while of hanging with the boy in the first picture a crowd of kids formed and an impromptu kicking of the football began. For a moment we forgot we were standing on a grave.

By the end of 2013 Syrian refugees will make up 20% of the population of Jordan. As of 2012 Jordan was running a 20% deficit in water. Because of this the water at Za'atari is heavily rationed. Water tankers hit the camp to refill each tank at a specific time and do not return until the next day. If a particular tank gets emptied out early on, refilling off schedule is not an option. UNHCF says that the reason for this is to avoid the chaos and rioting that has erupted in the past when certain neighborhoods of Za'atari suspected discrimination in water distribution. So if a family needs water many send their children out wandering the camp until they find it.

Children make up the majority of citizens in Za'atari.