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Refugees share stories of hope, Jordanian hospitality on World Refugee Day

By Mays Ibrahim Mustafa - Jun 22,2022 - Last updated at Jun 25,2022

Refugees perform during an event organised by UNHCR to mark World Refugee Day at Ras Al Ain Hangar in Amman on Monday (Photo by Mays Ibrahim Mustafa)

AMMAN — Celebrating the different refugee cultures that Jordan hosts, refugees in Jordan shared stories of hardship and hope on Monday at the UNHCR-organised event on World Refugee Day. 

The event took place at Ras Al Ain Hangar in Amman, featuring “story lounges” where refugees could tell their stories.

Yasmeen Al Baridi, a Syrian refugee who has been in Jordan for 11 years, shared her journey with The Jordan Times. 

“I came here with my family to Zaatari refugee camp. Later on, we left and rented a house with five other families,” Baridi said.

“Before I left Syria I had earned a teaching associate's degree, but our entire house was burned down so I lost all my certificates, except my high school diploma,” she said.

Baridi then took nursing courses in Jordan and earned a scholarship for a one-year degree programme in nutrition and healthcare at the Arab Open University.

She is currently a volunteer with UNHCR as a member of community support committees, which organise cultural and educational programmes for refugees. 

“I chose to become a volunteer because I came here as a refugee myself. At the time, I needed someone to stand with me and support me, so when I saw other refugees in need of that same support, it felt like it was my duty to provide it. It was my turn to give back,” Baridi said.

Baridi urged other refugees not to give up.

“There’s always a path. Just keep looking because no matter how dark it is, you’ll eventually find the light and things will get better,” she noted.

Waseem Soda, another a Syrian refugee, came to Jordan in 2012.

“Ever since the war in Syria began, death felt closer to me than anything else. So I had to leave my home and the streets I grew up in to pursue my simplest right as a human being: the right to live,” Soda told The Jordan Times.

Soda said that in Jordan, while it was challenging at first, “I felt welcomed here, so things got better over time”. 

After many different jobs, Soda, whose father is a tailor, launched an online fashion shop featuring his own designs with the help of his wife, Yumna Otri, who handles the marketing aspects. 

The couple started this project less than a year ago and now they have over 70,000 followers on their Instagram page, according to Soda.

Bassam Zaki, an Iraqi refugee with a law degree, came to Jordan in 2011 to escape the war in Iraq. Zaki currently volunteers with UNHCR and plans to start his own business making and selling handmade wallets from natural leather.

“Leaving everything behind and starting over in a new place was difficult, but the hospitality of Jordanians made things a bit easier,” he told The Jordan Times.

The event also displayed over 150 paintings created by refugees in Jordan and an empty canvas inviting visitors to write what the word “safety” means to them, while groups of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen celebrated and shared their various cultures through music, art, dance and food.

According to a statement sent to The Jordan Times by UNHCR, the event “aimed to showcase the diverse nature of refugee experiences throughout the Kingdom as well as the vast array of talents and skills” through which refugees are contributing to the Jordanian society.

The event also highlighted the role Jordanians have of welcoming and including refugees in their communities, the statement said, noting that UNHCR Jordan hopes that the event will inspire the continuation of such generosity and inclusion. 

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