AMMAN — As more Syrians seek refuge in Jordan from the cycle of violence sweeping their country, some have gone as far away as the Governorate of Maan, more than 200 kilometres south of Amman.
Residents estimate that around 800 Syrians from the city of Homs are currently living in the southern governorate after fleeing their home country.
Anas Homsi, a Syrian who did not give his real name out of fear that the Syrian regime would hunt him down, explained that residents of Homs chose Maan because many of their relatives and friends were working in the southern governorate at the Syrian company HESCO Engineering and Construction.
“Around 500 Syrian citizens from Homs are working on the Disi Water Conveyance Project, so when the violence broke out in Syria, Homs residents contacted their friends and relatives in Maan to find them a place to stay,” he told The Jordan Times.
Syrian families have been arriving in Maan since last August, Homsi said, adding that all Syrians in Maan entered Jordan legally.
“They all came through the Jaber border. When a family arrives in Maan, we immediately get copies of their passports so that we can record the number of Syrians here. This helped international organisations count the exact number of Syrians in the southern city,” he noted, adding that 90 per cent of the new arrivals in Maan have registered as refugees.
Homsi indicated that Maanis have been providing whatever assistance they can to the displaced families.
“Residents formed a local committee headed by Maan Governor Abdul Kareem Rawajfeh and including all the charitable societies in the city. This committee organised the provision of assistance to Syrians,” he explained.
“Maani families donated clothing, heaters, furniture and carpets. Some individuals paid the displaced Syrians’ rent while others wrote down a list of Syrian men and began trying to find them jobs at bookshops, barbershops and groceries,” Malik Abu Rakhia, an owner of a book store in Maan, told The Jordan Times.
The bookseller also noted that people in the southern city are letting Syrian families stay at their homes or farms for free.
“One farm or home houses around three families,” Homsi added, while several local charity groups are providing different types of assistance.
“For example, the Mattar Abu Rakhiah Society provided Syrians with jobs. The Aoun Charitable Society appointed a doctor who conducts medical checkups for Syrians two days a week,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Homsi explained that most of the families are in poor psychological condition because of the events they witnessed back home.
“Some women lost their husbands and were forced to leave their homes with their children, while other men could not join their wives because they are being detained by the regime,” he noted.
Abu Marwan, a Syrian who fled the city of Homs with his family, explained that many families left with only their passports.
“Most of these families abandoned their belongings and were forced to pay all they had in order to leave Syria,” he said.
The 33-year-old recalled that what they saw was “like a horror movie”.
“Several tanks stormed our neighbourhood in Homs. My children have had nightmares ever since because of what they saw and heard,” he added.
Another Homs resident, Abu Omar, said going out into the street was a “big risk”.
“If the regime saw two people walking on the street, they would either detain or shoot them. We faced great danger to go out and get our needs,” added the 56-year-old, who came to Maan with his wife and two of his children.
“If a family managed to get fresh vegetables, they would consider that day a holiday,” he stressed.
The refugee noted that when the violence began in his home town, most people could not leave the house, so they lost their jobs.
Abu Marwan noted that people released from jail were mentally scarred.
“Because of the harsh forms of torture they endured, some lost their minds.”
The father of two described his city as a “ghost town”.
“The regime turned empty buildings and hospitals into military posts. People do not even bury their dead in cemeteries because the regime would shoot them, so they bury them in public gardens,” he claimed.
Abu Marwan explained that although Maan residents are doing their best to help them meet living costs, they are still facing difficult conditions.
“When we first arrived, we spent all our money to find a place and buy a mobile phone to call our relatives to check on them,” he noted.
“Because of the lack of money, we cannot even go for a walk on the street because the children will ask to buy things,” Abu Omar stressed.
“We heard that there are beautiful sites in Amman, but we cannot afford to go and see them because we do not have any money,” he added.