05/11/2013 - #Syria - Aleppo - Flooding caused by heavy rainfall
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Khalid, 15, said he was hung by his arms from the ceiling of his own school building in Syria and beaten senseless. Wael said he saw a 6-year-old starved and beaten to death, “tortured more than anyone else in the room”.
The first-person accounts come from interviews with refugees who have fled the Syrian conflict conducted by the British-based charity Save the Children and published on Tuesday.
The report did not say who had abused the children, but a spokesman for Save the Children said some had heard their parents blaming government forces for the attacks.
U.N. investigators say Syrian government forces have committed human rights violations “on an alarming scale”, but have also listed multiple killings and kidnappings by armed rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The children that Save the Children spoke to in refugee camps in neighboring countries said they had witnessed massacres and seen family members killed during the 18-month-old conflict.
“I knew a boy called Ala’a. He was only 6 years old. He didn’t understand what was happening. His dad was told that this child would die unless he gave himself up,” said Wael, 16, who like all the children interviewed was not identified by his full name or location.
“I’d say that 6-year-old boy was tortured more than anyone else in the room. He wasn’t given food or water for three days, and he was so weak he used to faint all the time,” Wael was quoted as saying. “He was beaten regularly. I watched him die. He only survived for three days and then he simply died.”
Opposition activists say 27,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria’s bloodshed. Many of the civilians died initially in attacks by security forces on peaceful protests. Others have been killed in government shelling or in crossfire during the ensuing civil war.
Khalid, 15, said he had been taken along with over a hundred others to his old school, which had been turned into a torture centre, and had his hands tied with plastic cord.
“They hung me up from the ceiling by my wrists, with my feet off the ground, then I was beaten. They wanted us to speak, to confess to something,” he said.
“I passed out from the severe pain of hanging like that, and from the beating. They took me down and threw cold water on my face to wake me up. Then they took turns stubbing out their cigarettes on me. Here, I have these scars.”
Omar, 11, described life under bombardment.
“One day I was playing with my brothers and my cousin. We were teasing her and she was upset. She left us and went to her house. That night, a shell destroyed my 9-year-old cousin’s house - the one we’d upset during the day. I regret that she died feeling sad,” he said.
Another interviewee, Munther, 11, said that he and several other children were standing outside his school when bullets started whizzing by.
“A boy called Amjad was standing next to me. He was shot in the head. I didn’t realize at first that he was dead. He fell forward on his knees, in a praying position,” Munther said.
“Then I felt a terrible pain. I’d been shot too - in my neck,” he added, pointing to two scars.
Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth, who heard the reports first-hand, said the stories “need to be heard and documented so those responsible for these appalling crimes against children can be held to account”.
The charity urged the United Nations to increase its presence on the ground to enable it to document every crime.
(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Al Jazeera’s Nasser el Bedri reports
from Aleppo - which has been under
intense bombing continues since the
last few days
* Investigators have secret list of alleged perpetrators
* Call for U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to ICC
* Both sides commit war crimes in Syria, Pinheiro says
* Syrian envoy says Western, Arab nations back jihad
By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles
GENEVA, Sept 17 (Reuters) - United Nations human rights investigators said on Monday they had drawn up a new secret list of Syrians and military units suspected of committing war crimes who ought to be prosecuted.
The independent investigators, led by Paulo Pinheiro, said they had gathered “a formidable and extraordinary body of evidence” and urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“Gross human rights violations have grown in number, in pace and in scale,” Pinheiro told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. “There is no statute of limitations on these crimes.”
He did not say if any Syrian rebels were among the names on the list, which updated a confidential one his team submitted to U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay in February.
Pinheiro presented the team’s latest report, issued a month ago, saying Syrian government forces and allied militia have committed war crimes including murder and torture of civilians in what appears to be a state-directed policy.
More than 20,000 people have been killed in the 18-month-old conflict, 1.2 million are uprooted within Syria and more than 250,000 have fled abroad, the United Nations says.
Food, water and medical supplies have run short in areas subjected to Syrian government air strikes, shelling and siege, Pinheiro said, adding that investigators had received “numerous accounts…of civilians barely managing to survive”.
Pinheiro reported an “increasing and alarming presence” of Islamist militants in Syria, some joining the rebels and others operating independently. They tended to radicalise the rebels, who have also committed war crimes, the Brazilian expert said.
It would be “improper” to make public the list of suspects because they were entitled to the presumption of innocence and no mechanism to hold perpetrators responsible was in place yet where allegations could be contested, Pinheiro said.
His team interviewed more than 1,100 victims, refugees and defectors in the past year. “We have no interviews with wounded soldiers, or families of dead agents of the government because the government of Syria does now allow us access to Syria.”
Syrian ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui accused Western and Arab powers of arming and funding rebels conducting a “jihad” or holy war against Damascus, and warned that this would backfire.
“The mercenaries are a time bomb that will explode later in the country and in the countries supporting them after they finish their terrorist mission in Syria,” he declared.
The report should have named countries that “support the killers”, which he said included the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Libya.
SYRIA SAYS FOES BACK “JIHAD”
“One of the facts that we do not see in the report is that many international parties are working at increasing the crisis in Syria through instigating their media, through training mercenaries, Qaeda elements, training them and funding them and sending them to Syria for jihad. This through fatwas that were issued,” Khabbaz Hamoui said during the four-hour debate.
Russia, Syria’s ally which has vetoed all Western attempts at the Security Council to condemn Syria, said rebels were committing “terrorist acts” including executions and jihadists were increasingly active due to “support from the outside”.
“There are jihadist mercenaries fighting on the opposition side. Those who in the view of some states are bringing democracy to the region are in actual fact carrying out mass murder,” Russian diplomat Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva said.
“They are deliberately firing on peaceful inhabitants who support the government…and are using hostages as suicide bombers and children as soldiers,” she said.
Western countries are seeking another condemnation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government at the session, as well as an extension of the commission of inquiry’s mandate, which expires this month.
European Union ambassador Mariangela Zappia said: “The international community must ensure impunity will not prevail.”
U.S. human rights ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe also called for the investigators to pursue their work.
Turkey’s ambassador Oguz Demiralp, describing the conflict in Syria as a “serious threat to international security”, said those behind crimes there would be held accountable.
Human Rights Watch, which has repeatedly documented abuses by Syrian security forces, said on Monday that rebel groups had subjected detainees to ill-treatment and torture and committed extrajudicial or summary executions.
“Declarations by opposition groups that they want to respect human rights are important, but the real test is how opposition forces behave,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director of the New York-based watchdog. “Those assisting the Syrian opposition have a particular responsibility to condemn abuses.”
Iraqi town faces refugees, gun-runners, Syrian jets
* Syrians rely on Iraqi kin for help across border
* Baghdad government worries about insurgents returning
By Patrick Markey
AL QAIM, Iraq, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Syrian refugees squeeze against a closed gate at an Iraqi border post, reaching through its metal bars to clamour for water, and calling out to Iraqi cousins and brothers on the other side.
Yelling into their cellphones, more Syrians perch on top of the concrete walls that divide Iraq from Syria, waiting for Iraqis to unload trucks filled with boxes of cooking oil and bottled water and hoist them over the al Qaim checkpoint.
Close by, predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels are fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces over the town of Albu Kamal, bringing the war to al Qaim with refugees, Syrian jets and occasional rocket attacks.
Al Qaim, in the Sunni heartland of Anbar province, reflects the tricky balancing act Iraq’s Shi’ite leaders face in Syria, whose crisis is testing the Middle East’s sectarian divide.
Many Shi’ite politicians took refuge in Syria during the rule of Saddam Hussein, and Assad, who is Alawite, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, is backed by Shi’ite Iran while Sunni power Saudi Arabia supports the rebels.
Iraq’s leaders dismiss claims they support Assad, but they also fear a nightmare scenario: his downfall brings a hostile Sunni Muslim regime to power and emboldens disenchanted Sunnis in Iraq’s own fragile sectarian mix.
In Anbar, where tribal ties are strong, discontent over Baghdad’s stance on the Syrian crisis is growing. Many have already chosen their side.
“When you have cousins here, it is a matter just of luck whether they are Iraqi or Syrian,” said Emad Hammoud, a government worker in al Qaim. “In Syria, it’s a fight of a government against its people, and we are with the people.”
Al Qaim and its neighbouring Syrian counterpart Albu Kamal are on a strategic supply route for smugglers, gun-runners and now insurgents aiming to join the rebellion.
Just a few years ago the traffic went the other way: Sunni Islamist bombers crossed into Iraq to fight against the American occupation and refugees fled to Syria to avoid sectarian slaughter.
Though still wary of Islamist insurgents, Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led central government initially opened the border to Syria’s refugees after the conflict started 18 months ago.
But Albu Kamal has since been overrun by anti-Assad Free Syrian Army rebels and the number of refugees has grown, prompting authorities to lock al Qaim’s crossing. Army brigades now reinforce the frontier, marked by 2-metre metal fence.
Iraqi residents send food, water and medical supplies to pass over the gate at al Qaim, where around 200 to 300 Syrian refugees arrive daily seeking shelter or supplies from relatives before heading back home.
“This is not help from the state, this is from clerics and from the people,” said one local Iraqi government official at the crossing, who was not authorised by Baghdad to speak publicly about the refugees.
After Saddam fell in 2003, many members of his outlawed Baath party fled into Syria. Baghdad often criticised Damascus for sheltering al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and former Baathists who used Syria as a haven to attack American troops in Iraq.
But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who took refuge in Iran and Syria during Saddam’s era, has since developed a pragmatic relationship with Assad. Baghdad abstained in an Arab League vote to suspend Syria and resists calls for Arab sanctions, urging reforms instead.
In August last year he hosted Syrian ministers, calling Iraq and Syria “brother” nations.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari alluded to fears of what could follow if Assad is overthrown.
“The flow of refugees, the entrenchment of terrorist organisations, the veil of a fundamentalist regime, all this could impact us,” Zebari told Reuters. “We are trying to take a independent position. Based on our national interests… Things are not black and white.”
At tribal meetings across Anbar, talk is now of Syria’s crisis and how they can help their Sunni Syrian brethren.
Anbar’s tribes turned against al Qaeda to help U.S. forces in 2006. But since the rise of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, many Sunnis say they are alienated. Local sheikhs feel sidelined by a prime minister who they say wants to consolidate Shi’ite power.
A fragile government amoung Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish parties has been mired in crisis as Sunnis accuse Maliki of reneging on power-sharing deals.
“Iraq will face a storm,” Sheikh Hatim Salaiman, chieftain of one of Anbar’s largest tribes told Reuters. “In a few months, Syria’s crisis will likely end. And what comes next will be difficult for Iraq.”
Al Qaim is already struggling with spillover from the fighting in Syria.
Syria military jets fly over Iraqi airspace almost daily to make bombing runs on rebel positions just over the border, al Qaim’s mayor Farhan Ftaikhan says, and most nearby Syrian border posts have been abandoned by Syrian forces.
Beyond the frontier, the main border checkpoint on the Syrian side sits empty.
On one wall, the Free Syrian Army flag, with its three red stars, is painted over a portrait of Assad’s late father, Hafez. Bullet holes cratering the wall partially obliterate his face.
Gunshots that pockmark the concrete wall of another border post are evidence of the more regular clashes between Iraqi border troops and gunmen on the Syrian side.
Earlier this month, Free Syrian Army rebels fired on Iraqi troops trying to stop four vehicles carrying weapons into Syria. Iraqi troops responded with mortar and canon fire, one Iraqi military official said.
For now, al Qaim’s mayor says, the border is closed for technical reasons, as local authorities wait to complete more camps with a capacity to deal with 10,000 refugees.
Outside the town, around 2,000 refugees who managed to cross the border before it was closed are housed in white tents. A similar number are put up with relatives or local residents.
The violence is growing. Three times now, Syrian rockets have landed on al Qaim, the most recently less than a fortnight ago, when three Katyushas hit a residential neighgbourhood, killing a small Iraqi girl and wounding some of her family.
It was unclear who fired them, the Syrian army or the rebels. But al Qaim residents know they will not be the last.
“I thought it was one of the Syrian planes we hear overhead. Then we heard the rocket coming at us,” said Firas Attallah, the girl’s father. “This is the price we pay, just for the help we are sending, for the food and medicine we send.”
Syrian troops recaptured a rebel-held town along the Jordanian border today, cutting off a major crossing for Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan and putting further stress on the humanitarian crisis resulting from the protracted civil war.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization, and local activist Mohammad Abu Houran, 20 Syrian tanks and scores of soldiers attacked Tel Chehab this morning.
Nearly 2,000 refugees were in Tel Chehab when the Syrian Army attacked, Mr. Houran told the Associated Press. The territorial loss is a setback for Syrian rebels who, according to the AP, claim to control more than half of the country but are facing increasing challenges, such as weapon shortages.
“Right now we have more people who want to fight than we have weapons,” Ahmad Ibrahim, a senior member of the Free Syrian Army in the town of Akhtrin, told The Christian Science Monitor’s reporter Tom A. Peter this week. (See his coverage on the rebels’ surplus of volunteers but shortage of weapons here.)
But the rebels aren’t the only ones losing ground: The Army’s recapturing of a refugee thoroughfare exacerbates an already difficult reality for Syrian refugees as well. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, has supplied food and water for an estimated 180,000 internally displaced people in Syria since mid-July. Aid agencies have been trying to boost their relief operations, Reuters reports.
Aid agencies are trying to beef up relief operations across Syria, where the ICRC says that needs have grown “exponentially” in the past few weeks due to the escalation of violence in the 17-month-old rebellion against Assad.
Clashes and continuous bombardment have cut off many civilians from basic services and life-saving supplies.
On Tuesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Peter Maurer, the head of the ICRC, that he welcomes humanitarian operations carried out by the organization in Syria – as long as it works “independently and neutrally,” reports Syrian newspaper Day Press News.
Syrian official Ali Haidar said caution was called for in allowing in aid workers, as such organizations could be making an ”impermissible request to open doors that violate Syrian sovereignty,” reports Reuters. A diplomatic source also said that “Syria has been very unwilling to grant access and independence to the ICRC once they get in.”
For those displaced by the conflict, finding safety, food, and water is increasingly precarious, according to a report by the BBC.
Every family has a story to tell – stories of fear and horror, of blood and loss.
One of the men, Abu Salem, says he fled the central town of Rastan with his wife and four children four months ago after a rocket hit their house.
They travelled to Damascus and ended up renting a 50 sq m (538 sq ft) flat in one of the capital’s suburbs. Then early last month, the area came under heavy bombardment from government forces.
Abu Salem says they yet again had to flee, but this time there was no place to go except a nearby public park. They spent 12 days there with many other families until some aid workers found them a place at the old house.
“The neighbours provided us with some food, but we spent 12 days without a shower,” he recalls.
Abu Salem used to work in construction but – like hundreds of thousands of other Syrian men – he has not earned anything since protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Like hundreds of thousands of other Syrians, he and his family have also been displaced from their homes by the ensuing conflict.
The humanitarian crisis is not contained within Syria. Refugees, like those in the town of Tel Chehab, are fleeing into neighboring countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan in the thousands. More than 25,000 Syrian refugees crossed into Jordan and registered with the United Nations humanitarian agency last month alone, and there are close to 100,000 Syrians in Turkish camps today. The total number of refugees is estimated at 235,000, according to an editorial in the Los Angeles TImes.
The war has an estimated death toll of more than 23,000 people, activists say, with nearly 5,000 people killed in August, the highest monthly total since the crisis began in March last year, according to the Associated Press.
Despite these numbers, few are arguing for international military intervention in Syria. According to an editorial by the Los Angeles Times, military intervention is too risky, and the international community’s focus should remain on helping refugees and the displaced:
Dismay over the continued violence in Syria is understandable and should impel the United States, other “friends of Syria” and the United Nations to support relief measures including, if necessary, the creation of safe havens for refugees. But the Obama administration is right to stop short of either arming Syrian rebels – who, according to U.S. intelligence officials, have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists from outside the country – or engaging in direct military intervention. Advocates of military involvement exaggerate the ease with which the U.S. could shape events in Syria and underestimate the dangers.
Demolished houses in Mezzah, a suburb of Damascus that has sided with the rebels
Editor’s note: CNN has obtained this account of life in a suburb of Damascus, Syria from local activists. For safety reasons, we are not naming the journalist.
(CNN) — The streets are eerily quiet with hardly a living person on them. Damaged buildings hang over the roads where once people would have been living and working.
Those that do brave the streets of Mezzah, a suburb of Damascus, move in pairs or small groups but not alone. In the tiny side streets children used to play, but not anymore.
In a series of interviews with activists, they described how the city has deteriorated during the Syrian civil war. They said on the night before Eid al-Fitr — the festival that ends the Ramadan fasting period — and the streets were in darkness instead of a party mood.
By 8:00 p.m. few people were in the shop-lined streets and 90 minutes later only those who have to be on the streets were out of their homes.
But as locals stay inside, security patrols — both official Syrian security forces and the thuggish Shabiha militia loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad — are common.
When tension is high, a police patrol could pass the same spot more than 30 times, local activists in Mezzah told CNN.
They said Mezzah is one of the suburbs that showed sympathy to the uprising and the Free Syrian Army — and now they are being punished by the regime.
Residents say public services like gas, electricity and street cleaning have been either reduced or stopped. In recent days, they say, rather than cleaning walls of anti-Assad graffiti, security forces have simply knocked down the offending wall.
Activists say they are now organizing and taking on some of those duties previously administered by the government.
Lana, a married 31-year-old, said “This uprising showed us the best in ourselves. You see young men and women taking care of their neighborhood by cleaning it and providing for those whose houses were destroyed.”
She added: “We are calculating the number of houses destroyed, families displaced and the amount of damage inflicted by the regime. We have a lot of work after the regime falls!”
Before the war, local civic action or voluntary work was rare.
Public services like cleaning the streets or supplying basic gas were mostly carried out by the government.
Religious and charitable organizations were also mostly supervised by various government departments.
In such a suffocating environment, anti-Assad activists say, there was little that people could do voluntarily for their communities — and over time the motivation to do anything was also lost.
Dina, an opposition activist who has left Syria, explained: “When you don’t feel that the country is yours, why bother changing it?”
But now the cry to rebuild, enhance and provide for the country is increasingly being heard in Mezzah.
Early in the uprising, the activitists helped out the displaced on an ad hoc basis, but as the crisis dragged on and the damage increased they got more organized.
Some initiatives were launched though social networking websites like Facebook.
One of these is a voluntary group called “I want to help.” On its Facebook page they say: “We work apart from politics … The idea of this initiative is to create a network to spread awareness and provide humanitarian aid.”
And smaller initiatives have branched from this group across suburbs. Today, there is “I want to help Mezzah” and “I want to help Midan” — both neighborhoods in Damascus — and other sites.
These groups’ activities include preparing schools for refugees, cooking for displaced families, teaching first aid and providing for poor communities who were severely hit by the economic difficulty the country is witnessing.
Now, some in Mezzah feel they are getting their country back.
Raya, a former school teacher, said: “When we heard that the Shabiha were coming to our neighbourhood, the young men in our building organized themselves in one committee. They closed the door of the building and assign each one of them a specific task to secure the area.
“When the security forces chase young men after a protest, most housed in the neighborhood would open their doors to hide these young men although it was extremely dangerous if the security attacked any of these houses.”
Lana, who lives in Mezzah, said: “For a couple of days we could not leave our houses. Food supplies started to run out. A young man then took his car and went under the shelling and bought vegetables and food supplies for everybody in the neighbourhood.
“There are many things we used to do to go about our lives that we can’t do today. Nowadays, I would never take a taxi alone. I would never send my children to the closeby shop alone. The 15-minute walk I used to make from my house to my family’s suddenly needs to be at a specific time and with somebody’s company”
She added: “I’ve lived here for my whole life, but I’ve never felt that attached to the place… We now feel that this is our Mezzah, it is our Damascus and we will take care of it.”
#Syria, God is with us. Gave me goosebumps. Been under siege for 88 days;no water;no electricity;now we have rain:
Chapman Freeborn Airchartering has worked in cooperation with the German charity Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen (Wings of Help) to organise the first aid flight for Syrian refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey.
The global aircraft charter specialist assisted Wings of Help in delivering 41 tons of relief cargo from Frankfurt in Germany to Adana in southern Turkey on behalf of the Turkish Red Crescent.
Chapman Freeborn chartered an A300 freighter for the operation and coordinated the necessary overflight and landing permits.
The aircraft departed Frankfurt Airport at Wednesday 8 August at 1pm local time and arrived in Adana a few hours later to deliver the consignment of food, tents, clothes and blankets.
The flight was accompanied personally by Frank Franke, president of Wings of Help (above left) and Michael Roll of Chapman Freeborn Germany (above right)..
Upon arrival the supplies were handed over to representatives of the Turkish Red Crescent, who coordinated the distribution in the camps.
While people are helping as best they can to aid the Syrian people..there are still many many people that go without food, water and medical supplies! If you can help please join us at http://www.syrianassistance.com/our-activities.html
Sweltering heat, dust, lack of electricity and at times sexual harassment were some of the hardships faced by refugees in this UN-run desert tent camp in northern Jordan.
Those who fled atrocities at home said they would rather return to Syria than be humiliated in the sprawling compound, as their trials came to a head Monday when a group of Syrians clashed with security guards who prevented them leaving.
“My eyes and nose hurt, my throat aches from the dust and heat. My mother suffers from pneumonia and all of us are sick with allergies,” said 14-year-old Ziad Yunis, one of some 6,000 Syrian refugees housed in the camp near the border.
“My father is still in Daraa. I wish I could go back there to hug him instead of this humiliation,” the teenager told AFP as he paced back and forth.
Nearby, four-year-old Omar cried as his mother stripped him naked to bathe him outside their tent. “Please, mom, let’s go to a bathroom, I don’t want to be seen naked,” he insisted, as other children laughed at him.
But his mother could not help. “What I can do for you? This is what we have,” she told him.
As the “Iftar” meal which breaks the dawn-to-dusk Muslim fast of Ramadan neared, scores of refugees lined up to receive their meals from a UN refugee agency truck.
“If you don’t stick to your turn and stop shouting, you will get nothing,” a UN employee snapped at a man who complained about the long queue and demanded a quick handout.
A woman considered herself lucky.
“Thank God, this time, I only waited half an hour,” said Fatima Subeihi, 38, carrying a plastic bag containing bread, bottle of soft drink and water, cheese and jam.
It is not easy to fast more than 15 hours a day in this desert area during the month-long Ramadan, as average temperatures in the summer soar to 40 degrees Celsius.
“You don’t know how it feels. The worst thing is dust, and the tents are not good enough to protect us,” said the mother of six, covering her mouth with a white mask.
The authorities started to transfer some of the country’s 150,000 Syrian refugees to the seven-square-kilometer Zaatari camp in July. The UN said the camp, outside the city of Mafraq, can take up to 120,000 people.
“This is a large prison. We are not animals, and even animals would not accept to live here, this way,” said 50-year-old Mohammad, refusing to give his full name.
Jordanian anti-riot police were called in on Monday to quell a protest by angry Syrians as they clashed with guards when they tried to leave the facility in protest at poor living conditions.
A father of four covered his head with a piece of white cloth but dust invaded his face, including his eyelashes, as he queued up to receive relief items.
“There’s no electricity, no water, no phones. We are isolated and I cannot check on my sons who are fighting the regime in Syria,” lamented the man.
Unlike the refugee tents, all offices of the United Nations and aid groups in the camp are linked to a power grid.
“I do not understand why we don’t have electricity in our tents,” said Subhieh, 37, adding that UN staff and others had air-conditioned caravans.
“We cannot breathe here and the food is bad, while we wait for three to four hours to use the bathroom. I miss Syria,” wept a mother of five, wearing a traditional black dress that has turned into beige because of the dust.
The Jordanian government said thousands of tents in Zaatari will soon be replaced by caravans.
“We did not escape death and humiliation in Syria to be humiliated here. I would rather return and die there. It’s easier and faster, trust me,” complained Marwan Basti, 38.
“Everything is disorganized here. Some people get five portions of food a day while others get nothing. We can handle this but our children cannot. We would not have fled here if we knew all this.”
He said a new group of Syrian refugees were brought to the camp on Monday.
“When they saw the situation, they tried to leave the camp but of course they were prevented,” he added.
Many Jordanians come and visit each day to donate food, water and clothes to the refugees. But other visitors cause trouble, adding more pressure on the Syrians.
“Two days ago, a janitor tried to harass a woman when she wanted to use the toilet. One of her male relatives beat him. Police came, took the janitor to hospital and arrested the other man,” said Khaldun Qaddah, 25, from Homs in central Syria.
“We demonstrated near the gate of the camp to release the man. But nothing happened. This is unfair.”
Some Syrian refugees have repeatedly complained of sexual harassment.
A grey, off-road vehicle with Kuwaiti number plates entered the camp, just before Iftar, trying to follow a Syrian woman in her twenties. The driver tried to give her his phone number, as a passenger took pictures of her using his mobile.
“God damn you, you dogs,” the woman shouted at them as she carried bottles of water as well as food.
“What can I tell you? This is sick. We have complained to the authorities but they haven’t done a thing. God damn [Syrian President Bashar al-] Bashar who forced us to come here,” she told AFP.
Activists have said the camp “falls short of international standards,” but Jordan and the refugee agency UNHCR said limited resources and the continuous influx of refugees hamper their ability to deal with the crisis.
France has dispatched tons of aid supplies and medical equipment as well as a field hospital to the camp, while the United States, Britain, Canada and Germany have granted Jordan more than $135 million to help it cope.
As the world’s Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr after Ramadan ends early next week, Syrian refugees said there is nothing to be happy about.
“What Eid? Are you serious?” Um Mohammed told AFP, smiling, as she washed clothes outside her tent.
“Eid is not for us. Look around you. How can we have any joy here? We are barely alive. Maybe we will celebrate Eid once this misery ends and Bashar is gone,” she said.