Conflict

Photos: What do refugee parents tell their children about Syria?

Um Ala's youngest daughter Hala sits in the family's metal shelter in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. Barely a year old when they left Syria, she doesn't remember the family's farm in Daraa's countryside.

Um Ala's youngest daughter Hala sits in the family's metal shelter in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. Barely a year old when they left Syria, she doesn't remember the family's farm in Daraa's countryside.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

A sign outside of the maternity clinic at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan tells you at any moment how many babies have been born at the camp. You can’t miss it.

The number updates with every single birth.

A placard outside Zaatari's JHAS Women and Girls Comprehensive Center, where the maternity ward is housed, displays the time, date and number of babies delivered at the center.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

The day we visited, that number read 7,017. That’s more than 7,000 babies born in Zaatari over the past five years that the camp has been in operation. And, the camp itself is large, home to almost 80,000 people, according to the United Nations.

So, we had a question — all these babies are born outside of Syria in a refugee camp — what do the parents tell their kids about their home? How do families describe what’s happening in Syria to children who only know the day-to-day life of Zaatari.

Hamdi Ahmad Laghras, 46, plays with his 1-year-old son Ibrahim in the family's metal shelter in the camp. Laghras and his wife Um Ala have had two children since fleeing Syria in 2011.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

One of the major themes that we found was that these families really wanted their kids to have a very strong sense of Syrian identity, regardless of whether they’ve actually seen their homeland.

Um Ala said her youngest daughter Hala, 6, was not old enough to remember their home and farm in the rural outskirts of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. To remind her children of home, Um Ala shows photos of the house and their family.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

We met one woman who showed her kids pictures of their farm and the house they left behind. Many use photos of family members to help provide a sense of home.

Ala shows off freshly-hatched baby birds to his younger brother Zakaria, 3, in the family's metal shelter.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

Related: Take a peek inside a maternity ward at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

Murals adorn older metal shelters in the camp, part of art initiatives run by aid organizations for children in the camp.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

We met other people who talked a lot about making sure their kids knew that this conflict — as one father put it — was started by brave people that maybe thought they were doing the right thing at the time.

The parents we spoke to all want their kids to remember Syria, but they also hope their kids will have a future — of any sort. They want their kids to grow up without conflict and have the opportunity to go to school. To live a normal life.

Solana, 11, walks through one of the rooms inside the family's Zaatari shelter. Behind her, a portrait of the whole family hangs among lights and decorations.

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

Um Ala and one of her children, Zakaria, 3, pause inside the family's metal shelter in Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. Her two youngest children have never seen Syria. 

Credit:

Alisa Reznick

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