In a Canvas Tent … Parents Eating Grapes and Babies Grinding their Teeth
Free housing, financial coupons and health services are sufficient to convince any stable couple to have children without taking account of how many or to what extent. But nobody knows exactly why Syrian camp residents choose to add a new “refuge paper” to a list that started, and will not end, with names of five million Syrians and that is securely saved in the records of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Rajab, Tayeb, and Erdoğan are three well-known Syrian twins. They are not the only ones, but they are the luckiest babies since they were born in Turkish camps amid celebrations and acclamation that reached the power authority itself.
“Every Jasmine will give birth to a baby … and the Jasmine will never end,” a poetic verse the refugees themselves formulated by turning the Palestinian lemon in Nizar Qabbani’s poem into their Syrian Jasmine. With every Syrian child dying every day during the war, which erupted years ago, another child is born in the opposite asylum side, to continue the suffering of his peers or perhaps to form a team with them so as to rebuild a country that is mostly destroyed.
Eight babies are born every day in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The camp has witnessed the first cry of 49,000 children who were born since 2012. A number that would not have been believed if it had not been announced by the head of the camp himself, Colonel Abdulrahman Al-Amoush. He complained of women who were not hindered by the tent’s fragility from practicing a natural married life, under the pretext that “the baby’s livelihood comes already with him.”
Why not? In the middle of the camp, there is a market which sells wedding dresses and bride’s accessories, followed by a caravan of beauty salons. The Syrian woman leaves these salons with a shiny makeup, a blonde dye, a henna, a “manicure” and a “pedicure” and goes to her tent, which appears from the outside to be just a canvas that is spread on a mud spot, while inside it is a bedroom decorated with red hearts and contains the expression “you are my life.”
Even though women of the Zaatari refugee camp attended several educational and awareness sessions about the need for family planning and contraception, they eventually end up going to the obstetric clinics in “Al-Tufula” center, at the entrance of the Zaatari camp. When a woman passes near the beauty salon, it is more likely that the next time she would pass is towards these clinics.
With the cry of every newborn Syrian baby, the Jordanian government screams loudly saying: “Ten billion dollars is the cost of hosting you on our land,” and this was what happened during the opening of the conference on “Refugees in the Middle East and Human Security” in the capital Amman.
The Custom of Giving Birth … In the Camps
The situation in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is not very different from that of Arsal refugee camp in Lebanon, where there are more than 300,000 pregnant Syrian women who will give birth in 2017, according to estimations by Lebanese press about the “proliferation” of refugees. Actually, women do not pay attention to allegations of “ignorance and backwardness,” and do not care about the reports that relief organizations sent to the Lebanese authorities.
The increasing number of Syrian births in the refugee camps has made them a rich material that pushed some newspaper sources, including Addiyar newspaper, to publish the estimations that the number of Syrians on the Lebanese territories will reach 2 million refugees.
Nabal Al- Alou, head of the protection section at Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, described them as “racist” accusations. Al- Alou denied the estimated number of pregnant Syrian women, but she could not deny the fact that they did not stop giving birth as a result of what she called “ignorance.”
“It is unfair to prevent a married couple from enjoying their private lives normally,” says Nabal. She continues: “It is the last way to unload the negative energies they carried with them when they were leaving their destroyed cities.”
But … what about the so-called methods of birth control and contraception? This is an idea that the residents of the tents rejected so as to avoid what foreigners do, “God forbid.” Whether these methods were natural or artificial, it is still impossible to convince the residents of using them. Even if the wife is persuaded that there is a need for the birth control, her husband refuses and he holds on to the culture of reproduction, on the basis of the idea that: “this is what we found our parents doing.”
The head of Sabra and Shatila refugee camp sees that it is impossible to apply the idea of birth control on refugees. In reality, most of them came from a rural environment where their roots are based on the custom of giving birth to many children so as to enlarge the family and increase their notability in the village, even if they were obliged to hide behind the cloth.
Reproduction is the Only Means of Entertainment
My grandmother has always been asked “Didn’t you have television?” regarding her giving birth to many children, and my mother too has always been asked “Didn’t you have WhatsApp?” even though she has an average number of children. But, the same question cannot be asked today to the Syrian refugees in the camps, because the answer to this question is predictable especially with the absence of television, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other means of entertainment.
The only thing known to the residents of the tents, despite suffering from it, is the cold and the chatting inside the tent for several days, especially in the time of snowstorms. The snowstorms were actually the reason behind the birth of many children named “Zina,” “Huda,” and “Alexa,” as a way to be blessed by these storms.
Whether he is Ahmad, Othman or any other baby, he is one of more than 300,000 Syrian children who were born as refugees and registered in the United Nations Information Service, before being registered in the Civil Status Bureau of Beirut. This makes parents eat grapes and leave their children grinding their teeth.
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