Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugees in Jordan Return to Syria to Fight against Assad ; Departure of Men Leaves Women and Children Exposed, Relief Groups Say

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Refugees in Jordan Return to Syria to Fight against Assad ; Departure of Men Leaves Women and Children Exposed, Relief Groups Say

Article excerpt

While increasing numbers of Syrians are fleeing into Jordan, young men are returning at a steady flow to Syria, some to fight against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving women and children behind.

Four Syrian women sat in a circle in a small apartment during the weekend, reminiscing about green fields and the homes they left behind months ago as their neighborhoods descended into violence and basic food supplies dried up.

The women took turns, too, narrating the last conversations they had with their husbands before the men left this impoverished Jordanian town and crossed back into the border city of Dera'a, a flash point early in the Syrian rebellion.

"My husband said it was his duty to go back and fight against the Syrian regime because the situation has become intolerable," said Fatima, 28, as her three children and their cousins ran barefoot in and out of their dark, cramped living room. She asked that her family name not be used because of security concerns.

"I cried a lot when he left us but I always had a feeling my husband would return to join the battle," she said. "There are others who also are returning."

Her brother-in-law had returned to Syria recently, she said, leaving his wife and children behind.

Region-wide, of more than 60,000 Syrian refugees registered by United Nations relief workers, 74 percent are women and children.

The Jordan Health Aid Society, a non-governmental organization, said that of the 12,873 home visits it has made to Syrian refugees since January, nearly 500 households consisted of just women with their children.

While increasing numbers of Syrians, especially from cities like Homs and Dera'a, are fleeing into Jordan, young men are returning at a steady flow to Syria, some to fight against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

"We know there have been people returning to Syria for a whole number of reasons but we can't track people who wish to voluntarily return," said Andrew Harper, head of the U.N. Office for Refugees in Jordan.

"We don't encourage men to leave their families behind and go back to Syria," Mr. Harper said. "If the men go back obviously there is an increase in the vulnerability of the families who are here."

The kingdom estimates that there are more than 100,000 Syrians in Jordan, far more than the number who have registered with the U.N. refugee agency. In March, the United Nations registered more than 6,000 refugees but by June the figure had topped 25,000. Roughly one quarter of the households were headed by females.

In the past two months, a rising flood of refugees has been attributed to the escalation of sectarian tensions inside Syria, including an explosion in Damascus that killed 55 people and the attack on Houla, where, the U.N. said, more than 100 people, mostly women and children, were killed.

This week King Abdullah II of Jordan said the deteriorating events in Syria needed international and regional efforts, and called the repercussions of the crisis "catastrophic. …

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