Despite hardship, refugees in Zaatari Camp celebrate Holy Month of Ramadan
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Christien van den Brink
During the month of Ramadan, a celebratory family holiday, millions of Muslims fast worldwide. This includes Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp in the north of Jordan, where refugees face all kinds of hardship such as lack of access to basic needs and the lack of perspective.
Fasting is especially difficult in this area as the frequent desert heat in Jordan blows hot air into the camp. Also, being separated from their families back home, makes Ramadan a challenging period for around 80,000 Syrians who live in Zaatari. Most of them were forced to flee the war in Syria.
But despite these harsh conditions, most refugees fast during the holy month of Ramadan. To cope with the challenging weather conditions, people stay in their homes during the day where they can escape the heat. The women prepare Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast, which will be consumed outside when the cooler night sets in.
Ramadan in Zaatari is characterized by the bright decorations in the little shops and supermarkets filled with sweets such as dates, Qamardine, Qatayf, walnuts and coconut flakes, which give the shops a rather celebratory vibe.
“We really love this month, as it is the month of worship and the month where we spend time together with the family. But what is challenging about Ramadan in Zaatari is that it is hot in the camp and that there is a lack of electricity,” explains 40-year-old Ghufran, mother of 5.
ARDD, who operates a field office in the camp, providing legal services and psychosocial support to refugees continues its services during Ramadan.
Although working during Ramadan is more exhausting, but we receive less cases compared to other months. During Ramadan, we find a lot of spirituality and tolerance which helps us to resolve the disputes arising between the beneficiaries and reduce the negative energy. It’s very important that our work continues during Ramadan because some cases are urgent. If we delay the work, it might deteriorate for our beneficiaries,” explains a lawyer who works in the ARDD office in Zaatari camp.
Children of uninsured Jordanians and residents of Jordan denied access to their basic human rights
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Christien van den Brink
Amman, June 7, 2017 - This Sunday, 24 lawyers working at Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) have registered the case of the nine-year old Sadeen in court. Sadeen died early May because of alleged medical negligence while she was receiving treatment at Princess Rahma Hospital in Irbid Governorate.
“By registering the case in court by so many lawyers, we would like to underline the societal importance of this case. We will now await further investigations by the General Prosecution which will hopefully lead to clear answers on what exactly caused Sadeen’s death,” Samar Muhareb, CEO of ARDD explains.
According to several media reports, Sadeen’s death was caused by a delay in obtaining the exemption for transfer to a specialized hospital. The father received a paper from the doctor diagnosing the condition of the child, and went directly to the public service department of the Royal Court for exemption, as he didn’t have the financial ability to pay for specialized treatment in the King Abdullah Hospital.
The case of Sadeen is a clear illustration of how complex legal mechanisms are to obtain exemptions in such emergencies. It also shows that there is an absence of a comprehensive health insurance in Jordan that can cover everybody, including marginalized groups in society. “This inefficiency in the Jordanian medical system curtails the most important human rights of children in Jordan, such as the right to life and the right to healthcare,” Samar Muhareb says.
Article 6.2 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) states that ‘states parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child’. Along with it, article 24.1 of the CRC calls for state parties “to strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.” The case of Sadeen is illustrative of the need to rethink the way the government of Jordan is fulfilling its obligations vis-à-vis its most vulnerable population, namely children. In Jordan, emergency health care is not free for children and adults over the age of six. Patients who do not have medical insurance, will have to pay the medical treatments out of their own pockets. There is a possibility to claim amnesty at the Ministry of Health, which exempts some patients from paying the fees, but this is a time-consuming process, as it requires three days or more.
Samar Muhareb: “The Jordanian health care system should reflect social and legal justice. Nobody should have to die because of bureaucracy.” ARDD wants to ensure that children like Sadeen (0 to 18 years old) can enjoy their right to full access to emergency health care, so that cases like hers are not repeated. As a signatory of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, Jordan has a duty to fulfill its international obligation vis-à-vis the rights of children.
“We also call on the international community to assist Jordan in fulfilling its right. While Jordan needs to fulfill its international fiscal obligations, the international community should not accept budget cuts that endanger the very basic human rights of its most vulnerable populations,” Samar Muhareb says.
ARDD is especially grateful for journalists such as Nadine Nimry and Hana al Arej who generated media attention to the case of Sadeen. In additional to its legal services, ARDD is providing psychosocial support to the family of Sadeen. END
World Day for Cultural Diversity - Community Dialogue in Zarqa brings youth together
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Christien van den Brink
It is hot outside the ARDD Zarqa office, when 23-year old Syrian Mohammad and 22- year Anan do a photo shoot. “Should I drop the sunglasses for the photo?” Mohammed asks. Both youngsters were just interviewed about their participation in Bridges to Understanding, an ARDD project in partnership with Fondation de France and the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT), that engages youth between 16 and 25 in promoting social cohesion.
Mohammad fled Dara’a in Southern Syria in 2013 together with his family consisting of his mother, two brothers and three sisters. As a young migrant living in Zarqa, Mohammad experienced firsthand that living conditions in his host community are far from easy. “I have always liked living in Zarqa, even though life is hard here. I can feel there is a lot of discrimination toward minorities. And many of my friends, Jordanian or Syrian, cannot find a job. Some can’t even afford a pack of cigarettes.”
Due to the Syrian crisis that has entered its seventh year in March 2017, Jordan alone is hosting an estimate of 1.4 million Syrian, of whom 51 per cent are young people under the age of 18. With limited development and resources, many communities struggle with poverty, drugs, education degradation, lack of community recreation resources, and youth unemployment. Zarqa is one of the main urban areas where Syrian refugees such as Mohammad and his family have settled. The influx of refugees, has fostered an environment with rising social tensions, in which people are suspicious of one another.
During the 6-month project, Mohammad and Anan, together with other participants follow several training sessions that encourage them to create a better mutual understanding. With sessions such as Know your Rights, Conflict Management and Community Dialogue, the project aims to provide a safe space for youth to discuss collective challenges, including their perceptions of each other. It also provides tools to play a meaningful role in social cohesion efforts in Zarqa.
Anan: “The sessions really helped me to understand the situation of Syrian refugees better. Before I didn’t have a very clear idea about their suffering, but by listening to the stories that were shared during the sessions, I realized how much they had to endure,” the ambitious Anan, who wants to become a news-anchor for national television one day, says.
“We learned a great amount about dealing with conflict in a non-violent way, Anan adds. Mohammad: “Before the project, conflicts would quickly escalate. A simple argument over girls or a discussion about somebody’s favorite football team could easily end in physical violence. During the trainings, I learned to think twice, and to use arguments instead of our fists,” he says.
Mohammad proudly explains that he did manage to find a job as a receptionist in the local bath house. “During the Know your Rights session, I obtained a lot of new information regarding my labour rights in Jordan. I feel more confident now that I know that there is a law that can protect me, even though I am not Jordanian.”
'You Have a Chance' offers self-defense class to female community leaders
Monday, May 15, 2017
Christien van den Brink
“Listen up everyone; we are first going to do some stretching exercises!” The 21- year old self-defense teacher Karmel explains to a group of 30 middle-aged women, who came to the Amal Association in Baqaa refugee camp to attend a self-defence session today. “Ladies, let’s get ready to do the first exercise.” Karmel stands in front of everybody and shows the first position. It is hot in the upstairs room of the center and the women wear many layers of clothes. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to get the exercise right.
The self-defense class is part of 'You Have a Chance', a two-year ARDD project funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Jordan. The program aims to empower women in Aqaba and Baqaa legally, socially and economically, by building their confidence; but also by providing one-off cash grants and offering free legal counsel and awareness sessions as well as psychosocial support.
Women in Baqaa face many challenges in their daily lives, a participant, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains. “I was running my own company, which was registered on my father’s name. But when my father died, my husband’s family took over the business and there was nothing I could do about it. We often feel too weak or too ashamed to seek legal or psychosocial advice. Or we lack the financial means. There really is a need for women in our community to become more empowered,” she adds.
“Through the self-defense classes we want to give women the tools to build their self-confidence. We expect that the confidence that we develop during these trainings has a positive spill-over effect to other parts of the participant’s lives,” project officer Najd explains.
Trainer Karmel has been giving self-defense classes for six years now, in several locations in Irbid. “I really like to encourage women and girls to explore new boundaries and to see their confidence grow as we go along,” she explains after the training.
The 53-year old Amal Hassan Abu Hattab is one of the participants in the training. She is also the president of the Amal Association, a community based organization that provides free training and health services to women. “I think the self-defence course is a great initiative. The participants have been inspired today and will now introduce the courses within the associations they work in,” Amal tells during a well-deserved break. “Self-defense is especially relevant for young girls in our community, who might have already been a victim of gender-based violence, either on the street, at school, or even at home. Through our networks, we will be able to put this high on the agenda,” she tells.
Through its programs, ARDD seeks to reinforce these networks. The 30 women, who are all leaders within their community, are carefully selected by ARDD to attend today’s session. During three days, the women will receive different trainings on topics that they have chosen themselves, ranging from Gender Based Violence, Stress Management, Community Facilitation and Mobilization, Women’s Rights in Personal Status Law and International Treaties and Civic Engagement. ARDD, in many of its projects sets up community support network groups with the aim to build stronger communities. “Many of these women work for a community based organization in Baqaa. By building the capacity of community support network groups such as this one, we believe we can really make a change within the community,” Najd says.
From Dependency on International Aid towards Local Sustainability and Global Economic Equality
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Dr. Zaid Eyadat
In 2015, an astounding 28 billion dollars was contributed to humanitarian aid and another 131.3 billion was spent on development aid worl wide (OECD). Despite these vast amounts of funding, aid has done very little to improve the situation of the most vulnerable in their home or host countries; nor has it slowed the movement of migrants and refugees, whose rights are often compromised in their host country, especially because globalization has resulted in national concerns over security, political stability and identity politics.
The cause of this ineffectiveness of foreign assistance is largely to be found in the way the international community thinks about humanitarian and development aid. Currently, the neoliberal point of view is that the two types of aid are entirely distinct: the first is intended as a rapid response mechanism to crises such as natural disasters, war or conflict; the second is seen as a hopeful realization of the long-term goal of strengthening “underdeveloped” and “developing” states. In the end, both types however, are not sustainable and create an often paternalistic relationship of dependence, which prevents the much needed transition to self-reliance.
Thus, for foreign aid to be more effective, the international community must start considering the delivery of assistance as a matter primarily related to localization and global economic equality. The Global Humanitarian Assistance report of 2016 details, nations with high poverty rates face the highest risk of humanitarian crisis outbreaks. Indeed, the 2011 uprisings in Syria were largely caused by a widening wealth gap and an increasing unemployment rate (Landis). While some propose developmental aid in response to issues of protracted poverty, this is a largely insufficient solution if assistance is not localized and global economic equality not considered the long-term goal.
An unfortunate example can be found in Lebanon at the very beginning of the Syrian Civil War. Nearly 80% of Syrian refugees relocated to urban centers and created their own camps and communities. Although officially registered individuals are provided healthcare and housing, they are unable to access legal employment. This has left families to seek other means of generating income - even child labor and prostitution. Barring refugees from accessing work permits can be attributed to the already rampant poverty and unemployment rates in host cities, which range from 10%-25% of the local population. Consequently, Lebanese authorities consider granting work permits as opening the doors to economic, social and political conflict within the communities.
Although international NGOs have long been present in Lebanon they alone will not be able to solve the many challenges arising from protracted poverty and increasing competition for scarce services and employment opportunities. Thus, instead of reproducing dependency, the international community needs to support and divert more funding towards national organizations in countries of first asylum to assist both refugees and host communities. Given national, not international actors will remain in target countries after emergencies end, assisting national civil society actors will not only cut operation costs, but help sustain the impact of development aid. Empowering national actors and involving them in planning the response; is key to the creation of national sustainability plans and will enable communities in each country to gradually integrate into the formal economy of the state and create more opportunities for all.
On a global scale, international action and aid must begin to work towards actively creating pathways for the integration of nations with the greatest economic disparity into the global economy, under stipulations of living wages and humane labor conditions. Corporations and private companies have a pivotal role in putting such practices into place and could be offered tax reductions as incentives. These mechanisms need be enforced also by international contingents such as the United Nations, the European Commission, and the World Bank. Economic equality, before humanitarian and development aid, will have the power to alleviate the multiple humanitarian crises we face today as well as to improve the social and political insecurities caused by displacement and migration.
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