Brothels and Pizza Joints: Inside a Syrian Refugee Camp

A visit to Jordan's Za'atari, the 2nd-largest refugee camp in the world

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 1, 2013 4:54 PM CDT

(Newser) – Though the world's focus is squarely on Syria right now, journalist David Remnick shifts his focus outside the country, which over 2 million Syrian refugees have fled since the civil war began. In the New Yorker, Remnick visits the world’s second-largest refugee camp, Jordan's Za'atari. The camp only opened in July 2012, but now houses some 120,000 Syrians and is the fourth-largest population center in Jordan. "In Za'atari, the dispossession is absolute," writes Remnick. "Everyone has lost his country, his home, his equilibrium." Nevertheless, in a little over a year, the camp has grown into a city of sorts. There are "shawarma and chicken and pizza joints," and "appliance stores where you can get a fan, a flat-screen TV, an air-conditioner," but also brothels, a thriving black market, and various mafias calling the shots.

About 2,000 babies have been born in the camp, with 70 more coming every week. There are schools, but only a sixth of the 65,000 kids and teens attend. Many leave because they have to work—often for the mafias. "One eight-year-old child, I asked why he left school,” says an aid worker. "He said his last memory of school was when gunmen came in the classroom and shot the teachers." Meanwhile, the Guardian also visited Za'atari yesterday during Obama's announcement. The reaction to his comments was not positive. "We thought, when he began to speak, the strikes on Bashar al-Assad's regime were going to start immediately," says one refugee. "Obama lied to us." Click through to read Remnick's eye-opening full column.

This aerial view shows the Za'atari refugee camp.
This aerial view shows the Za'atari refugee camp.   (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan.
An aerial view shows the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan.   (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
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