Zaizoun Village is about 20 Km north west of the city of Daraa in Al-Mzerieb region. It is known for its natural sites, landscapes, and waterfalls. Due to its location near Al-Yarmouk Valley, which spreads over the Syrian Jordanian border, it is considered a tourist attraction. A milestone of the village is “Tala’e Al-Baath’s” camp, which was built in the village 20 years ago.
When the battles erupted in the cities and towns of Daraa between the Syrian regime forces and opposition forces from the Free Syrian, the FSA took control over Zaizoun village and the surrounding areas and regime forces withdrew. However the Syrian regime forces sought revenge against the cities and the villages and began a reckless assault with a full-scale shelling using all kinds of weapons including aerial shelling and explosive barrels during the day and at night.
The Syrian regime has been targeting the residential areas since the beginning of the Syrian revolution until now but with more violence using deadlier weapons. In the past year the regime forces escalated its assault against residential areas in the province of Daraa using missiles and explosive barrels via airstrikes. The most recent attack occurred on May 16, 2014 against the city of “Jasim” north west of Daraa; the city was struck with a surface-to-surface missile launched by regime forces.
Due to the conflict, the residents of Daraa were forced to flee seeking safer areas. Refugees IDP’s chose areas under the control of opposition forces because they considere them liberated areas from the brutal regime. Zaizoun village was one of the cities that hosted large number of IDP’s and refugees from different Syrian provinces including Daraa province. IDP’s and refugees couldn’t flee outside of Syria because the Jordanian authorities closed the borders with Syria to stop the overflowing number of refugees coming to Jordan.
Most of the refugees are from the city of Nawa, which is located north of Zaizoun village, the main reason of their displacement is the deployment by regime forces and their militias to attack and break in into the city of Nawa. As a result the residents feared possible massacre against them upon the attack thus they fled to save their lives and the lives of their families and children. In addition the Zaizoun refugee camp hosted refugees from Atman villages, Inkhil, Daraa city neighborhoods, Ash-Shaikh Miskeen, Jasim, Damascus suburb, and Nawa city. There are new families coming over to the camp every day.
On 20/5/2013, a DCHRS team including the director of Daraa Local office, a doctor who volunteer at the center, a local doctor from Zaizoun village, and one the village’s pubic figures observed and examined the humanitarian and living conditions of the camp. The following are interviews and eyewitness testimonies for some of the refugees in Zaizoun refugee camp.
Shukri Abu-Jabal, a married 45-year-old man with six kids, has been residing in one of the camp rooms for about six months told us:
“… I came to the camp about six months ago where I live in a very small room, its area is about nine square meters. The room is made of precast concrete…. We didn’t meet any of the local administration’s officials or councils, no one has ever come to visit us… you are the first Human Rights organization to visit us…”
Furthermore, the camp does not have any medical clinics that provides medical services to the residents especially children, women, and elders.
Shukri Abu-Jabal adds:
“… about five months ago a team of medics came to here as a part of a vaccination campaign for polio, we didn’t see them afterwards and the campaign wasn’t capable of covering the huge numbers of children in the camp. Furthermore, there are always large piles of trash as there is no authority or people to manage the camp. Despite the very little money we have, we collect, from time to time, some of it to rent a tractor to collect the trash and dispose of it far away. This will be a problem with the summer and the heat and humidity levels especially that this area is near a valley.”
On the basic serves provided in the camp, Shukri told us:
“… for every region “Haql” (every ten rooms are called a region) there only one water tap, the water is available for only one hour or one hour and a half every day. There is no water tanks in the camp. The residents stand in long lines to fill whatever containers we have so we can drink and use it later. The room is too small, when we left our original home we couldn’t take much of our stuff, but we need mattresses, blankets, and other things. More importantly we need something to kill the bugs, also we need clinics, and schools for the kids to continue their education… over the past two days, ten families have come from Nawa city with no place to sleep because the camp is overwhelmingly full…”
Abu-Mohammad Al-Masri, a 60-year-old man who lives in the camp from Atman city and a father of two young men who were killed by the Syrian regime; one of whom died under torture and the other by a sniper in addition to a third son who is injured in his eye.
Abu-Mohammad Al-Masri told us his story:
“… with the battles in Atman, I had to leave the city as the children were no safe from the Syrian regime’s warplanes, we were all afraid. I tried to go to Az-Za’tri refugee camp in Jordan, but I learned that the Jordanian government is refusing to receive any more refugees, so I came to the camp along with my sons’ families and my other injured son…. We took three rooms, and we made a separator from cloth to divide the space we have into a kitchen and a place to do our laundry. We also use a room as a bathroom for the women because it is inconvenient for them to use the public bathroom. The bathroom in the camp are joint and because there is no organization it is always filled with filth and bugs. There is no water tapes so we have to use pots to bring water… we clean it from time to time, however, the large number of people and children makes it difficult to keep the bathroom clean so it is always filthy and filled with bugs which is unhealthy at all…”
We asked Abu-Mohammad about the aids they receive in the camp:
“… I received only one food box since I came here nine month ago, additionally they gave us a towel for every adult in our family, and I’ve seen some organization disturbing some milk, but due to the lack of organization, I couldn’t have a milk bottle for my three grandsons who are under three-year-old…”
We asked Abu-Mohammad about the education provided in the camp
“… I have four grandsons who dropped out of school two years ago. There is no school or basic courses in the camp…”
At the end of the interview Abu-Mohammad added:
“… The main problem here is the complete lack of any health, sanitation, food, and education services… This is our main problem here…”
Mohammad, a 12-year-old boy from Nawa city, says
“… I left our town about a year and a half ago, we went first to Jasem city, but we left it too after it was brutally shelled to the camp here… I didn’t have any education for two years, I dropped out when I was in the third grade, I tried to continue my education in Jasem but I couldn’t because the schools were targeted and there are no schools here…”
Dr. Abdulhakim who escorted us in our tour in the camp says:
“… The civilians are coming here because it is relatively safe; the camp’s geographical location makes it safe from shelling and aerial strikes, the place is at least prepared with some rooms for residence. After the refugees started flowing, we managed to through personal efforts, with the help of some of the village residents, to establish basic electricity and water grids… we didn’t receive any kind of help from any organization or institution… also, the overflowing of refugees made the situation even worse given that social problems usually come with displacement, not to mention the poor capabilities and the complete absent of administration…”
Dr. Abdulhakim adds:
“… In last year in July 2013 during the holy month of Ramadan some volunteers collected $25,000 to feed the residents of the camp; we built a kitchen that used to prepare two Ramadan meals every day, Fatour and Sahour. However, the kitchen was closed after the support cease and it was impossible to continue this project due to the disorderly increase in the numbers of residents…”
On the medical services in the camp, Dr. Abdulhakim says:
“… There is no clinic in the camp, Tal Shehab clinic, which is seven kilometers away from the camp, is the provider of medical services. There must be a clinic or medical field hospital at least considering the population of the camp. The camp needs also pesticides to kill the bugs and mosquitos as well as some sanitation services. The camp lacks also a civil administration to take over instead of the FSA personnel who are unfortunately running the camp with considerable amount of obstacles and problem that they have to solve, let alone their continuous absece because they are engaged in conflicts on different fronts. The interim government, The National Coalition, Human Rights organizations, or the UN should visit the camp to assess the humanitarian conditions there. The camp can be expanded to accommodate the increasing numbers of refugees especially with the feirce battles that are taking place these days in Nawa and its surroundings.”
Abu-Nasser, a public figure in the village, told us
“… We, the public figures in the village, are trying to follow-up with the affairs of the camp in order to solve whatever problems we can, but it is becoming increasingly and overwhelming impossible. The large numbers of residents along with the lack of any kind of assistance makes it almost unbearable to do so. There must be an administration in the camp and offices for Human Rights organizations. Solving the problem should begin with managing and organizing the basics needs in correlation with growing number of refugees. We are blaming anyone who claims to help the refugees because no one has ever visited the camp or offered any kind of support or talked about this issue on TV at all.”
“As the first organization to visit us since the opening of the camp, we urge you to deliver our cries for help to every free man on earth who is claiming to be human, we are also urging the UN to send an envoy through the Jordanian borders to solve some of the problems such as the electricity, water, bathrooms, sanitation, and providing food problems. Refugees are still flowing into the camp. There is an urgent need to build a school and clinic in the camp. Therefore, we also urge Doctors without Borders organization to visit the camp and assess the situation here.”
As we are leaving, we ran into a doctor from the World Health Organization, so we told him about the situation in the camp, and he wrote a report on it and asked us to provide him with a copy of our report.
Damascus Center for Human Rights
Issued on: 20-5-2014
DCHRS Activist took the following images as part of their documentation process for Zaizoun Camp
For more information, please contact
Dr. Radwan Ziadeh, Executive director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies.
Phone (571) 205-3590
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Mojahed Ghadban, Communication Officer.
Telephone (479) 799-8115(479) 799-8115
DCHRS is an independent, non-governmental organization, established in 2005, located in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Its mission is to foster a spirit of support and respect for the values and standards of human rights in Syria. As such, DCHRS recognizes and adheres to all pertinent international human rights agreements and declarations issued by the UN.
DCHRS is a member of the following international networks:
- International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
- Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
- NGO Coalition for the international Criminal Court
- International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP)
- International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC)
DCHRS worked on a variety of documentation projects. Such projects included daily casualty reports, massacre reports, and other human rights violations reports. Also DCHRS has been working on advocacy and lobbying in different human rights institutions in order to educate and acknowledge about the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria.. After the launch of the Syrian revolution, the center increased its activities through working, communicating, and coordinating with many members and activists. Thus the center began documenting daily violations committed by the Syrian regime forces that can be classified as crimes against humanities and war crimes. Such violations included: extrajudicial killings, massacres, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture in prisons. DCHRS opened local offices in Syria in order to document, collect, and observe human rights violations on the ground. DCHRS submitted those reports to many international and regional human rights organizations and communicated with the Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on Syria.