By Ahmad Khatib / AFP
RAMTHA: Syrian refugees in Jordan see a grim future in their homeland, saying the regime has not yet shown its “ugly face” and are bracing themselves for more bloodshed, in which thousands have already died.
A year after protests first erupted against President Bashar al-Assad’s 11-year-old rule, prompting a brutal regime crackdown that monitors say has killed more than 8,500 people; many have fled Syria fearing the worst may be yet to come.
“We expect Assad’s regime to show its real ugly face,” 44-year-old Ayman Juhmani, a former communications ministry official from Daraa, told AFP in his small apartment in the border town of Ramtha.
“He will fall sooner or later because the Syrian people, who have made great sacrifices, will never accept such a criminal regime to continue to rule. But I am afraid more and more bloody sacrifices will be made.”
Covering his face with a red and white head scarf, Juhmani said he and his brother, a lawyer, came to Jordan with their families in August.
“The authorities jailed me and my brother last year for around 50 days
because we took part in demonstrations and talked to some foreign journalists,” he said.
“They did not want us to say the truth about regime crimes. We fled to Jordan after getting many death threats.”
Jordanian government spokesman Rakan Majali said around 80,000 Syrians have sought refuge in the kingdom since last March, adding that a 30-dunum (30,000 square metre/323,000 square foot) refugee camp to host them is currently under construction.
“The majority of refugees are staying with their Jordanian relatives in Ramtha and the northern city of Mafraq,” Majali told AFP.
The UN refugee agency puts the number of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan at between 5,000 and 8,000, while Jordan has accepted around 5,000 Syrian students in state schools.
Most of the fugitives are from the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the Syrian revolt, across the border from Jordan.
“Assad’s forces are killing people in Syria left, right and centre. The world is watching as Syrians are being slaughtered like sheep,” said
62-year-old blacksmith Mahmud Masri, as he sat on the floor with his children.
“I do not think this mass murder will end soon. The world is just condemning and denouncing. Why would the regime stop the killing if nobody is trying to stop it? I think the regime knows it will be finished, so it wants to commit as many crimes as possible before it is gone,” the white-bearded man told AFP.
Osama Tawil, a 44-year-old veterinarian, agreed with Masri.
“We are fighting this brutal regime alone. It is an ‘orphans’ revolution,'” Tawil told AFP, as he watched the news on television.
“The world helped Libya oust Moammer Qaddafi. It is not supporting us in the same way. But we will not lose hope. The killing will continue but he (Assad) cannot kill all of us.”
In the case of Libya there was strong support for intervention in the UN Security Council and within the Arab League.
But Russia and China have opposed punitive measures on Syria and the Arab League has stopped short of endorsing air strikes.
“My brother and I came to Jordan in December because we did not have weapons to fight the regime. We did not want to die there for nothing. Give us weapons and we will go back to fight. We are not cowards,” said Tawil.
The authorities beat and tortured him for several days because he spoke to international news agencies, he explained.
The opposition Syrian National Council as well as Arab countries including regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia have urged the international community to arm opposition fighters in Syria.
Despite leaving family members behind, some refugees consider themselves lucky for escaping “hell” in Syria.
“Regime thugs burned to ashes my three-storey house and workshop because I demonstrated against Assad. I had to leave Daraa and I am not happy about this, but thank God I am here now with my children, safe and sound,” said Masri.
Tawil feels the same, saying the Jordanians were “doing their best to help the refugees, regardless of some shortcomings.”
“My mother and father are still in Syria, staying with relatives after the criminals destroyed our family house. We are worried about them and sad,” he said.
“But at the same time, we are lucky that we are still alive and we got here in one piece.”