Since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the conflict in Syria has developed into a full-fledged civil war, creating a severe humanitarian crisis. Today, about 2.6 million Syrians live as refugees in neighboring countries. Of these neighboring countries, Jordan faces the greatest strains from the Syrian refugee population, as the country struggles to provide for its already situated Palestinian and Iraqi refugee populations. The Syrian refugees have become a test for Jordan’s resources and native population, as apparent in the changing dynamics of the Jordanian border city of Mafraq. The influx of refugees to Mafraq has intensified the previously existing problems of the poor, developing city, such as high housing costs, increased competition in the employment market, crowded local schools and more. While the Jordanians hold Syrian refugees responsible for the city’s deteriorating conditions, Syrian refugees accuse Jordanians of mistreatment, such as of turning away Syrian kids from local schools and harassment. Tensions have escalated to the extent that both Syrian and Jordanian parents now discourage their children from playing together. As most aid organizations allocate their resources to the local Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari, Mafraq continues to exist as a divided city.
Project “Children’s Playground”
The Children’s Playground will bring together the children of Syrian refugees and Jordanians in Mafraq as a way of easing the tensions between the two communities. Many Syrian refugee children suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder because of their separation from relatives and homes and from the scenes of violence and death they have witnessed. With these memories, it is hard for Syrian refugee children to relate and interact with Jordanian children. Likewise, Jordanian children have difficulty relating to Syrian children who, because of the larger tensions in the city, are seen as the “other.” In addition, Syrian children facing several identity struggles as they are now spending several years of their childhood in Jordan. Our Children’s Playground project will engage Syrian and Jordanian children in peaceful mechanisms of dialogue, art, and education so that they can build understanding between each other which can foster peace outside of the playground to their homes and streets of Mafraq.
The Children’s Playground is a Davis Project for Peace led by Princeton University students Wardah Bari ’16 and Farah Amjad ‘16.