The Object of War

A collaborative project with photographer Celia Peterson

War is a violent act of one state over another. Nations are torn apart, cultures lost, communities shattered. Through war, the course of human history is altered. Memories, objects, stories, tradition, culture, victories and losses all become part of that history and human experience, passed down from generation to generation. Some are documented and some are not.

The Object of War is about the undocumented stories of conflict, both physical and emotional. Stories and objects that show us what it means to be at war, to be displaced; nations, tradition and culture torn apart. Our stories are told through the experiences of those most affected, caught in the endless political pursuit of power.

Zaatari, A Self-Made City

With an estimated 120,000 refugees in 2013, Zaatari Syrian refugee camp is considered to be the largest camp in the world located just few miles from the Syrian borders. 

2 years after the creation of the camp in 2012, Zaatari has grown into a full-blown self-made city to be the 5th largest city in Jordan with all types of businesses that sprung up out of necessity. In a recent report, the UN estimated 6.5 million people have been displaced in Syria, and more than 3 million fled to Jordan and neighbouring counties, almost half the population of the entire Syrian country.

About Zaatari Syrian refugee camp

Zaatari Syrian refuge camp is currently home to more than 80,000 people, according to The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) statistics. Most of the refugees come from the town of Dar'a in southwestern Syria, located ten kilometres from the Jordanian border.

Inspired by the wave of demonstrations that lead to the Arab uprising in the Middle East and North Africa, anti-Bashar Al-Assad protests erupted in the city of Dar'a in March 2011. Faced with an unprecedented challenge, President Bashar retaliated with extreme violence, using the police, his military and paramilitary forces.

According to the accounts of refugees we talked to at the camp, the Syrian civil war started with the arrest of several teenagers for writing antigovernment graffiti. The teenagers were arrested and tortured for several months, setting off demonstrations that lead to government forces opening fire indiscriminately into crowds, killing more than 20 people. Opposition forces began to form in 2011, and by 2012 the conflict had expanded into a full-fledged civil war.

Zaatari was first opened on July 28, 2012, and has grown exponentially ever since. Almost all refugees within the camp have left with nothing, thinking they will only be there for a couple of weeks. Upon arrival at the Syrian-Jordanian border, refugees were forced to walk for approximately nine hours in deep sand, mostly at night, to get to the camp, leaving behind the few belongings they thought they could physically bring along with them.

According to UNHCR, 57 percent of the camp are children under the age of 18. With the bleak prospect of returning to Syria any time soon, many get married at a very young age, leaving teenage boys and girls with no choice or hope of going back to school to continue their education.

According to CARE International, only 52 percent of Syrian refugee boys and 62 percent of girls are currently attending school.

On average, seven to nine babies are born everyday at one of the camp’s medical clinics. With the growing number of children, UNICEF and the Jordanian Ministry of Education opened up three schools with separate shifts for boys and girls.

More than 145,000 Syrian refugee families in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan –or one in four of all households – are headed by women facing a lone fight for survival as a result of the three-year brutal war, according to a UN report published July 2014. Most women in the camp did not want to be photographed out of shame and fear that they will be recognized back in Syria.

Most families prefer to stay within the camp. Two Syrian families we talked to and who left the camp for few months, were forced to come back, after finding themselves struggling to cope with inadequate housing, rising living costs and high education fees for their children.

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