Reflections from Za’atari Camp

by tuftsigl
Jan 09

Written by Student Researcher Umar Shareef, EPIIC 2014


Latent hesitancy lurks within me; should I go to the camp? What will I witness? How it will impact my perception of life later on? Despite reading all the reports on Za’atari Refugee Camp, I still do not know what to expect. I might return negatively, psychologically affected. But it could be for all the best. I am sure that I will begin to appreciate my life so much more. All the little favors that I take for granted, I will see as a blessing because contrary to Orientalism and the “us” vs “them” dichotomy, the Syrians living in the camp are humans just like me; their blood is as precious as mine. If a Syrian dies, it is just as saddening to me as if an American died. Why? Because my place of residence was not my decision. If God willed, I could have ended up living in Syria. My reliance on God, paired with a spiritual understanding of humanity and a purposeful world, will allow me to cope with whatever emotional depression I may feel on seeing the living conditions in the camp.


My instinctual reliance on spirituality as an empowering mechanism paints the picture of my position in my research. Spirituality in the form of Islam has always been my foundation; it is the basis of my identity. Perhaps Syrian Muslims also need spiritual programs to help cope with the trauma associated with their displacement and alienation in the host country. To deny an aspect of their identity (Islam) is to isolate the refugees, to silence their history and impose foreign strategies of psychotherapy. Perhaps in spirituality grounded within Islam, the Syrian refugees will find an empowering program that gives meaning to their existence. On the other hand, perhaps religion has become cultural, where spirituality no longer plays it central role. I enter the camp understanding my positionality, wary of imposing my understanding of spirituality on the participants of the interview but all the while aware of the inseparability of my position and my analysis. I await anxiously before I head east to the camp.


To see Parts 2 and 3 of Umar's reflections from Za'atari Camp, click here.

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