Letter from Ellinikon

by Parastou Hassouri
published in MER278

On a bright and sunny day in early April, outside a terminal at what was once the Ellinikon International Airport in Athens, I listened as Javad, 16, told the story of the second refugee flight of his life. Javad (not his real name) is a member of the Hazara ethnic group and originally hails from the Baghlan province of Afghanistan. His family fled his home country during the rule of the Taliban, who infamously targeted the Hazaras for massacre, in part because most Hazaras are Persian-speaking Shi‘a. They escaped to Iran, where they lived in relative safety, but not dignity, as Afghans often face the exploitation of Iranian employers and the discrimination of the government.

Growing Up in Wartime

Images of Refugee Children’s Education in Syrian Television Drama

by Hayden Bates , Rebecca Joubin
published in MER278

For years prior to the March 2011 uprising in Syria, writers of the sketch comedy series Buq‘at Daw’ (Spotlight) used symbolism and wordplay to mount a not-so-subtle challenge to the regime on state television. [1] In a 2002 skit, written by Samir al-Barqawi and directed by Layth Hajju, a teacher chalks tumuh (ambition) on the board and asks his pupils to tell him what theirs might be. One boy, Sa‘id, duly jots down his life goal on a piece of paper. The camera never shows what the child has written, but the teacher is so frightened by what he sees that he calls in the school’s principal to deal with the “disaster.” The boy’s father is summoned, and he is likewise terrified.

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Mobilizing in Exile

Syrian Associational Life in Turkey and Lebanon

by Killian Clarke , Gözde Güran
published in MER278

The neighborhood of Narlıca sits on the outskirts of the small city of Antakya, Turkey. A spread of low-rise, brick-and-cement buildings separated by unpaved roads, Narlıca was a lightly populated working-class suburb prior to the outbreak of civil war across the border in Syria. Today, with that war dragging into its sixth year, the neighborhood has taken on a new identity as Antakya’s “little Syria.” The population has more than doubled, with Syrian residents now outnumbering Turks; most of the storefront signs are in Arabic; and newly opened schools teach the Syrian curriculum.

Putting Refugee Work Permits to Work

by Vicky Kelberer
published in MER278

For decades, humanitarian experts and international organizations have called upon host countries to give more work permits to refugees. Permits are posed as a way to alleviate the poverty of refugees and lessen their dependency on aid. Host countries have traditionally shunned the notion, however, fearing the creation of permanent populations of refugees in competition with citizens for jobs. Most host countries, in fact, have done the opposite, blocking access to work and deporting refugees found working illegally.

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Syrian Refugees in the Media

by Katty Alhayek
published in MER278

It was September 2, 2015 when the Syrian refugee crisis abruptly came to dominate the English-language media. On that day broadcast and print outlets led with the iconic image of Alan Kurdi, 3, lying lifeless on a Turkish beach after his family’s failed attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. The shocking picture prompted solemn pronouncements from Western leaders regarding the world’s responsibility to care for refugees, even as actual policy in most Western countries got worse.

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Oasis in the Desert?

Coproduction and the Future of Zaatari

by Denis Sullivan , Charles Simpson
published in MER278

From the summer of 2012 through 2014, there were rapid influxes of refugees from Syria into the Zaatari camp in Jordan. The camp’s population spiked in early 2013—from 56,000 in January to a peak of 202,000 just four months later—overwhelming the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Jordanian government officials who were trying to maintain order. Such runaway growth would have been difficult to manage in an established city in a developed state, much less an ad hoc community of tents in the desert.

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NGO Governance and Syrian Refugee “Subjects” in Jordan

by Sarah A. Tobin , Madeline Otis Campbell
published in MER278

The typical image of the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is one of suffering. Journalistic account after account introduces spectacular stories of devastation and loss. While perhaps dramatized, these tales are not false. Syrian refugee camps have forced hundreds of thousands of strangers to live together in austere, unequal and artificially constructed communities, which are subject to new national laws. To live in the camps is indeed to endure or have endured some form of suffering—but also to be part of a collective of survivors. As M.

From the Editor

by The Editors
published in MER278

The Middle East is once again the world’s biggest producer of refugees, due primarily to the catastrophic war in Syria.

Caught in the Crossfire of Climate and Politics

The Eritrean Afars in Ethiopia

by Dan Connell
published in MER277

Conscription into the army or other government service for years on end, fear of detention and torture for real or imagined transgressions with no legal recourse, no prospect of schooling or meaningful work, and no personal freedom: The reasons Afar refugees in eastern Ethiopia gave for fleeing their homeland often echoed those I had heard from their countrymen in interviews I conducted in 19 countries over the last two years. But most I spoke with had another grievance—disempowerment and discrimination based on their ethnicity and culture.

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Class Reshuffling Among Afghan Refugees in Iran

by Zuzanna Olszewska
published in MER277

When I was interviewing Afghan refugee writers and intellectuals in Iran in the mid-2000s, I soon realized that there was a gulf between their occupations and their aspirations. [1] The young poets who were the subjects of my research in the northeastern city of Mashhad often earned a living as manual laborers, construction or factory workers, or small-time street vendors. Some had woven rugs or made handicrafts as children, or engaged in other piecework in small workshops. They came together to read their poetry and short stories to each other on Fridays, their one precious day off. Most of them—both men and women—had benefited from at least a secondary education in Iranian state schools, and most hoped to continue on to university.

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