"Maybe it is time to change! To change everything. That's what I am saying”

Israa, a young Syrian refugee, is describing how it is to live in Amman, Jordan under the Coronavirus lockdown and how it reminds her of the time before fleeing the war in Syria.

Listen to the full 19 minute conversation with Israa by clicking this link:

As COVID-19 is spreading in refugee hosting contexts around the world, it is becoming more urgent than ever to listen to the voices of affected populations to better understand their needs, reflections, coping strategies and access to information. Moreover, it is the right of affected populations to have access to timely and relevant information and to take part in decisions that affects their lives.

Click the link above to listen to a recorded conversation between Israa a Syrian refugee living in Jordan and Ayo Degett, PhD fellow in the Protection Unit at the International Department in DRC and Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. These conversations with refugees during COVID-19 are part of a larger research project (2018-2022) investigating refugee’s access to participation in humanitarian action through ethnographic research among South Sudanese, Syrian and Sudanese refugees.

Due to the nature of the project, Ayo is in daily contact with refugees in camps and urban settings where some have expressed a desire to communicate their reflections about the current situation to a wider audience among them, Israa.

Israa is a young woman in her twenties living with her parents in an apartment in the outskirts of Amman. Her and her parents fled from the war Syria in 2015 but left behind four of her older siblings. She works as a freelance translator and research assistant and is currently taking a Diploma in Forced Migration with funding from GIZ. She describes herself as a feminist and an activist engaging in the empowerment of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

In her conversation with Ayo, Israa discusses how she and her family navigate the emotional turmoil and financial restrictions that the Coronavirus curfew has put on the family. She describes in detail, many of the specific challenges and coping strategies experienced by herself and other refugees in Jordan, such as: worrying about the health of family members left behind in Syria, having to financially depend on faith based charity donations and remittance because refugees mainly rely on the informal economy, having to navigate the many fake news posted on social media, rationing meals and having to cut off non-essential services such as internet, navigate the renewal of refugee documents among other.

“It is really sad how we have to go through this again”  Israa says as she reflects on how the current isolation in the house reminds her of the uncertainty and restrictions of resources during her last months in Syria and on the family’s anxiety for her brothers and sisters who are still remaining behind.

As Israa points out in the conversation: “Maybe it is time to change! To change everything. That's what I am saying.” The challenges of the lockdown set aside, Israa perceives this ‘disruptor of ordinary life’ as a possibility that some things might change for the better, such as the labor laws in Jordan, which restricts Syrians from gaining work permits in most work sectors. She also sees this as an opportunity to approach one of the biggest humanitarian donors in the country to open up a master’s programme for her and her class mates.

In many ways, this conversation illustrates the high level of engagement, entrepreneurship, hope and ambitions for a better future which is central to all the groups of young refugees who have been interviewed or engaged in the ethnographic research project on humanitarian participation since 2018.

Enjoy the conversation. And please bear with the very challenging and varying audio quality of the skype connection to Jordan.