The Syrian Civil War has been raging for over two years now and, with it, has come devastation to Syria’s civilian population. Since the war began in 2011, Syrians have been fleeing their borders. Jordan has taken on the bulk of these refugees, housing as many as 550,000 Syrians. Proportionally, that would be like the United States suddenly opening its borders and allowing 25 million people in.
The majority of these refugees have settled in a camp run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), near the Jordanian city of Mafraq. It is now more populated than Mafraq and has spawned a thriving economy and culture. It is nearly its own city, with United Nations and Jordanian officials struggling to keep up with the rapid influx of Syrians fleeing the bloody conflict.
This is the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. It is eight miles south of the Syrian border.
The population of the camp is estimated to be more than 122,000 refugees, since opening in July 2012, says the UNHCR. That makes it the fifth largest city in Jordan.
This is the main boulevard in Zaatari. Syrian refugees and aid workers call it the Champs Elysees, after the famous shopping thoroughfare in Paris, according to The Daily Mail.
There are over 3,000 small businesses in Zaatari now, selling everything from pizza, shwarma, and vegetables to televisions and drugs.
The profits from the stores, like this barbershop in a UNHCR tent, don’t always go to the refugees. Sometimes they go to the Free Syrian Army, says David Remnick of the New Yorker.
Organised crime is rampant in the camp. Resources such as electricity and water are “constantly stolen and vandalised,” according to a UNHCR report.
Local mafia “dons” sell prime spaces on the Champs Elysees and electricity to shopkeepers to house and run their shops.
A thriving wedding business has sprung up as refugees seek favour with Jordanians, by marrying off their young daughters, according to the BBC.
There are between 10-15 babies born every day in the camp, says The Jordan Times. Most are delivered in field hospitals and Caesarian sections are common.
A team of Koreans are now giving taekwondo classes to children in the camp, according to the AP. They are teaching adults in the camp how to give the classes for after they leave.
This is Zaatari’s first music group called SMRTE (Syrians Must Release Their Energy). They have been blogging and singing about their experience living in the camp.