It wasn’t long before Christmas in Amman, Jordan. I’d just overheard a stranger talking about a Muslim, Syrian refugee working as a Santa Claus actor in a mall on the outskirts of town. Using some creepy internet magic, I identified the mall and got in contact with him. He invited me to come and say hello. Two hours of arguing with security guards later, and I managed to secure a ten minute interview.
You’ll have to forgive the dodgy camera/interviewing skills.
Majd's story is a touching one. He lost a lot of friends in an attack on his university, he fled his home and everything he knew, he eventually made it to Lebanon where he was repeatedly verbally abused because he was Syrian. He is currently hoping to study abroad. However, when he fled Syria he lost his high school certificate, and so doesn't have the ability to prove that he has studied. Now, he works multiple jobs to support his family, while hoping that a solution will come along.
Jordan is the unspoken hero of the Middle East. Wedged between Iraq, Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is often described as ‘the eye of the storm’, yet it remains a remarkably safe and peaceful country. It is not a rich country, far from it. Unlike the neighbouring Gulf States, Jordan has virtually no oil and gas reserves. They also have dangerously low water supplies. They are being hit hard by climate change; one of the larger refugee camps in Jordan is actually located in the dried-up water basin of a once flourishing oasis. They have not only welcomed a million Syrian refugees, but have taken many more from neighboring conflicts. As Majd mentions, Jordan has welcomed refugees from Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan, and more. In fact, Jordan has taken in so many refugees that they comprise a third of Jordanian population.
This dwarfs the amount of refugees being accepted by much richer countries like Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the USA. The only country in the area that has come close is the tiny state of Lebanon.
Apart from donating to UNICEF and other local refugee charities, one of the best things you can do for Jordan is to go and visit. It’s a country filled with mesmerizing beauty, from the ancient ruins of Petra and Jerash to the natural beauty of the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. You’ll be supporting a country severely in need of money, and you’ll probably change your opinion of The Middle East while you’re at it.
While Trump's Muslim ban stops Syrians from entering the US, Majd and his positive message provides the perfect counter-argument to those who say we can't take in any more refugees. Ask yourself if you think people like Majd are really the problem. How is it that a country with 65 times the GDP can only take in a tenth of the amount of refugees? When did we stop treating people in need as human, just because they come from a different part of the world?
If you’d like to find out more about Majd, you can read his blog here.