Millions of Syrian refugees have fled their country to escape the supporters of President Bashar al-Assad, also known as the Syrian regime.
The Tarble Arts Center hosted a screening of the documentary “After Spring” Tuesday night, which follows the lives of refugees living in the largest camp, Zaatari, located in northern Jordan.
To put this into perspective, Zaatari is approximately a six-hour car ride and 95 hours walking distance from Syria.
Brian Mann, assistant professor of history, said before watching the film it is important to have more of an understanding about the situation in the Middle East.
It all seemed to start in December of 2010 with a man from Tunisia named Mohamed Bouazizi, Mann said.
“He was a 26-year-old street merchant who sold produce. Even though what he was doing was legal, he was constantly harassed by authorities,” he said. “One day police came and confiscated all of his goods before he could sell them. The next day, he walked into the middle of the street, lit himself on fire and killed himself.”
This is known for sparking the Arab Spring, the democratic uprisings that arose independently and spread across the Arab world in 2011. The government of Tunisia fell shortly after this.
The conflict in Syria seems to have started because of graffiti written by high school students, Mann said.
“On February 11, 2011 graffiti that said ‘Now It’s Your Turn, Doctor’ was written as a threat to overthrow the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, a licensed medical doctor,” Mann said.
By March 15, protests had erupted throughout Syria.
“The war in Syria officially started in the summer of 2011 when it turned into open warfare between rebel groups and the government,” he said.
The film focuses primarily on the residents of the Zaatari refugee camp, not necessarily on the conflict in Syria itself.
This documentary shows the day-to-day lives of the refugees living in Zaatari. It exhibits their struggles, obstacles and accomplishments.
Mann said “After Spring” shows that even in these horrible situations, life goes on in some way, and even in war, there are some basics that continue.
A refugee running a small pizza stand said “when you’re running from war, you know you won’t be staying in a hotel.”
Many members of this refugee camp have tried to build their new life in Jordan by opening small restaurants, pet stores and cell phone stores.
Zaatari is estimated to house approximately eighty thousand refugees.
Mohommad, a refugee, said “gunfire and violence lasted day in and day out in Syria. It started as a peaceful protest against the regime for freedom and democracy.”
“We traveled for four days to reach Jordan because we wanted to save our kids,” Mohommad said. “After we reached Zaatari, I heard no violence, no gunfire. It was peaceful.”
“We never thought our military was designed to kill its own people,” he said.
Although violence is minimal in the camp, refugees can still hear bombings in Syria from time to time.
Raghad, a young 13-year-old Syrian refugee, said she listens to music about Syria in hopes to return there eventually.
Abu, Raghad’s father, describes living in Zaatari as “a maze you want to get out of, but can’t.”
The war has taken an extreme toll on the population of Syria.
“If you look at satellite images of Syria in 2011 compare them to 2015, you can see that areas of Syria that used to be lit up, are now completely dark,” Mann said.
“What’s very disturbing is that we can follow this in real time,” he said.
An online Live Syria Map shows which areas of Syria are controlled by which groups. These are based on live Twitter feeds and news reports from Syria and surrounding areas.
Mann said he was following Twitter when Aleppo fell to the regime and a seven-year-old girl tweeted “tonight we have no house. It’s burned. I saw death. I almost died.”
“This is becoming one of those moments where we say ‘never again’, and it happens again,” he said. “It just seems like history is repeating itself.”
Currently, the world is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. Mann said the UN estimates 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Of these, 21.3 million are refugees, and about 23 percent of them are Syrian, totaling about 4.9 million.
Tara Starling, senior art education major, said before viewing this documentary she was definitely all for America helping the refugees, and now after viewing the documentary, she is even more convinced we should be doing more to help.
“For me, it’s spreading the word and hoping more people realize what is actually going on,” she said. “Living in a small town like Charleston, it is important to expand your thoughts.”
Sterling said she enjoyed how the documentary touched on some of the positive aspects.
“Even though these refugees are in a terrible position, many of them still find happiness. That truly inspired me while watching this,” she said
Loren Dickson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]