Grieving Father Grows Hope in Zaatari Garden

"That is why I go crazy when someone messes around with my garden. I feel like someone is stealing something from my body," Abu Qasim said. Photograph by Hiba Dlewati

Zaatari Camp, Jordan — Mohammad Al-Hariri ushers me into his small convenience store, adjusting his hearing aid.

“It’s too loud out there,” he says, nodding at the children running out of the school gates near by. The trailer turned store is dark but for some light coming in from the open door; the camp only has electricity from 8pm to 4 am. Zaatari Camp is home to almost 80,000 Syrian refugees, approximately half of whom are children.

“You want to talk about my garden? May God deprive them like they deprived us of the color green, of our paradise in Syria,” says 51-year-old Al-Hariri, pulling out colorful plastic chairs, gesturing for me to sit down.

“I go crazy when someone messes around with my garden. I feel like someone is stealing something from my body,” Al-Hariri said. Photograph by Hiba Dlewati

Two trailers form Al-Hariri’s home and store, located outside a polyclinic in Zaatari Camp. His property breaks the monochrome of surrounding white trailers, tents, and rocks with its small but bright garden, boasting a fig tree among the yellow flowers and mint.

Like many stories in Zaatari, Al-Hariri’s begins with recounting how his family had to leave Syria abruptly, and the insistence we have something to drink. He pours little plastic cups with orange juice from the store’s shelves, and takes out a pack of cigarettes.

Al-Hariri is originally from Daraa but lived his whole life in Damascus, where he raised his five children and worked as an electrical technician and plumber. In Zaatari, he only has his wife and his oldest son, Qasim, with him.

His son Yaqub was drawn to the peaceful protests that spread throughout Syria in the spring of 2011, demanding the ouster of President Assad. Detained during a demonstration, Yaqub has been missing since.

“We have no word on where he —> Read More