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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Latest From Jordan On The Syrian Crisis

Syrian refugees chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (Mohammad Hannon/AP)

Syrian refugees chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013. (Mohammad Hannon/AP)

Jordanians have been coping with refugees from the Syrian crisis for months.

This week’s escalated threats of military intervention in Syria have many Jordanians bracing for an even greater influx of those fleeing the conflict.

Here & Now speaks with the BBC’s Carine Torbey, who is reporting from Jordan, about the latest impressions from people there.


  • Carine Torbey, correspondent for the BBC. She tweets @carinetorbey.



From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, New Orleans eight years after Katrina. Is it becoming the Silicon Valley of the South?

YOUNG: But first, U.S. lawmakers are being briefed on the Obama administration's case for a military strike against Syria. Britain's parliament is also debating reaction to last week's chemical attacks. But people living along Jordan's border with Syria have been coping with what it all means for them. Two million refugees have already fled Syria. The U.N. estimates 500,000 have crossed into Jordan.

The northern Jordanian refugee camp, Zaatari, already holds 130,000 Syrian refugees. The BBC's Carine Torbey has been reporting from the Jordanian border, just across from the Syrian province of Daraa. Carine, what are you hearing from Jordanians?

CARINE TORBEY: Well, the tension in border areas is very much tangible. It's very much visible from Jordan villages. Where we stayed today, we could easily see the province of Daraa. Sometimes if you zoom in, the zoom of the camera, you can see things with details, most of the very big buildings in Syria are very visible. It is within reach. People across this area usually visited Syria very often. It's less than 13 minutes away from the closest village inside Jordan.

And you can hear, and people say that they even see and hear every day there is the sound of the battles still raging in this province, and it seems that this province (unintelligible) and it's a majority - under the control of the Syrian opposition is still witnessing daily battles. Every single person we spoke to told us about his or her fears of any kind of response that the Syrian regime might have in response to any Western strike against targets inside Syria.

People are afraid of the repercussions of such a strike. Although some of them might be supportive of a military intervention, they all kind of fear the repercussions of it.

YOUNG: Sure, you're saying that they fear that Assad's regime might respond to a response to the chemical attacks in Syria. Do we know if Assad's missiles can reach into Jordan?

TORBEY: We don't really have any military information about how the Syrian regime - about the Syrian regime's capacities. But we do know that Jordan authorities have ramped up their security, and they've been preparing for fallout for what they call (unintelligible) military threat to their borders and to their villagers and areas. And they have F-16 jets. They have also missiles that are ready, and any - they say that they have prepared themselves up to the highest level in case they confront any kind of security threat.

YOUNG: That's the fear of a response from the Assad regime. What about more refugees pouring in because of this ratcheting up of the conflict there?

TORBEY: At the moment we haven't seen any unusual spike in the number of refugees coming to Jordan related to what is seen to be an imminent attack on Syria. But I think that in your introduction there is a growing number of refugees. The constant flow means that more than 600,000 Syrian refugees are inside.

And I spoke to many humanitarian organizations and international organizations, and they told me that they are preparing for any kind of scenario and any surprise surge in the number of people who might cross the border if the strike gets (unintelligible).

YOUNG: Well, so Carine Torbey, again of the BBC, who has just returned from the border between Jordan and Syria, you say Jordanians are very worried about President Assad responding to any response to chemical attacks in his country, but also that they want some sort of intervention. What do they want?

TORBEY: It is a very difficult mood to gauge. People are most of all upset. And it is very difficult to understand what they really want. They say they want peace in Syria. They don't know how this peace can be achieved. There is - most of them are kind of reluctant, and they don't think that any strike might bring any solution to this conflict, anywhere closer to what it is now.

They see - some of them see the strike completely irrelevant, despite the fact that they would want the West to intervene; to make any difference on the ground, they doubt this kind of punitive and short intervention will make any difference, any real difference.

Others are completely against this strike. They consider - one of them just told me I cannot trust that the people who invaded Iraq would bring peace to Syria.

YOUNG: Carine Torbey of the BBC, thank you.

TORBEY: Thank you, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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