First Person

Racing to support Syria’s refugees

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What’s your reason to run? Whether it’s a local 5k or the ING New York City Marathon, many of us are training hard this fall for races that support the causes we care about. And as Oxfam media advisor Karl Schembri reports, a team of runners in Amman, Jordan, recently chose to race for a reason very close to home.

The signs they carried read: “Refugees are our guests, their dignity is our dignity.”

On Friday, a team of Syrian and Jordanian runners joined the Samsung Amman International Marathon to show their solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria. About 300 people joined Oxfam and partner ARDD-Legal Aid’s call to run a 10k race as part of the campaign for human dignity of the 500,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan. The runners included ARDD and Oxfam staffers as well as refugees.

Photo: Karl Schembri/Oxfam
Photo: Karl Schembri/Oxfam

“I am running side by side with Syrian refugees today because I want them to feel welcome in our home,” said Mahmoud Shabeeb, one of the runners and an ARDD staff member. “I want everyone to think of them as dignified human beings. Syrians are going through a humanitarian tragedy right now and solidarity with them is what makes us truly human.”

A quarter of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in Zaatari Camp in Mafraq, while the rest are scattered in host communities.

“I’m happy to be running today next to Jordanians and I’m here to stand with our hosts and express my appreciation for their generosity,” said Aisha, a 34-year-old Syrian who fled from Hama with her husband and four children more than a year ago. “The moment I learned about this initiative I made dozens of calls to other Syrians and Jordanians I know here to do this together.”

Aisha is one of several Syrian women who were trained through ARDD’s Oxfam-funded Voice Project as citizen journalists, raising other refugees’ concerns and giving them a voice on social media.

“I’m running today to support the dignity of Syrian refugees who should not continue to pay for the unfortunate events in their country,” said Rana Habahbeh, a young Jordanian woman running in the 10k race.

In cooperation with Oxfam, ARDD-Legal Aid works to highlight the right of Syrians to live a life with human dignity free from fear and want. It also advocates for the international community’s intervention to help host countries like Jordan.

“Our local and international staff members are taking part in this marathon to show support and raise awareness on the needs of refugees and Jordanians,” said Oxfam’s program manager in Jordan, Syma Jamil. “Oxfam has reached out to more than 100,000 people in Jordan, including poor Jordanians in vulnerable communities, through water and sanitation projects and cash to meet basic needs. Raising awareness… is also an essential part of our work.”

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