The project Syrians Between Us allows Syrian refugees in Jordan to tell their life stories and train as reporters. Thanks to the initiative, some refugees like Zein and Sa'id now work as journalists.
As a storytelling initiative, Syrians Between Us gives Syrian refugees in Jordan the opportunity to tell their life stories and train as citizen reporters. The aim is that the practice of journalism will help these refugees build for their futures.
Between 2012 and 2016, the project has given 60 Syrian refugees the chance to tell their stories and train as journalists. For some of them, the initiative has served as a jumping-off point for finding work in the field.
Zein and Sa'id, from activists to journalists
Zein Jbeily and Sa'id al-Haj Ali are two participants in the project, sponsored by Radio Al Balad in Amman in partnership with the US Department of Public Affairs in Jordan. They told the story of their experiences to the online journal Global Voices. Jbeily fled Aleppo in 2012. She wasn't a journalist in Syria, but she would film protests and send the videos to the country's TV stations. In 2016, Jbeily became part of the Syrians Between Us project.
"Nonviolence is the greatest weapon in the reach of humanity, it is stronger than the most powerful weapon of destruction," she told Global Voices. For each article written, the refugees are paid about 100 dollars.
Sa'id al-Haj Ali also participated in the storytelling project beginning in 2014. "I came to Jordan because I was scared of arrest and in search for safety. Because of the continuing threats from the Assad regime to me and my family, Jordan was the only option for me," he told Global Voices. He wasn't a journalist in Syria either, but he would publicize opposition, and this led to his being jailed on multiple occasions. He said the Syrians Between Us project has been essential for him.
"There was no media in Jordan to talk about the problems, issues, and stories of the Syrians - problems in their daily lives about food, aid, treatment, and education," he said.
An opportunity to train professionals
Thanks to Syrians Between Us, Jbeily and Ali now work full-time as journalists. Both of them would like to return to live in Syria. "People are the experts on their own lives. We thought why not give a chance to Syrians to talk about their own," Daoud Kuttab, one of the founders of the program, told Global Voices. "An indirect goal of us was that once Syria becomes free and democratic that they will need a cadre of professionally trained journalists and they can come work in their own country," Kuttab said.