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Couple speaks out on plight of Syrian refugees
A COUPLE have spoken about how they saw first-hand the plight of Syrian refugees fleeing from their homes.
Wadham College student Thomas Stocker, 23, and his wife Abigail, 24, a teacher at Faringdon Infant School, ended up on holiday in Jordan by chance after plans to visit friends in Palestine fell through.
Soon after arriving, they were shocked and horrified by the experiences of the many Syrian families seeking refuge in the city of Mafraq and resolved to help in any way they could.
Mr Stocker, of Temple Road, Cowley, said: “Initially Abbie thought she could teach the children at the camps in some way, and I wanted to learn about the political situation and hear more detail on the Free Syrian Army and the conflict there.
“However, since arriving, we discovered that most Syrian refugees lived outside the camps.
“Furthermore, just coming to Mafraq on the way to the camps, we met many refugees desperate to speak about what they were going through.”
They were approached in the street by a Syrian refugee named Mohammed, who invited the couple back to stay with him and his family.
Mohammed had taken part in anti-Government demonstrations and said as a result he had been arrested, beaten with a stick with metal spikes, had his teeth pulled and was shot.
He managed to escape the country with his wife and six of his children after paying a bribe of 50,000 Syrian pounds – the equivalent of £483 – to cross the border.
Four family members were left behind and on the first day the Stockers met the family, they were coping with the news that his two nephews had been killed in Aleppo, Syria, while buying bread.
Mrs Stocker said: “I have ended up not teaching but doing much more playing with the children I am staying with, this has been incredibly important with their coping and well being.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by just how many Syrian refugees are in this town alone. Each story is harrowing and takes days to digest.”
The pair described tales of torture, rape, and families who saw their children killed or fighting for their cause – and how refugees swarmed charity offices in desperate need of financial help.
Mr Stocker said: “We still are shocked. “That’s why we’re trying to share these stories.
“We’ve really been shocked by the hospitality and kindness of both Syrians and Jordanians.
“I’ve been shocked by how much loss each family has had to deal with at once.”
The couple said they believed there were many untold stories about the dangers of living within refugee camps, fears about possible conflict between Syria and Jordan, and how difficult it is to leave the country.
Mr and Mrs Stocker are set to fly home from Cairo on Sunday after 21 days in Jordan.
They have pledged to continue to try and raise awareness about the Syrian refugees’ plight.
THE conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with demonstrations as part of the Arab spring movement.
Protesters called for the end of five decades of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian Army was deployed in spring 2011 to quell the uprising, and soon after this civilian opposition and army defectors began to unify under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. Thousands of people have died in the conflict and an estimated 1.5 million Syrians have been displaced, with tens of thousands fleeing to Kurdistan, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The violence has included attacks on foreign embassies, suicide bombings, use of heavy weaponry and militia killings of civilians.
The UN General Assembly has now passed a resolution calling for President Assad's resignation.