[The following is a recently published annoymous eye-witness account. It documents the experience of one self-identified Syrian individual as s/he attempted to enter Amman, Jordan via air travel, and what that person witnessed in terms of the treatment of other Syrians traveling through the Amman airport. The text has been slightly edited for typographical errors.]
How Jordan Treats Syrians at the Airport
I arrived to Jordan yesterday at 9:30 a.m.. I stood in line at passport control, I noticed that there were some people turning back and going to the back of the hall. I looked back and noticed quite a few people, but I thought to myself that perhaps there was something special about them.
My turn came up and I approached the [passport control] guy putting on a face full politeness (as you should do if you are a Syrian nowadays so that airport security does not think that you are a criminal or something). He started asking me about the purpose of my visit.
I told him that I was here just to pick up my Swedish residency card from the embassy, that I had an appointment at 1:00 p.m., and that my flight back is at 3:50 p.m.. He asked me where I was staying. I told him that I was not staying anywhere because I would be in Jordan for less that twelve hours and [that] I just wanted to pick up my [residency] card because the embassy refused to DHL/Fedex it to me. Another set of random questions went b,y and then he asked me again where I was staying. I told him the same thing around three times. He then put my passport in a drawer and asked me to go to the end of the hall. I asked him politely if I may ask about the reason. He looked at me as if I have offended him, and answered bluntly [saying]: "No, go back!"
I went [to the] back and noticed an astonishing number of Syrians standing, sitting on the floor, and running around the back of that hall. The same thing happened to all Syrians on the same Beirut-Amman flight. Some of them were coming from different locations like [the] United Arab Emirates, and a couple from Saudi Arabia.
I stayed there, walking back and forth around the hall for about two hours. No reason was given what so ever for why we were being held there and not granted entrance (or [rather] refused entrance). Some people started asking security officers walking around about what was happening and all they got [in reply] were vague answers. I noticed that all these officers were speaking with a hostile attitude [combined] with a sense of mockery. Nothing was happening at all. Security officers were gathered around one of their desks, talking and laughing like there was not anyone waiting.
Until that point, I was only afraid that I might miss my appointment at the embassy.
I went back to talk to the same guy who told me to go back in the first place to ask him about what [was] happening, and to tell him that my appointment was at 1:00 p.m.. [That] was around 11:30 a.m.. After I basically told him the same thing, he asked me about my name and said, "You are Iranian, right?" I said, "No, I am Syrian." He hesitated a bit and then asked me, "You support the regime or the opposition?" I was a bit shocked that he asked me that, but I could not think of anyway out of […] this discussion but to play along. I told him that I support neither; that I think both are good and both are bad. He tried the question again, with a different phrasing, trying to force me to pick a side. I said the same thing. Then he told me “what if they both were holding a gun to your head, which side would you be on?” I stuttered a bit and told him that I would still pick neither because if they are going to hold a gun to my head for support, they most definitely do not deserve my support. It was showing on his face that he did not like my answer. But he told me to go back and sit, and they would call me in a bit. I went back and stood in an area where he could see me.
After a couple of minutes, I was called to the office of some airport intelligence officer. He asked me the same thing and I went over the reason I was traveling to Jordan for the fifth time. He asked me if I have any papers to prove that I am in Jordan to visit the embassy. I told him that I called the embassy the day before, and that they told me that my residency card is ready and that I could pick it up anytime between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m.. He said that he needed some document to prove this. I told him that I could show him emails back and forth with the embassy and with Lund University where I have been accepted to study. I told him that my flight to Sweden is this month, and that I have been out of Syria for the past three years or so. He kept saying that he needs a document to prove that I was in Jordan to go to the embassy. So I told him that we can call the embassy and they will tell him that my card is there. He complained that I might call some other guy to cheat. I told him to call them himself, and that it is a phone number—no one can cheat about that. He looked into my passport for a bit and then abruptly said “no," and [then] yelled to the other officer in the room to bring in the next guy. Then, I thought maybe I can call the embassy and ask them to provide me with a document to prove it to him.
About thirty minutes passed by and I [then] heard a loud shouting noise from one of the women in the hall. She was complaining (loudly) about the way they were treating Syrians, and that she had been standing for about three hours and no one had asked her anything yet. Two security officers approached her and took her to the same intelligence office I was in. They closed the door this time. After a couple of minutes, they sent her out back to the hall again. I later learned that she had been banned from ever entering Jordan again.
Then, one of the security officers came and started reading [out] names. He read six names and mine was one of them. He asked us all to come with him. He told us that our entry has been refused and we were being sent back. At that point, I did not even want to enter anymore. He said that we would have to wait until the time of our [departing] flight. I thought they would make us wait next to the gate, so that was fine.
A security officer asked us to follow him again and they took us to a room that is something like a forgotten part of Queen Alia International Airport. The room was dirty, unventilated, and full of people. Some of them were sleeping on the floor, some made beds out of their suits to lay on, while a thick layer of smoke filled the top part of the room and made it seem like we were literally entering prison. We were told to stay there and wait for our flight.
The room was full of Syrians and two Egyptians. I counted up to fifty different young men and women and around, [along with] twenty children aged twelve or under. All [were] kept in this room, [while] forcing women to sit in a separate part. Two people from my flight entered the room with me: a guy and girl, same age, either friends or brother and sister. The girl started sobbing. The security officers in there were even worse than the ones I was talking to before.
I remember one guy distinctively. His name is Malek Jamal Mohammad. While I was sitting there, a women got out of the women`s area carrying her little girl. The little girl was crying so hard that her face was red and covered with mucus. She approached Malek, who was sitting on a nice chair right at the entrance of the room guarding it. She asked him if she could go to the bathroom to wash her daughter`s face, and he started yelling hysterically at her to go back and enter the door. She told him that if she can at least get a drink of water, but he continued yelling: "We do not have water. You drank all of it!”
I later learned that there were ninety-nine people in the room, and that some people had been held in this room for four days or more. The smell in the room was beyond BO. It was just like prison.
I stayed there for about three more hours awaiting my flight back. Then, an officer called my name and asked me to walk with him. I asked him about my passport, and if I could have it back now. He said that I could not have it before I entered the airplane.
I walked to the gate, with him two steps behind me, feeling like a prisoner. On my way to the gate, an English-speaking (I think an Australian) guy approached him and, looking worried, asked him if he can speak English. The security guy did not understand a word and stared at him for like a minute. I took the initiative and said, “Yes! What do you need?” He told me that there was a guy sitting on one of the chairs there (he pointed where, and I noticed a bag there) and that it seemed like he left the bag intentionally. He said it seemed suspicious. I started to translate back to the security guy what he said. Before I started, he told me that he understood everything and that he does not need me. We walked three more steps and he asked me about what that guy had said about the bag. I told him everything he said. He started to mumble something like “forget about it” or something of that sorts. He gave me my passport right at the door of the airplane, and sent me in.
After settling in my seat, I could not help but think about the other Syrian people left behind in that room.