Syria refugees shrug off peace talks but dream of home

AZRAQ REFUGEE CAMP, Mussa Hattar with Mouhammed Ali Ahmad in east Lebanon- Almost six years into a war that has devastated their country, Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon say they expect nothing of peace talks this month but still dream of going home.
"I don't think anything will come of the talks" this week in Kazakhstan and the next in Switzerland, says Ahmad al-Khabouri, 32, at a refugee camp in Jordan.

But the young man, who fled Syria with his wife and children in 2014, says he still clings on to hope of returning home some day.
"I don't know if my house has been destroyed or not, but I want to return home even if we've managed to make a new life for ourselves here," he says.
The war has killed more than 310,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
In the Azraq refugee camp, Khabouri runs a small shop that sells shisha tobacco and bicycles, the only method of transport for around 54,000 residents in the settlement.
Sitting beside him outside his shop, Khabouri's 65-year-old uncle says he still thinks about his home and surrounding fields in Daraa, the southern cradle of Syria's uprising.
But he says he is just as disillusioned about the latest rounds of talks between the regime and rebels set to take place in Astana on Thursday and in Geneva on February 23.
"It's all lies, whether from the regime or the opposition. They're all laughing at the Syrian people," says the man in a long white robe and a traditional keffiyeh headscarf.
At a nearby electronics stall, Ali al-Ghouthani, 42, says he'll return to Syria as soon as it is safe.
- 'All I want is home' -
"Despite the dignified life we have here, I'll go back as soon as security returns -- even if my home is destroyed... I'll rebuild it," says the father-of-eight, who is also from Daraa.
Beside him, Abdelmonem al-Muthib listens to the chirping of a caged bird brought from Syria.
But he says Syria will have to be much safer for him to return.
"I won't start again from scratch, even if the fighting stops... unless the situation looks at least 35 percent like it did before the war," says the father-of-six.
"If not, I'll stay here."
The UN refugee agency says Jordan has taken in 655,000 Syrians since the start of the conflict, but Amman says the number is much higher at 1.4 million.
In Lebanon, where the UNHCR says it has registered more than one million Syrian refugees, camp residents express similar frustration at the stagnant peace process.
"We're not expecting anything. They've already met five or six times without any results," says Tarek Salloum, 24, standing outside a makeshift home in a camp in east Lebanon.
"There'll be no solution because no one wants to make any concessions," says the refugee, who fled to the Marj area from the Syrian town of Zabadani across the border.
"The losers are the Syrians who left their country."
Qasiya Ezz, who has 10 children, says all she wants from the talks is "security and a small house for me and my children".
"Whether the regime falls or not, I don't care," says the 38-year-old, her head wrapped in a black scarf.
"We used to have peace in our beautiful country. All I want is to go home."

Wednesday, February 15th 2017
Mussa Hattar with Mouhammed Ali Ahmad

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