Deric Mendes: Send Me To Za’atari

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Mendes, Deric

Deric Mendes

Just a few kilometers from the Syrian border of Jordan sits the Za’atari refugee camp. Za’atari was established a year and a half ago with the intent to provide sanctuary for up to 50,000 Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war. For the last few months at least 2,000 Syrians have entered Jordan each day.

More than 1.2 million are now living in Jordan. 140,000 of them—mostly woman and children—reside at Za’atari, making it the fifth largest city in Jordan. Many Syrians feel like prisoners since they can’t leave the camp. Their supplies are limited. Nights are freezing. Hope for a quick end to the conflict is dwindling under the sound of shelling echoing across the desert.

The Syrian civil war brings the third wave of refugees seeking asylum in Jordan. For years Palestinians and Iraqis have fled their war torn homes for the relative safety of Jordan.

This present influx of refugees, however, is unprecedented, so much so that Jordan’s monarch has found itself in such a grim financial position that the very stability of the country is under threat. This has contributed to greater resentment for the Syrians by the people of Jordan.

Last week the U.S. pledged $100 million of aid to Jordan along with 200 special ops troops to train the Jordanian army in the case the war escalates into a full-fledged international conflict. While international assistance is appreciated, it’s no long run resolve for the crisis.

So why are you reading about this in the Arcata Eye, you ask? As a long time resident of Arcata (currently studying in the LA area), I need your help.

You may know me from my time behind the counter of Northtown Books or the Alibi. Or perhaps from when I donned a dress and shiny four-inch red heels to play Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. If you were ever out on the town the last decade you may have witnessed me make assaulting noises with numerous Humboldt County bands.

Presently, I’m forging new horizons. As an independent journalist I will be traveling to Jordan this summer to report on Jordan’s invisible refugee crisis first hand.

There are several things that have inspired me to do so. During the first few days following the Boston Marathon Bombing the media spewed countless hyperbolic speculations and false leads. Trying to find legitimate information was as difficult as finding a Justin Beiber fan over 30.

However, the one thing they got right was the coverage of the heroes such as Carlos Arredondo. Arredondo, who had lost a son in Iraq, ran towards the bomb after running the marathon. And he wasn’t the only person to do so. We have tons of such stories about courageous and amazing civilians here in the states. 9/11 gave us many. But when we talk about simular situations in the rest of the world we cut it down to lines like, “2,000 Syrians have entered Jordan each day.”

I want to present these people who’ve lost everything as the strong humans they are. With my background in global politics I’m aware the situation is much more complex than a few personal stories, but there are some people whose lives and actions should not be invisible; I want to make sure readers like you hear their stories.

So if you can, please donate to my indiegogo page or at least share the information with your friends.

Deric Mendes is a student of global politics focusing on nationalism and national identity at CSULB. He is also the publisher of the online magazine Bold Type ( He is also a stunningly proficient and exceptionally musical guitar player, yet downplays this genius aspect of his prodigious skill set. 




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