Syrians Among Us tries to mitigate hostility toward Syrians. The program covers topics ranging from anti-refugee hate speech to discrimination against Syrian children in Jordanian schools. The reporters decide what topics are most pressing based on firsthand experience. Al-Mazouni, for example, visits Zaatari two or three times a week—slipping in without showing his press badge. The stories are not hard to find. “I see reports everywhere, in every face, in every corner, in every side,” Al-Mazouni says. “There are only problems there.”
One of his stories was about the hammams (bathrooms) inside the three-square-mile Zaatari camp. “There is no security inside the camp, and at night there is no light,” Al-Mazouni says. “So people are scared of going to the hammam at night.” Many refugees must walk long distances just to reach the bathroom, anyway, he says, and in the pitch black of night they are afraid of assault.
Another story he did addressed the UN’s administrative shortcomings at the Syrian-Jordanian border. The typical Syrian at the border will meet a UN worker who asks for his name and takes his documents, Al-Mazouni explained. Then he’s left without direction save for advice from other refugees. “No one tells you where to find food or water or medicine.”
A thousand people line up at the UN Refugee Agency in Amman at five o’clock every morning, Al-Mazouni says, waiting for guidance. “Everything is slow. The employees fight with the refugees. There are only six or seven workers for a thousand people. What can they do?”
Syrians Among Us works to fill this information void. Local stations in Irbid, Zarqa, Mafraq, Karak, and Ma’an rebroadcast the program, and in the next phase of the project cmn plans to distribute small radios to camp refugees so they can listen.
So far, the results of the coverage have been mixed. After his report about the bathroom situation, Al-Mazouni says, security patrols began to organize within the camp—but staffed by refugees themselves, not by the Jordanian or international administration. “Shbab [young people] from inside the camp began to make security patrols,” he says. “But they are just activists without training. They don’t really know about security. So now there are security people, but there is no security.”
CMN’s final assessment of the pilot program cites some successes. After one report on refugees in Mabrouka village, Jordanian hosts collected donations to assist the 70 Syrians living there. On another occasion, listeners organized to rescue 800 refugees who’d been left destitute in the desert.
Meanwhile, Syrians Among Us acquired $111,000 of funding from the State Department for a second phase, which began October 1 with training sessions. Broadcasts were scheduled to start in November. CMN wants to increase the radio show from thee times a week to daily, expand coverage across the country, and have at least one regular correspondent based inside Zaatari. According to Kuttab, two pillars of CMN training are truth and balance. He doesn’t expect refugees who fled Syria to be “objective” about Bashar al-Assad, but their stories must not exaggerate and must include other points of view. “You can be subjective, but still fair,” Kuttab says.
The program is not about agitation or opinion, Al-Mazouni adds, but about news: “My emotions are my own. When I write something, I must reflect the reality.”
Asked if he’ll continue with journalism if the Syrian war ends, Al-Mazouni interrupts. “Not war, revolution,” he says. “And when it ends, not if. Of course it will end; we will return and we’ll build our country.”
Will he build as a journalist, an activist, or a businessman? “All. Anything. Everything,” Al-Mazouni says. “I’ll do everything for my country.”