In our interviews, we often ask people where they consider home. People have often responded that home is either Jordan, Syria, or Iraq, but there have been others that have responded they have no home. I recently conducted Syrian and Iraqi interviews in which refugees explained that “home” will always be their home country no matter what happens in the future. I ask these interviewees about their home that is either non-existent or unattainable, while knowing that in just a few days I will be able to return to the place I call home. I am heavyhearted while listening to these answers because I cannot fathom what that must feel like and what that must mean for their personal identity.
I am blessed to have a home at Duke. There, I know I am able to wake up and sleep peacefully at night… that my safety will never be of great concern. I am afforded the luxury of not having to worry about being abruptly removed. This differs greatly from the plight of the refugees we interview, as they are not able to return to their home. When we ask this question, we have to think about what home can possibly mean. Is home a place of relationships and camaraderie? Or is home a place where someone is able to frequently feel safe and comfortable?
In an interview Sara and I did yesterday, a young man explained that all he wants is to go back to Syria because Syria is the place where he feels most content. We agreed that it was unnecessary to ask more about where home was for him because of the way he talked about Syria. Nevertheless, during my time in Jordan, I have always known that I will not be staying here for a long time. My departure from Jordan seals a field experience, and it is very possible that after this trip, I will not be able to visit Jordan or the Middle East again. I wonder about the refugees that also imagined Jordan as a pit stop. I wonder what they feel right now as they continuously hope that they are able to discover home again. When we ask these questions of home, it is likely that the refugees we interview will never again experience the feeling of happiness when returning to the place they formally lived.
Sara and I have started adding a new question to the end of our interviews, in which we ask people if there is anything else they would like us to know about them that was not said in the interview. Most of the answers remain the same, all revolving around the idea that when someone has to leave their home country or home, they will never be the same. There will always be a part of life that is missing, that cannot be repaired until displaced people are given back their place of residence. When will these refugees be able to return home? Will that ever be the case? There is so much uncertainty around the recognition of home in Jordan, but at this point, many refugees are only able to foresee a life in Jordan for their near future. For that, I will recognize my advantage as a visitor of Amman with great significance, as the people sitting across from me during interviews cannot even imagine the certainty of returning to the place they know and love, a place they call home.