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The Refugee Project

Reflections from the Street

Aaron Ralston, Michael Thompson, and Thomas Wharton

Palestinian brothers Saleme Ata Ahmed Idris, Ziyad Adrees and Taisier Ata Mohammad Idries. Photograph by Andrew Dodd

Palestinian brothers Saleme Ata Ahmed Idris, Ziyad Adrees and Taisier Ata Mohammad Idries. Photograph by Andrew Dodd

Ziyad Adrees’ carpentry business lies down a shaded road next to the Irbid refugee camp. In a room layered with sawdust he crafts tables, beds and doors with his son and two others.

Like many of the 30,000 people in the camp, Ziyad is a second generation Palestinian refugee.

He was born in Jordan along with his two older brothers, Saleme Ata Ahmed Idris and Taisier Ata Mohammad Idries.

The brothers all spell their surnames differently, for the simple reason that Arabic names can be written in various ways using English letters. 

When official documents are created it is down to how the bureaucrat interprets and writes the name.

Taisier and Ziyad were taught carpentry by their father, and in time took over his business.

Palestinian carpenter Ziyad Adrees. Photograph by Andrew Dodd

Palestinian carpenter Ziyad Adrees. Photograph by Andrew Dodd

Their parents left their home in Wadi Salib, in downtown Haifa following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. 

They joined a steady flow of displaced Palestinians heading towards Jordan.

Ziyad said of his father, “He came with 10,000 friends and brothers.”

The Jordanian government opened its doors to the Palestinian refugees, granting them citizenship.

Many Palestinians have remained in camps like the one in Irbid in part to retain their national identity.

Taisier said, “Life in Irbid is very difficult, everything is high price and the government every time increases the cost. The work is little, not like before. Before the Syrian war and the Iraqi war.

“The problem is... no good services, no good streets, nothing. We have many challenges. People need many things. Really you cannot say what you want.”

The perceived corruption problem is compounded by the reality of a slowing economy.

Taisier said that business is declining this year for both him and Ziyad, “All the business now is not good, all business.”

The conflict in neighbouring countries has taken it’s toll on Jordan’s economy. 


Jordan is home to over 1.4 million Syrian refugees. The influx of Syrians has brought with them tales of life under the regime, the rebels and Daesh.

Taisier is confident that the regime will not last, “Assad will not stay more than three months, not more. In every battle his army try to run.”

Given that Irbid lies 40 kilometres from the Syrian border, Taisier has had first hand experience with those leaving to fight with rebel groups like Jabhat al-Nusra against the regime and Daesh.

“There is many people in Irbid fight in Syria, from Irbid, from Amman, from South of Jordan, there are many… Some come back dead, and some don’t come back. They burn him there.

“They believe it’s a religion order to fight against everyone who kill muslim, who kill the people.”

A Jordanian media commentator who spoke to us two days earlier suggested that the government has prepared itself for the return of its citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq.

He said that militants coming home are being tried in military courts under expanded anti-terrorism laws. 

Despite this, Taisier is scared for the security of Jordan, “This whole area after not a long time will be more danger, all the area. Fighting.”