They left everything to save their lives. Now these Syrians are rebuilding. Again.
True
Tribeca Film Festival

It was March 2011, the middle of the Arab Spring, when 15 teenage boys were arrested in the Syrian city of Daraa for spray-painting anti-government graffiti on walls.

Public outrage followed. Then protests. Then a military crackdown by the government succeeded, inevitably, by unending civil war.


Destroyed tanks in the Syrian city of Azaz. Image by Christiaan Triebert/Flickr.

Since the fighting began, an estimated 470,000 people have lost their lives. Millions more have fled. By current numbers, an estimated 4.8 million citizens have already left Syria, many with little more than the clothes on their backs.

On July 28, 2012, the Jordanian government opened a Syrian refugee camp a few miles east of the city of Mafraq.

It was never supposed to be permanent.


The Za'atari refugee camp is the second largest of its kind in the world and, if it were an official city, it would at present be in the top 10 for largest population in Jordan.

Image by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr.

The site is three miles wide, separated into 12 districts housing an estimated 79,000 residents. It includes at least 30,000 shelters, three hospitals, nine schools, some mosques, a theater, and a sports center. There's an outdoor market of 3,000 shops and stalls where people can buy groceries, home goods and provisions. Residents called the market the "Champs Elysees," a cheeky reference to Paris' famously tony shopping district. Za'atari even has its own Twitter account, showing mostly cheerful vignettes of daily life.


Within the barbed wire-topped fences surrounding the camp, there is water, power, humanitarian aid, and (relative) safety.

But is it — and could it ever be — a home?

That's what the filmmakers of "After Spring," a documentary showing at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, wanted to find out.

Raghad and Ibahim, two refugee brothers featured in the documentary. Image via "After Spring."

This new film follows two refugee families living in Za'atari along with an aid worker trying to keep the camp running smoothly as they collectively grapple with war, displacement, and figuring out "the story of what happens next." The Hollywood Reporter describes the film's main characters:

"The film focuses on several of the camp's residents, including Abu Ibrahim, a former construction worker, and his two teenage children, Raghad, age 13, and Ibahim, age 14, who must somehow find a way to live normal teenage lives in their artificial environment. Then there's Mohammed, who deeply misses his native country; he and his wife Amani have five young children, two of them born in the camp, with a sixth on the way. We're also introduced to Kilian Kleinschmidt, the camp's indomitable manager who clearly takes a hands-on approach to overseeing his charges and who laments that many of the younger residents are foregoing an education and heading down a troubled path."

Since this documentary was filmed, the Syrian civil war entered its sixth year. There is no end in sight.

Meanwhile, millions of other refugees have fled violence or poverty in their home countries, settling in temporary camps not unlike Za'atari. The Calais "Jungle" in northeastern France is home to 5,400 refugees, including 137 Syrian households. Ethiopia's five Dadaab refugee camps house more than 328,000 Somali people.

Children in Za'atari carry empty jugs for water. Image by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr.

In each of these camps are people who've fled homes that were no longer safe. They're all looking for an answer to what happens next. But as friendly borders close, political tensions rise, and refugee numbers continue to grow, it's harder than ever to know what that might be.

Watch the trailer for "After Spring" here:

"After Spring" is being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of its Viewpoints section. Films in Viewpoints take on social issues, zooming in on topics that sometimes feel a little far away from some people but are incredibly close to others.

Thumbnail image by Matthias Somm/Flickr.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

www.youtube.com

Quantum immortality?

Might we never really pass on into nothingness? Has the world ended many times before? Are we in fact doomed to spend eternity unknowingly jumping from one dimension to the next? According to one TikTok theory, the answer is yes. And it's blowing millions of minds worldwide.

Keep Reading Show less