On half a kilometer of desert no-man’s land, surrounded by sand and stones, 70,000 people are crammed into a camp on the Jordanian border with Syria. Ruqban is a black hole, an oasis-hell 130 kilometers from the nearest village and the nearest water well. In recent years, Ruqban has become a refugee camp, monitored day and night by King Abdullah’s military.
There’s no turning back. But there’s no going forward either.
This is the policy that many Arab countries have adopted since welcoming millions of Syrian refugees: Turkey has sealed the borders for a year and a half and has shot at those trying to pass through. Lebanon has canceled residence permits and suspended new arrivals.
Amman, for its part, has cut aid. At least to Ruqban. In this piece of dry, hot desert, where the curtains are made of plastic sheets, international organizations provide the bare minimum for survival. But today they are blocked from entering Ruqban. That’s the order from the Jordanian government, which has declared the area a “closed military zone” after a June 21 attack claimed by ISIS. A militant blew himself up at a military base one kilometer from Ruqban, killing seven Jordanian soldiers and wounding 13.