International efforts to organise a Syria peace conference are at fever pitch, but in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, Syrian refugees are more concerned with the misery of their daily lives than diplomatic manoeuvring.
“To be honest, we’re fed up with these conferences, there have been many… without results. We want a radical solution,” said Saleh, a former labourer from Syria’s southern Daraa province.
The efforts by Washington and Moscow to organise a peace conference next month mean little to the 120,000 residents of the dusty camp, where daytime temperatures hover around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
“We either want to go back or to know what is going to happen to us, we’ve been waiting for so long,” Saleh says.
Zaatari is located in the middle of the desert, not far from the Syrian border, and residents complain of shortages of water and electricity and describe the food as “something even animals wouldn’t eat.”
To collect their rations, men queue up under the blazing sun in front of a distribution centre, where chickens are roasting in the open air, surrounded by clouds of flies and dust.
The camp has become a city of sorts, with its main road transformed into a marketplace, complete with makeshift cafes, shops of all kinds and even hairdressers.
Fatigue is written across the faces of the residents, particularly when journalists ask about the possibility of a conference to discuss a political solution to the conflict which has left more than 94,000 dead since March 2011.
“Why another conference? To agree deals that ignore the blood that is shed by the children? We have no hope for anything,” says Adel, a former car dealer who lost everything when he left Daraa.
For the last year he has tried to earn money by manning a miserable kiosk in the camp, selling coffee, tamarind juice and soft drinks to his fellow refugees.
“They’re holding this conference because they’ve reached the point where neither side (the regime or rebels) can win,” adds Adel, who was detained by the regime after the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.
For most of the camp’s residents, peace remains nothing more than a dream, and the overriding sentiment is one of abandonment by the international community.
“If they had wanted to do something, they would have done it from the beginning,” says another resident, Aziz.
Mohammed, a Syrian who was living in the United Arab Emirates, says he came to Zaatari to open a shop to help his countrymen.
“People are in the process of building their lives here, they’re settling in,” he says.
“Day by day, they’re losing hope,” he adds.
“People here are waiting, but it seems that things will drag on.”
He expresses hatred for Assad and frustration with the international community.
The Friends of Syria group of governments that back the rebels met in Amman this week as part of the diplomatic efforts to convene the peace conference.
The conference is intended to build on a deal agreed in Geneva last year that called for a halt to the violence and a transitional government.
But Mohammed said diplomatic efforts were not enough.
“They only need to send one plane to hit” Assad and his allies, he said.
“What can we do when we’re facing Russia, facing heavy weapons? People are dying… and he is getting help from Hezbollah, Iran, everyone is helping him.”
In a camp where sentiments are firmly in favour of the Syrian uprising, residents are clear about what the opposition’s demands should be.
“Yes to negotiations, yes to a transitional government, but without Bashar, without Bashar,” insists Abdul Karim, from the village of Taybe in Daraa.