The Arab Spring is now more than a couple of winters old. While Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have seen a transition take place—though peace and civil rights are still a long way up the road—in Syria a bloody battle continues with no end in sight.
More than 94,000 Syrians had been killed by early May, according to figures released by the watchdog group Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. The war has created at least 1.5 million refugees, about 500,000 of whom are in Jordan. Za’atari near the Syrian border alone is home to 150,000 Syrians, and is the world’s second largest refugee camp (the largest is Dadaab in Kenya and contains close to 500,000 Somali refugees).
Our cover story “From Syria to Syria” profiles Za’atari, which is now the fifth largest population centre in Jordan. Alia Allana, who has extensively covered the Arab Spring, spent two weeks in Za’atari. She calls it a Special Political Zone and a Special Economic Zone of the Syrian conflict—a place that is virtually controlled by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). She found that the camp not only hosts FSA regulars for rest and recreation, there is a mafia network that controls access to essential services and runs the thriving illegitimate economy of the camp. Her account is one of the most comprehensive to come out of Za’atari yet.
This issue also features our first attempt at graphic reportage. In “Robin, from house to house” Ranjitha Gunasekaran who reported the story and Aprajitha Ninan who created the artwork tell us what happens after a slum is razed—what does being uprooted means, the toll it takes on lives, and the callous way in which the eviction is carried out.
Essays this month include an analysis of the Malaysian election—even though the ruling regime won, it lost the popular vote to the opposition which had promised a more democratic rule—and another on India’s vegetable revolution. Vegetable production is driving our agricultural growth, a revolution that has come about without any policy impetus from the government, writes agricultural scientist K P Prabhakaran Nair.
Don’t’ miss our photo essay on the aftermath of the Kokrajhar violence, which erupted last year in Assam’s Kokrajhar district, between the indigenous Bodos and immigrants from Bangladesh. We interview author Jerry Pinto whose novel Em and the Big Hoom is to my mind one of the finest works of Indian writing in English.
Saurav Kumar, Editor