INTERVIEWS: KILIAN KLEINSCHMIDT

BTOT_015

The “Mayor of Zaatari”. United National High Commission on Refugees camp director. 

Abu Hussein was head of a special forces unit of the free Syrian army. He was placing roadside bombs and stuff, and claims to have killed 73 people.  

He clearly controls this whole area and he has a security detail. He says “I can burn the camp in 5 minutes if I wish.” It was almost 3 months before he revealed himself to me and invited me for coffee. Then he screamed at me for half an hour. Once he had finished screaming, we became friends and we declared we would work together.  

We needed to find a modus operandi together to be able to survive. I mean, he has a private water tank, he has air conditioners, his kids watch television, so it isn’t that. He wants credible service delivery and he doesn’t like or trust NGO’s. But he says he wants honest people and he trusts me because he sees that I am honest. I sleep here in the camp and I am not afraid. 

One of his men told me “We saw you walking alone the other night, we were thinking whether we should kidnap you or fight you, but we decided not to because you are an honest man.” It is all about that. It doesn’t mean that tonight I will not get killed, but this is clearly a society where you have to show strength.