Tara Sutton writes for the Guardian:
With criminals and rebels helping them on their way, Syria's army of refugees marches by night, in single file and silence, towards the Jordanian border. More than 140,000 desperate people, many of them women and children, have sought sanctuary from their neighbour since the uprising in their homeland began 13 months ago … and most now face an uncertain future.
Unlike Turkey, Jordan does not have a refugee camp and new arrivals are left to fend for themselves. They escape mostly "through the fence", too frightened to leave Syria by its official borders.
For some this is because their documents were burned when the army torched their homes; for others it is because they are being hunted by the government because someone in their family is, or was, a fighter.
In Jordan most of the aid they are getting comes from local Islamic and Christian charities with limited resources. They get boxes of food from one group; another donates mattresses and kitchen sets. But it is not enough, and many wonder where the international NGOs are.
"They [the international aid agencies] have a lot of meetings," said the head of one local charity well known to many refugees. "But I don't see anything on the ground. There is all this talking and still the Syrians need beds and food and stoves." Many live in buildings that were formerly abandoned and lack basic necessities like water and ventilation. Some of the poorest families are living in tents made from old jute sacks.
The border town of Mafraq in Jordan now hosts around 10,000 Syrian refugees, almost all from rebel neighbourhoods of the city of Homs, where the fighting has left many of the women widowed.
"Everyone from Homs is either dead or escaped," said Miriam, a resident of the city who came to Mafraq four months ago. "Even the birds left."
Ghada, 40, from al-Bayda, Homs. Mother of seven: five girls and two boys
My husband was with the rebels. He was working as an ambulance driver, collecting people who had been shot by snipers and taking them to the field hospitals. And then he was killed by a sniper. He was helping a pregnant woman, taking her to hospital. That was 10 weeks ago.
He was a volunteer in the army; his salary was paid by the state. We had an arranged marriage when I was 20 — our families were neighbours. We had liked each other for years. He was a lovely person; he had a good sense of humour and liked to help others. We had a happy life before the revolution. He was easygoing. He liked whatever I cooked.
After he was killed and we buried him, we went to Damascus to be with my in-laws and wait for things to calm down. But then we heard, from family who were still there, that security had looted our house and set it on fire. So we had nowhere to live any more.
The rebels told us that in the towns nearby — Ashira, Karms al Zaytoon, Baba Amr — the security forces would rape the young women and slaughter them with knives. I have four teenage daughters, so our family told us that we should leave.
We were smuggled to Jordan by the rebels. Because my husband was martyred, the security forces were after us. The regime keeps the names of the martyrs and comes for their families. We lost our papers when our house was burned down.
Our escape started at 8pm, after dark. We were told to wear black and to walk without making a sound. My 18-year-old daughter carried my four year old. We were so afraid that the security forces would ambush us. There were four families including ours; 10 rebels walked side by side with us and there were rebels in front and behind. It was hilly and the ground was rocky. There was moonlight. We were so frightened, just waiting to cross the border.
My brother-in-law rented this place for us and asked us to come to stay. The church gave us the mattresses and a stove and the Islamic centre helps with food. We came with nothing; we barely carried ourselves.
Um Ahmed 38, from Baba Siba, Homs. Mother of four sons
My husband Abu Ahmed was an army officer. He worked for the Ministry of Defence as an inspector in an armaments factory. We had a good life. My husband had a good salary. I am a midwife, like my mother and three aunts. I have been delivering babies since I took the certificate when I was 14. I can't even tell you how many babies I have delivered, too many to count.
When the revolution started, the Syrian army asked him to report for duty. He refused to go because they were killing children. So they arrested him. He was kept in jail for 22 days. Then he told them, OK, he would join them.
As soon as he was released he prepared our passports and papers and got us out of the country. We have four sons, all boys, aged 16, 14, 12 and 10. Then he defected and formed his own battalion to fight against the Syrian army. That was in December 2011.
We had been married for 20 years. I first saw my husband outside my school when I was 16; he worked nearby. Do you believe in love at first sight? He was good-looking, blonde and blue-eyed; his family was originally from Russia. I pretended not to look at him, but he came over and tried to talk to me. I was shy at first, but then I gave in. After two years we got married.
My family didn't approve because they were of a different sect. But we were very happy. Abu Ahmed was very liberated, he allowed mixed socialising, with men and women. He wasn't one of those husbands always asking "Where did you go today?" "Who did you visit?" He trusted me. He would send me texts to my cell phone. He wrote me this poem two months ago.
It's true we are distant for nights,
It's true we are busy being concerned
But precious remains precious
And appears in every dream.
He was killed a month ago fighting in Houla in the battle there.
I didn't find out the day he died. My family told me gradually. They told me "your husband was shot" and then they told me he might have passed away. Two days after he died, they finally told me that he had been killed. I felt that I lost a piece of my heart. I told my eldest, Ahmed, myself, but the neighbours had to tell the youngest.
I am proud that he was killed for a good cause and he was not a traitor to his country or his people. The Koran says: "Those who are killed fighting for the cause of God are alive and not dead."
I am surviving with the help of God and I have a strong personality. I don't like to collapse in front of my kids. If I fall apart, what will happen to them?