Archive for the ‘Showcase’ Category

By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

Witnessing the bombing of the neighbouring suburb, Mahmoud Al-Adawi explains the trauma that the post-civil war generation is experiencing and asks why people refuse to leave.

In the camp we have had a relatively calm night. I stayed up a little bit late because I was watching Nasrallah’s interview on Al-Jazeera, which ended at around 2 am. He essentially said that the only option left for the Israelis is a ground invasion. Since Safaa came with her family, I am sleeping in my cousin’s empty house, as he and his family moved down to the ground floor with the rest of his family. That’s the case in almost in all the homes – everyone is sleeping on the ground floors. My mother and sisters, as well as all the kids from upstairs sleep in our living room. In these kinds of situations, spaces seem to acquire a greater capacity than would seem possible; it defies all laws of space. The days since this military operations started have been heavy and long. There is nothing new in this for the older generations who went through calamities and many wars before, but it’s something completely different for the post-war generation – it’s hard for them to grasp and they are already traumatised. The F-16s that are bombing the neighbourhood of Haret Hreik as well as other areas close to the camp are using huge bombs, and most of them fall no more than 200 meters away. This has taken its toll on this new generation – the first signs of trauma have been etched into the record of their lives and memories. Something that they had previously heard only in stories, they are now living. Their reaction has been fear and an endless stream of questions starting with, ‘When will this end?’, ‘Will they bomb us too?’, ‘Why are they doing this?’ And you have to try and answer their questions, even if only to calm them down. In the now lifeless and silent southern suburbs of Beirut, the only remaining sign of life is Bourj Al-Barajneh. There is no sign of life beyond the edges of the camp. People gather within its boundaries, following the news, chatting, discussing and analysing. “During a blackout, men and women sit in front of their homes while the kids play around, before all of this is interrupted by a new air raid, accompanied by deafening sounds of explosions followed by the pressure shockwaves that makes the maze of homes here shake and tremble, drawing portraits of horror on faces, triggering panic among kids, and calling for an endless effort by parents to calm them down and keep them physically close and busy with something to play with. When the bombing starts, those people who can bear the scene just stand silently like statues and watch the huge bombs falls on ill-fated neighbourhoods. The nature of the camp community is that people are highly attached to each other – the evacuation of one family would trigger evacuations by neighbours and inevitably create a sense of anxiety and panic. This happened a few days ago, when there was extremely heavy bombing that lasted for almost the entire day. A woman living with her kids close to our neighbourhood came to my cousin’s shop to buy supplies as she always does. The moment she reached the door and saw us all in the small yard, she started to cry, saying, ‘You are still here! I thought you all left, my neighbours left me alone, please tell me if you want to leave, take me with you.’ We calmed her down and assured her we would not leave her, and invited her to stay with the women so as not to feel lonely. For the time being, those who can afford to rent an apartment or who have relatives outside the camp have left. But until now, the majority of the camp is still here according to yesterday’s census made by the volunteers. Some of the families who left a few days ago have returned, saying that they had the feeling that they were becoming refugees a second time at some school or shelter, or in someone else’s small home. It was humiliating and unbearable.

Why are people staying?

It’s something in the sub-consciousness and memories of people who have been made refugees again and again. It’s a simple choice between having to leave and wander aimlessly around to a place that may be more secure, yes, but that would cause more suffering in every other respect, and between staying in this horrible situation where bombs are falling all around us. It seems that at this moment, the second option is winning. There is no need to talk about courage and such things as the reason for why people are staying — we know already that there is no courage that can defy an F-16 – the God of our skies these days. Working is a good thing to do in such days and I’m lucky – it’s the one thing that no one from the camp is able to do these days – to leave the waiting prison of the camp. It’s such a weird feeling to go to work along deserted roads that only a few days ago were the busiest and most crowded in the city. I walk and the only thing I can here is my heartbeat, the birds and my footsteps on the splintered glass, sand and small concrete debris covering the asphalt, as if expelled by some volcanic eruption. On the way, you see a few cars speeding by like bullets and some people walking, surely out of necessity. The cars parked along the way look like they exploded, shops and apartments are gutted. No door or window is in its original place due to the pressure caused by the shockwaves of the huge bombs. Coming back from work finds me engulfed in a flurry of questions from the kids who are seeking some sort of answer to what has happened and what may come. Maybe it brings them some feeling of calmness inside to do so.

By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

As the war intensifies Mahmoud Al-Adawi retells the horrifying night of bombings in the area and the destruction of his cousin’s shop.

I think the situation is going to escalate, from what I can see of the ground operation so far, as well as the diplomatic track. I don’t know what they are thinking in terms of this draft UN resolution. It is absolutely inapplicable, at least for the time being. Even Siniora [Lebanese Prime Minister] – in reference to the resolution and his opinion that these things do not work in Lebanon – finished his speech by using an expression yesterday that could be used by someone who has just been ordered to kill himself by drinking poison: ‘Fear God in what you are doing.’

It was clear yesterday and today in the early morning that both sides are stepping up their activities, bombing and counter-bombing. It seems that from this side the intention was to send a message, saying that there is nothing that will make the Lebanese and Hizbullah accept this resolution and also to prove Hizbullah’s capacity to maintain its offensive at maximum.

From the Israeli side, it was a message to the Syrian Foreign Minister who was in Ba ‘ abda [village close to Beirut where the Presidential Palace is located] when they bombed the eastern part of Beirut, in the daytime. This was after he said that Syria would join the fighting if it were attacked by Israel.

Last Thursday [03 August] the situation in the camp was somewhat disturbed for a short time, after the Israelis dropped leaflets on the southern suburbs of Beirut, around the camp. The leaflets were telling people to leave some areas, mainly Haret Hreik and Ouzaii. Even though the leaflets where dropped outside the camp some guys brought a few of them in and the news started spreading before anyone had actually read what was written on them.

Some people started talking about leaving the camp, and of course this called for a great effort to try and calm people in the neighbourhood. I read the leaflet and it was clearly avoiding mentioning the Bourj area as a whole, which includes a Lebanese residential area, as well as the camp.

It seemed to me that the omission was intentional so as not to confuse people and make them believe that the camp could be bombed. Anyhow that was my interpretation. This commotion lasted for close to an hour, while Israeli drones flew overhead and everyone was standing around in the neighbourhood looking up at the sky.

Then everything when back to normal. A couple of hours later the planes started bombing all the places mentioned in the leaflet, mainly Ouzaii close to the airport highway junction, something that lasted until Friday morning. It was the most horrific night since the war started, because this time the jets stayed for a very long time and they dove – something that makes a very distinctly dreadful sound – prior to dropping the bombs (the sound of which could also, of course, be heard).

This is the first time since this war began that the Israeli jets have dived while bombing; they used to always drop bombs from a high altitude and we didn’t hear much before the actual explosions themselves. I went to check on all my family that night and I found them sitting in the living room, squeezed into one place and not talking much, like all the people in the camp that night.

It’s the common reaction to something that is beyond your ability to control, people call it destiny and say in such moments: ‘What can we do? Whatever comes, we can’t change it.’ I went back to bed to force myself to sleep despite the bombing, and I did manage to get some sleep, until suddenly it seemed that the bombing was much closer than usual. It was almost 5 am and I was lying on the ground beneath the open window.

Because I was somewhat asleep, I opened my eyes when I heard the explosion and I saw the curtain flying due to the pressure of the shockwave and thought that the wall was actually collapsing onto me. I flew from my bed, but once I realised that it was only the curtain I laughed at myself, got dressed and went out to take some pictures of the scene before going back to bed. The next day [Friday, 04 August] no one was up before noon because they didn’t get to sleep. When I returned from work, the effect was still clear: people’s faces displayed fatigue and worry; some had not eaten all day – and not due to stomach problems – but rather because of the stress endured that night. In the evening things were better, the night was calm, even though the bombing resumed after midnight, but not as intensely as the previous night.

Saturday [05 August] was relatively calm. I went to the office in the morning and then to Hamra. In that part of Beirut the situation is more normal, almost the same as before the war. There are fewer cars moving, but numerous parked cars along the streets, and more people than usual walking around. You really feel as though you are in a different country there.

I returned to the camp and took a walk through the alleyways, taking some pictures as I went. People were sitting in front of their homes in groups, as they usually do in the afternoons these days (as the weather is cooler) and there were tons of children too. When they saw me with a camera in hand they started jumping saying ‘Sawwirna! Sawwirna!’ [take our picture], as they usually do! So I took a few pictures of them and continued on. The shops in the camp are still open, but obviously with less stock. Some shops brought in more vegetables and fruits, as well as bread, so the feeling you get walking through the camp is still that the situation is relatively normal. I mean, you don’t feel that there is a serious problem yet, although some supplies are being distributed every once in a while. Yesterday [Sunday, 06 August] the bombing was once again very intense. The jets bombed Dahiyeh during the day, something that hasn’t happened in quite a few days, and this time the bombing was tremendous. At a certain point, it sounded almost as though it were raining bombs. This time, they bombed more toward the western side of Dahiyeh, about three blocks behind the Amliyyeh [a large technical college facing the camp directly]. When the dust cleared, we were able to see from our rooftop that the building behind the Amliyyeh had vanished – it had been completely wiped out. Then the bombs stated falling on the eastern side of Dahiyeh, where we saw them hit a block of buildings that then collapsed and disappeared as well. At the end, the bombs hit a building facing the Audi bank, at the lower edge of the camp and then silence prevailed. A few minutes later the news of the last bombing location started circulating. From the first moment I saw the bomb falling and exploding on that spot, I knew that it had hit the building where my cousin’s shop is located.

He has a shop for refrigerators and ACs there, but I didn’t say anything because I don’t like being the bearer of bad news. I knew that he was at home in our neighbourhood, but I found out later that he used to go to his shop everyday to spend a few hours there (yesterday, thankfully, he didn’t). So, of course, it didn’t take long for people to start streaming in to check on him because they knew that he had the habit of going there. When he found out he said, ‘What can we do? What happened to my shop is the same that has been happening to all the people who lived and worked in Dahiyeh.’ He tried to hide his sadness. Then his mother found out and she said the same thing, also trying to hide her sadness, although it seemed that she was about to start crying but she held it back.

That is, she held it back until she received a call from her brother. From her brother who is still living inside ’48 Palestine, close to Nahariya. He was checking on her and when she told him what had happened, he told her that it’s the same situation over there. That Katyushas are falling close to his house sometimes.

So at that point she started crying. You see it was the last draw, realising that her brother on the other side was also in danger. It was more than she could bear, and it destroyed any ability she had to control her tears.

By: Olfat Mahmoud

Olfat Mahmoud expresses her fears in the looming health crisis that is a result of the war.

Black Death, that’s how the future seems to everyone afflicted by war, an unpredictable future and the only wish they have is to die today before tomorrow because of the horrific terrorism inflicted upon innocent civilians. The health situation is not cheerful. Everyday the situation worsens and people have become obsessed with the idea that they are going to die, if not from bombardment then from diseases. Fulfilling our role as an NGO, we are exerting all our efforts to provide the needy with medicine and healthy treatment. As the director of the Women’s Humanitarian Organization (WHO) I would like to highlight the health programs implemented by our NGO and focus on the current critical health situation.

Our health program consists of major areas dealt with among women by raising health awareness and guiding them with the right hygiene. Such issues are: health education for women, breast feeding, breast cancer, child diarrhea, aged care. In addition, we also deal with elderly care, mainly for chronic diseases.

The effect of war on health has been easily observed since the beginning of war in July 12. Bourj El Barajneh camp is a significant example. It is home to about 20,000 Palestinians and is located near the airport, in the southern suburb of Beirut, precisely adjacent to the area targeted aimlessly by Israeli air strikes. The camp has four main entrances that are subjected to air strikes. Life is almost paralyzed; people are panic-stricken and are striving to stay alive with the help of the NGOs, who are making use of every simple means for the sake of the residents of the camp and the surrounding area. All this has affected the health cycle of the residents and the displaced who sought shelter in the camp. Here is a close insight to the life in the camp and how people deal with war after a long period of peace, recently shattered by the dramatic sounds of shelling and bombing. * * * In the camp, houses are shabby and consist of worn-out buildings with weak infrastructure. The buildings have been destroyed several times and rebuilt on the same ruins with no strong architectural design. People live in small houses with a maximum of three small rooms, one shared toilet with a shower. In normal days the rooms are overcrowded. After the Nakba [catastrophe] of 1948, Palestinian refugees initially lived in tents. Then, with the passing of time, they were able to build shabby and unorganized houses. They never thought that they will stay in the camps all that time for 58 years. Given the ever-growing number of people in the camp, the only way to expand was to go up. So the camp consists of 3-storey buildings arranged in an unorganized manner. In this latest war, people who lived in the upper floors moved to the lower floors for safety. So, the number of people has grown to 20 persons per room (3 m²). In such circumstances, and speaking health-wise, the usage of the toilet by more than one family results in an unhygienic environment. People are aware of this problem but have no other choice, so they have reduced the amount of food and intake of water to lessen the usage of toilets. This in turn creates its own health problems, such as malnutrition, dehydration, etc. Other problems caused by such circumstances are a shortage of water, because water in the camp is usually pumped and due to the continuous cut-off of electricity pumping water has become impossible. Also, every family member has very little time to clean up or take a daily shower in this hot sweaty summer, which causes lice, as well as skin problems (rash, scabies, etc. have appeared), which is another aspect of the negative impact of war on people. On top of all of this, most of the women where the hijab , but since they now live in shared houses they have no privacy. They are thus unable to expose their hair to the sun and dry wind, especially after shower, which will result in the head remaining very humid, causing headaches, colds and bad hair smell. Moreover, it is also very important to mention the kinds of lethal weapons the Israeli military is using. Israel is using internationally banned weapons, illegal bombs that cause allergies and asthma even in ordinary persons with no prior respiratory problems. With time, these ailments will grow and affect the respiratory system more severely; reports show that these kinds of bombs cause cancer. Lebanon is a field of trial and error for Israeli weapons. Nowadays there is a shortage of food, so people with chronic disease, especially the elderly, find it impossible to stick to the special diets they need to follow to remain healthy; this affects their health and increases the risk of having serious complications due to their illnesses. The lack of fresh vegetables and fruits had caused the situation to deteriorate and worsen. Furthermore, some negative psychological problems have been observed since the beginning of the war among the children and other groups in the population. So far, children have been suffering from: bed wetting, nightmares, biting nails, frozen in the corner and sucking thumbs. They also spend most of their times stuck to their mothers, they get uptight quickly and are nervous, and often burst into hysterical crying. These kids expected to have a joyful summer because they have just finished school, and summer is the only time to have fun in the camp, and it has now been disrupted by war. They are now imprisoned inside their own world of fear and terror. They keep asking questions about what will happen? Where will we go? Many questions, with no definite answers. The only question that describes the whole situation is reflected on their pale face: WHEN IS DEATH GOING TO PASS BY?

The children trapped in the conflict express their experience with war.

Children lived in fear and worry during the aggression, as they have never experienced war before. This severely affected them psychologically and took its toll in terms of their nerves. They started becoming terrified whenever they heard any loud noise, refusing to be detached physically from their parents. In the first days of displacement, it may be that the activities aimed at relieving their stress that were organized in shelters (some by Naba’a), may have helped to attenuate the impact of the shock which they suffered and brought some confidence and comfort to them. *** I was at home when the bombing intensified, I felt and saw the house shaking, [while he was pointing, gesturing with his finger left and right]. I was so sad because my mom did not allow me to bring my favorite electronic game [Atari – play station]. – Rabie Ezzedine, 9 years old, from Ghazziyeh I heard the jets, it was like huge explosions. I descended running into our house from the first floor. Since then, I feel worried, I am afraid of night time and can’t sleep. I stay awake till 6 am when I feel it’s a little bit safe and calm, then I fall asleep.

– Fatima Banjak, 13 years old

I feel like I am living in torture/torment, why are they killing us? – Ala’a Aidi, 14 years old I was taking a shower at home when they bombed our neighbor’s house. I went out like crazy running out of bathroom with shampoo all over my head. I can’t believe I stayed alive because I saw the building facing our house burning, its façade was engulfed in flames and smoke. – Ibrahim, 12 years old I felt like the bombing hit me because it was so loud and intense, I was with my friend at the shop when the bombing started. I felt I was hurt due to its loudness [and the physical effects of the shockwave when one is near to the actual bombing]. I ran in the street screaming, there was a huge number of children also running and screaming in the street. I felt more terrified when I saw our neighbor’s home destroyed, also the building next to our house. They said that our neighbor’s family all died there, father, mother and four children. Since that day I feel scared of any loud sound, if the door slams I jump out of my place. – Fatima Said, 12 years old, from Srifa I am worried about my brother who remains in Srifa. My mom and dad are always crying because they are worried for him too. I hope from G-d to keep him alive, because people are saying that there are so many people who died in Srifa. – Zeinab Mousa, 9 years old, from Srifa They bombed our neighbor’s home, and an ambulance came. I felt scared for myself, my family and my neighbors. The image of my neighbors doesn’t leave my thoughts. It always comes. I wish that this war ends quickly because if it goes on, we are all going to die, they are bombing everything. – Hassan Ba’albaki, 12 years old, from Shohoure I hide in my aunt’s home, but when the bombing intensified, my family took the road to Saida. On the way, we were so scared, we were afraid that the jets will bomb the moving cars, the car we are in, because we heard that many people had been hurt on the way. We arrived safely and I wish to go back home as soon as possible. – Mohammad Mousa, 12 years old, from Srifa The bombing was following us from place to place. When the bombing started hitting closer to our house in the village, we moved to Kadmous School. When they bombed the school, we moved to Sour. Then we moved to Saida. What’s this life?!! We run and bombing chases us. Before the war, we used to live in safety in our house. I used to have friends. Now, I feel scared and worried, during sleep I dream about bombing and destruction everywhere. – Mohammad Banjak, 10 years old, from Shaiteyyeh

By:  Naba’a – Development Action without Borders

A young girl returns to her village after fleeing the Israeli bombing. Her story is one of trauma and recovery.

Nibal Salman is 12 years old and comes from Shabriha [approximately 4 km north of Tyre]. She returned to her home after regaining the self-confidence and inner calmness necessary, hugging a handmade toy that she herself had made. She had new shoes after having arrived barefoot in Sidon two months ago, at the very beginning of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Nibal says, ‘The Israeli bombing hit Shabriha and many houses were destroyed. I fled with my mother, brothers and sisters on foot northwards. We spent two days on the way before reaching Sidon. On the way, we felt as though the jets were chasing us while bombing all the way at the back and in front of us.’ Nibal becomes silent for a moment and looks away. As her eyes narrow, she continues, ‘We encountered so much destruction on the way. I felt shocked when I saw the dead and wounded people. It was the first time that I saw dead people due to bombing. I used to turn my face away and avoid staring every time we passed dead people, while my mother took care of my younger brothers and sisters. We used to eat what people gave us along they way – bread and canned food.’

Nibal’s clothing were worn out and her feet were bare when she arrived in Sidon, where she and her family were welcomed by the sheltering centre’s manager who took care of them.

One of the centers supervisors, Ayda Qaddoura, recounts, ‘Nibal was in a state of shock. She used to sit alone and avoided mixing or speaking with her peers. She refused to participate in any activity. We tried to communicate with her, approach her, but she refused to respond. We asked her to join the other children in drawing and singing activities, but again, she refused. Finally, there was a breakthrough when we asked her to participate with the children in a handcraft workshop. She accepted instantly and with enthusiasm. She even entered the competition with one of the kids, in an attempt to finish the largest section of the piece. After that, Nibal gradually started going back to normal behaviour, talked to her peers and generally tried to be the best in the group. Nibal now returns to Shabriha having regained a more normal state. She is psychologically relaxed and proud of the handmade toys she put together. At the same time, however, she is worried about the future. She does not know what might happen to her after all this killing and destruction. But she is more confident now in her abilities to face the consequences of what might happen.

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