Posts Tagged ‘refugee diary’

By: Hussein El-Hajj

Hussein El-Hajj tells of how getting to work is impossible because of the destruction of the roads. Those who can’t work are welcoming and accommodating refugees from South Lebanon.

We are the youth who have gone through the greatest hardships and calamities because of wars, massacres, destruction and displacement caused by the Israeli war and occupation of the south using tanks, jets and bombs, all American-made and which destroy our dreams. Palestinian youth are like all youth in this world, they are eager and willing to live in accordance with the progress and achievements of the 21st century, with all the promise they have for human interests. But, we live today in situation of worry and waiting for what tomorrow may bring on the political, economical and social fronts. Today, after 3 weeks of war, Israel has destroyed all means of transportation, bridges and roads in this country, those connections which we use to go to other places to work – me and every one else, people who work in Beirut and other areas of Lebanon. Now we are all cut off and it’s impossible to go anywhere. Because of this, we lost our income that we depended upon for survival.

But today, I compensated this and decided to gain a moral income by volunteering in the provision of services for the displaced people coming to Ain El-Helweh camp from South Lebanon. I became a member of the reception committee whose task it is to welcome displaced families and find ways to provide for their needs. In this way, we can present a different picture of the Palestinian people, showing their values and manners, especially the youth involved in this process. We can show that we are not what the propaganda and stereotypes represent us to be every time that the Palestinian refugee camps are mentioned and described as islands of unrest, tension and crime. We want to say that we are a struggling people whose only hope is to have a homeland under the sun and live in dignity, we and our children, as do all the youth in this world.

Children are increasingly being traumatized by the images of war. Naba’a has initiated several educational programs to help children cope.

Extreme fear has haunted Lebanese citizens in general, especially the children during the war, because of how civilians were targeted – whether this was experienced personally or witnessed on the TV news stations. The images of corpses and casualties of war have occupied a large part of children’s imagination; this was expressed through paintings they drew, and through the stories they recalled about the experience of fleeing death and displacement, as well as what accompanied all of this and the dangers while moving to safer places. It was inevitable that the children would suffer severe unrest and panic as a result of the bombing of infrastructure and the deaths of civilians. In fact, two thirds of the victims have been children. This is what motivated Naba’a to initiate a series of educational activities targeting children. More than 2, 400 children – boys and girls – of different ages have participated. This includes displaced children, along with children from the neighborhoods where displaced people have been sheltered. They liked to participate and play with the displaced children. […] Souad Owayyed, the social worker, said that ‘the children felt happy after participating in these activities. They enjoyed what they accomplished together with their peers. And the fact that they were allowed to choose the activity that best suits them contributed to lessening the feeling of constant worry associated with the war atmosphere. This helped reduce the effect of disturbance and psychological stress imposed on them by war.’

Ghina Ibrahim, 11 year old, said [about the activities], ‘wherever we go, everybody is talking about war and death. Participating in this activity makes me feel more relaxed, and it makes me feel that I’m away from war and killing.’

Such activities have made these children feel happy and have allowed them, at least for fleeting moments, to forget their fears. They have been able to enjoy participating and choosing the activity they like, bringing back some semblance of confidence to themselves.

The children express their feelings about the war through their drawings.

I am 11 years old and from Tyre. I drew the sun because the world is sad. I remembered my grandmother when she used to tell us how they left Palestine, and how now we left our home in South Lebanon.

– Malak Abdul-Hamid

I am 9 years old and from Majadil village. I need a house, so I will draw one because I do not know what happened to our house. I drew a house but it’s tilted because a bomb had hit it, and I drew dry grass, a sad sun and a bent over flower.

– Hawraa Issa

I am 9 years old and from Rashideyeh. I drew a tree so I can climb it, it will grow and I will sit in its shade before the Israelis come and bomb it.

– Arafat Abdullah

I am 10 years old and from El-Maashouk. I love Lebanon but my home land is Palestine.

– Mai AbdulHamid

I am 11 years old and from Shabriha. I drew a tank hiding among grass and a jet dropping leaflets and children running away.

– Khalid Nabulsi

I am 9 years old and from Tyre. I drew a house and bridge bombed by the Israelis and we are displaced.

– Israa AbdulRahman

I am 9 years old and from Majadil village. I drew a child who doesn’t like or want war, I want peace and I want to go back to Majadil.

– Dina Hassan Issa

I am 9 years old and from borj El-Shamali. I drew this burning house because the jets bombed it, and the fire near Jall El-Bahar.

– Ahmad Dahwish

I am 11 years old and from Borj El-Shamali. I drew leaflets dropped by a plane, I wanted to step on this leaflet because it is from Israel.

– Ismael Nabulsi

I am 11 years old and from Maashouk. My drawing expresses peace and the continued existence of the trees and nature of Lebanon.

– Nisrine Shehadeh

I am 10 years old and from Bas. I drew a tree with birds in it because I wish that peace prevails so I can go back to my home

– Zahra Darwish

Often these days in Lebanon, when you ask anyone about their opinion of the situation, you will get the feeling that the next three days will be decisive, before Thursday that is – this is what is coming from all the news sources. It seems as though it is almost almost a certainty that demonstrations will start any moment, probably Thursday.

Any yet – you don’t feel or see any preparations on the ground for this. The main thing can conclude, then, as you walk the streets of Beirut, is that there is an incredible sense of caution and waiting still for an actual announcement of demonstrations.

The news this morning said that all the logistics for the demonstrations have been finished and that people are only waiting for the start signal – which is still secret. These rumors are paralleling the hectic mediation efforts being carried out by Saudis and Egyptian diplomats. This is a time of bidding, when offers and counter-offers are made before reaching the next step. My personal feeling is that despite all the talk about demonstrations, these may not actually be the next step. I feel that it’s being announced and talked about this much merely as a tactic – a pressure tactic – because demonstrations are a big step to take, and Nasrallah did not mention an exact date in his speech. Demonstrations are a dangerous step to take; they are risky and need to achieve their stated goals in a very short period of time; they depend on masses of people that are largely uncontrollable. Even Nasrallah has acknowledged these dangers. He warned people that if he calls for demonstrations they should not respond to provocations or attacks from the other side, but who is convinced that in such a circumstances people will listen? I went this weekend for a tour of Beirut starting from Dahyeh, in the southern suburbs, and ending in Hamra in West Beirut. In Dahyeh the place was boiling with people and life, there were tons of people on the streets and no feeling of any unusual situation, even in the destroyed area. People were coming and going, shopping and busy with their daily preoccupations. Construction was ongoing and you could find new shops open here and there along streets that had been devastated. People’s mood did not seem to indicate any of the tension that usually precedes troublesome events. I asked some people I know who work in Dahyeh what they made of this rather unusually ‘normal’ situation, but everyone found it hard to explain. One certainty, however, according to one of my acquaintances, was that if Nasrallah called for demonstrations, people in Dahyeh would respond to this call without a doubt. Another person whom I asked to comment on the situation thought for a while and said: “I don’t think that there is going to be a war or troubles, even if they do go out for demonstrations. Really, you don’t see or hear parents telling their sons that they should go to war or support one side against another; this is what used to happen in previous troubles, but now there is none of this incitement .” He also told me that last week a number of owners of destroyed shops and homes were told to gather in a certain place, where they were loaded onto buses and taken elsewhere. The found themselves in another place where Nasrallah suddenly appeared and spoke to them. He did not speak of any troubles; he simply told them that reconstruction would start this coming spring, and that they shouldn’t fear the current situation because nothing was going to happen in the country. Heading toward the center of Beirut was a different matter – it was more obvious in the streets that something was amiss. I mean, the weekend was extraordinarily sunny and warm, and usually there would be hundreds of people out shopping and walking along the sea. And people were coming and going, yes, but not in their usually numbers. And shops were open, but not as many as there should have been. The only explanation for this absence and caution is that people have been following the news intensely and have become fearful of sudden events occurring while they are out. In areas of Beirut where two neighbourhoods with different sects meet – for instance in Mar Elias where you there are Sunnis in one part and Shi’ites in another, you can see posters of the Hariris in the Sunni areas, as well as those of Sinioura (the current prime minister) with the following writing on them: “Remaining, remaining, remaining.” This means, of course, that the Sunnis are saying that the government of Siniora will remain in power and not capitulate to the calls for a unity government. On the other side of the street, in the Shi’ite area, are posters of Berri (the speaker of parliament) and Nasrallah with the following writing on them: “Coming, coming, coming.” This refers to the last war, the coming final victory. Generally, then, people are worried. And this worry is amplified by and reflected in the current security measures being taken. At night, there are army patrols and armored personnel carriers that are deployed at certain crossroads and streets. There is a clear increase in police presence, and you feel that the atmosphere is not conducive to going out at night. You worry about being caught in the middle of some unfortunate matter and you conclude that it is not worth the risk. That is the mood in Beirut these days.

Hiba Fattoum describes the anxiety she feels during the bombing and her desire to return to her home.

This is my second war. The first one I was just two months old but this one I am 19 years old. The day before the war began – it was Tuesday – I was in the internet café checking my email and on the way home I heard fireworks and shooting. I thought it was because of the Brevet [certificate exam] results which my brother had done.

When I got home I asked if it was the results, then my mother replied it was that Hizbullah had took two Israelis and they are in Lebanon. Then on Wednesday morning I was asleep when I heard a loud sound that goes like “BOOM” but you can’t imagine how loud and scary it was. I ran to my parents and they were on the roof and I followed them and asked what the hill is that? They told me Israel had bombed the airport and I said “OH MY GOD.” Then they told me look at the sky. There I saw the F16. It was very far away and at the same level as we are, then it threw these balloons and then bombed the airport again.

When I saw this I couldn’t feel how I was in the house and my parents laughed at me because they have witnessed many wars but I think this is the hardest. I was so scared you can’t imagine how much, so I packed all my precious things I don’t want to lose like my certificates, pictures and my Palestinian Hatta – Hatta means our traditional scarf.

I was so scared to which my neighbors laughed at me and whenever they used to bomb they used to say “open the shelter for Hiba.” You know whenever they used to bomb during the day it was less scary than at night – both of them are scary – during night time when they bomb I used to wake up shaking all together because our camp is so close to the area bombed most of the time – Dahy.

On Saturday the bombing was harder than before – the bombing was getting harder everyday – and because I was so scared my mum took me downstairs where my uncle lives and there I slept on the couch and I couldn’t sleep because of the bombing and the moment I did they bombed a hard one and I felt something fall on my head and then my shoulders. It was my uncle’s air conditioner.

Then the next day we moved out of the camp because it wasn’t safe anymore since pieces of the bombs are falling on our camp. Where we live now, we still hear the bombing.

I miss home a lot and I went home to the camp twice to see it and even I am trying to convince mum to go back again because there is no place like home and I don’t care if they bomb because I learned not to be scared because no matter how much Israel is strong, Allah – God – is much stronger than them. What I don’t like in this war – except everything – is that they are killing many innocent people and buildings are destroyed. In other words, Lebanon is being destroyed. Everyday I count the days to this war ends but is anyone helping? NO. This war shows what is Israel – they kill babies, women, old people, destroy buildings, supermarkets and bridges. Is this what they call moral war? Is this what you see on TV is Hizbullah’s missiles falling on the Israelis in PALESTINE and destroy a part of one building only, while each Israeli missile destroys 3 or 4 buildings consisting of 9 floors? I have to leave the answers for you.

Thank you.

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