Posts Tagged ‘refugee diary’

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.

By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

The devastated neighborhood of Dahiyah is experiencing a rapid and sporadic reconstruction. Much of the development is illegal and has led to violent clashes between residents and the security forces.

This morning I went out for a walk to the neighbouring areas by the airport highway, across and adjacent to the camp. If you heard, this is the area that has been talked about on the news in the past few days, with regards to the illegal building rush; this is also the area where there were clashes between the security forces who had come to try to demolish these new constructions and the people who eventually drove them out.  The episode resulted in two kids being shot to death during the turmoil and a number of other persons were wounded from both sides. Then, of course, the security forces disappeared and no one really knows who shot the kids – each side accuses the other.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe the extent of the construction going on at first. I mean, I know that some people had taken advantage of the war situation to do some construction or renovation, but this area has literally been completely reshaped – it has taken on an entirely different image. Almost everyone is building either one or many extra floors, or people are simply constructing entirely new buildings on existing empty lots. The area seems lawless or in a state of insurgency. I don’t mean that there are armed men in the streets or anything of that nature, but you do get the feeling that no one can stop people from engaging in this illegal construction right now.

These days, it is as though Dahiyah were an independent space: during the day when there is traffic congestion, you can see Hizbullah members standing at crossroads organising the traffic. I went for a walk in Dahiyah as well; most of the rubble from the buildings that were completely flattened has been cleared, and there are fewer trucks and bulldozers now. The buildings that were only partially damaged seem to require a greater amount of time, effort and equipment to fix and many of these buildings have not been touched yet. The more rubble is taken away and the cleaner the area becomes, the more one discovers the extent to which the area is devastated. The hot weather and the gusts of wind create a sense that one is walking in a desert. The white ash and fine dust from the ground concrete cover the ground in a white-grayish sheet that reflects and intensifies the sunlight. You can find a few people walking around in Dahiyah, but nothing compared to its previous state or to the adjacent neighbourhoods that weren’t bombed. If you got deep into the most heavily bombarded areas, it is like walking through a forest of mangled and twisted steel, because that’s how they are clearing the rubble – they separate the steel from the concrete and pile them in different spots.

It is still even possible to find some collapsed buildings where there is still fire and smoke fuming from the shelters beneath them. The one building of this kind that I saw was most probably a sewing factor, because I saw lots of coloured thread rolls scattered among the shelter’s ruins and the smoke smelt like burning fabric.

With regards to this area deep inside Dahiyah you can state without exaggeration that it has been annihilated. And I don’t only mean the buildings on top of the earth, but literally everything below the earth – it’s as though it was blown upside down. The sewers were uncovered and the asphalt is totally gone. Despite this, the few buildings that are still standing on the periphery of this area and that are still habitable are slowly being repaired. Walls and balconies that were blown up are being replaced, like patches in a torn cloth. These repairs are not going on all at the same time though, and it is not uncommon to see a renovated, newly repainted apartment with clear signs of life, while the other apartments in the same building remain scarred by gapping holes and seared in black soot, with jaggedly broken windows that remind one of a mouth with missing teeth.

By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

The ceasefire has begun and Mahmoud Al-Adawi is surveying his surroundings, noticing the smell of pine trees along with pulverized concrete of the devastated buildings.

So until this moment it seems that the ceasefire is holding. The news is speaking about thousands of people from south Lebanon who are going back and not waiting, despite warnings of dangers like unexploded cluster bombs and such. Some news started mentioning casualties due to this. The Israelis are saying that the air and sea blockade is still in place, as is the prohibition against going south of the Litani River. This morning life somehow returned to the street next to the Amlieh [large technical college facing one side of the camp], filled with the traffic of people who had clearly returned to either check on their homes or just to take a first look at the destruction. I saw masses of people on the airport highway parking their cars and standing in groups at various bombed places, just watching. The lateral roads leading to the airport highway are closed, however, for safety, as there is rubble everywhere, so it’s even difficult for anyone to pass. I stood and looked out from a distance, surrounded by the broken branches of the pine trees, with their distinctive smell. A surge of memories came back to me, triggered by the familiar mingling of the smell pine trees mixing with that of explosives and pulverized concrete. The buildings on the side streets are a sight to behold. The buildings seem as though they have mutated, some have just vanished into piles of rubble. In other cases the top floors have collapsed, resting on the lower floors that remain standing. The buildings that are still standing have no walls, as if they had been sent back in time to the period when they were still under construction, just standing in columns. In the middle of the street lie chunks of debris, looking like arches over a devastated street. It is as though one were looking through an ancient tropical forest where all kinds of weird things block the view. This is just a taste of what you would see if you walked along this street, which leads you to the broken heart of Haret Hreik.

The last time they Israelis bombed Dahiyah was around 11 p.m. last night. Then it was quiet until this morning, when I was awoken at 6 a.m. by the sound of jets. There were a few small explosions and as I looked up over Beirut, I saw that these were caused by rockets exploding in the sky and leaflets being dropped onto the city. That was the last thing that occurred before everything went calm again.

This morning, before leaving the camp to go to work, I noticed that families who had left the camp were returning. Since last Friday, and the leaflets stating that Bourj el-Barajneh area (and not camp) was going to be targeted, there was a huge exodus. Since then, walking through the camp has felt different in some quarters, with patches of empty homes making the alleys strangely quiet. But given today’s ceasefire, I think the majority of those who left Friday or even before that time will return, and the alleyways will retrieve their chaos and noisy activity.

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