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Five Palestinian Refugees Share Stories from Lebanon Diaspora

November 24, 2015
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The Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies and the Deanship of the Arts Faculty Wednesday organized the seminar, “Stories from the Diaspora: Daily Concerns and Human Tales,” hosting to speak five Palestinian youth who grew up in refugee camps in Lebanon.

Dean of the Art Faculty Majdi al-Malki addressed an audience of about 200 students and staff, saying it took a miracle and the help of the Arab Forum to obtain special entry permits for the five youth and to bring them to Palestine.

He touched upon their strong desire to meet Birzeit students and share their experiences and daily concerns in the refugee camps of Lebanon, which are unfamiliar to many in Palestine.

Mohammad Ali, a Palestinian refugee originally from Akka, spoke about refugees' right to education.

"Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are not allowed to practice 90 professions, leaving only the jobs that Lebanese refuse to do such as painting, guarding and cleaning,” he said. Mohammad said he studied engineering, but he is not allowed to work in the field of study he chose.

“As time passed,” he explained, “Palestinians’ presence in Lebanon raised concerns, prompting the government to pass laws that prevent Palestinians from working and purchasing property.”

Abeer Nouf, a Palestinian refugee from Burj al-Shamali camp south of Lebanon, discussed basic services for refugees.

She noted that service-provision to the Palestinian refugee population has deteriorated, especially after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency decided to cut its services and personnel after an  increase in the numbers of students and patients the refugee agency serves.

According to Nouf, many Palestinian refugees die due to delays in obtaining medical papers to transfer patients because UNRWA doesn’t cover the cost of surgeries.

At the same time, the refugee camps’ infrastructure is in terrible shape, causing the population to suffer during winter from sewage spewing into the streets, explained Nouf.  

Saed Abdul Al from Naher al-Bared refugee camp spoke about his personal ordeal during the war between Fatah al-Islam group and the Lebanese army in 2007. He said most homes in the camp were destroyed and a large number of the camp’s young people were killed.

“Everything we needed was available in the camp,” Abdul Al said. “We rarely saw the need to buy things from outside. However, as the war broke out, we witnessed horrific massacres and were forced to seek refuge elsewhere, this time in al-Badawi refugee camp."

"Despite everything we are going through, our spirits remain high and we want to enjoy our lives,” Abdul Al said.

Ziyad Miqdadi, a Palestinian refugee from al-Badawi refugee camp discussed Lebanon's stereotypical image of Palestinian refugees. With the media’s lack of coverage of the Palestinian refugee camps, he said, “Many Lebanese think that Palestinian refugees live in tents. They are surprised if they see a bright youth and discover he is a Palestinian refugee.”

Palestinian refugees do not aspire to become citizens of Lebanon because they wish to return to Palestine, Miqdadi affirmed. He said they consider their lives in Lebanon as a transitional phase.

Speaking last, Wisam Ramadan also from al-Badawi refugee camp shared his thoughts about the hardship in applying for a permit to enter Palestine. He said, "We never expected to enter Palestine after we applied for permits in March. We couldn't believe that we were granted entry permits to Palestine after experiencing problems with visas to Jordan. We didn’t expect to simply pass through the King Hussein border crossing.”

He also discussed the difference between the reality in Palestine and the image they receive through media. “Media outlets give the impression that confrontations with the Israeli army are around the clock in Palestine."

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