It’s great seeing all these online petitions asking for fast internet and declaring that internet should be a HUMAN RIGHT for every Lebanese, but it becomes a bit ironic seeing all these people living within the Lebanese territories struggling to achieve the very most basic human rights from food, shelter, medicine, and proper living…

I volunteered to visit the Shatila camp in Beirut, to meet some of the families in their homes, and to learn about their dire conditions. This event was organized by Insight club at AUB.

Trying to make our way through the camp’s maze and to avoid the dangled combination of electric wires and water pipes, we grabbed tightly our hearts in one hand and our cameras in the other and entered the families’ dimly lighted homes.

The sad grimaces on the faces of the eight children welcomed us in the two-room house. We noticed that they don’t attend school. The mother explained that she can’t afford the schooling costs although the “UNRWA provides primary education for the population of officially registered camps whereas secondary education was never considered to be within UNRWA’s temporary mandate.” (http://prrn.mcgill.ca/research/papers/abuhabib.htm )   She sells candies with her eldest daughter at the streets in order to afford medication for her mother who is seriously ill.

http://youtu.be/9MYhP_OEy2Q 

This woman ,featured in the video (link above), suffers from osteoporosis, urinary problems, glaucoma, and depression. She explained that she had a medical prescription, but she is postponing buying the medicine till next Ramadan hoping that some charity could help her afford it. She doesn’t have anyone to support her financially. Her depression, as she told us, became severe especially that she doesn’t have electricity in her house and when it is dark she goes down to the street to avoid darkness… and maybe the darkness of her life.

Among the constraining conditions Palestinians suffer in Lebanon is that they can’t own property, they can’t work in every profession and they aren’t eligible for social security. According to the Palestinian Najdeh Foundation, “unemployment rates are at about 60 percent of the total population and only 7 percent of working Palestinians have fixed contracts, 90 percent of which are with UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency]. The rest are essentially employed on the black market.” (http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=193163 ) The volunteer guide from the Palestine Red Crescent Society explained that it is illegal for Palestinians to practice medicine in Lebanon so they either end up traveling or working “illegally”. The main aspiration for most Palestinian youths wanting to go to university, or for those who have completed it, is to emigrate which is becoming more difficult with the increasingly xenophobic immigration laws.

Shatila camp had suffered brutal massacres and is still is today with the drastic humanitarian conditions. On 16 September 1982, under the watchful eye of their Israeli allies who had encircled the area, Lebanese militiamen (preferably not to mention who) started a three-day slaughter battle that left innocent civilians dead.

Looking at the names of the martyrs in Shatila camp

The 95-year-old woman reminiscing on her abject escape from Palestine during the 1948 Nakba

After we finished our visits, we engaged in focus group discussions. We agreed to work on awareness campaigns within the camps and tutoring sessions including extra-curricular activities for youth along with other activities and long-term projects.

Little Maryam's smile: a mixture of pain and joy

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