At a time when Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus has come under renewed attack from both Syrian military and ISIS forces, and thousands of inhabitants are cut off from food and medical aid, it seems appropriate to highlight narratives from Palestinians who have witnessed and endured the ongoing violence in Syria.
Thaer al-Sahli’s short film MiG – named after the Russian-made jets which the Syrian air force uses — has been shown at a number of film festivals in 2013 and 2014, including the Bristol, Boston and London Palestine film festivals.
It is also available to view online.
As the 2013 Boston Palestine Film Festival put it:
In this lyrical first-person film, the filmmaker bears witness to the aftermath of a direct Syrian regime strike on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, the first since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. The bombing, which hit a school and a mosque, caused a massive exodus of refugees from the camp — upwards of 70 percent of its residents by some estimates.
And the film’s creators have described their work thus:
If the MiGs hadn’t shown up, it would have been just another ordinary day. But it was there, looking for love to shatter, and to blow away all the parts of my refuge, the “camp,” Palestine’s twin. The bedroom, the beautiful nights and the morning coffee all became exposed to the streets and the main square. At that very moment, Dunia, my love and my wife, became dead to me. This movie is about the Palestinian refugee camp “Yarmouk,” when it was attacked by the Syrian regime’s MiGs, on 16 December , as punishment for sheltering displaced Syrians and Palestinians who had lost their neighborhoods due to previous attacks. It may seem that the MiGs aimed to destroy the place, but the real target was the spirit of the people. Yet, the people will never succumb, even if the risk is endless exile.
The poetic script to the film highlights not only the effects of military attacks on Yarmouk and its people, but the central place of the camp in Palestinian identity and the symbolism of its destruction alongside individual pain, grief and fear.