Refugee poet remembers Yarmouk, the “capital of the Palestinian diaspora”

Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian born and raised in Syria, has posted footage of his moving one-man performance The Eternal Refugee, recorded at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland in October 2013.

The show reflects on life in Yarmouk refugee camp, where, according to Hayatleh, “the scent of Galilean thyme mingled with Damascus jasmine” and Palestinians and Syrians lived side-by-side.

But, as he narrates with the help of video and brief theatrical sketches, the refugee condition has colored his entire life and, as a Palestinian, he was “forced to leave his home twelve years” before he was born and then to flee yet again after repression from the Syrian regime.

Now, Hayatleh shows, his family and friends face another Nakba — a catrastrophe — as Palestinians are caught up in the Syrian civil war. And while Hayatleh himself is “safe” elsewhere in the world, “I am not comfortable while my people are killed in the camp … the camp that I love — and hate.”

Iyad Hayatleh and Tessa Ransford’s collection of poetry Rug of a Thousand Colours was reviewed by The Electronic Intifada in 2013.




Also to mention that Iyad Hayatleh wrote the lyrics to 'Huna al-Yarmouk' sung by Reem Kelani in the film 'Shebabs of Yarmouk' (cf. trailer embedded in the article on Electronic Intifada earlier this month).


Yesterday (24th Feb.) BBC1 TV Evening News featured a distressing report from Yarmouk showing the current desperate shortage of food there. Yet not once throughout its report did the BBC mention that this was a PALESTINIAN REFUGEE camp in Syria. Too many questions BBC?


Yes, isn't it amazing: not one word about Yarmouk being a Palestinian refugee camp.
Lots of people mentioned it on Twitter # Yarmouk (and also on Lyse Doucet's own Twitter, if I remember correctly), and the report on the BBC website has been changed (it used to be a shorter 2:17 min version). The 3:02 min version now available mentions that Yarmouk was a refugee camp for Palestinians 'fleeing the '48 war'. But this is on their website, and doesn't change the fact that it wasn't mentioned on prime time.
Here's the longer version:
Both the shorter and the longer versions are available on youtube.


Memories are wonderful things. I can remember when...etc.

As a matter of fact there is a CIVIL war. Syria has been invaded by foreign
powers and as many descriptions have told us, the invaders (against
international law etc.) have not been non-violent. With respect for your
memories and those of many Palestinians, I recommend you to the more
balanced picture in a recent EI report.

Note as well that the Resolution of the UN Security Council is NON-BINDING
and that it specifically describes some of the horrors of the US- sponsored

Syria is certainly "guilty" of humanitarian crimes but these do not take
precedence over the basic rules of international law. ( see UN Charter,Article 2,
Section 4). (As EI carefully noted, many of the SOUCES of views, statistics
have not been known for their objectivity but have consistently favored the US/
Saudi description of events.)

Syrian "tortures" have indeed been tortures. The US does not admit to torture
and calls them "enhanced interrogation". And many of these Syrian "enhanced
interrogations" were arranged by the US /CIA and its program of "extraordinary
rendition" which the US would never discuss in public. Many----not only
Palestinians--- have been suddenly picked up without charge and sent to
Egypt, Morroco(our "ally"!), Bagram in Afghanistan and so forth. Saudi
Arabia which has historically wanted to invade Syria has been given the
green light by the US and its "coalition" ("Regime change" is illegal by
international law as is well-known and rarely mentioned.).

The point is NOT that Syria has been an angelllic nation by any means.
The point is rather that the US and others are prime provocatuers.
Why not invade Saudi Arabia? Or Israel?

Once more, thanks to EI for its recent balanced examination of the civil war in
Syria based on views of a refugee from Yarmouk.


To find the complete (unedited, uncensored) text of the Security Council Resolution
on Syria (it is several pages in length) do the following:

1. Go to "United Nations Security Council"
2.Go to "Resolutions"
3. Click" Mideast" : S/Res/2139(2014)

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.