Diaries: Live from Lebanon

"It felt like a kind of resistance to celebrate"

Ahmed and Liliane Hassan, who are 25 and 17, were supposed to marry in August, but instead were driven from their homes in Nahr al-Bared camp, along with up to 40,000 other people, by 106 days of fighting between the Lebanese army and militant group Fatah al-Islam. They were among several thousand Palestinians allowed to return from 10 October, and soon after tied the knot. Ahmed explained: “When we celebrated our engagement during the 2006 July War, the Israelis bombed Abdeh, on the edge of Nahr al-Bared and we ended up in the shelters. Then the fighting delayed our wedding.” 

When is it the Palestinians' turn?

The four of us sat in the tight confines of a shop nestled in the curving alleyways of Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp established to house those whose families fled historical Palestine in 1948. Twenty-five years ago this then little-known camp — along with a nearby area called Sabra — was also the site of a bloody massacre that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead at the hands of Phalangist militias backed by the Israeli army. EI contributor Christopher Brown writes from the Shatila refugee camp. 

Open letter to PM Siniora

Dear Mr. Siniora: I write to you as a Lebanese citizen with pressing concerns. Today, on the 27th of October 2007, I, along with a group of ten American University of Beirut students, made the journey north to Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. We went there with the purpose of carrying out a clean-up campaign for the homes of returning refugees. What we found in the homes made our heads spin. Tamara Keblaoui writes to her Prime Minister about what she saw at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. 

"Everything they couldn't take they destroyed"

“Don’t ask what they stole, ask what they left,” dryly jokes Khaled, a Palestinian refugee from Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. It was evident from what remained of the crown molding along the ceiling that his three-story house was once grand. Now, only one year after the seven-year process of building the house was completed, the structure is largely destroyed and its contents looted. Maureen Clare Murphy reports from the devastated Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. 

The legacy of Sabra and Shatila: Amnesia and impunity

On 17 September 1982, journalist Robert Fisk registered the unfiltered rawness of witnessing the murdered victims of Sabra and Shatila up close: “Massacres are difficult to forget when you’ve seen the corpses.” On the final morning of the mass execution, stumbling upon the bodies of unarmed civilians, the French poet, playwright and novelist Jean Genet wrote: “A photograph has two dimensions, so does a television screen; neither can be walked through.” Maryam Monalisa Gharavi recalls her attempt to “walk through” Shatila camp and Sabra 25 years later. 

After 25 years, who remembers?

Dearest Janet, It’s a very beautiful fall day here in Beirut, 25 years ago this week since the 16-18 September 1982 Massacre at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra-Shatila. It actually rained last night, enough to clean out some of the humidity and dust. Fortunately, not enough to make the usual rain-created swamp of sewage and filth on Rue Sabra, or flood the grassless burial ground of the mass grave where you once told me that on Sunday, 19 September 1982, you watched, sickened, as families and Red Crescent workers created a subterranean mountain of butchered and bullet-riddled victims from those 48 hours of slaughter. Franklin Lamb writes from Beirut. 

Ready to return with nothing

It took over three months, but in the end the Lebanese army claimed victory over Fatah al-Islam, the previously unheard of non-Palestinian, al-Qaida-inspired group that had established itself in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. On Tuesday, 4 September 2007, outside the entrance to the destroyed camp the Lebanese army massed together to begin what would be a 10-hour-long parade from Nahr al-Bared to Beirut just over 50 miles away. EI editor Matthew Cassel reports from Lebanon. 

Refugees, again

In June 2006, Dr. Tawfiq Assad stepped out of the seaside Rafiq Hariri airport in Beirut and took a deep breath of the Mediterranean air. It wasn’t home but it was as close to it as he had ever been. Dr. Assad returned to Lebanon to visit family and friends for what he thought would only be a few weeks’ stay. A Palestinian refugee himself, Dr. Assad’s story is not uncommon. His family was forced from their home in Nazareth during the Nakba in 1948 when the Zionist armies invaded to make way for the Jewish state. 

Dreaming of Nahr al-Bared

Last week a group of international activists, people from Shatila refugee camp, and a group of people from the Nahr al-Bared displaced committee held a meeting to discuss how to break the media blackout about the siege on Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. One of the men at the meeting asked us, “How do we get the story of our situation into the media on a daily basis so that people will go to sleep at night dreaming of people from Nahr al-Bared?” 

Smiling through the pain

Fadia greets me with a warm smile of welcome lighting up her face and takes me to her home in Burj al-Barajne camp, Beirut, where I am to stay for three weeks, trying to help with a summer activity program for some of the children, and to improve the English of her kindergarten teachers. She has an infectious laugh and seems to find much to smile about. As I stay in the camp and learn more of what it means to be a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon I marvel at her strength of character, a common feature of the Palestinian women I have met.