By any crisis in the Middle East, Palestinians are hit the hardest. Whether they live under Israeli occupation or as refugees in camps in Lebanon or Syria: they are welcome neither here nor there. Wardeh tells us what that feels like.
In July of 2014, Palestinian refugees in Syria suffer from a double crisis. The civil war in Syria is in its fourth year, with no end in sight. And their relatives in Gaza – uncles, aunts, cousins – are under attack from an Israeli army looking to solve the Palestinian problem once and for all.
How does one get by under these circumstances? I was able to talk to Wardeh, a 22 year old Palestinian student of journalism who lives with her family near Damascus. Wardeh was thankful for finally having the opportunity to tell the world what she had gone through. On the other hand she became very emotional at times, stopping her reporting for several minutes. Here is her story.
“Palestinian refugees in Syria suffer from a double crisis”
“Until 2012 I lived near Yarmouk, a camp for Palestinian refugees. My relatives, my friends, all the people I knew, lived in Yarmouk. People from all over Damascus used to come there to do their shopping. Everything was available in the camp. Looking back, I realize that Yarmouk was like heaven then.
In July of 2012, my dad said that we must move to Yarmouk as well. There were indications that the Syrian military was planning an operation against the neighborhood where we were living. I spent all night walking around the house, looking at every corner of it. I never thought that this would be the last night for me in the house where I had grown up.
I really felt bad. I felt so much hate deep inside of me that I didn’t know what to pack. I wished that my bag was as big as my house so I could carry everything with me. Unfortunately I couldn’t and I had to leave many books behind. We had a great collection back home.
Two hours after we had left, the military operation started in our street.
We only lived in Yarmouk for five months. We left Yarmouk on December 19, 2012. It was the second time that I had to leave my house. By then all things had lost its value and I felt like I didn’t want to carry anything with me anymore.
We left Yarmouk because of the Syrian air force bombing the camp. The bombing had started on Sunday December 16, the Black Sunday as I call it, in reaction to opposition forces who had infiltrated Yarmouk. These forces, mostly from the Free Syrian Army, said that they would only stay in Yarmouk for three days. All they needed was a passage into Damascus for the ultimate battle.
Those three days became 18 months. They are still in Yarmouk! These people are not freedom fighters, they are intruders. How else do you explain the fact that dozens of inhabitants died of starvation while none of them lost his life? Just look at their pictures on Facebook. They all are fat like a drum!
During those three days between Black Sunday and the day we left, my mother gave us ‘that talk’. She said that we must be ready for anything. Whatever happens, we should keep going, even if one of us gets hurt. That talk… that talk gave me that feeling in my throat – and telling this I am feeling it again. I cried alone and cursed the Free Army and the regime for making innocent people like us going through all of this hell.
I stopped watching the news about Syria a long time ago. Why should I watch it? We are living the news, right?
From day one of the conflict, my dad was very clear with us. ‘We are guests in this country’, he said, ‘we hope for the best for the people and wish the best for the government and the country. Don’t let anybody know what you really think, don’t trust anybody, and pray to God to protect Syria.’
Not taking sides helped me to see clearer. When you take a side you can no longer criticize it. I can criticize them both, but not in public.
WHAT I HATE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN SYRIA IS THAT YOU HAVE TO TAKE A SIDE. BUT I HATE BOTH SIDES!
As we grow up, we Palestinians learn that nobody is on our side. Why do the Palestinians have to go through this all of their life? Wherever we go we face so many obstacles.
“These people are not freedom fighters, they are intruders”
I have relatives in Gaza and in the West Bank. We are all one family, we feel for each other, we support each other, distance doesn’t matter. I remember one day where there was an air raid in my neighborhood. My aunt in Gaza told me, if you can hear it very well it means that the jet is above you and is aiming for an area further away. You don’t get such information without experiencing the same situation.
All that we can do in Syria for Gaza now is being supportive on Facebook. That’s all! People change their profile pictures and share pictures of injured people. I believe that we can use the social media in better ways, we can share real stories, real news. It is important to raise awareness about what is happening in Gaza.
My future? I guess this question should be asked in the past tense. What were my dreams and my plans? When the war started and the people left their houses, you forgot all your old dreams and you started to live with one dream only and one plan. I dream of going back to my house, I am curious to see what is left of it. Are there any walls still standing?
My plan for the future is to leave Syria. My mother encourages us to travel and to build a new future. I want to live the life we deserve.”