Crisis in Syria: Two Times a Refugee

When I was a child my grandmother used to tell me how she felt when she was forced to flee to Syria from her home in Palestine in 1948. She hoped for her children and her grandchildren to never have to experience what it feels like to be a refugee. But we still did. My family is one of hundreds of thousands of families who fled from Palestine decades ago, and who, three generations later, still have refugee status in Syria. I was born a refugee. One and a half years ago I became a refugee once more, when my family and I had to flee the Syrian war to Lebanon.

During the past decades, Al Yarmouk had become home to more than a million Palestinian refugees and Syrians. With the start of the Syria crisis in March 2011, the "refugee camp" itself became a refugee camp once more, the shelter for thousands of families, who fled from surrounding villages. The generosity and hospitality of the people living there was overwhelming. We Palestinians know what it feels like to have to leave our homes and our lives behind.  But the feeling of safety did not last for a very long time. Since the beginning of 2013, the Palestinian camp is under the hardest siege one can possibly imagine. More than 2150 Palestinians have died. More than 135 people have starved to death or died because they do not have access to medication or treatment. In the past I sometimes did not know whether to identify myself more as a Palestinian or a Syrian. I have never received a Syrian passport, only my ID stating that I am a Palestinian-Syrian, a refugee for life. But this crisis has changed me, it feels that it has crawled underneath my skin.

I feel the refugees’ suffering, the Syrians’, the Palestinians’, the Syrian-Palestinians’. I feel their misery, their destroyed hopes and dreams. I no longer only feel my own or my family's suffering. My pain is not a drop in a big ocean anymore. It feels like I am myself the ocean encompassing every single refugee’s pain in this uneasy world.

What keeps me going, what makes me wake up every morning is the will to support my fellow Syrians and Palestinian-Syrians in Lebanon. I started as a volunteer in an organization called DPNA, a partner organization of CARE. Now I am leading a project to train other volunteers, in order to raise awareness for better hygiene practices. Refugees in Lebanon are in need of humanitarian support, they need to know their rights and what social, legal and medical services are available to support them. They need food, a safe shelter and schools for their children. The refugees I work with have been engineers like myself, they were doctors, teachers, farmers and workers. We had normal lives, good lives like the lives of friends and family I have in Europe, the U.S. or Australia. 

In this crisis, I feel even more what it means like to be Syrian-Palestinian. I do not want us Palestinians to suffer, but I also fear for my fellow Syrians safety and well-being. Am I more Palestinian or Syrian? This is not a question for me anymore. I know that I will always be both, and I will not stop working to support my fellow Syrians and Syrian-Palestinians until all of us can live in peace again and can go back to my country Syria safely.

Written by Ali Sandeed


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