When War Destroys Homes Inside-Out

When War Destroys Homes Inside-Out

Publication info

Mahmoud Shabeeb

Humanitarian agencies recognize that women are particularly vulnerable in conflicts, especially when unaccompanied by a male family member. Women are especially at risk when male family members have been killed, are missing, or in Mariam’s case, the husband deliberately abandons his family.

Mariam fled her village near Aleppo with six of her seven children after a bomb hit her house in May 2012. One of her daughters was married and remained with her husband in Aleppo. “When the house was bombed we left immediately,” says Mariam. “At first we went to another village that was safer. We stayed for a year and six months until the fighting reached there, so we fled again.” When the situation in Syria deteriorated further, Mariam left for Lebanon. “Although we stayed in a house in Syria for free, and we have to pay rent here, it was impossible to continue in Syria as there was no electricity, no water, no facilities. In winter, rain water would flood the house daily. Aid was very scarce. We had no means to survive.” Mariam and her children now live in Tripoli in the north of Lebanon.

“My husband was an employee at the university. He had a good job and we were living well,” says Mariam. “At first, the area where he worked came under siege, so communication between us was impossible. However, when shelling in our neighborhood started, he was with us, but he left us to stay at his workplace. He considered it safer there,” she says. “He did not care about us, about his own family.”  Mariam fought with him, begging him to take them with him, but he refused. 

“I put my children first, but my husband only thought of himself.” Since she left Syria, Mariam has had no contact with her husband. “I do not know if he is dead or alive, and I do not care. He left us willingly, why would I care to know anything about him?”

Mariam’s eldest daughter, 23-year-old Ayesha, should have graduated from university by now with a bachelor’s degree in Arabic literature. However, Ayesha quit university in her third year due to the conflict. While she used to teach private Arabic classes for pocket money, Ayesha now takes any work she can find in order to support her family. “I have worked in many jobs; I worked as a cashier in a restaurant, in a garment store, in a factory, in a candy store,” she says. “I   never imagined myself doing these types of jobs. I was dreaming of becoming a university professor one day. I was a good student and all of my marks were excellent. Now I have to do jobs that have nothing in common with how my life was back home, and to work for employers whom I only bear for the sake of earning a living. But the most difficult part is that we, as Syrian refugee youth, had to abandon our studies and leave our future uncertain.”

CARE does home assessments, water and sanitation repairs, and hygiene promotion in different areas in north Lebanon, including Tripoli. “CARE visited us and recognized our needs, so they helped us,” says Mariam. “CARE has installed facilities in our kitchen and bathroom. They installed a water heater, water tap stands, a toilet seat, water tanks and pipes, a sink, and a washbasin. It was based on what we needed. But unfortunately, apart from CARE and UNHCR we have not received any aid from any other organization since we arrived.”

Only three out of Mariam’s six children go to school. “The ones who go to school are between first and sixth grade,” says Mariam. “The elder ones cannot go to school due to the difficulty of the different curriculum used in Lebanon.” Mariam only wishes for her life in Lebanon to become better. “Our house here is not in very good shape and we always have troubles with the neighbors,” says Mariam. “I do not feel comfortable in this neighborhood. I only wish to move to another area, where neighbors  might be more accommodating and friendly.”

"There is nothing I wish for as much as returning to university," says Ayesha. © 2015 Mahmoud Shabeeb/CARE