As the number of refugees fleeing Syria has almost reached half a million, around 160,000 have come to neighboring Lebanon, including Palestinians, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites.
For many, peaceful co-existence with other groups was disrupted by bloody civil hostilities for which they fail to find reasons.
Palestinians: Cannot live on a battlefield
Muhammad Tamim and Iptisam and their two adult children fled their home not far from the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus four months ago. Their parents and three elder children are still there.
“As soon as the FSA enters an area, the combat units follow and engage in action. There’s no way we can live in the middle of a battlefield. Syria is headed towards a catastrophe,” said Muhammad, a 50-year-old house builder.
His own home was turned into a battlefield. His newlywed elder daughter’s house was looted.
“Both sides know no mercy and spare no civilians. The death rate ratio of soldiers to guerilla fighters to civilians is one to 10,” continued Muhammad.
“Palestinians are now twice or even three times the number of refugees,” he says, emphasizing he’s not a member of any party, group or movement. When Muhammad and his family arrived in Lebanon, local people helped them start a new life, even though they are Sunnis living in a Shiite community. “We were given a cordial welcome and treated as part of the family: they gave us a home, household stuff, everything,” he said.
As we talked, next door’s family would stop by occasionally – a mother and her children.
“You know, one family we knew went to Sayda where Sunnis are, but it’s complete chaos there while here Hezbollah keeps it all under control, they give the refugees houses and treat us very well. Our girls are friends with the neighbors’ daughters,” said Iptisam, whose only big concern seemed to be the difference between school programs in Syria and Lebanon. Back home the language of instruction was Arabic while here it is English, and her children are lagging a year behind.
But Iptisam is optimistic and believes the girls will catch up with their class. Or, if they don’t, they can marry. There are many suitors already.
“But who could actually go through with the wedding now that money is an issue with everyone,” sighed Iptisam. “Back at home we worked and made our living while here we receive aid. But people here are kinder than in Syria, back home we were getting under heavy suspicion.”
According to Muhammad, the situation back in Syria is terribly wrong and hopeless.
“It’s in someone’s interests to divide us. It started in Syria with Sunnis against Shiites and Alawites. It is less dangerous for the Christians and Druze people, while Shiites are facing certain death,” Muhammad said. “I am short of words to even call what we are having here today – it’s some conspiracy against Syria.”
He went on to tell that so many militants are actually from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Libya, many are some heavy-bearded men who speak an unfamiliar language, definitely not any known dialect of Arabic. They actually don’t speak much at all – if you spot one of them in the area it means action will break out soon.
“The FSA took over my house. They make holes in the walls so that they could between houses without having to show up on streets. They loot all of them. They took everything they could sell from my daughter’s house: the refrigerator, the washing machine, everything. No one knows for sure whether it was the FSA or some thieves, but the outcome is this,” Muhammad assessed.
“Earlier in Syria, women were safe to walk in the street even in the middle of the night – that was freedom, and we don’t have this freedom anymore,” said Iptisam…JA