Inside Bedawi Camp: Refugees Forever
By ELIZA ERNSHIRE
Bedawi Camp, N. Lebanon
Bedawi Camp is much like other Palestinian Camps: crowded, narrow streets winding between cement buildings hung with tangles of wire, the ground running with water, often muddy because it is not tarred. Small scooter motor bikes push their way between the people, children with clothes too small from them and holed at the knees running and playing ball and wanting to pose for photo after photo. But today Bedawi Camp is more crowded than usual as it is offering refuge to a people who are yet again displaced and are yet again fleeing conflict and are yet again having to leave everything behind them: clothes, food, mattresses and often brothers and husbands as well. They have come here with nothing and the Palestinian people in Bedawi Camp are opening their poverty-stricken homes to them.
It is not just Bedawi that is now sheltering the families who have been fortunate enough to escape the besieged and death-strewn streets of Nahr al-Bared Camp. Families have fled as far south as Beirut and some say even further. Shatila, witness to its own massacre, is now opening its homes to the 153 families who have so far arrived there. Aid is funneling into Bedawi but nothing is yet reaching Shatila. Many of the families here have escaped without so much as their IDs on them.
In Bedawi the injured and the well share the same piece of bread; in Shatilla the wife is without her husband and shares the same mattress as her three or four children, and often no mattress at all.
Many who have fled have no way of knowing how their men-folk are, still stuck within their besieged Camp. One woman told me how the last thing she saw as she left with her baby was her husband bleeding from a gun shot wound to his shoulder. She was weeping as she told me she couldn’t help wondering if she would ever see him again.
‘How do I know that Shatila is not going to be my home now forever? Maybe you can not understand what the life of the refugee is. Always fleeing, always living in a place that it temporary and always dreamingWhat do I dream for now you ask?
To return to Palestine? No, just to return to Nahr al-Bared and see that my husband is well.’
It is humbling to see how much the Palestinian people are giving to their newly displaced brethren. I have seen men donating $100.00, piling clothes into the central bin where we are collecting, giving blankets and of course the roof of their homes, when they themselves have so little. These people are living below the poverty line, in crowded and cramped camps with no stable income or prospect of a future and yet they are the ones donating and opening their arms to the victims of political complexities and international interference that is escalating out of control in this country.
As we were working in Shatila we received news that the Lebanese government has given Palestinian leaders 72 hours to solve the standoff in the north of Lebanon or they will storm the Camp with their US donated weaponry.
The Palestinian leaders must solve the problem with a group of extreme militants who are 70 per cent not Palestinian and who were armed in the first placed by the Siniora Government against Hezbollah, or else their people will be massacred and another Camp will be stained with a history of horror?
What can storming the Camp possibly achieve?
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