A refugee story: Abu Hassan: I am not the only Lebanese in the camp

A refugee story:  Abu Hassan: I am not the only Lebanese in the camp
* Palestinian Journalist 

He is a Lebanese citizen from Tyre. She is a Palestinian refugee from the Rashidieh camp, south of the city. Abu Hassan met his wife more than six years ago, and soon a love story began culminating in marriage, despite the objections of many of their family members, especially that they decided to live in the camp. But “without this decision, I would not have been able to get married in the first place, especially under the difficult economic and living conditions.” He said., “I am not the only Lebanese here, and the proportion of intermarriage between the camp and the vicinity residents is relatively high. Many Lebanese families have been living in the camp for decades.”

Life in the camp is safer

As usual, every weekend Abu Hassan prepares to go fishing in the sea facing Rashidieh camp with his friend and neighbor who also married a Palestinian woman. He bought manakeesh from Umm Tarek’s bakery before heading to his home at the entrance to the old camp. Everyone there knows him as “Abu Hassan the Lebanese,” or as they like to call him “Jar Al-Reda” (Pleasant neighbor). This weekly routine is a breathing space for the man in his twenties who works long hours as an employee in a private car park in the area.

Abu Hassan feels safe in the camp, as the security situation here, as he sees it, is less dangerous than outside the camp, especially that many Lebanese areas are witnessing a significant increase in looting, robberies and assaults, but in the camp there are no such incidents so far, as he put it. The UNRWA, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, and several social institutions and charities that provide services and assistance to many families are reducing the burden on the camp residents.

But with the ongoing repercussions of the Covid 19 crisis, the deteriorating economic and political conditions in the country and the staggering increase in prices, the fathers’ fears for his family have grown, as his modest salary is barely enough to cater to the necessary needs and necessities.

 “I will never let my daughter marry a Palestinian”

For Abu Hassan, the reality is unbearable. He placed a kiss on the cheek of his five-month-old daughter saying, “You see my daughter? I will never let her marry a Palestinian.” He justified his statement by saying that it is not based on racist grounds at all, but it is rather motivated by his realization of the grave injustice done to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their deprivation of their most basic human rights. Given the fact that his daughter will not be able to pass on her Lebanese nationality to her husband and children due to Lebanese laws that prevent women from conferring their nationality on their families, this means that she will endure difficult living conditions and great deprivation. Umm Hassan agrees with his statement and adds saying that she and her husband are keen on teaching their son how to speak the Lebanese dialect, especially outside the camp, in order to prevent any discrimination, he may face in the future because of his Palestinian dialect.

To avoid this imagined future scenario, or until things are straightened out, Abu Hassan only wants one thing today, emigration from a country where both citizens and refugees suffer injustice.

To the camp

In Burj Al-Barajneh camp in Beirut, Samira Hammoud Al-Aina recalled the journey of her marriage with a Palestinian refugee. The experience has never been pleasant for a young Lebanese woman from Kfardouneen, a village in the southern district of Tyre. Her marriage to a man who is about twenty years older was not the only reason for the parents’ refusal to bless their daughter’s step. As Samira put it, it was “because he was both Palestinian and Sunni.” But then the family yielded under her insistence, and a simple wedding ceremony was held. She explained that this happened only to prevent people from believing that their daughter had an abduction marriage.

She contemplated his picture hanging on a wall in the living room where she spends most of her time with her grandchildren, and commented, “I have never regretted my decision to marry him., and if I had to do it all over again, I would not have changed anything.”

Alienation outside the camp

Over more than thirteen years of marriage, Samira suffered from an almost total boycott by her family and relatives, especially after the family publicized that their daughter lived too far in the Bekaa. Only one brother offered her sympathy and support, and she learnt from him the latest news about her family. Reciprocal visits were hardly paid but were not without blame and reproach, sometimes because of her modest place of residence and the parents’ reluctance to enter the camp, and sometimes because her three daughters speak the Palestinian dialect.

After her husband’s death in 2002, her family got in touch with her and begged her to leave the camp and live with them, but she refused to leave her home. The camp environment is that of her daughters’ father and there she feels comfortable and reassured. According to her, she feels alienated outside the camp. Alienation increases with the continued denial of her right to confer her nationality on her daughters. Here, her youngest daughter highlighted her suffering from job search, simply because she is Palestinian, despite the fact that she holds a university degree. She sarcastically said, “I am like mom. The Palestinians consider her a Lebanese, while the Lebanese consider her a Palestinian.”