January 14, 2013


I come from a country where displacement due to war or violence is a foreign concept; we are born in the place where our fathers and grandfathers were born, and where our children will be born . We leave if we choose to, but the houses and the streets will remain the same. We can make plans for the future, and know where we will be next year June.

Hamra, Beirut. Difficult to see, but both cars have Syrian license plates.

For a Dutch, a society of displacement is unfathomable.  We don’t get the whole concept. To be forced to pack up and leave your things behind, your belongings and your roots, your cultural links and your connections to who you are as a person, and just hang out somewhere else for the meantime, we don’t get that.
We understand emigration. You also pack up and leave your culture behind, but that is by choice.

And all these refugees, moving around town, it gives me a very ‘unheimisch’ feeling. Everybody is on the move these days, it seems. The Lebanese often have had to flee their country and are pretty much spread all over the globe, but a lot of people are running away from their countries and ending up here.

If you're looking for refugees on this picture, there are none :) Just a random shot of Hamra

Yesterday, I had lunch with some people and there was a lady from Mali, who’s had to pack her bags and run away from the fighting in her country.

A friend of mine, originally from Iran, has been through Iraq, Dubai and Lebanon to finally end up in Canada. Iran is probably forever off the map for her. 

Then there’s an almost forgotten group of Iraqis, often living in very impoverished conditions as they have worked their way through their savings and there is no work for them here, on the run from the war in Iraq. 8,000 of them are registered but there are many more that have failed to obtain the paperwork needed to reside here legally.

We still have some half a million – some still registered as refugees, others assimilated – Palestinians, waiting to go home.

More random Hamra shots

And now we’ve got the Syrians. As the war is almost moving into its second year, more and more Syrians have had to pack up and go. As I walk through Hamra on my way home from work, I notice the numerous cars with Syrian license plates. You can pick them out on the street; the ladies dress slightly different from the Lebanese, the young men often use copious amounts of grease in their hair.

I wonder how they feel.

This is a picture of a refugee, a Palestinian lady; Displacement since birth. This picture is an old one (last winter, hence the funny title on it) and was taken in Sidon where there is a large refugee camp.

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