Yara: A Syrian refugee in Lebanon

In the background there is a news report on Syria playing on an old TV. The volume is off but the screen shows row upon row of bodies, the latest to fall in the war in Syria.

Yara* explains that she left her parents and brother behind in Syria.  She can’t afford to call them so watching the news is the only way to hear what is happening in the area they are from.

As Yara welcomes us into her house I am struck by a sense of normality.  Unlike so many of the other Syrian families we have visited in Lebanon who live in makeshift shelters or disused buildings, this family has a home. 

But as I walk into the living room I am reminded that this is no ordinary family. The room is packed with children - two families, a total of 14 people, live here.

Yara fled the crisis in Syria with her husband and six children. They have come to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon where they live with her husband’s brother and his family. Yara’s husband cannot find work so they can’t afford a place of their own.

I ask Yara what life was like in Syria.

It was disastrous. There were no services, no work.  We were locked in all the time, we couldn’t go out. The bombing was less than 100 metres away from our home.  I was scared every time my husband went out to find work or to go the mosque. I never knew if he would come back.

Yara’s brother and sister in law came to Lebanon in March 2011, as soon as the conflict started. Yara and her husband joined them just a few months ago.  I ask them what made them leave the moment they did.

The last four months we were in Syria my husband couldn’t find work.  I lost over two stone. I got so sick and depressed from the fear that we decided we needed to leave. I could handle the poverty, but it was the stress – the fear we lived in was indescribable.

Yara’s face is pale and withdrawn. She looks like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders as she remembers what she experienced in Syria. She is only 30 but has suffered more pain in the last two years than most do in a lifetime.

I try to turn our conversation to the future but when I ask her what she hopes for she still speaks of the past;

I want things to go back to normal, to erase the horrors from people’s minds.  We have been facing horrors for two years and now we are facing a third year of war. I am desperately trying to close the wounds in my heart. I hope I will find calm.

Meeting Yara is a reminder that in addition to the material support needed to help Syrian refugees rebuild their lives in Lebanon, there is an urgent need for emotional support to help them process their experiences of the conflict.  People have lived in a country ravaged by war; many have lost people close to them and witnessed unthinkable horrors.   ActionAid will be providing group support sessions to refugees. 

Please, donate to our Syria Crisis Appeal

*names have been changed