"We used to visit Lebanon for our holidays, now we are here as refugees"

Monday, June 9, 2014 - 15:30

Maram and Samer come from the suburbs of Damascus, where they owned a big house on a farm, and ran a successful furniture market. In Maram’s words ‘they lived a life of luxury”

The couple would often come to Lebanon for holidays, to relax on the beach in Beirut or go out to dinner at many of the upmarket cafes and restaurants

But in 2012 their lives were turned upside down when Samer was arrested and detained in prison. Maram had no idea where he had gone and was distraught. She said, “It was black hours for me waiting him to come back to home, I would spend my day waiting for any news about him; is he still alive or not? Did a sniper shoot him?”

After three months, Samer escaped from prison and the family fled to Lebanon - this time, as refugees. Samer said, “In the past we used to visit Lebanon for vacation, right now we are living here as refugees, it’s unbelievable for us.”

They came with their two young children, hoping it would be a short visit until the war ended. Two years on, they are living in Bekaa, where they have no work and receive humanitarian assistance to survive. After learning that their home and business had been destroyed, they knew that they could not return.

Maram said, “In Syria I was living like a queen. Here, I need to fight to get the aid and I am waiting for some financial support from my brother UAE. There are no job opportunities for me or my husband… there is no hope for us in this country.”

Maram and Samer cannot afford to cover their children’s school expenses and they worry they are missing out on the vital early stages of their education. Maram and Samer’s family cannot work, go to school, or afford to do anything outside of the home - which has taken its psychological toll.

Maram received psycho-social support training and workshops in knitting with ActionAid.  It gave her a chance to fill up the time in her day and to face some of the trauma she experienced from the war. Maram said, “it was a real added value to my personality, especially the sessions on psychological support, Now I am interested to undertake workshops in women’s rights and empowerment… we need this skills to rebuild our country soon.”

Maram and Samer have recently been accepted on UNHCR’s resettlement programme and will start a new life in Norway. But the thought of leaving Syria forever haunts them. Maram said, “We are so happy that we will be guaranteed a new life and good future for the kids. They deserve to live their childhood in a peace away from war and fighting. But at the same time, we are still wondering if it is the right decision to leave Syria forever?!  I don’t not know.. . but I am praying for the best for us and for our country.”

To date, approximately 150,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict. Most of the dead are normal civilians - caught up in a combat they wished no part in. They are leaving behind everything they knew; the sights, the sounds, the smells – and heading for refuge where all they can do is sit and wait.