Sadly, the Middle East has witnessed some of the largest mass displacements of people worldwide over the past decade. As it currently stands, millions of Syrians are fleeing their homes, moving within the country and sometimes far outside of it. Not surprisingly, neighboring states have absorbed most of these people and have managed well under the circumstances. However, the question of how to deal with the waves of those who have lost everything and might not be able to go back in the near future is a huge challenge for the refugees and for host communities, especially since there is no settlement on the horizon.
Naela Mansour traces stories of displacement within Syria. While for most refugees, exile is a dire prospect, Dima Wannous elaborates on how, for some Syrian artists, their flight to Beirut gave them a space to breathe. We are also featuring a part of Marta Bogdanska’s project “Exilium.” The photographer asks refugees about one item in their possession and traces how a trivial lighter, a photo, a table cloth all of a sudden assumes a different meaning in their life. There are stories of multiple displacements as well. After the Iraq War in 2003, more than one million Iraqi refugees came to Syria and are now stuck, as Kelsey Lundgren shows, with a home that has vanished long ago and an uncertain future in their refuge home. Palestinians, who were more privileged as refugees in Syria than in any other Arab country, face the problem of where to go from here. Mitwali Abu Nasser travelled to Palestinian camps in Lebanon to assess their situation directly.
Areej Abuqudairi looks at how the internal economics of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan has developed after it became infamous as a result of the tough weather conditions, floods and three children who froze to death. Nejat Taştan explains how the de jure and de facto situation of refugees and their host communities works in Turkey. As for Lebanon, Rayan Majed traces the refugee experience in a country that has received the largest number of displaced persons and is the only country to still keep its borders open. Pierre Abi Saab reviews the film “Not Who We Are” by Lebanese documentary filmmaker Carol Mansour – a production made in cooperation with hbs.
In a reportage, Ryme Katkhouda looks into the impact of Syrian refugees on Lebanese society and its economy. Since the situation particularly affects children, Emma Gatten explores what exile means for Syrian children in terms of schooling and finding something akin to home.
Finally, Haid Haid explains how “protection” has become the legal and ethical cover for ignoring the personal and sexual rights of female Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. In her article on early and often not formally registered marriages of Syrian refugees in Jordan Areej Abuqudairi shares her insights on the legal vulnerability of women and families in the context of exile.
Of course, the many different facets of this topic make it nearly impossible to cover them all in only one issue of a magazine. Still, it is our hope that we can at least shed some light on several key aspects of the Syrian refugee crisis through voices that are on the ground, living the tragedy.
Bente Scheller, René Wildangel & Joachim Paul