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News: Peace
Shatila - Playgrounds in the Rubble Current rating: 1
06 Jul 2003
Modified: 11 Feb 2004

Humanitarian aid for the refugee settlement of Palestinians in Shatila, Lebanon, in two large packages, is all ready to go.

"A brick wall now covers the spot where a firing squad lined up the health care workers."




Shatila - Playgrounds in the Rubble

We’ve collected about two and a half cubic meters of humanitarian aid for the refugee settlement of Palestinians in Shatila, Lebanon.

The aid, in two large packages, is all ready to go and there seems to be no way to send it. It is sitting on wooden supports, covered for protection from sun and rain, full of clothes for adults, plus toys and some clothing for the kindergardens and womens’ self-help groups operated by the Najdeh Association in Shatila.

The current obstacles to sending the package are a combination of:
political obstacles - the government in Lebanon makes every support for the refugees very difficult, while the United Nations have not been very warm,
financial obstacles - so far we have raised only a part of the money for the shipping, which will cost a few hundred Cyprus Pounds.

Two contacts with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees so far produced nothing, but we have not given up on that angle yet. We have been asking for their help to facilitate the movement of the humanitarian aid at the port in Lebanon, from the ship through Customs and out, to reduce the bureaucracy and difficulties which the local government is expected to throw in our way. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Lebanon, has 2,600 employees and a $50 million a year budget (plus an additional $20 million for special projects). But the UN High Commission on Refugees in Cyprus, only 150 miles away, has never heard of them, "believes they exist", but has no way to contact them.

We still believe there are some good people within the UN Commission on Refugees in Cyprus, so we are going to be asking for their help again. We really hope for a better response this time.

This humanitarian aid campaign was born from our contacts with Beirut IndyMedia, and the efforts to create an Eastern Mediterranean IndyMedia. Face- to- face meetings last year led to warm personal bonds among some of us, and this resulted in a short visit to Shatila by Maro, Katia and Orestis, guided by Raida who is a Najdeh Association refugee aid worker and an IndyMedia volunteer.

Shatila was levelled three times in less than ten years, and it was the site of one of the world’s most disgusting massacres aimed at ethnic cleansing. (Ariel Sharon and the Lebanese Phalange- militia who carried out the massacre are being prosecuted for it in the World Court.) In Cyprus, where both of the island’s main ethnic communities have been targets of similar attacks, and where more than half our country’s population are refugees, we have a painful understanding of what all of this means.

Conditions in the Shatila settlement are appalling. The government does not allow repair on building structures, does not allow work permits for the residents (even if three generations so far have been born in Lebanon and lived their entire lives there), and classifies the Palestinian refugees as "unregistered aliens". By this, and through many other policies, it denies the people of Shatila basic human rights such as access to clean water, food, shelter, electricity, jobs - all these are "luxuries" which are being continuously stripped down to less and less.

Most of the refugee camps in Lebanon are under military siege for most of the time. There are about 400.000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In Shatila, the sewers are forced to run in the streets so that the government’s ethnic cleansing policies can attack the people with infections and diseases so as to reduce their numbers. The electricity wires are left to dangle in long loops close to the ground, and when they carry electricity, they are an immediate danger to anyone close by - especially if it’s windy or rainy. The community is forbidden to repair them. Garbage is left to rot in the neighbourhoods, and the community is prevented from organising a garbage collection system. Shatila is home to about 10.000 Palestinians and about 10.000 Lebanese, Syrian, and Gypsy refugees, who all struggle to survive together, in endless efforts to make the community liveable - it’s obviously a place where ethnic cleansing has not yet succeeded.

The Najdeh Association in Shatila operates kindergardens, vocational skills schools, womens’ self- help groups, and community programs aimed at handling violence in the family and similar social problems which are magnified by the artificially created poverty and the inhuman conditions which are enforced on the community. The vocational skills training is aimed at creating income and self- sufficiency, both for the individuals and for the community. The classes involve skills such as embroidery (traditional embroidery items are made and sold by co-ops to raise funds for the community), video and photography, plumbing, carpentry, electrical skills, etc.

The material and social realities in Shatila are terrible, but they have not succeeded in breaking the people yet. A condensed image of this reality contains everything about the clash between the forces aimed at crushing the spirit, and the resilience, persistence, patience, and inventiveness of the resistance to them : individuals and groups, sometimes alone, sometimes in organised efforts, keep going through the garbage to salvage any item of value - there is use value in everything, and ways to make use of everything. The bottom of a broken bottle is a magnifying glass; the soles of torn shoes can be attached to another pair; a piece of leather can help repair a leaking faucet; a battery- rusted radio contains all the parts needed to make a radio which does not require batteries. Nothing is wasted; everything is re-used, recycled, repaired.

We admire the spirit toward community organization and self- sufficiency promoted by Najdeh and other groups, and also the spirit in which people like Raida carry out this work, aimed at community empowerement through concrete, practical activity involved in everyday reality, and guided by Universal principles such as the commitment to see a world without racism, a world with freedom and equality for all, and a return of all refugees home. All this is part of what inspired us toward this particular humanitarian aid campaign: we collected items from supporters for a few months, and recently worked on assembly, sorting, and packaging. The last remaining step, sending everything to the Shatila workers of the Najdeh Association, is still to materialise, as we need to keep raising funds for shipping, and to sort out the bureaucratic steps with the appropriate authorities.

Volunteers and supporters from three groups have been working together on this humanitarian aid campaign, pooling together our resources to make it happen. The groups are:
Cyprus IndyMedia,
KaliMerhaba, and
All is One - Universal Life Church.

If you would like to help us in this project in any way, no matter how big or small, please contact Petros, at Humanitarian-Aid@Universal-Life-Church.net . All the help, whether you’re donating your work, time, money, materials, is very valuable, it is very appreciated, and most welcome. Please remember that your donation will go a long way toward helping people who are in terrible conditions, to survive one more winter and to keep the faith alive for an eventual Peace in our region and a return Home.

From the Cyprus IndyMedia Collective

* * *

Further readings and photos:

About the Najdeh Association
http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/300/360/362/najdeh/

The photos in this article are from our visit to Shatila: a kindergarden operated by Najdeh, and images from the neighbourhood. (Many thanks to Katia, Maro, and Sue for the pictures).

A broader view of the Najdeh projects, seen in a wider social context
http://www.al-awda.org/old/refugee_support2.htm

A visit to Shatila - from a fact-finding mission of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the oldest and largest interfaith peace organization in the United States:
http://www.stjoan.com/er2/mideast/report2.htm

A Report on the status of Refugees in Lebanon by the Secretariat of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), published with the financial support of the EU Commission. The EMHRN is based in Denmark:
The Report

"….Our right to return to Palestine, to our old towns and villages, is not even on the agenda of the agreements". From a visit to Shatila, a report by Georges Mehrabian, Maria Plessa and Natasha Terlexis:
The Militant Jan. 31, 2000 (Maria and Natasha, who are supporters and friends, visited Cyprus from Athens recently to report on the BiCommunal efforts since the easing of movement restrictions on our island.)

Images from the Najdeh vocational training center in Shatila

A brochure of the NAJDEH Association, detailing some of the projects

"A brick wall now covers the spot where a firing squad lined up the health care workers."
An open letter to the survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre
http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article1666.shtml

"The Sabra and Shatila Case in Belgium: A Guide for the Perplexed"
by Laurie King-Irani, International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila, 16 June 2003
This is a current and up to date analysis of the court case, for those of us who have been getting confused by the recent legal developments around it and by misleading news articles. Despite rumours of failure, the legal case to prosecute Sharon and his allied genocidal maniacs continues:
http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article1568.shtml

(many thanks to the Electronic Intifada for these materials)

A mirror of this article

Back to Cyprus IndyMedia

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