Palestine, Syria

The tragedy of Yarmouk, Syria.

Yarmouk Camp is a district of the city of Damascus, populated by Palestinians. It is located 8 kilometres from the center of Damascus and inside the municipal boundaries but when established in 1957 was outside the surrounding city. Yarmouk is an “unofficial” refugee camp; it is home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in Syria. During the Syrian civil war, it became the scene of intense fighting between the rebel Free Syrian Army and its Palestinian ally Liwa al-Asifa on one hand, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) supported by Syrian Army government forces on the other. The situation in the camp is horrible past couple of months. Camp has been sealed since July 2013, resulting in acute and widespread deprivation, including severe malnutrition, while civilian residents are constantly exposed to the threat of death, injuries and trauma of the armed conflict.

Desperately needed, UNRWA humanitarian distributions in Yarmouk came to a standstill for over two weeks. Tenuous negotiations finally restored access on 24 February, bringing relief, assistance and a little bit of much-needed hope to camp residents. Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi was present and witnessed first-hand the immense suffering of Yarmouk residents. He was shocked by the condition of the Palestine refugees he spoke to and the extent of war damage done to homes.

“I am deeply disturbed and shaken by what I observed today. The Palestine refugees with whom I spoke were traumatized by what they have lived through, and many were in evident need of immediate support, particularly food and medical treatment. What I have seen and heard today underlines the timeliness of the UN Security Council resolution 2139 on Humanitarian Access and the need for all sides to implement the resolution without fail. ”

Here are some of the UNRWA photos (their report on Syria crisis here).

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This really made my heart sink.

At the same time, I recently watched a video remembering better times in Yarmouk. Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian born and raised in Syria, posted footage of his moving one-man performance The Eternal Refugee, recorded at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland in October 2013. The show reflects on life in Yarmouk refugee camp, where, according to Hayatleh, “the scent of Galilean thyme mingled with Damascus jasmine” and Palestinians and Syrians lived side-by-side.

Maybe it can give us a little hope for the future life in Yarmouk.

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