29 May 2013
The Azar family prepares dinner in an empty lot in Al Qaa, Lebanon, where they have found refuge from the war in Syria. (photo: Tamara Hadi)
In the Spring issue of ONE, journalist Don Duncan gives a dramatic look at life in Al Quaa, a Lebanese village that has lately become home to Syrian refugees:
Although she has only moved a few miles down the road, Hayat Qarnous wakes up to a world vastly different from the one she knew just a few weeks ago. Back then, she was living in Rableh, a village on the Syrian side of the Syria-Lebanon border and once the center of a quiet farming community. But since the Syrian uprising started in March 2011, it has been anything but peaceful.
“War is like fire,” she says, sitting in her newfound refuge in Al Qaa, a Lebanese village just across the border from Rableh. “A fire eats everything before it. So does war. There is no peace anywhere.”
It is this lack of peace, and its consequences, that have pushed more than a million Syrians to flee their homeland since the beginning of the conflict.
About 320,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon and registered with United Nations aid agencies there. But many observers believe equal numbers of Syrians have not registered with the authorities in Lebanon; among these are an estimated 10,000 Christians.
Lebanon, with its relatively large number of Christians — more than 30 percent of the population — is a natural choice for Christian Syrians seeking refuge. Beyond religion, most of the Syrian Christian refugees have chosen Lebanon for more pragmatic reasons. Many have family living in Lebanon, either as citizens or as laborers who have migrated to work in construction or farming since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. Others come to Lebanon, as in Mrs. Qarnous’s case, because it is the closest border to cross to safety.
“The journey between Rableh and Al Qaa used to take five to ten minutes before the war,” she says from a makeshift room she and her husband now inhabit in the hall of the Melkite Greek Catholic parish in Al Qaa. “Now it takes four hours.”
The trip is difficult and dangerous. Civilians have to navigate a complex landscape of warring factions, shelling and random attacks in order to arrive safely. Even after that, hunger, poverty and exposure to the elements await many of them in Lebanon.
Read more about Syrians Crossing the Border in the Spring 2013 issue of ONE.
Tags: Syria Lebanon Refugees Syrian Civil War War