Stories from Shatila Refugee Camp
We are currently planning Peirene Now! No. 3 to be published in the summer of 2018.
Our publisher Meike and Syrian editor Suhir Helal are working with writers from the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon to create a piece of collaborative fiction about the biggest refugee crisis in this century, caused by the Syrian civil war.
An estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the war. 4.8 million have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, 6.6 million are internally displaced within Syria and just over 1 million have made their way to Europe. Syrians represent the biggest group of asylum seekers in Europe.
About 1.5 million Syrian refugees are now in Lebanon. This means that one in five people living in Lebanon are refugees from Syria’s civil war. In fact Lebanon hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world.
Meanwhile the world doesn’t want to know. To put this into context: The UN’s 2016 humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees was just 56% funded by the end of November 2016.
Moreover, Lebanon’s experience with Palestinian refugees, some 500 000 of whom have now lived in the country for more than 60 years, has left deep scars. Many Lebanese believe that creating formal refugee camps for Syrians would encourage them to settle in their host country permanently. And so Lebanon has no formal refugee camps.
What does that mean? It means that most Syrians in Lebanon have no official status. They have no right to work and few means of sending their children to school. They have crowded into the former Palestinian camps in the cities, and huge make-shift tent villages have sprang up in rural areas without any formal infrastructure.
This is no longer a humanitarian crisis, but a humanitarian catastrophe. Our world has become too small to believe that the international community won’t pay a price. Is there a way out of it? How can we alter our thinking in order to effect changes that would benefit all of us? Is that at all possible?
In January 2017 Meike decided to approach writers living as refugees in Lebanon, to teach them the tools of creative writing and then commission them to respond to their situation with a collaborative piece of fiction.
I WANT TO HEAR THEIR STORIES AND SEE IF THEIR IMAGINATIONS CAN OPEN UP NEW PATH OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN US. COLLABORATIVE WORKS OF LITERATURE CAN ACHIEVE WHAT NO OTHER LITERATURE CAN DO. BY POOLING OUR IMAGINATIONS WE ARE ABLE TO ACCESS SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND NEW THAT GOES BEYOND BOUNDARIES – THAT OF THE INDIVIDUAL, OF NATIONS, OF CULTURES. IT CONNECTS US TO OUR COMMON HUMAN ESSENCE: OUR CREATIVITY. LET’S MAKE STORIES, NOT MORE WAR.
The book will be published in two editions, in English and in Arabic.
The writers: Omar Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safaa Algharbawi, Omar Alndaf, Safiya Badran, Fatima Ghazzawi, Samih Mahmoud, Mahmoud Marandi, Hiba Maree, Rayan Sukkar.
With special thanks to the Beirut based NGO, Basmeh and Zeitooneh. www.basmeh-zeitooneh.org