Protestors gather to save Nahr al-Bared

October 15th, 2009 | Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, Palestine
    Daily Star Tuesday, October 13, 2009.


Photo: Mary-Ellen Davis. Nahr el-Bared refugee camp destroyed pictured in late 2007.

BEIRUT: Demonstrators gathered in their thousands at Downtown Beirut’s Martyrs Square Monday to protest against government failure to begin reconstruction to Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. Organizers claim some 2,000 protestors from all over Lebanon attended the peaceful demonstration, watched over by soldiers and a dozen police in riot gear.

The reconstruction was temporarily suspended by a decision from the State Shura Council in August over fears that construction would damage archaeological ruins recently discovered below the camp.

Palestinian children from camps across Lebanon attending the protest had built small cardboard houses to symbolize their feelings of displacement and instability, while community leaders addressed the assembled crowd.

“We hope that what we said today helped in raising our voice so that it can reach every human on the planet,” said Mohammad Isthiw of the Palestinian Youth Organization (PYO).

Residents of the northern Palestinian refugee camp have been forced to live in metal storage containers after their homes were destroyed by fighting which pit the Lebanese Army against Al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam militant group in mid-2007.

“It’s very hot in summer and very cold in winter,” said Isthiw’s father Ziad. “We want to see the reconstruction started before looking for any food or water or anything else.

“If we had the basics of life we wouldn’t come here. We don’t have a house. I want a house to live in, so the first thing we need is the reconstruction.”

The Council is due to give its decision Wednesday as to whether the reconstruction process can be resumed.

Following talks between Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Palestinian factions earlier this week, an FPM representative attended the protest in support of resuming work to the beleaguered camp.

However the Christian party staunchly objects to the naturalization of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees and were responsible for filing the lawsuit which initially halted reconstruction of the camp.

Opponents to the reconstruction claim the ancient Phoenician archaeological ruins are of great importance to Lebanon and argue that the camp should be rebuilt nearby. Residents are less than keen on the prospect.

“Relocating the camp is only a theoretical solution, the reality of which is not feasible. The nearby areas are already overcrowded and the Palestinians by law have no right of ownership,” said Amr Saadeddine, spokesman for the Nahr al-Bared reconstruction committee said at Monday’s protest.

“Back-filling [covering remains] is important for the infrastructure of our housing, what we have at the moment is a conflict between the right to preserve archaeology and the human rights of Palestinian refugees. The Nahr al-Bared camp contains the social fabric of entire villages; their displacement is a human tragedy. All they want is a chance to rebuild their family homes.”

As the demonstrators came to a close boarded the coaches, which had brought them to the capital, PYO member Mahmoud Wehbi, said that further protests would be held until the refugees needs were met.

“We are going to wait and see what will happen with the decision and from that we will continue our movement, our civil and peaceful demonstration, until reconstruction begins.”

Leave a comment

Upcoming events