“When Israel occupied Palestine in 1948, our ancestors were forced into exile and ended up in refugee camps,” says Ghassan el-Shouly, who was raised in Rashidieh camp, the second most populous Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. “We are not allowed to go back to our country, and as refugees in Lebanon, we don’t have rights.”
On May 15, Palestinians commemorated 75 years of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, which forced their mass displacement and dispossession of land that became Israel in 1948. Every year, Ghassan and his family march from Rashidieh towards the border of their homeland with dreams of one day returning to the place that was taken from them.
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“It has been 75 years of being refugees in camps in south Lebanon,” Ghassan says. He points out that life in the camp feels like constant oppression. “Palestinians are barred from most jobs in Lebanon … about 90 jobs, including medicine, law and journalism,” he says, adding, “and we are always under the threat of being bombed.”
With the Gaza Strip bombed again by Israeli forces recently, this year’s commemoration of the Nakba presented greater security concerns than usual for Palestinians in Lebanon camps, leaving Ghassan and his family unable to attend the annual march towards the Israeli-Lebanese border. But despite the odds, their determination inspires them to adapt their tradition to the circumstances. “We will organise a march inside the camp,” he says.
In this Close Up episode, watch as Ghassan and his family break from tradition, even as they refuse to give up their dreams of freedom.
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