The story of the tens of thousands starving and under attack today in the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus is a culmination of the story of almost each and every Palestinian. It is the story of my 90-year-old grandmother who continues to live the misery of Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. It is the story of my cousins in Yemen caught in the current attack. It is the story of my sister in Syria forced to flee for her life three years ago with her children and it is the story of my aunts and uncles in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates whose lives and futures hang in the balance awaiting a piece of official paper. It is the story of my neighbours, relocated to Libya who now live in limbo with no place to go. Yarmouk camp is the culmination to the story of successive generations of Palestinian people born into lives of exile with suspended presents and futures.
This story, then, is not “simply” one of the profound suffering of a group of defenceless civilians trapped in a war zone. It extends far beyond the de-contextualised renderings of mainstream media, spotlighting refugees in dire circumstances, facing death and starvation. It includes but also considerably predates reports of “residents including infants and children … subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water”.
The story of Yarmouk began almost seven decades ago when some three-quarters-of-a-million Palestinians were forcibly displaced from Mandatory Palestine in 1948, then subjected to continuing, multiple displacements both across and beyond the Middle East. Among too many instances to list here, these include: 400,000 Palestinians (many of them refugees from 1948) displaced by Israel in 1967, over 300,000 fleeing Kuwait in the early nineties during and after the first Gulf war, tens of thousands expelled by the Libyan regime and housed in makeshift camps at the Egyptian Libyan borders in 1995 and 22,000 fleeing Iraq during and after the American led invasion in 2003.
– Read more: Yarmouk: Horrific Impasse or Momentous Turning Point? – Ghada Aqeel, Middle East Eye