By Palestine Chronicle Staff
A Palestinian woman is symbolically running as a candidate in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in a mock human rights campaign highlighting the minorities and Palestinian refugees’ marginalization in the country, ahead of the vote taking place on May 6th.
70 years of inheriting misery.
70 years Palestinians born with a refugee stamp.
70 years of inherited statelessness
70 years of inherited trauma
70 years living as hostages
70 years waiting for GODOT. #supportUNRWA It is the only thing left.
— Manal Kortam (@manalkortam) April 12, 2018
Under her “We Exist” campaign, Manal Kortam is drawing attention to the lack of rights – to citizenship, vote, or to hold public office – for her refugee people in Lebanon, though legally unqualified for the nomination.
Introducing the initiative, she tweeted:
“The ‘We Exist’ campaign works towards achieving freedom, democracy and social justice, towards a law-respecting, inclusive Lebanon, in which human rights and dignity, social diversity, and freedoms are unreservedly respected.”
— Layal Abou Rahal (@Layalarahal) April 28, 2018
Lebanon’s May elections will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba or “catastrophe,” when Israel forcibly displaced more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, during the 1948 Palestine war.
Some of the slogans appearing on the posters being publicized on the Facebook page and Twitter page of the campaign were as follows:
Frustration Is Not Our Fate.
Manal Kortam for The Palestinian Seat.
My First-Preference Vote is for #We_Exist.
We Are Also The People of the Country.
Certainly We Will Make The Future Different.
The Pulse of The Isolated People.
It’s Time for Democracy, Not Demography.
Lebanon is Richer with Us.
We and You Are Alike.
Kortam holds a Ph.D. in sociology and is a published researcher on radicalization, segregation, and globalized violence. She says the campaign focuses on the perception of the Lebanese and Palestinian society and advocates for Palestinian and minorities’ rights in Lebanon.
— Manal Kortam (@manalkortam) April 18, 2018
“Seventy years in Limbo. Time to be seen. We do exist. We deserve a life,” Manal tweeted.
Born to a refugee father and Lebanese mother, Manal points to the significance of socially and politically integrating the Palestinian refugee society in Lebanon’s development:
“It’s no longer acceptable to talk about any developmental project in Lebanon without the Palestinians being involved; we do not want their issue to be diluted among other refugee issues; this category in Lebanon is particular in its own right,” a tweet read.
I'm proud to be spreading awareness about the human rights of the Palestinians in Lebanon. Thank you @Joe_Khawly for giving me the time and space to talk about @manalkortam’s campaign. https://t.co/nWU9ymWeud
— Bilal Khauli (@bilalkhauli) April 14, 2018
A population census carried out in 2017 showed that there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. 63 percent of Palestinians live in camps with poverty and dangerous infrastructures, according to research findings of UNRWA and the American University of Beirut.
In a televised interview, Manal explained that the campaign by no means represents a call for naturalization as the right of return remains to be protected, yet it wants the Palestinians’ human rights to be realized first.
“To preserve the right of return, first we have to empower the human being to return, to be given dignity and to survive (terrible) living conditions.”
The activist stressed that the flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon should be a catalyst for politicians to prioritize the Palestinian refugees’ question, which has been pending for 70 years: