by Pierre Balanian
A quarter of the victims at Beirut port were Syrian. Many of them decided to stay in the country to work on rebuilding homes. Damascus’ contribution to the care of the wounded. After years of occupation and war, there are small signs of friendship. The stories of Nadir and Rafiq.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Ten days after the fatal wound inflicted on the capital, the pain of the Lebanese is still acute. The two explosions tore open and rendered one of the oldest ports in human history unusable. In a surreal atmosphere, people are attempting to return to some normalcy.
Today we are dealing with the psychological effects of post trauma: insomnia, psychosis, fear of tomorrow, the guilt of survivors, worries about recreating a safe habitat ….
Visual effects prevent us forgetting: new lifeless bodies are pulled out of the rubble every day. At the beginning, among the victims that most shocked public opinion and the press were the death of the wife of the Dutch diplomat and that of an Australian child, the smallest victim of the tragedy. The press spilled rivers of ink for these opulent, respected people, who live far above the misery of the people. The Lebanese feel guilty for their death: they were guests and they should have been guaranteed the protection due to the guests. In some way, certainly for reasons beyond their control, the Lebanese feel they have betrayed customs and duties of hospitality.
However, there is a curtain of silence drawn over other forgotten, yet present, guests: the Syrians.
Among the victims of the explosions, the Syrian embassy in Beirut counted 47 Syrian victims; many of them are missing, not claimed by anyone. Almost a quarter of the victims of the Beirut explosions are Syrians. Immediately after the tragedy, Syria opened its borders – which were closed due to Covid-19, and sent 200 ambulances that transported the thousands of wounded to be treated to Damascus and other Syrian hospitals. In Damascus, in hospitals already full of patients with Covid-19, field hospitals have been set up in courtyards only for the Lebanese wounded. Yet the local press remained silent, both on the victims and on Syrian aid.
Most Syrians in Lebanon prefer to live in Christian areas, where they enjoy greater freedom of thought and action. Yet Lebanese Christians are those who have suffered most from the oppression of the Syrian army during the years of occupation by Damascus (1976-1990). Just hearing Syrian dialects awakens many bad nightmares and bad memories. Yet since the uprising in Syria broke out, Christians are among those who most understand the people’s will to change the regime. The economic crisis, the work of the Syrians – underpaid and therefore preferred to the Lebanese – the crimes committed by many of them, out of hunger or by nature, have revived old grudges.
In recent months, many Syrians had opted to return to Syria and flee Lebanon, due to the economic situation: the wages in Lebanese pounds were insufficient to live on; Covid 19 was more rampant in Beirut than in Damascus; the fear that another war with Israel will break out.
However, after the explosions, shards of glass, broken doors and windows, collapsed roofs and balconies, cracks in the walls, everything promises new job opportunities. It will take a lot of manpower to rebuild, fix the electricity and water pipes, repaint walls, etc. For this reason, many Syrians have decided to stay.
Nadir, a Syrian Sunni from Damascus who lives in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh, was injured after the explosions. Despite this, he took to the street and seeing so many wounded like him, he decided to transport the wounded one at a time to the hospital. With his scooter, bypassing the rubble that blocked the road, he managed to accompany 17 people. Leaving the hospital, having lost a lot of blood, he fainted and they took him to the emergency room. He was medicated: the expenses were paid for by the people he had taken to the hospital.
Speaking to AsiaNews he explains the reasons for his action: “I could not leave others like this. I am young, I am 31 years old, I could resist. But they needed help more than me”.
Rafiq, from Lebanon, gave a lift to a Syrian he didn’t know two years ago. Then talking to him in the car, he found him a cleaning job in a hotel. Two years have passed since then. After the explosions, the same Syrian boy called him to find out if he was okay. Rafic told him: “My house is damaged; I took my mother to the mountains; I have to at least fix the windows ”. In gratitude for the favor rendered two years ago, the Syrian came to change his windows and fix the windows, a job he knows how to do. “In life – says Rafiq – we reap what we sow”.
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