Magazine article New Internationalist

Lebanon

Magazine article New Internationalist

Lebanon

Article excerpt

My 15-year-old daughter suddenly declared last week that she needed a break. A break from what? I inquired, imagining a teenage world of academic tests, peer pressure or girlish gossip. 'From Lebanon,' she said.

Lebanon is a country that goes through 'waves'. The early 2000s saw a wave of assassinations, a wave of bombs planted in various neighborhoods, a wave of demonstrations.

More recently, a wave of refugees from the Syrian war entered the country. By October 2016, according to the UNHCR, Lebanon was host to 1.1 million registered refugees - around a quarter of the number of permanent inhabitants, and this in a tiny country of just 10,452 square kilometres (about the size of Devon and Cornwall in the UK). Refugee camps were quickly set up. Schools opened afternoon classes to accommodate Syrian children.

As the Syrian war showed no sign of stopping, even more refugees arrived and the streets were filled with begging Syrian children. Lebanon felt like it was drowning. Local unemployment increased as Syrians, in their desperation, took on jobs at lower wages.

Then, suddenly, the influx of refugees began to slow - not much, but enough to notice the difference in the streets of Beirut. Now ships offthe coast of Tripoli, in the north of the country, were illegally shepherding refugees to Europe. We watched on television mesmerized as so many made their way into Europe. We were even more mesmerized to see some Lebanese of Syrian descent among them. Some I know well. They are now European residents, they tell me, as they grin mischievously during holidays back in Lebanon.

In 2014, a new wave: the kidnapping of Lebanese soldiers by ISIS. The Islamist group overran the town of Arsal, on the northeast side of the fertile Bekaa Valley. Fear gripped the country: was ISIS about to invade Lebanon? Panic ensued.

The Lebanese army, along with fighters from the Shi'a group Hizbullah, surrounded the stronghold of the militants and then, in 2017, launched separate offensives against them. …

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