Home / news / “Collective punishment” chasing thousands of refugees … Syrians tell their tragedy after burning their tents in northern Lebanon

“Collective punishment” chasing thousands of refugees … Syrians tell their tragedy after burning their tents in northern Lebanon

At the edge of her burned tent in the Syrian refugee camp in Hanin-Minya, North Lebanon, Fadia Muhammad, 38, sits wiping her tears, after she lost hope in finding the contents of her tent, which was supported by nylon sheets, before a terrible fire consumed the entire camp.

This Syrian woman, who fled her hometown in Homs to Lebanon 8 years ago, found that the war was chasing her after the fire destroyed her tent, which was sheltering her children.

She told Al-Jazeera Net, “The moment the fire started, I only thought about saving my children from death. I was changing the baby’s clothes, so I carried him almost naked, and I held their hands to run for an exit. We came back in the morning and did not find my tent that melted and became like black coal.”

A few meters away, Umm Ali (43 years old), who fled from Hasaka, Syria to Lebanon in 2011, who is a mother of 6 children, was standing, complaining to Al-Jazeera Net of the question: “What is our fault in order to pay the price of an individual problem that has nothing to do with us?” What is the sin of our children to escape from Flames and bullets in the middle of the night shivering with cold?

A number of Lebanese citizens set fire to a Syrian refugee camp in Hanin-Al-Minya on Saturday night, following an individual dispute between a group of families in the area and Syrian workers in the camp, which led to the fall of a number of injuries.

About 380 refugees live in the camp before it was burned (Al-Jazeera)

At a time when local accounts are still conflicting about the backgrounds of the incident that displaced dozens of Syrian families, the Lebanese Army Command issued an official statement in which it clarified that the Intelligence Directorate arrested two Lebanese citizens and six Syrians on Sunday due to an individual problem that occurred in the town of Bahnin between Lebanese youths and a number of Syrian workers. Soon, it developed into firing in the air by Lebanese youths, who also set fire to Syrian refugee tents.

An eyewitness recounted to Al-Jazeera Net the bitter moments that the refugees lived before the fire was set, as the attackers cut off the electrical wires from the camp and fired randomly into the air, and some of them threatened the refugees to burn any nearby camp they resort to.

After the failure to escape from the main gate, dozens of young men, women and children fled to the back wall, and some of them were running barefoot, so they sought help from a small staircase and started to fall from it towards the surrounding orchards, due to the sound of gas bottles exploding due to the fire.

Among the fleeing refugees, were the two friendly children, Ahmed Al-Issa and Amir Muhammad (10 years old), and they were from the Syrian city of Qamishli, with signs of fear on their faces, and Ahmed told Al-Jazeera Net, “I came to the camp to check my bike, but I did not find it, and the assailants hit my uncle on the head. And I was afraid of the fire reaching my body before I ran away in the garden. “

Amir interrupts him, wishing to return to Syria, because he lives here in difficult conditions and without a school, and he cannot forget the “night of terror of fire,” as he described it.

The Hanin-Minya camp is one of dozens of camps spread in Lebanon, most of them were built randomly and in an area that does not exceed 1,500 square meters, there are 86 tents inhabited by about 76 families, meaning that there are 379 Syrian refugees, according to what the UNHCR spokesperson indicates. Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon Khaled Kabara.

The two women, Fadia and Umm Ali, their tents were burned, including (Al-Jazeera)


The fire of the refugee camp sparked widespread Lebanese condemnation at both the official and popular levels, especially since North Lebanon is known as an incubating environment for the Syrian refugees and their cause, and many have already described it as a condemned, racist and criminal, as well as demanding retribution for the aggressors.

The Minister of Social Affairs, Ramzi al-Musharrafiya, also communicated with Minister of Defense Zeina Aker, and stressed the ministry’s concern for the safety of refugees and the need to address the causes and repercussions of the accident and hold the perpetrators accountable.

The supervisor gave his directives to the response team, which coordinated the local authorities, security authorities and international organizations, and made sure that none of the families went to sleep in the open and without shelter, according to the Ministry of Affairs statement.

For his part, the Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abd al-Latif Derian, condemned the burning of the camp for the displaced Syrians in the town of Bhanin-Minya, describing what happened as “a heinous crime that deserves severe punishment by those who carried out this disgraceful act against humanity.”

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This is not the first time that Syrian refugees have been subjected to abuse and expulsion from their places of residence, and the last incident was a month ago at the end of November, when about 270 Syrian families left the mountainous town of Bcharre in northern Lebanon, after an incident triggered the killing of a Lebanese youth by a refugee. Syrian tension that prompted a group of young people in the region to expel the Syrians residing there, in response to the crime.

The two children Ahmed and Amir escaping from the camp when the fire broke out (Al-Jazeera)

In the context, Nasser Yassin, a professor at the American University who is interested in refugee issues, considers that the burning of the Hanin-Minya camp was not surprising and not new, and the paradox is the size of the aggressiveness of the incident. In Lebanon.

In a statement to Al-Jazeera Net, Yassin links what the Syrian refugees are exposed to with 3 basic factors:
First, the refugee in Lebanon has turned into a permissible person, in light of the escalation of hate speech over two years ago and some groups and officials demanding the departure of Syrians, and some hold them responsible for the crises as they constitute additional pressure on the Lebanese society with the presence of at least a million Syrian refugees.

Secondly, the Lebanese state has been completely absent from approaching the refugee file for 9 years, which has led to the creation of a kind of collective laws that a group of the host society practices against refugees without any legal deterrent.

Third, the economic and living crisis in Lebanon, which increased the tension between the Lebanese and Syrian societies, especially since the refugees reside in the poorest areas, due to the ease of living in them in illegal ways, which increases tensions as a result of their sharing in the same suffering.

Yassin notes that about 90% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the poverty line, and the amount of aid that reaches them is not sufficient to meet their minimum needs, and the problem is that most of them do not enjoy legal protection, as there are about 70% of the refugees who do not have official residence papers, either because they have sought refuge. They fled illegally, or because they did not renew their residency because they did not have the cost of their expenses.

These combined factors and others, according to Yassin, established a ground for violence, and had it not been for the solidarity of a large group of Lebanese with the refugees, the reprisals would have taken on a more violent pace, which he fears would spread with the repercussions of the great collapse that plagues Lebanon.

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