Thursday, July 1, 2010



(English version)

This is the story of an endless struggle of a people in the Diaspora, refugee forever. This is doomed to repeat history of a people driven from their land, an occupied land, which lies in the memory of our parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren.

About 35,000 Palestinian refugees were living in Iraq for decades, mostly following the creation of Israel in 1948 and then forced to exodus, the Nakba, "The Catastrophe", which was applied to the Palestinian people by Zionists. From the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq occurred in 2003, the Palestinian community in Iraq has faced indiscriminate harassment, threats of deportation, abuse by the media, arbitrary arrests, torture and killings by bloodthirsty occupant or insurgent militias and Iraqi forces collaborators, who accuse them of having received preferential treatment by the deposed Iraqi government or of being in favour of the resistance and against the occupation. Palestinian neighbourhoods such as al-Hurriya and al-Baladiyat in Baghdad have been bombarded and attacked from the start of the US Occupation.

About 19,000 Palestinians have left Iraq since 2003 and remain in the country only about 15,000, which bear continuous threats hampering their daily life. Many Palestinians expelled from their homes sought refuge at first in tents in Haifa stadium in Baghdad. Others were killed, imprisoned or were forced to leave Iraq.

From those Palestinians who were forced inevitably to a second Diaspora of Iraq to flee their homes, belongings and family members who did not have sufficient means to leave, more than 2,700 are left in no man's land on the desert border between Syria and Iraq , in camps in Al-Hol, Al-Tanf, Al-Ruweished and Al-Waleed. Going back to their Iraqi homes is impossible. Their right of return to Palestine impracticable. The entry to Syria or another Arab country is not near a viable possibility. What to do then, when reality leaves you in limbo in a no man's land desert under subhuman conditions? The UN built tented camps temporarily, but even it seemed that was to last only a few weeks, has lasted more than three years of hell. Three long years of floods, sandstorms and snow, lack of drinking water and food, extremely high day temperatures of up to 56 º C, freezing nights over 12ºC below zero, snakes and scorpions in the tents, fires, like the occurred in April 2007 in Al Tanf Camp, where 28 people were injured by burns of various kinds and 7 shops destroyed in minutes. Or that happened in January of 2009 in the same camp that killed a pregnant woman and nothing could be done to save her. Three long years waiting to be relocated for a chance to live normally, to have a better future.

This report is based on Al Tanf Refugee Camp, although it could bear the name of "detention camp" because they can not get out of it by law. They were denied entering to Syria but they can not return to Baghdad. The landscape is bleak, it is virtually identical to that of the Nakba in 1948. This is a field located in no man's land at the border between Syria and Iraq and comprises a handful of skeletal tents provided by UNRWA and placed just 3 meters from the Baghdad-Damascus highway that separates the two boundaries and assiduously busy for trailers, which, incidentally, killed two children from the camp, which houses more than 900 people, including women, men, elderly, children. More than 40% are children and youth. All of them, but especially children, have visible signs of deep trauma because of the atrocities they have witnessed.

As in all stories, there are people, men, women, children, elderly, families with names that, too often fall into oblivion and silence. One of those men, whose name is Hussein Abu Nawfak Mohammad Sadek, a Palestinian refugee in Iraq, he cried for his two sons, Mohammad and Ahmad, abducted and brutally murdered in front of his loved ones, who tried to flee to Syria with his family after the fall of Baghdad and ended up in no man's land in the area of Al Tanf.
This is also the story of Abu Gassan, a Palestinian refugee who was tortured in Iraq and also suffered the death of his son. Abu Gassan describes the killing of their neighbours with sadness in his eyes, tells the torture of a 7 year old girl who could not be recognized by hes mother when they found the corpse. He tells how kidnapped a child from 2 years, filled with rice, put him in the oven and returned him, cooked, to his parents. He tells many things, too many and too horrible to accept.

Or that's the one of Bassim Mohammad Abu Salam, a Palestinian, formerly Professor of Agricultural Sciences, at the University of Baghdad until his brother was killed and his family threatened. His father died of grief for what happened. They fled to Damascus but had financial problems and sent them to Al Tanf. Despite the harsh life in the camp and the limited resources at its disposal, Bassim has built his own garden in the desert. He is doing a study on how certain plants grow in a desertical environment due to diseases, insects, etc.. Day to day records every detail: temperature and climate for the study of these conditions, etc. But while the intention and the wisdom of Bassim is long, the weather conditions are tough. Months of July and August are difficult for gardening. There is little water, the cultivation is weak, and only a few vegetables grow. He brought some seeds of Damascus. His garden is composed of basic vegetables and especially necessary for survival due to the difficult access to food in the camp: beans, corn, which draw the flour used for cooking, spinach, potatoes and more. They also have rabbits and birds, all found in the desert.
But, without any doubt, one of the people that touched me the most was Hazana, a 95-year-old Palestinian woman, which was the oldest person in Al Tanf. Small woman, with vivid and bright eyes, contrasting with a wrinkled face by long and pain. Strong hands worked in the field. Survivor of two diasporas, the Nakba, and now Iraq. During the first one was forced to flee her home in Haifa, Palestine in 1948. She just has contact with two of her 11 children. Another one has been killed and she didn't know anything about the rest. Her daughter Zainab, a strong woman dressed in black, says with great sadness that Hazana is too old and she will never leave here, that the only place to go is heaven. Hazana believes that human life shouldn't be as they live by now. She's sick. She'd like to go to another country but is aware that maybe there is no hope for her. Hazana remembers old Palestine, when Zionist occupation had not begun. Tells, sobbing, how happy and peaceful was living there, with its orchards and flocks, remembers the school and praying in the mosque.

It's hard to see so much pain, so many dreams truncated, nevertheless, but how reassuring to see they have inner strength, hope, that they keep intact, the ability to laugh and support each other, forming a community which ties will never break.
From 2008 several groups of refugees have been resettled in countries such as Chile, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and Britain. Finally they had the opportunity to start a new life. But all is not rosy. Families have been separated, sending members of the same families to different destinations. In addition to being relocated and therefore obtain passports from their host countries they have lose their right of return to Palestine in case the occupation ends and Palestine becomes a country again. If this were not enough, the last 300 people living in Al Tanf were relocated to Al-Hol, another nearby refugee camp, joining more than 600 people who lived there before in the same inhuman conditions in Al Tanaf. Today the situation remains unresolved.
But, after all, after 100 years of Zionist plan, after all that suffering, perhaps my Palestinian brothers and sisters are right and we have no choice but to continue having hope because, as you can hear on the street, Palestine is nowhere but "fi elb" in the heart.


  1. The struggle will continue even the liberation of last centimeter of our land.
    Your are to define there situation(the refugees) limbo. noland

  2. Muy buen documento Maysun!!! Creo que ayuda mucho a entender el infierno por el que atraviesa el pueblo palestino des de la invasión que padecieron. La fotografia sirve de inmejorable metáfora para describir la situación. Muy buena entrada!!!

  3. Hola Manuel,

    Por favor, podrías explicarte mejor? No entiendo muy bien a lo que te refieres. // Hi Manuel, I don't exactly understand what your're trying to say. Explain it, please.


    Muchas gracias!! Dentro de poco colgaré en la web el reportaje entero, aun estoy tratando de moverlo.