On World Refugee Day, personal reflections of a young Palestinian from the Gaza Strip
CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina, USA, Jun 20 2019 (IPS) – I am a refugee, born to a refugee family. I was granted that status on the day I came into this world. I was not aware of what had happened before then. I did not fight any battle, I did not threaten anyone. I did not even choose my own race or ethnicity. I just came to this world to find myself a displaced person.
Being a refugee means, I am a stranger on every spot on this planet. Some see me as a burden on the people of the hosting country. I drink their water, I eat their food, and I breathe their air. Day after day, their resources are less and less because of me, the alien person who came from outside. Maybe that explains why I never had access to education or healthcare, and I will never have access to work in the future.
Not being welcomed in one place, my family decided to travel to another. One expulsion after another, one deportation after another, we roamed the planet looking for one spot to claim. We found none.
Very often, I felt as if we came to the wrong planet, but it was the only one. We decided to return to the place we once called home, we were stopped at a man-built wall called a border and sent to a refugee concentration camp. We were told it was a temporary solution but we learned that temporary solutions can often last forever.
The place was crowded. People had been forced into only one-fifth of what once was all theirs. We were constantly threatened, bombed, displaced and even slaughtered. We felt insecure and scared but we could not go anywhere. I was upgraded from a refugee to internally displaced person (IDP). Not much change – just different words to describe the same suffering and pain.
As internally displaced people, we were assigned a monthly food package by a United Nations agency. It allowed us to survive, thanks to donors who shared their money and food with us. My childhood memories? Standing for hours in food lines, moving from one shelter to another, burying loved ones and struggling with disease and health problems.
Life for me has never been stable. Yet I have always dreamed of a place called home. I have often stood by the walls that keep us inside the camps and peeped through holes in them. What my eyes took in was another world.
I saw an open space and fields. I felt the fresh breeze on my face. I imagined myself at home – in a place where I belonged to the earth, to the sky, to the rocks, to the sand, to the trees, to the hills and to the breeze. A place where I would be welcomed as a human being. To me, home is like nothing else.
Today, the world observes World Refugee Day. On this day, we do not celebrate. We are reminded that there is no place for us in this world. We just remember the moral failure of our human race. On World Refugee Day, I will only make one wish: that all those around the world forced from their homes, longing for home, will be refugees no more.
Footnote: I’ve just graduated my double major master’s program in Global Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and International Development from Duke University. I’m now still in Chapel Hill, North Carolina waiting for my certificate and transcript to be issued and at the same time, I’m working on a temporary job with Duke University on designing programs on training youth from the Middle East and North Africa on leadership and democracy.
Mohammed Eid is from Rafah Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip.