THINKING BEYOND WAR AND VIOLENCE
During the short drive from Beirut toward Damascus, our taxi turned off the road and pulled into a refugee camp in the Lebanese Bekaa Valley. As a journalist and academic who writes about international security, I wanted to see the refugee situation I had read about for myself. I watched as a truckload of women went to work in in Lebanon’s most fertile area, gathering vegetables and grapes for the area’s prized vineyards. They earn a pittance – about three dollars per day– so they can pay rent to the owners of the land where they occupy makeshift shelters.
People huddle behind burlap, peeking through doorways covered by sheets to see visitors. Children sneak up and as I turn, they giggle and run away. They ask for nothing. Empty water bottles litter the camp. I am humbled at the generosity the residents show. They invite us in for coffee and tea and I feel ashamed of myself as I drink. They have so little, but it would insult them if I declined.
This is one of many camps that now scatter the region. The United Nations estimates that up to two million Syrians are now refugees, many housed in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Another two million are also internally displaced from their homes.