Solidarites International

Life in a city is often synonymous with better access to services, work opportunities and wider choices in terms of places to live. When one is a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, the city can quickly transform into a place of confinement and frustration.

This is what Nour Hifaoui Fakhoury experienced when joining the project. Through her interactions with Syrian refugee families living in the suburbs of Tripoli, Nour uncovered their stresses and daily fears as well as a strong desire to find a better life on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

Most of the people Nour met and included in her comic story live in what we commonly call the « poverty belt » of Tripoli; the suburban neighborhoods of Qobbeh, Abu Samra, Bab el Tabanneh and Jabal Mohsen where violent conflict continued until  2014. In these suburbs, population and life are intense but also insalubrious and expensive compared to Syria.

Among the refugee population living in these neighborhoods, we find city-dwellers from Homs living next to peasants from Idleb, Hama and surroundings of Homs. Everyone is somehow trying to adapt to this new country, with its different traditions and social rules. Nour comments: “In Syria, women were the queens of their house, they didn’t go out much. In Lebanon, it is different, and it is difficult for families to open up to these new habits whilst preserving their own traditions.”

Whether in the city or countryside, the Syrian refugee community faces checkpoints and constant restrictions upon their freedom of movement. Traveling without appropriate residency documents means a one way ticket to jail if apprehended, for days or even weeks. Understandably, it is nearly impossible to meet family basic needs. Regularization of residency documents requires extensive paperwork and 200$ per adult (anyone above 14 years) which represents an extreme challenge.

Since so many are confined within the borders of their neighborhoods, any daily movement becomes complicated: going out of the apartment, going to work… However, women are less prone to arrested and are therefore more likely to find work, even if this goes against traditions and they are paid less. “Between the daily humiliations and the change in mentality, some families are losing control. Their stories are very powerful and intense” explains Nour.

Regarding living space, each family rents a place, whether it’s 40 people crammed into a two room apartment or a family of five in a dank cave with no windows. In these areas, SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL rehabilitates living spaces, providing partitions for privacy and dignity, windows and doors to keep out the weather, secure access to water and sanitation, functional bathrooms, and barriers to ensure child safety. “When we entered the apartment, I witnessed a dozen of pairs of shoes at the main door of all sizes. I directly imagined how many people could live in this tiny space” tells Nour.

Discover the complete story in the graphic novel of Nour!