Solidarites International

The context: What’s going on in Lebanon?

Over the past five years, over 1.5 million Syrians have fled the civil war in their country seeking refuge in Lebanon where one person out of four is currently a refugee. The Syrian population is primarily settled in areas close to the Syrian border, in Northern Lebanon (in the region of Tripoli and Akkar) and in the Bekaa valley, in the eastern part of the country.
Prior to the crisis, these two regions were considered underdeveloped; neglected areas in terms of economic activity, infrastructural development and so forth. The arrival of the Syrian refugees has increased the pressure upon the limited Lebanese resources and infrastructure, and has increased tensions between the host and refugee communities.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are scattered across more than 1,500 localities throughout the country: Lebanon counts 1,108 municipalities and 1,550 villages. Large scale refugee camps on a scale found in Jordan or Turkey do not exist in Lebanon.
In Northern Lebanon, the reader will get to know Syrian refugees living in three different types of shelters:
-    Tents, within informal settlements, which are often located in the agricultural lands of the region An estimated 14% of Syrian refugees live in these informal settlements.
-    Collective shelters: Unfinished buildings such as mosques, schools, farms, garages or shops… 24% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in these conditions.
-    Apartments in cities and villages, which typically hosts several families in a single apartment due to the high rent; approximately 58% of the refugees in Lebanon live in this type of lodging.
Because of the diversity of housing and shelter, refugee identification in Lebanon to assess and respond their needs is very challenging: each location has to be located and each family has particular needs, and herein lies the extreme challenge of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon.

A graphic novel project, why?

The Graphic Novel enables the reader to explore a certain visual representation of the Syrian refugees’ situation, the environment and their challenges, whilst encouraging imagination and reader reflection.
Meantime’s objective is to encourage readers to discover the stories through different angles and themes, based on the technique of the graphic novel reportage (comics reportage). Indeed, each artist has his/her own style, look, feelings and experience on a given situation. The Graphic Novel has the power to transmit a high level of emotional content and make sense of abstract concepts, which might not be captured through other media.  The artist becomes the privileged witness of the daily life of the Syrian refugees and projects their voice through the stories.

Seize the reality and promote interaction

Every family met by the illustrators is receiving some form of assistance SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL. Those families have been identified and assisted by the organization based on their high level of socio-economic vulnerability. For them, the assistance whether material or multi-purpose cash, is a matter of survival. Therefore, the themes and situations highlighted in this project are based on direct testimony from families and individuals that SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL is working with.

How do you find shelter, water, food and keep a decent hygiene when you have lost everything? How did the families arrive here and at what cost? How does life continue and how do they live with refugee status on a daily basis? How is life organized in a camp? In an unfinished building?
All these questions are asked by the illustrators and are documented through the stories of the families. Read about them in the Comics section.

This project encourages collaboration and interaction between artists and participants. To boost the exchange, each artist has the responsibility to organize a drawing workshop on a specific theme so that teens, adults and children will be personally engaged with the project to share their own feelings and thoughts about their situation and contribute their own personal talent.
All the workshops are documented in the Backstage section of the website.

This collective project is available on this website in three languages: French, English and Arabic and will be published in printed version in these same languages because they are all spoken in Lebanon. Additionally, an exhibition will be organized in February 2017 in Beirut, and will present the work of the artists together with the work of the participants.

Enjoy the visit and the reading!