As they began to hit us, they almost broke my nose. The next day, bruises covered my body on all sides and my eye turned black. Knowledgeable in first aid and CPR, we just wanted to help.
SALTA, Argentina ꟷ In March 2022, I traveled from Argentina to a refugee center in Lebanon for three months to complete my master’s thesis. One month later, on April 24, 2022, I experienced something I never imagined possible. Authorities discovered a ship with Syrian refugees escaping from Lebanon. Close to the coast, the Lebanese military could have easily made them return, but that’s not what happened. Instead, they attacked from all sides and tried to sink the ship.
They started shooting at the vessel which carried children, babies, and women. Stationed in the same city as our volunteers, those of us helping refugees came to the scene. We watched as they sunk the ship and shot at girls my son’s age. They shot at pregnant women, and they laughed as they did it.
As volunteers helping refugees in Lebanon, we tried to get past the fences to help the people in the boat. That was when the authorities attacked us. As they began to hit us, they almost broke my nose. The next day, bruises covered my body on all sides and my eye turned black. Knowledgeable in first aid and CPR, we just wanted to help.
As more people from Lebanon began showing up to the scene, the military could not cope with the situation. We got closer again and tried to save anyone we could, but we found ourselves fighting for our own lives in the sea. After beating us, they arrested many people and put them in prison for three days.
Not wanting to have trouble with foreign embassies, eventually they let the prisoners go. I still feel baffled that the Argentinian embassy did nothing for my departure. At 33-years-old, I never imagined experiencing anything like this. April 24, 2022, became the most terrifying day of my life.
After the tragedy at sea, Islamic burial preparations began for the bodies that could be found. News spread of the burial plans, and extremists from Lebanon who opposed Muslim refugees went out into the streets with weapons.
Along with others, I made my way from the mosque where we prayed for the dead and headed back toward the refugee camp. Suddenly the extremists began firing shots. It looked like a fireworks display – like a celebration but with bullets. I hid in a nearby business as the shooting ensued. Huddled there, I asked Allah to protect my son. I was saved from the terrible beating the day before, and I thought, I may not get so lucky this time.
When I arrived at the refugee camp in Lebanon for my thesis work, I met two young women – neighbors who became orphans during the Syrian War. When bombs destroyed their homes, only five women survived.
I learned the oldest of the girls was 20 and cared for a younger one. She had a degree from a major university in cybersecurity but said because of discrimination against refugees, she could not work in Lebanon in her field. Every day, she went to clean houses and work in factories, often describing inhumane conditions.
These two women constantly faced the fear of being captured by prostitution rings or organ trafficking networks. When I met them, they had been in the situation since 2013, for nine years.
Moved by their plight, I went straight to the Argentinian embassy and spoke to the Consul at the time. He showed no interest and informed me, they only made visas for people whom had the backing of the UN Refugee Agency. I explained the girls had been registered with UNHCR since 2013, but it did not matter. It seemed the whole world abandoned these young women in those camps. Along with my colleagues, we made several petitions, but the answer consistently came back negative. Today, we continue to fight.
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