Burnt out camp in Arsal, Lebanon (August 2014). Picture courtesy of Maggie Tookey
Cut off from the rest of Lebanon and accessible by just one road is Arsal, the battle front with ISIS of which you’ve probably never heard.
Largely abandoned by the Lebanese state, the north eastern town on the border with Syria has had to absorb, at a low estimate, over 80,000 Syrian refugees into its population of just 35,000.
At the height of its security problems, when all other aid groups had pulled out over safety fears, it was a small, volunteer-run Scottish charity, Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) that was first on the scene.
“Tell me mabruk (congratulations),” she said. “My husband is a hero.” – Basima Atat (Photo courtesy of Kareem Shaheen)
Basima was in love with Adel for five years, engaged for another five, and married for seven. She lost her husband and their six year old daughter lost her father when he tackled an ISIS suicide bomber to the ground.
Lebanon’s story is a complex and difficult one.
I want to share an article (link temporarily removed) I wrote about the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon last summer. Back then the warnings were dire and the government had taken very little action to accommodate what was, at one point, an astonishing 12,000 Syrians crossing into Lebanon per week.
Since then the government has taken action, but not for the benefit of the Syrians. At the start of 2015 the Lebanese government introduced new “visa” rules, designed to slow the flow of refugees across the border.