Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
February 27, 2018
From Beirut, Lebanon
Refugee camps are always bleak places, even more so in the cold and rain. And so it was on the day that I visited El-Rahman Syrian Refugee Camp in the Saadnayel-Bekaa region of Lebanon.
Currently, Lebanon is host to 1.5 million Syrian refugees and 500,000 Palestinian Refugees. This is remarkable for a country of only 4 million people. Lebanon has increased their population by 50% based on refugees alone. This would be the equivalent of adding 160 million people to the population to the United States.
Syria’s Civil War, along with the involvement of ISIS, Al-Nusra Front, the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia and of course, Syria’s President Assad has kept the entire region in turmoil for at least five years, murdered hundreds of thousands and displaces millions more – thus creating the refugee crisis that has affected so many lives.
When speaking to the Camp Coordinator, at El-Rahman, he shared with me that in this particular sub-camp, there are about 150 Syrian families. When I asked him from whom they were receiving help, he expressed his disappointment and anger with the U.N. “The media always says that the U.N. is providing for these refugees, but in truth, they are doing very, very little. Of the small benefits provided by the U.N is $27 per month per person and some small help with medicines.” The camps do better by far through individual donations of money and supplies.
He continued to tell me that they would all like to go home to Syria – if the U.S. would finish things up and be effective, then they could go back home and rebuild.
I asked him to identify for me, the greatest threat to Syria, their refugees and their ability to return home. He immediately said, “Israel. Israel is the greatest problem inside and outside of Syria.”
I asked him if he was concerned about the involvement of Russia or Turkey or ISIS or even the U.S. But his answer remained “Israel.” Later, my translator revealed to me that the Camp Coordinator was under great pressure and fear while answering my questions. Of course he knows that there are other, more dangerous players in Syria and Iraq. But if it were to found out that he had criticizing President Assad of Syria, that could bring great harm to him and his family. Israel is an easy scapegoat.
Meanwhile, one and a half million Syrian refugees sit and wait for the world and their lives to change. Some stay in the camps. Others move into the towns and cities looking for work – any kind of work. And still others get caught up with organized crime groups that involve stealing cars, drug trafficking, human sex trafficking, kidnapping and even murder.
While new front line are being drawn in Syria, things don’t look any closer to a solution. A recent ceasefire has continually been broken and one expert I recently spoke to indicated that we may yet see a resurgence of ISIS in Iraq in Syria.