By Laura Cappon for OpenMigration.org
8,000 Syrian refugees have returned to their home country since the beginning of the year. The return exodus was brought about by an agreement between Syria and Lebanon, where more than 1 million Syrians live. For President Assad, returning refugees are a political weapon to bolster his international credibility. However, the very presence of the dictator, as well as the lack of homes and jobs and the risk of being incarcerated, still keeps away many who would be otherwise happy to return.
The refugees’ fears are rooted in the traumas of war. The stories of the people one meets among the refugees in Lebanon are all very similar. One common thread is the memory of the bombings, which are marked indelibly into their psyche. This is especially true of children.
“If I were to return right now I would only be very afraid. My children have been traumatised by the bombings. Whenever they hear the sound of a plane, they are terrified, even though it’s been 5 years. They run for cover every time, thinking the bombs are about to drop again,” Aida tells us. She has a sweet, round face, framed by a blue hijab. She looks like an actress out of a musalsal, the TV shows that are broadcast by pan-Arabian networks during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. She also fled Raqqa province in 2013, walking amid the bombs. Even then she had four children, and is now expecting her fifth. She cannot read or write. She is currently learning in the Sarada camp, thanks to an initiative by AVSI, an Italian NGO. “Of course I would like to go back to Syria, but this is not the right time. Part of my family has stayed in Raqqa. I haven’t seen them in five years and I don’t get to hear from them very often. All I know is that my home was completely destroyed; we have lost everything.”
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