The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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August 13, 2011

Daily star - Ramadan in flux for Syrian refugees in north, August 13, 2011

MASHTA HAMOUD, Lebanon: Back in Syria Ramadan was beautiful, recalls Nawal Kurdi as she has iftar with her family on the floor at a school in the north Lebanon village of Mashta Hamoud where they have been taking shelter for the past four months.
In her hometown of Tal Kalakh on the border with Lebanon they would stay up late, visit friends and go to the mosque together during the Muslim holy month, she says. Now her friends who have stayed behind are at home hiding, unable to partake in the simple pleasures they once enjoyed.
“I never thought we’d stay this long,” says the 18-year-old student who left her country before having the chance to take her baccalaureate exams. “In Syria we were poor, but I still miss it.”
“We don’t know how long this will last,” says her mother, Samira, as she adds spices to the tabbouleh she has just made, along with a colorful assortment of rice and vegetables – the family does not have the money for much meat this year. “After Ramadan, there’s the Eid al-Fitr. After that, what? There’s school. Then what?”
The Kurdi family, like many other Syrian families displaced by their country’s unrest, is living day-to-day in flux. While family members feel safe from the violence they escaped, they face an uncertain future in makeshift shelters, and they still lack basic freedoms.
“We’re still scared because we can’t go outside the shelter, because we entered through the unofficial border crossing,” says Samira’s son Mahmoud.
Many refugees have been living in the same building, unable to walk around town because of their illegal entry, and most won’t take the risk, knowing that there are checkpoints nearby. They get the occasional visitor, journalists or NGO workers, whom they greet with their traditional hospitality and enthusiasm.
“Have a seat anywhere. It’s a democracy here,” jokes one man.
But in about two weeks the Kurdi family, along with 140 or so other refugees, will have to be relocated when the Al-Iman school reopens after the summer break. Their new shelter will still be in the Wadi Khaled area, where most of the approximately 2,500 UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been staying.
The majority of the refugees in the area are from Tal Kalakh, and most have been staying with families in border villages. Many have been in Lebanon since the early days of the five-month unrest, which so far has claimed around 2,500 lives.
Some of the more recent arrivals are from Hama, the latest city to see mass anti-government demonstrations.
As for their own education, the Kurdi family says members will resume their studies, and other aspects of their everyday lives, “once the regime falls.”
“We can’t teach our children here. We can’t teach them back home. Where can we go?” Samira asks rhetorically.
As the family finish their meal, they recall their life in Syria with a mixture of nostalgia, pride and bitterness.
Nawal says she can never feel comfortable in Lebanon because it’s not home. At the same time, she can never forget why she left – because her father was tortured and her house destroyed. But she’s proud that her town was one of the first to demonstrate against the government.
Similarly, Samira can’t forget about the only home she has known until now. She says that two weeks ago she snuck back into Syria for two days to check up on her friends and family in Tal Kalakh, only to find it has become a ghost town.
“Almost everyone is gone. And most of the houses and cars have been destroyed – even those of the people who never demonstrated,” she says.
“What does Assad want to be president of? A destroyed country?”
Downstairs, a group of young men gather in front of a televisionset to watch Thursday evening’s news, flipping between different stations: Orient TV, Ugarit, Sham News Network – anything but Syrian state television they say adamantly.
“We want news that’s correct,” says Mohammad Wilo, a Kurd who hails from Tal Kalakh.
“No time for drama series this year – just news,” he says, referring to the annual tradition of watching the Syrian television series that run throughout the month of Ramadan.
As the television screen shows a scene of a burned-out car in the middle of a street, a man from Hama exclaims, “That’s Hama.” Another says, “No, that’s Deir al-Zour.”
The evening’s headlines include raids near the Lebanese border, and in the cities of Homs and Deir al-Zour, while the uprising in Hama is reported to have been quelled.
The men keep their eyes glued to the screen, watching intently as their country sees it biggest uprising in modern history.

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