MAGAZINE | Hijacking the Language of Fashion


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Refuse To Be Called A Refugee

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It's difficult to be born in a place where you are considered a refugee.

Even though it’s a place where your mother belongs, a place where you got your education and spent all of your childhood, and most importantly, a place where you feel safe. But you are still known as a refugee.

Yes, I am Palestinian and I am proud of that. I’m proud of everything related to my homeland.  But I live in Lebanon and all I want are my rights - my civil rights, the basic rights that I'm deprived from just because I'm Palestinian.

I was born in a poor refugee family and I studied at a UNRWA school. A teacher once asked me: ‘what do you want to be in the future?’ ‘My dream is to be a pharmacist’ I replied. He smiled and said: ‘Inshallah, but you do know that you will not be able to open your own pharmacy?’ I was surprised and I remember it well, even though I was just 10 years old. ‘Teacher, why can't I be a pharmacist? I asked.  ‘You are Palestinian. You don’t have the right to open your own pharmacy’ he replied. It felt like someone had thrown a bucket of cold water in my face. What the hell!!! Why I can't do that? I'm confident enough to fulfil my dreams!

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I spent the whole day thinking about it. Why I can't do that? I'm a human being, studying hard to achieve my goals in life. What a stupid way to treat refugees!

When I got home, I told my mother ‘Mom, today my teacher told me that even if I study to be a pharmacist, I won’t be able to open my own pharmacy, just because I'm Palestinian! I want to return to Palestine, maybe there I can fulfil my dream!’ I said angrily. She smiled. ‘Don’t worry. We can open one here and register it in my name, I'm Lebanese’ she said.

All night I was thinking … why? Just because I'm Palestinian, I can't have dreams, I can't achieve my goals, I can't be what I want to be? And at that moment I realized that Palestinians can’t live a normal life, deprived of their basic human rights.

My mother is Lebanese. Her blood flows through my veins, but she is not allowed to give me her nationality. And I don’t really need her nationality. All I need is my rights as a human being. The irony in Lebanese law is that the mothers are not allowed to give their kids their nationality. The only way I can get that is to fall in love with a Lebanese guy and get married. After 3 years of marriage plus having one kid, I can get Lebanese nationality. Now how is that for gender discrimination.

Of course I am not the only one suffering from this. In the place where I live – Beqaa, near the Syrian border – most of the Palestinians have Lebanese mothers. But this doesn’t change anything. We are still refugees according to the Lebanese government. I always refuse to be called a refugee. I'm a Palestinian working in a foreign country. My money goes into the Lebanese economy. I'm adding value to this country, so nobody is allowed to called me a refugee. I don’t take any money from anyone. I dare to represent myself here and speak the truth. I think my strong personality is a result of what I witnessed as a child.

Eventually, I didn’t study pharmaceuticals. Not because I can't open my own pharmacy, but because it's very expensive for a Palestinian girl. I struggled quite a lot in Lebanon.

I once had a job interview where I was considered to be one of the best candidates. They didn’t hire me because I am Palestinian. In a recent job, I didn’t get the position I deserve because I'm Palestinian. I will never give up. I will never allow anybody to exploit me just because I'm Palestinian. If you accept being called a refugee, you accept to be treated as a slave. That is my opinion.

Today I'm writing you to tell the whole world that we will never give up on Palestine. All we need are our basic human rights. I am more than happy to be the voice of all Palestinians in Lebanon.   

One more thing. I might not have money, but I have something no money can buy: my family. They give me strength. My mother is my number one supporter. She always looks after me and tells me to never give up. My father always does his best for us, and my lovely sisters and brothers are my best friends. We are all proud to be part of this family.

And finally, dear world: stop destroying our houses, stop bombing our country, stop killing our people. And stop treating us as refugees.