A Place Without Identity, an Identity Without a Place
By Ussama Al Sheikh and Mariam Azzouka

Who are we? Where do we belong?
On the refugee camp, the director of the Surete Generale certifies that we are Palestinians residing in Lebanon- in other words, that we are Palestinian refugees. We know nothing about Palestine, the place, except the stories we were told by our parents who never even lived there. Palestine has become a place we escape to everytime we face a problem in our place of residence, Shatila, or every time we think of our tragedy as refugees. But what’s the use of having a Palestinian identity if Palestine the place is not ours? This identity of ours brings us nothing but trouble. In Lebanon we are called refugees and displaced people, and we don’t have any rights. We are not allowed to travel to any other land on the globe. And if we do travel, we are not allowed to return to our place of residence. And so it goes.

But is the place we live in Shatila, really our identity? Of course not! What can we belong to in Shatila? The garbage? Or to the alleyways that stink of sewage? Why should we belong to Shatila? In Shatila we are only allowed to take menial jobs; in Shatila we get sick because of the humidity and unhygienic conditions; in Shatila we have to buy our waters, and electricity visits only occasionally; and in Shatila we can’t find a place to play in or a tree to sit under. And if we want to leave Shatila we need an exit and reentry permit. In short, in Shatila we are not treated like people, and we have no future.
So we don’t carry the identity of the place we live in, and the identity we carry has no place. Who are we? Will we become Palestinians in the future? Or will we remain refugees stripped of all our human rights until God knows when? We want an identity which will preserve our dignity and make us feel secure, so when are we going to get it? We want an identity with a place, so when will we return to Palestine?