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I was born in Ghobiri, Lebanon, in 1994, during a period marked by significant events that deeply influenced the course of my life. Lebanon, a country with a tumultuous history, was still grappling with the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War. The war had left scars that ran deep within the nation, affecting the lives of countless individuals and communities. My family’s roots are deeply embedded in the complex narrative of our Palestinian heritage, a heritage defined by a history of displacement, resilience, and determination.

My father, who was born in Sidon, a city with a substantial Palestinian presence due to its proximity to the border, had a remarkable history that intertwined with the larger Palestinian struggle. Before 1948, Palestinian families rarely resided in Sidon, but the cataclysmic events of that year, which marked the creation of the state of Israel, forced many Palestinians to leave their homes in Palestine and seek refuge in neighbouring countries.

Tragically, the historical record of my family is marked by loss. My grandfather, who was blind, lost his life in 1960 during a tragic Zionist attack aimed at taking control of our neighbourhood in Yaffo, Palestine. The city of Yaffo, situated near the Mediterranean Sea, had been a Palestinian cultural and economic hub before the events of 1948. My grandfather’s life was claimed in the midst of this conflict, and his story is a testament to the profound suffering experienced by countless Palestinian families.

Likewise, my uncle, inspired by the Palestinian cause, joined the armed resistance. In 1967, during a fierce battle in Ramleh, his life was tragically cut short. The events of 1967, known as the Six-Day War, had a profound impact on the Palestinian people, and my family was not exempt from its consequences.

My upbringing was significantly influenced by my father’s extraordinary journey. Faced with early challenges, he commenced work at the tender age of 12 to provide for his younger siblings. This was a direct response to the martyrdom of his elder brother, who had shouldered the responsibility of breadwinner before his untimely demise. My father’s journey was characterised by unwavering determination and resilience in the face of adversity. Despite the hardships, his pursuit of education remained steadfast. He eventually secured a degree in control system engineering from the University of Northumbria in the United Kingdom, a testament to his academic prowess and indomitable spirit.

Following his education, my father ventured to the Gulf region, particularly Kuwait, which was experiencing a significant economic boom at the time. His decision to relocate to Kuwait was influenced by the promising economic opportunities it presented. In the Gulf, he built a life for himself and began to pave the way for our family’s future.

However, the Iraq-Kuwait war in 1990 brought unexpected upheaval. This conflict forced my father to return to Lebanon, a country still reeling from the effects of the civil war and the “elimination war”. The economic crisis that had already gripped the nation was exacerbated by the return of countless Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. The challenges of reintegration and rebuilding loomed large, and my father faced limitations on practising his engineering profession within this strained environment.

My father’s journey was characterized by unwavering determination and resilience in the face of adversity.

In response to these challenges and the growing needs of his family, my father ingeniously harnessed his education and expertise to establish an industrial electro-mechanical workshop. This workshop focused on repairing industrial machinery and played a crucial role in our livelihood. It was an embodiment of his resourcefulness and a testament to his ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

My name, passed down from my grandfather, symbolises a generational connection to our shared heritage. My father, a guiding presence in my formative years, offered profound insights into the Palestinian identity and the challenges of being stateless. Together, we bore the status of refugees, navigating a world that had not fully embraced our right to a homeland.

In Lebanon, our family faced numerous challenges, including being denied access to public health insurance, despite our contributions. We were not alone in facing this discrimination, as many Palestinian refugees experienced similar limitations and inequalities. The discrimination we faced extended to other aspects of our lives, including the denial of property ownership rights for Palestinian refugees. This restriction made it even more challenging to secure stable and prosperous futures.

While UNRWA provided basic education up to Grade 12, certain professions, such as medicine, law, or engineering, were denied to us, further limiting our career options. Even the prospect of driving a taxi, a profession that can offer economic stability, was beyond reach. This discrimination hindered our ability to pursue careers and professions of our choice. Despite the obstacles, we were resilient and determined to make the most of the opportunities that did come our way.

I must emphasise that while I don’t fully understand the reason for the discrimination we faced, it was evident that the job opportunities within Lebanon were insufficient, especially during the country’s reconstruction after the civil war. The workforce was already stretched thin, and jobs were not readily available for Palestinian refugees. This created a challenging environment where access to employment was limited, further exacerbating the struggles faced by Palestinian refugees.

Together, we bore the status of refugees, navigating a world that had not fully embraced our right to a homeland.

One particularly degrading experience was the routine detention I encountered while travelling, despite obtaining a visa. These ordeals only reinforced the stark reality of our stateless existence. Most recently, during my journey to Kenya, I was held for a little less than two hours while they questioned the legitimacy of my travel document – a travel document issued to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. This experience served as a poignant reminder of the challenges we faced, even when granted visas for travel.

I started working for an international NGO right after graduating, providing medical aid to the Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon until I finished my mission. After that, I ventured into the corporate world for two years in the UAE. However, I found the work unfulfilling as it lacked the sense of purpose I yearned for. Subsequently, I made the decision to resign from my corporate position and rejoined the NGO as an International Mobile Staff member.

My journey to Kenya was motivated by a strong desire to provide assistance and support to those facing challenges similar to those experienced by my people. While in Kenya, I work within the same medical humanitarian organisation, and my mission is clear: to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those I serve, to provide solace and aid to the best of my abilities, and to advocate for a world where every individual is treated with dignity and compassion.