“Good morning, what’s your name?” The women are keen to be able to try out their faltering, freshly studied English on the foreign guest. There are a dozen of them sitting on the ground in the tent’s half-light, exercise books in hand, and they have just finished a language lesson. Aisha is 36. She arrived four years ago in the Marj el-Khokh refugee camp, in the southernmost part of Lebanon (just a few kilometres away from Metulla’s terraced houses in Israel). Together with her husband and three children, she fled the war in Syria, leaving one of the cities most tortured by the conflict: Idlib. “I often thought of committing suicide after what I experienced during the war and now I’m seeing a psychologist,” she says, without stopping smiling, wrapped in a dress that is red like the veil covering her head.
Despite the sadness of what she is says, Aisha’s story is not lacking in optimism when compared to the accounts of dozens of other Syrian refugees one meets in Lebanon. She says she doesn’t want any more children, not because she has enough, but because she wants to be able to guarantee her three existing children an education. For this reason, she herself is studying English with the help of the volunteers working in the camp: many subjects are taught in French or English in the Lebanese schools and Aisha wants to be able to help her two daughters (aged eight and nine) to do their homework. She has managed to enrol them in the nearby state school in Marjayoun: after losing a year, upon their arrival, because there weren’t enough places at that institution.
[This article is published in Oasis no. 24. To read all the contents buy a copy or subscribe]