The case of Palestinian refugees is a prevailing topic when discussing Palestine and liberation.
However, it appears that when Palestinian refugees are being besieged and slaughtered in Syria there is a piercing silence towards them. Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus has been under siege for nearly 550 days and counting. Over 1,020 Palestinians have died in the camp by torture in regime jails, execution, and bombing. Each death atrocious, and each whimper echoed with silence. Of those that have died, over 200 and still counting have died as a direct result of the siege.
While there is a sentiment of lamenting what is happening to Palestinian refugees in Syria; when implored to take action, our shortcomings are coated under the emblem of complexity and controversy. Excusing this grotesque siege with proclamations “but remember, that the regime has supported Palestinian resistance”, or that there are “too many factors in this conflict for us to take a real stand.” As the regime pretended to extend an arm to Palestinians it slaughtered them with the other with impunity. There too were many factors in all oppressive situations, yet we have managed to take stand against them.
To muddle the situation simply in order to justify the oppression provides the oppressive regime with further opportunities to continue its crimes. As we attempt to rationalize the intentions of those oppressing the residents of the camp, we are doing so at the expense of the lives.
It seems that when we speak of the right of return and Palestinian refugees, most efforts are being directed towards a select privileged group. Perhaps it is due to their ability to have a platform to express their opinions and demands. Simultaneously, the voices of refugees enduring the imposed oppression in camps such as Lebanon or Syria are being muffled. This should cause us to reconsider our perspective, as Palestinians. Who are we fighting for if we silence those whose names we speak of?
When the Palestinians in Syria called upon the international community and placed their demands of ending the siege and creating a safe path in order to exit, they were faced with a silence, which continues to extend a year and a half on. In addition to the failure of the international community to show support, Palestinians themselves have failed to provide camaraderie for their brethren as they withstand the cruelty disseminated by the ongoing conflict.
Adjacent to our silence towards Syria and Yarmouk, despite the struggle and the blunt force of the conflict both Syrians and Palestinians inside the camp continue to express solidarity with struggles across the globe and Palestine.
There is a discrepancy between grieving a monstrosity and genuinely voicing active solidarity through attempting to place pressure on the government and those involved in the destruction of Yarmouk as well as other camps in Syria.
Once hailed as the capital of Palestinian refugees, Yarmouk lays half empty and besieged as the number of its inhabitants dwindles in the face of death. Prior to the conflict, Yarmouk had a population over 1,000,000 people of whom 148,500 were Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations. Today, only 18,000 remain in the camp struggling with the siege and the arduous task of remaining alive.
It is our own shortfalls, as part of the international community but more specifically as Palestinians that will be spoken of when this macabre siege ends. It is not the time to feel helpless, rather the moment to take an active stand against yet another injustice being committed against Palestinians.
Those in the camp have reached out to Palestinians outside and to the international community ad infinitum. If we continue to prolong our silence we are taking an active role in sustaining the siege; therefore we too are complicit in this injustice.
It is vital to not only expose the siege, but the culprits responsible for the ongoing monstrosities. The Palestinian Front for The Liberation of Palestine- General Command and others have assisted the Assad regime-the primary perpetuator- in besieging the camp. Until now, many efforts to remove the siege have been obstructed due to our inability to voice our support for the people in the camp and concurrently our ineptitude to divulge the criminals responsible.
To omit such facts, and to disregard the offenders in this scenario is to act under the banner of solidarity through neutrality. Essentially, we may break our silence on the siege yet remain complicit in validating the tyrannical oppression being endured by both Palestinians and Syrians through our denial of the perpetuators of this calamitous injustice.
As we memorize United Nations resolutions to promote the Palestinian cause, as we speak of the remnants of homes since the Nakba, as we reiterate stories passed down by our grandparents about their exile and their hopes to return, as we ululate resistance and efforts to reconstruct destroyed Palestinian villages, we must ask ourselves: what’s the point of fighting when many will return as ghosts?