In the northern towns of Lebanon, at the Syrian-Lebanese borders, reside Syrian refugee families who fled to Lebanon when the crisis erupted in their home country years ago. Down the hill in Wadi Khaled in Akkar, in an unfinished building, lives Fatmeh Dikweid with her husband Ahmad, her four children and her siblings. Fatmeh and her family are spending their fourth Eid al-Fitr away from home. The occasion of Eid al-Fitr marks the feast of breaking the fast following the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
WADI KHALED, Northern Lebanon - In a building located on a main street in Wadi Khaled town resides Fatmeh, a 26-year-old Syrian mother, and her family. The building’s entrance leads to Fatmeh’s apartment, which is mostly empty except for two brown chairs she uses to host guests.
“My hometown Tall Kalakh is only a few kilometers from here. It took us thirty minutes to arrive to the borders,” says Fatmeh as she relays the story of their departure from Syria back in June 2011.
Fatmeh and her family left Syria two months after the crisis began in Daraa town. When the shelling and fires moved to her hometown Tall Khalakh, they sought refuge in Lebanon.
“The shelling had intensified, and we were no longer able to stay. We had no place to go other than Lebanon, especially that I have relatives here. We came and stayed, hoping to return home as soon as the crisis stops,” she says wistfully.
Fatmeh recounts the difference between her life in Wadi Khaled and Tall Kalakh.
“Ramadan in Syria and Eid al-Fitr felt different for us. Everything the children wanted was brought to them,” she says. “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate at home with my in-laws and the entire family around. We will do that hopefully next year,” she says, drawing a faint smile across her face.
Fatmeh and her husband and children share their apartment in Wadi Khaled with her mother, sister and brother’s family. They receive the World Food Programme’s (WFP) food assistance through electronic cards which are recharged on a monthly basis with money that the family can redeem at a nearby shop.
“We buy the food that we will cook for the Eid feast using the blue card (WFP’s card). I still have not decided what to cook for this Eid. Last night we had “Yakhneh” [a Middle-Eastern dish] for the feast,” she says as she uncovers the cooker to display the leftovers from the previous night.
“If I could afford it, I would have bought new clothes for the children. That would have made them so happy. I am still waiting to see if my husband will find a stable source of stable income soon. My elder daughter Aya is requesting new clothes,” she explains as she points towards Aya, who blushes.
Fatmeh’s husband used to fix electronic appliances, mainly washers, in Syria. In Lebanon, he sometimes finds temporary jobs.
“Going through Ramadan and celebrating Eid al-Fitr is tough for displaced Syrians if they are poor. This Eid has been the toughest. It’s already the fourth one we spend away from home,” Fatemah explains as she walks towards the balcony of her apartment, pointing at her town Tall Khalakh nestled behind the mountains.