Letters from Gaza (11) …Forever Refugees

04 June 2008

On the 20th of June the world will turn their eyes to the plight of refugees, commemorating World Refugee Day, a day not only for Palestinian refugees but also for other nations whose lives are disrupted by war and injustice. However, it is a special day for Palestinians who are forever refugees, sentenced to remain dispersed around the world, barred from returning to their homeland.

I am a Palestinian refugee. My parents as well as my grandparents are refugees, having fled from our home in Al Majdal to settle in one of the eight UNRWA camps in the Gaza Strip.

My grandparents passed away 15 years ago without being able to see their homeland again. My parents are old and sick now, and will likely face the same fate.

Examining the difficult lives of my parents and grandparents, I have no hope for the future my children and I endure as refugees.

60 years have passed since 1948 and we the Palestinians are still called refugees. Being identified as a refugee, in general, and as a Palestinian refugee, in particular, renders you bereft of the ability to plan for the future.

Instead, you are relegated to knowing only the same existence as that of your ancestors, who lived and died in the same camp, under the same circumstances. You face the same sufferings and injustice by the Israeli occupation as they did.

Expecting to have the same life as your parents and grandparents is very disappointing in the sense that every aspect of your life is wholly predictable: You are limited to the same streets, the same schools and to experiencing the same obstacles by the Israeli occupation.

When your life is predictable, plans, dreams and even successes are irrelevant. In the end, your life will be the same: Trapped in a camp where day blurs into night.

It is very difficult to feel that your life is being wasted, that your efforts will not bring forth any changes in yours or in the lives of others and that your dreams will be but a mere attempt to escape reality.

From one generation to another, nothing has changed. An education or a career is nothing as long as you are a refugee stranded in the same camp confines, forever a refugee.

Therefore, “refugee” should be added to the list of citizenships in the world and the word “refugee” should be in our passports to define the stateless, restless and endless journey we have to endure, forever refugees.

Najwa Sheikh
Gaza, June 2008

Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.


Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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