“People get used to war. During the last battle, children were still coming to play. Can you imagine, a seven-year-old boy running through the bullets just to play video games,” says Mohammad Darwish, a calm man with a curled beard framing his face.
This year, Arab political Islam will be greatly influenced by U.S. regional policy, as it has been since the Obama administration came into office six years ago. Indeed, as the U.S. standing in the region rose with Obama’s presidency beginning in January 2009, so did the fortunes of Arab political Islam.
Staring at the floor, Hassan, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee from Idlib in northwestern Syria, holds a set of identification papers in his hands. He picks out a small pink piece of paper with a few words on it stating that he must obtain a work contract, otherwise his residency visa will not be renewed.
As the international media is mesmerised by the Islamic State’s advance on Kobani or ‘Ayn al-Arab on the Syrian-Turkish border, Arab states and the United States would need to look beyond Kobani’s fate and the Islamic State’s territorial successes and defeats.
At the largest refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, young Syrian mothers and pregnant women are considered relatively lucky.
In a country where civil liberties remain the prerogative of the powerful and wealthy, the Lebanese gay scene is to be treaded carefully.
Concerns about supporting a national army collaborating with a ‘terrorist organisation’ in Lebanon have in recent times been superseded by threats inherent in growing regional conflict.
The Shatila Palestinian camp has no library, nor does adjacent Sabra or Ain El-Hilweh in the south. And, after recent statements by Lebanon’s foreign minister, some fear that the thousands of Syrian refugee children within them will soon have even slimmer chances of learning to read and write.
In front of Osman Bin Affan Mosque, in a central but narrow street of Beirut, several tank trucks are being filled with large amounts of water. The mosque has its own well, which allows it to pump water directly from the aquifers that cross the Lebanese underground. Once filled, the trucks will start going through the city to supply hundreds of homes and shops.
A declining economy and a severe drought have raised concerns in Lebanon over food security as the country faces one of its worst refugee crises, resulting from the nearby Syria war, and it is these refugees and impoverished Lebanese border populations that are most vulnerable to this new threat.
Gaunt, haggard Syrian children begging and selling gum have become a fixture in streets of the Lebanese capital; having fled the ongoing conflict, they continue to be stalked by its effects.
Hezbollah clashes with Syrian rebels on the outskirts of Ersal seem to be widening the divide between residents of the Eastern Bekaa town – increasingly dominated by Syrian rebels, including the radical Nusra Front – and other regions as well as the Lebanese state.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians living in Syria have been uprooted since the violent government crackdown on the uprising and the ensuing battles that ensnared their communities. For around 50,000 of them, Lebanon was their only safe route out but now it seems this door is being closed on them.
With jihadists leading a Sunni uprising against Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are beginning to reverberate across the region, raising fears of contagion in divided Lebanon where a suicide bombing took place on Friday after a period of calm.
The war in Syria has brought back to the forefront the concept of ‘jihad’, with tens of thousands of fighters currently waging what they believe to be a religious war there.