Stories: Fifteen: Inside the Camps
"We have our dreams but we cannot achieve them," says Riham Al-Quesi, 16, a determined young woman born a Palestinian in the Beddawi Refugee Camp outside Tripoli, in northern Lebanon.
Riham has never lived outside Beddawi Camp; never known any other life than that of a refugee. Since she was young, Riham Al-Quesi has been a Girl Scout, learning leadership, water conservation and other life skills. Riham loves her camp and wants to live there for the rest of her life. She wants to be an agent of change, improving conditions there for herself and her community. She aspires to be a doctor.
Most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan live in U.N.R.W.A (United Nation-run refugee camps), and are not able to become citizens, even though many, like Riham, were born in the country. They are treated like any other foreigners --- they cannot vote, hold government jobs, possess permanent passports, or drivers’ licenses.
Riham and her friends would like to attend college and graduate school, but the fees that apply to non-citizens are exorbitant --- out of reach for most refugee families.
Although some Palestinian refugees have achieved citizenship, the majority will continue to live without rights or a future.
The people photographed for this essay live in Gaza Camp, in the outskirts of Jerash, Jordan; Burj el-Barajneh Camp in a southern suburb of Beirut; and in the Beddawi Camp in the north of Lebanon.