mardi 8 août 2006

An Empty Room: Former Teacher Clears Space for His Family in Beirut (By David Snyder)

Antanos Hasrouni sits in a white walled room, surrounded by a space too empty to be familiar. Displaced now by the war down south, he is preparing for his family, working hard to clean a small apartment so that his nine family members can join him to wait the war out together, at least.

“In our village we have a large social life,” Hasrouni said. “We don’t like to be in schools and things.”

But here in Beirut, such places are exactly where nearly 700,000 people now find themselves, uprooted from their homes and now living with host families, or in any of 761 public buildings scattered across Lebanon. 220,000 more have fled the country entirely. Though his house, three kilometers inside of the border with Israel, is likely destroyed, Hasrouni knows he is lucky at least to have his family.

But his luck, if you call it that, runs deeper still. Unlike an estimated 50,000 people still trapped by the fighting in southern Lebanon, Hasrouni is receiving help. Assisted by Caritas Lebanon, who are providing him with food and other essentials here in Beirut, Hasrouni is able to concentrate on making the improvements necessary to make this two- room apartment livable for 10 people But as the war continues, and air raids pound the southern suburbs of the city daily, Hasrouni and many others here in Beirut are tiring of the pace of peace.

“We have nothing to do but watch TV,” Hasrouni said. “And we don’t believe what they are saying.”

A teacher back in his village of Ain- Ebel, Hasrouni is too familiar with war. Displaced by the 15-year civil war in Lebanon, Hasrouni spent 25 years abroad, living and working in the United Arab Emirates. He returned home to Lebanon just five years ago, hoping to find, finally, the peace his home country has so long lived without.

Today, that peace seems farther away than ever. As politicians debate the nuances of a ceasefire, Antanos Hasrouni and nearly one million other Lebanese live the reality of their failure. Asked what will happen if this war is allowed to continue, Hasrouni takes a long breath before answering.

“People will die, that’s all,” Hasrouni said. “No one is looking after humans, they are looking after politics.”