The Syrian refugee girl. Photograph:( WION )
It is a mountainous region where you will find beautiful cedar trees around, also the national tree of Lebanon. On these difficult terrains Indian army patrols day and night under the banner of united nations interim peacekeeping force (UNIFIL).
When I travelled to Southern Lebanon, I had certain assumptions and projections about the country. While travelling with the United Nations peacekeeping forces, I wanted to utilise my time in a way that I could capture maximum stories from the villages bordering Israel near the blue line.
I had heard about the huge influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon because of the tormenting civil war of Syria. We wanted to cover how night patrol is done with huge SISU vehicles. The vehicle integrates robust design technologies with an armoured military platform.
While we sat in the heavily armoured vehicle with Indian and Spanish soldiers and took a tour of the terrains the battalions patrolled the area.
The main aim of the battalions is to sanitise the area of Chebba villages which lies on the blue line. The surveillance of 120 km stretch is the blue helmets primary role. The blue line guaranteed complete removal of Israeli forces following the 1992 invasion. During the patrol...The Indian battalion makes regular stops. It gives them the opportunity to take a stock of the security situation.
It is a mountainous region where you will find beautiful cedar trees around, also the national tree of Lebanon. On these difficult terrains Indian army patrols day and night under the banner of united nations interim peacekeeping force (UNIFIL). With a new resolution of united nations, it is the prime duty of the United Nation's peacekeepers to maintain the balance of soldiers, tanks, posts of the armies of Israel and Lebanon. Lebanese government asked UN to intervene near the blue line so that the Israeli forces could be stopped from accelerating their movement in the area.
Between all this, we saw a group of children who came to us when the vehicles stopped for soldiers to come down and begin their foot patrol. The children appeared out of nowhere on that road. We didn’t see any habitation around and I wondered why these children are roaming alone on these dangerous roads. A peacekeeper comes to us and informs they are children of Syrian refugees staying in the region. More than 800 families are staying in the area. Sheeba is broadly a Sunni village with 95% in the majority. That is another reason that many Syrian chose to flee to these areas instead of mainland Beirut, which has more opportunities for survival than living in these enormous terrains.
The girl asked for a bottle of water pointing towards the bottle kept in the vehicle, a soldier replied by asking them to stay away from their armoured vehicles. It was an overwhelming feeling of sadness to see those vulnerable toddlers in the middle of nowhere. The Syrian refugee girl, without her parents, traipse all over the mountain looking for water in the so-called no mans land. I tried asking her name, which was replied back with a smile again. She didn’t have water but she had eyes with pride. Maybe the pride was of a survivor. The survival which has been uneasy for millions of Syrians who feared death every day in their own house.
Her pale, inquisitive face, showed a calm determination as she tried to speak with us during this unforgettable short interaction. A short pink top on her with Minnie Mouse face seemed like a mockery the superpowers have made of these Syrian children. She is one of those five million Syrian children who has been displaced over seven years of conflict. Like many of them, this unknown unnamed girl had witnessed too much, too early for her age. An entire generation of Syrians has lost the opportunity of a normal child’s life because of the war.
With all my questions to her, it was only the smile that I received as an answer. I could smile back and offer some water. In the mean, while I wondered if its the protocol that the soldiers follow when they patrol around the blue line. What is the dilemma of a peacekeeper to see the children of war on these unfriendly terrains in the most disputed lands of West Asia. By the end of August, the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced within Syria, while more than 3 million had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.1 million), Jordan (600,000) and Turkey (800,000).
The mayor of Chebba Mohammad Saab who lived in the valley for almost all his life shares the same pain what the Syrian child has been going through.
“In 2006 Israel invaded Lebanese territory and bombarded most parts of the country. We suffered a lot. Not just villages close to the border but the entire country suffered. They didn't differentiate between civilians and the military. The Israeli occupation took place in 1967. Our children were born during the war. We feel that peace won't be restored anytime soon,” said Mayor.
A new generation of children has been introduced to the world. The girls and boys travelling aimlessly places to places are part of a new generation of Syrians whose parents fled war and destruction in their millions but who themselves are too young to remember their homeland.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)