Palestinians refuse to return to Yarmouk camp under Assad

Palestinians refuse to return to Yarmouk camp under Assad
4 min read
13 November, 2018
Palestinians reject the Syrian regime's supposed invitation to return to destroyed refugee camps outside Damascus.
Many Palestinians will not return to Yarmouk under Assad's rule [Getty]
After Syrian regime forces destroyed most of the Yarmouk refugee camp for Palestinians outside Damascus, the administration of President Bashar al-Assad is asking refugees to return.

"There are countries that still hinder the return of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, despite the Syrian government facilitating their return, and a plan to organise the return of refugees," claimed Faisal al-Miqdad, deputy minister of foreign affairs for the Syrian regime.

The left-wing political and militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, which is allied to the Syrian regime, concurred. "We have officially informed Syria of the return of people to Yarmouk," said the group's Anwar Raja.

However, many others remain sceptical that the regime really welcomes the return of Palestinian refugees.

"The regime is trying to cover up its primary role in the destruction of 80 percent of homes and infrasture in the camp," Ayman Abu Hisham, general co-ordinator of Fatah, told The New Arab. 

By the end of 2012, the Syrian regime had begun to target the camp, leading to the (second) displacement of 75 percent of its population. During a siege that lasted five years, many others deserted, fleeing to north Syria - where they faced Russian bombardment. 

"The regime is trying to hide responsibility for these crimes by claiming to welcome the return of Palestinian refugees," said Abu Hisham. 

"But how do they return to a destroyed camp without any plans for reconstruction? A new decree issued by the Syrian government earlier this year wants to end the area's nature as a Palestinian camp. Those [Palestinian] factions who welcome the regime's announcement are complicit in her crimes."

There were once ten main Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. They are now mostly destroyed.           

"More than half of the people from the camp have been displaced outside Syria, and this statement is aimed at painting the Syrian regime as allies of resistance who stand with the Palestinian cause," Abu Hashim continues. "But the truth is that the regime has done more harm to the Palestinian cause."

He emphasised that a similar process was happening in Deraa, where Palestinians were also forced from refugee camps, but are now allegedly being invited to return.

"There is a real and strong desire to return to the camp, but there are many obstacles. Those who leave Syria do not feel safe to return to those areas under the control of the regime for fear of prosecution, arrest and murder. The regime is responsible for the arrest and killing of thousands of Palestinians. People do not have a sense of security.

"Even for refugees inside Syria, the majority of homes are destroyed and refugees have no financial means to rebuild their houses. The regime knows these things will prevent many refugees from returning, but it is still using the refugee issue.   

"The solution to solving the issue of the return of Palestinian regimes to their camps and rebuilding destroyed camps is to bring down the regime that has become the main obstacle in Syria for both Palestinians and Syrians", Abu Hisham said.

"To rebuild a free Syrian homeland for all, and for Palestinian refugees able to live in peace with their Syrian brothers… they [Palestinian refugees] are committed to the right of return to Palestinian, but Syria is a dear homeland for them." 

He added that, despite Palestinians' attachment to Syria, under the regime there would always be problems for refugees, citing the takeover of Yarmouk camp by the Islamic State group in 2015, before the regime retook control supported by Russian air power.

Palestinian refugee Noureddine Mohamed, now living in the north of Syria, agreed with Abu Hisham's sentiments.

"We left our homes and now have nothing," he said. "We loved the camp as we loved Palestine, but it was destroyed by the Assad regime, and leaving was the best solution for us, so those of our brothers who were killed - their sacrifice will not be in vein. We will not waste their blood by shaking hands with the criminal who killed them."

Karam Ali, 45, also has no intention to return to the camp under the rule of the Assad regime:

"Whatever the bribes offered to the Palestinians, and the temptation of peace, in the end only death comes to the Palestinians."

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