—  Exil  —

Six million Palestinian refugees still dream of the Right of Return

- 8 juillet 2022

After seventy-four years had passed for displacing them from their land, the Palestinian refugees’ pain is renewed every year on World Refugee Day. It’s an unforgettable day in the minds of the expatriate Palestinians in Belgium. They affirmed that returning to their homeland from which they were displaced is not a dream or an illusion, but rather a right that will always and forever remains and they believe that their cause will remain the biggest cause in the Arab world.

The 32-year-old Palestinian refugee Mahmoud A’ayesh, from the village of Salama in Jaffa District, who works as a civil engineer in Belgium, said, “Unfortunately, I was not able to visit any of the cities in Palestine, and this dream still haunts me.”

“I hope one day it will come true and I will be able to travel to my country from north to south. The only thing that compels me to stop is the need to buy some boxes of oranges in front of the Jaffa orchards,” he said.

A’ayesh also said that his grandfather was abandoned from his land in the village in 1948 and did not return to it until he died, adding that “the dream of return did not escape his imagination until his last moment.”

“As was the case of the grandparents, so is the case of the fathers and sons who have not stopped to dream of returning to their cities and villages in order to enjoy the spring and the beautiful fragrant of the land,” he said.

A’ayesh went on to say that the dream of return “is a stable dream that does not change and does not fade with time.”

“I remember our old house in Gaza and how each of its walls was like a mural decorated with the Palestinian flag, the Kofeyya (traditional scarf), the key, and pictures of the Dome of the Rock,” he said, adding that “these pendants served as a constant reminder of the right to land and return.”

As for Muhannad Abdel Bari, the 32-years-old human rights activist, who is interested in cultural affairs, was born in the Al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. His family was displaced from Hamama village in Palestine, and now lives in Belgium.

After wandering around Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Gaza, he said that achieving the right of return and building a political entity that expresses the Palestinians’ aspirations as a people “is our big Palestinian dream.”

“We never quit dreaming, and our dream is also reinforced by a UN resolution that stipulates the return of refugees, which is awaiting implementation,” Abdel Bari said, adding that “the achievement of the right of return means the end of the Diaspora tragedy for the Palestinian generations since 1948.”

He also said that “this means the end of the imbalance of power in the world, the achievement of justice and the implementation of the law that raises the force of law in the face of the law of force.”

Abdel Bari explains that his grandparents were expelled from Hamama village in 1948; they lived in Gaza, and since then, “we have become refugees.”

“My grandfather resumed his university education in Lebanon, but he was not allowed to return after Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967, and then he moved to the second asylum in Jordan, where he and his family lived,” he said.

Abdel Bari said, “We did not know the larger family, except in Belgium, where I met two aunts and some cousins and their families for the first time.”

“Since arriving here in Belgium, I have met many, whether citizens of Belgium or foreigners of different origins. The surprise was that the vast majority knew about the practices of the Israeli occupation in Palestine,” he said.

Abdel Bari added that he found out that they support the struggles of the Palestinian people to achieve freedom and independence with clarity and without hesitation.

“In return, this made me feel that we are closer to achieving justice for the Palestinians more than ever,” he added.

However, for the 40-year-old Abeer Mezher, the situation is no different from the rest of the refugees.

“I tried to visit the village of Al-Maghar in the Ramle district in Palestine, from which my grandparents were displaced more than once, but all my requests were denied by the Israeli occupation forces,” she said.

Mezher added that when she arrived in Belgium and decided to live with her three sons, she planted in them the love for Palestine, “and we merged through the Palestinian community in Belgium.”

She said that the events organized for Palestine in Belgium are an extension of the Palestinian struggle in Jerusalem, Gaza and the cities of the West Bank through which to meet, talk and share the dream of return.

“If I live far from Palestine, I always say that we left our country, but our country didn’t leave us, as they are present in all the details of our lives in exile,” Mezher added

According to the data published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, more than 6.4 million Palestinian refugees registered in the records of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) are still suffering as a result of their forced displacement from their lands during the Nakba of 1948.


When Palestine is presented through the cultural portal

Recently, large and systematic campaigns have spread to steal the Palestinian heritage and culture, just as the land of Palestine was stolen. In Belgium, the cultural role and the role of the young people in particular, are embodied abroad in order to combat these campaigns and spread the Palestinian cause with its correct narrative.

“Raj’een” or returning is a music band for Palestinian Folklore and Dabkeh; it was established in the city of Brussels, the capital of the European Union in 2016. It is a youth group that includes in its ranks Palestinian and Arab artists and cadres.

The Palestinian refugee, Mustafa Awad, from the town of Asmariah, in the Acre District in Palestine said the band chose the name “Raj’een” to emphasize the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and their adherence to their homeland and heritage as well.

The new troupe also seeks to present traditional folkloric paintings and Palestinian folk dances in Belgium and Europe to communicate with Arab communities and introduce European public opinion to authentic and contemporary Palestinian heritage and art.

“I launched a project for Palestinian embroideries, handicrafts and accessories, entitled ‘Our Heritage’, all bearing the name Palestine, because every Palestinian house is not free of Palestinian possessions or hangings,” Awad said.

He added that here in Belgium “we are unable to touch our land, not even see it from far. It remains for us to adhere to nostalgia or passion and continue to defend in order to return to our occupied lands.”

“With Palestinian culture and heritage, I was able to devote to the Belgian citizens the cause of Palestine,” Awad said, adding that “the most sought after thing was to buy the Palestinian Kofeyya, which symbolizes the Palestinian struggle and revolution.”

Palestine soil

The Palestinian diplomat, Hassan Al-Balawi is from the town of Balaa, a Palestinian village near the West Bank city of Tulkarm. He lived his life in more than one Arab and foreign country, and then moved to work in Belgium.

However, Al-Balawi is not a refugee, but his father was unable to return to Palestine after the 1967 war.

“My father used to ask the people who go to Bala’a to bring him dirt from his village, so that he would put it in a crystal bottle in front of his eyes in his house.”

This story continued to accompany him (his father) from Qatar to Tunisia to Algeria and Jordan, Al-Balawi added.

“Today in Belgium and through this idea to preserve the Palestinian heritage, an institution was launched in the city of Luxembourg to request foreign communities residing in Luxembourg and accredited foreign missions to bring part of the soil of their homeland,” he said,

The institution asks every person who brings this dirt to talk about the place from which he was brought, and if there is a story for this place,

“This soil will be collected from each country, his story will be written, and artists will be asked to paint this place by organizing an exhibition next September,” Al-Balawi said.