Zada is at pains to express her family’s appreciation for Lebanon and the fact that they are more protected from the conflict in Syria, but it is clear that life in their host country has been challenging for them. She says ‘I don’t want to paint a different picture of Lebanon, but it is not safe…not for us’. She is one of the few women that asks me not to record our conversation, and evades a few of my questions about harassment and conflict in the neighbourhood. As her husband sews gym shorts, she discusses neighbourhood rumours – women that visited a particular NGO Office and never came home, children snatched off the street.
We speak to Zada at her and her husband’s small tailoring business. Her husband quietly works on a sewing machine while she talks to us. They have a long history with the neighbourhood and her husband was working here as a migrant worker before the war broke out.
Her and her husband share several accounts of people taking advantage of them, often refusing to pay them for the work they’ve done. When I ask how they pursue this, they explain that they don’t. They try to play down every potential conflict, even when they have lost hundreds of dollars in unpaid work. She fears that if they complained or went to the Internal Security Force (Lebanese police) that they wouldn’t be believed. If they went to someone in the neighbourhood for assistance, a bad situation would only get worse, and ‘thugs’ might show up at the shop.
She feels that there is no recourse in their host society – nowhere for them to get justice. Despite the large amount of Syrian refugees living in the neighbourhood, no (specifically) Syrian spokesperson or representative has emerged. Despite having a general distrust of anyone in authority assisting them in day to day conflicts, they both express their appreciation and sense of safety from the obvious presence of police and army on the street. When I ask them about the dreaded army checkpoints, Zada, her husband, and a local friend who has now joined us all agree: That the institutionalised security is better than ‘thugs’ that might take matters into their own hands, or provide ‘alternative’ security.
She cries quietly at points during the interview and thanks us for our time and allowing for the opportunity to unburden herself.