Amina fled from Syria with her three children and ended up in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut where she had a difficult time because of the rise in rent prices. She had to work preparing tea and coffee in an office in Ashrafieh before she got the opportunity to work as a social worker with children in a social center at Shatila.
“When I went to work in Ashrafieh, I did not know that a red-plate car was a taxi and a white-plated one was a private car. Everyone used to stop for me. One time I got in and asked the driver to take me somewhere. He asked me, "Are you from Syria?" I said, "Yes, I am Syrian". So he said, "So this is why you ride with me." I then realized that this was not a taxi and asked to get out. "Their view of the Syrians coming from the war was very bad and they used to exploit Syrian girls. I used to be subjected to a lot of this sort of harassment,” she said.
Amina notes that even other Palestinian refugees were mistreating Syrian Palestinians in Lebanon. She says, “In Syria, we all lived like parents and loved each other. There was no distinction between a Syrian citizen and a Palestinian refugee but here we are treated differently and people act differently as well. The difference is great even at the center where I work, where we are all Palestinians but there is a sad distinction between a Syrian Palestinian and a Lebanese Palestinian.”
Amina participated in social activities organized by several associations - Al-Najda, Basmeh & Zeitooneh, Beit al-Sumud Children, the Aging Center for the Elderly etc. She received different training sessions in handicrafts, waste recycling, and even in scriptwriting and theater. She says, “On one occasion, I had the opportunity to participate in a work called “I am not a vase” in the Basmeh & Zeitooneh center together with the “Sharq” organization, and it was such a nice experience. In this work, I dealt with Lebanese people and the staff was fantastic. You cannot say that all the people are the same. You find the good and the bad in all societies, whether Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian.”
Amina built herself a strong social network in the camp where she met Syrians from several regions in Syria such as Homs and Daraa. She likes to say about herself that she is a socially involved woman, who mingles with people and gets involved in social events. She is the first to attend sit-ins and marches when these are about the Palestinian cause.
“Here, I'm free and my kids have no problem with this as long as I do nothing wrong. In Syria, some of my activities may be denounced or frowned upon by some people - activities such as taking part in theatrical pieces and acting - all due to prevailing customs and traditions. But when they know that the purpose of my work, both in theater and short films, is to portray the suffering of Palestinians or Syrians in the diaspora in general, they accept it, although some still do not”. Amina insists, “Nevertheless, I am convinced of what I am doing.”
Amina suffers from bullying, especially when she contacts Lebanese governmental departments for the renewal of her residence permit and the like. “In the governmental departments, everyone gets bullied, especially those who renew their residency permit, as if they don't like the subject of renewal itself”, she explains. Amina does not feel comfortable living in the Shatila camp; if she could get out she would but rents are soaring outside the camp. She says that she is more concerned about her children living in an insecure environment.