Refugees find solace in Tunisia camp

August 23, 2011
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Monastir, Tunisia: For the 3,000 refugees at the Shousha camp in Ras Jedir near the Tunisian-Libyan borders, no difficulty or pain could spoil the celebration of Ramadan with deep religious respect and great social fanfare.

Fleeing bloodshed and deprivation in Libya, the refugees, caught between a host country that is torn by a terrible civil war and their countries’ formidable red tape that prevents them from reaching home, they found genuine solace in Tunisia. Particularly during Ramadan, the most scared month for Muslims.

It is a great tale of compassion. Hundreds of soldiers from the Tunisian army and activists from international organisations now based in the southern tip of Tunisia have teamed up to offer them adequate conditions to help them forget their pains and agony and look forward to a brighter future.

Three large kitchens are now fully dedicated to preparing iftar meals to end the fast and the Tunisian doctors supervising the task have expressed satisfaction that not a single case of poisoning or other problem was recorded in any of the camps.

Weather

“We are very strict about food supervision to ensure that everybody is safe and well,” Mohammad Soussi, a doctor working for the Tunisian army, said. “The weather is hot and we have several weather variations, but everybody is fine,” he said, quoted by Assabah daily.

Souhour, the pre-dawn meal during Ramadan, includes milk and yoghurt, the doctor said. “They also receive cake and lots of mineral water.”

The large mosque set up at the camp brings together the refugees to perform the Maghreb prayer that signals the end of the fast.

The worshippers then go their separate ways to eat their meals before they congregate one hour and a half later for the Eisha and Taraweeh prayers.

Feasts and joyful occasions have become milestones for the thousands of people fleeing for their lives and who are now settled in the tent city.

Just before the start of Ramadan on August 1, five Sudanese couples got married in the camp.

“It was an occasion to forget the pain and frustrations and celebrate with joy and hope,” a refugee said. “It was great African atmosphere and each of the five couples were relocated to a new tent for their honeymoon, at least until the situation improved and they were able to return home.”

Few Libyans have remained at the camp after they were hosted by Tunisian families in a remarkable display of compassion and altruism.

Compassion and love

“My son met a Libyan family and he invited them to stay with us at least until the end of Ramadan,” Zahiya Mohammad said.

“There is no way that we are going to let these poor souls out there. This is the month of compassion and love, and the least that I can do is to help people, especially if they are going through tough times,” said the woman in the coastal city of Monastir.

Zahiya said that she liked cooking and that the presence of the Libyan family reinvigorated her love for the kitchen and for special Ramadan food.

“We have told the family that they can bring in their friends and that they will all be welcome. In fact, we feel privileged because we can assist others. We feel wonderful because we can make others happy.

“We do not want to be like those who want to lock up, beat or even kill Arab or African emigrants because they see them as a threat. We do not want to lose our humanity and turn into materialistic and egoistic people,” she said.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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