Duaa Ardat | 18-07-2016
Since the moment I was born, I was sentenced to be a “refugee,” identified by that “blue ID”—the personal identification card that classifies its holder as “stateless.” Being a refugee means that blue color shadows you for the rest of your life.
As a baby and toddler, I needed vaccinations, of course. My mother took me to an UNRWA medical center in Lebanon’s Ein El Helwe camp, where I grew up. (UNWRA is the UN agency charged with providing services to the roughly 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.) It was as if everyone and everything was dressed in blue. As a little girl, I longed for a little pink.
Then it was time for school. My dad carried my blue ID as he took me to register for UNRWA’s Rafidia Elementary School. The blue color welcomed me there again. It accompanied me until I graduated from Bissan Secondary School in Ein El Helwe camp with scores high enough to allow me to study any major I wanted at any university—that is, if it wasn’t for that blue ID. Being a Palestinian refugee means there are more than 20 different professions I cannot practice in Lebanon outside of the camps. This includes medicine, law, engineering and pharmacy.
So instead, I studied at Siblin Training Center; with its blue logo on its big blue gate, and earned a teaching diploma in English, thinking I could still get a good job with that. But the only position I could find was with UNRWA.
So here I am, back where I started—an UNRWA school, this time as a teacher. For a moment, I thought the cursed blue color would be a blessing for the first time. This is my chance to educate and serve my students, who suffer what I suffer, I thought.
However, I hear a lot of miserable stories from my students, who live in the Saida, Tyre and Beirut camps. I break into tears sometimes. I want their lives to be different, so I try to be positive and encourage my students to strive to achieve their dreams, whatever the price.
Our challenge is to reclaim the color blue and make it a hue of which to be proud. Being a refugee was not our choice and it will never be so. But what’s wrong with blue? Both the sky and the sea are blue, and they are symbols of freedom.
Personally, I’ll strive for my dreams, cling to them and never ever lose hope. It is not the color that matters, it’s about having a chance for a life with meaning. Treating “blue ID” holders as problems is the problem. We are all humans after all, no matter what color ID we have.
Mentor: Pam Bailey
Posted: July 17, 2016