TRIPOLI, LEBANON – Bushra, whose house was destroyed and who had to sell her jewelry to flee war-ravaged Syria to Lebanon, has become the millionth U.N. refugee.
She and her little boy and girl now live with her in-laws and relatives in a 20-sq.-meter house in a poor neighborhood of Tripoli.
Bushra knows nothing about her husband, Mohammed, who stayed behind when she and her two children fled to her parents in a Damascus suburb a year ago.
She and the children, aged 2 and 4, arrived in Lebanon two weeks ago.
“I had to sell everything to be able to get out,” she said. I paid 10,500 Syrian pounds ($105) to pay for a taxi that brought us to Lebanon.”
On Wednesday, the 19-year-old mother went to the offices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to register, and learned that she was officially the millionth person to do so.
That same day, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres had announced in Geneva that there were “a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day.”
He described Syria, where the two-year war has left the economy in tatters and where basic needs are increasingly hard to come by, as “spiraling toward full-scale disaster.”
“That means that 1 million Syrians are going through the same thing I am,” Bushra said tearfully as she sat on an old blanket on the floor.
Bushra recalls her flight from Homs in February last year after much hesitation, and then in panic.
“I was among the last to leave Homs. We were scared when we heard that the shabiha (militia loyal to President Bashar Assad) were entering Homs and raping women.
Mohammed, a 30-year-old taxi driver, chose to stay behind to “guard the house.”
“On March 1, 2012, we tried in vain to contact him. And since then, we have no news of him.”
Bushra said her most heartfelt desire was to find out what happened to the man she fell in love with as a young teenager and married in 2008.
In Tripoli it is tough living in a cramped, damp home that costs $250 a month to rent. It houses more than 20 people altogether.