Adolescents’ experiences of and responses to adaptation and abandonment in Bar Elias

Authors: Hannah Sender*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Migration, Middle East
Keywords: displacement, adolescence, urban change, refugees, Lebanon, Syrian
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 39
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Before 2011, the town of Bar Elias in Lebanon was an agricultural market town with a few commercial services. As well as its permanent residents, Bar Elias served seasonal migrant agricultural workers from Syria, who would travel to the Beqaa Valley for the summer harvest. Since the outbreak of war in Syria, tens of thousands of displaced people have settled more permanently in and around Bar Elias. They are living among approximately 70,000 Lebanese and 7,000 Palestinians residents, many of whom have repurposed agricultural land and non-domestic buildings and have built new homes, to rent to the newcomers (UNDP, 2018).

No formal refugee housing has been provided by the Government of Lebanon nor the UN, in accordance with government policy. This ‘no-camp policy’ (Sanyal, 2017) has contributed to rapid and haphazard material changes in the area that are governed mostly by individual interest.

In this presentation, I share young residents’ narratives about material changes in and around Bar Elias. Lebanese and Syrian adolescents have suggested that the way in which the town has changed is indicative of deliberate abandonment of both citizens and refugees by sovereign powers in Lebanon. I consider the relevance of these adolescents’ narratives to the Lebanese revolution, or ‘awakening’, and argue that although many of these young people do not protest, they call out and resist abandonment in deeply personal ways.

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