Discrimination and bullying makes learning hard for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

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Moatassem around his house on the border area in eastern Lebanon

Moatassem, an 11- year-old Syrian boy living in Lebanon, has been enduring bullying from Lebanese people since he found refuge in the country fleeing the war in his country.

 “Every time I get on the bus on my way to school or on my way back home, Lebanese students kick me, hit me, and keep me outside the bus until all [the Lebanese] children enter it. I am always the last one to have a seat in the bus, because I am Syrian,” says Moatassem,  an11-year-old student residing on the Syrian-Lebanese border area in eastern Lebanon.

 “I hear words like, ‘we do not want trash on the bus,’” he says.

 “Lebanese children make me sad. I do not have friends among the Lebanese,” he adds. “I do not know why they are behaving this way with me. I have not done anything bad to them.”

 Moatassem and his family fled to Lebanon more than a year ago. Although he is now his second school year in the host country, time has not made the situation any easier. In class, the bullying never stops. Last year, Moatassem was the only Syrian student in his school.

 “Students in my class threw erasers and pens at the teachers while they wrote on the board, and when the teachers turned and asked who was throwing stuff at them, they all pointed at me; accusing me of doing it,” he remembers, explaining one of the many means of bullying students use against him, only because he’s Syrian.

 Even when Moatassem sought help, by telling the school’s supervisor about what the other children were doing, he is faced with additional bullying from the schools’ principles who accused him of provoking his peers. 

 Rim, Moatassem’s mother, is a psycho-social therapist. She has lots of concerns regarding the psychological situation of her son. Since they came to Lebanon, he has been enduring urinary incontinence at night because of the bullying.

 “Moatassem is a war child,” she says. “He has suffered from bombs and shelling, witnessing killings, seen scenes of blood and martyrs, and lived in shelters. Despite what he has been through, [Moatassem] maintains a strong personality and he faces his school peers every time they bully him,” she says.  

 “Syrians are the most despicable people on earth. You are Assad’s cockroaches. Syrians are gypsies,” says Rim, to show the types of verbal abuses her son faces every day.  “These are the words children use to address to Moatassem, to insult him,” she says, clearly, anger clearly audible in her speach.  

 Even adults, use insulting words when they speak to Maotassem and other Syrians. “My neighbour says, ‘when will we get rid of you? When will we get rid of this [filth]?’” he says.

 As a result of the bullying he endured last year, Moatassem changed schools. This year he goes to a school, where Syrian students and Lebanese are separated into different classes and play on different playgrounds. So, the harassment is limited to the bus.

 “I never want to go to a Lebanese school again, where Lebanese and Syrian children are mixed together,” he says, with great determination.

 Moatassem lives with his parents and his three older siblings. His family only left their comfortable life in Syria, where the father worked as a doctor, because the conflict threatened to take their lives.

 Moatassem tries his best to avoid his Lebanese peers. Even outside of school he is often stalked and harassed on the street, as children follow him, beat him or try to get their dogs to attack him. A few weeks ago, he was followed by three children. One of them had his dog, which kept growling and trying to attack Moatassem. The boy was brave enough to push the dog back before fleeing for home, although the dog bit him in the process. Luckily, this time, the dog’s bites on Moatassem’s hand were minor and shallow and did not require any medical cure.

 Moatassem’s story is not unique. Instead, it is representative of what many Syrian children, regardless of their poverty level, go through on a daily basis—bullying and mistreatment. This tension between the two groups is not because the Lebanese children are full of hatred, but instead because both the Syrian and Lebanese communities are facing daily challenges they are unable to deal with. 

News Source : Discrimination and bullying makes learning hard for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

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