MAP stands with the victims of Sabra and Shatila 40 years on

On the 40th anniversary of the massacre at the Palestinian refugee camp of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) remembers the victims and stands in solidarity with survivors in their pursuit of justice.

Between 16 and 18 September 1982, hundreds of unarmed Palestinian and other civilians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camp were killed and injured by Lebanese Phalangist militants. The Israeli army, who had invaded Lebanon earlier that year and had surrounded the camp, had full knowledge of what was taking place inside, yet they never intervened. Instead, they illuminated the camp throughout the night by flares launched into the sky from helicopters and mortars.

Forty years later, none of the perpetrators of the massacre have been held accountable and survivors remain psychologically scarred by the events that took place.

Dr Swee Chai Ang was working in a hospital inside the camp at the time, and tirelessly battling to save the injured and protect her patients during the massacre. On return to the UK, Dr Ang joined with fellow medics and humanitarians to establish MAP, in order to send doctors and nurses to work in the Palestinian refugee camps and provide frontline care for those caught up in the country’s devastating civil war. Today, MAP continues to do important work with their partner organisations inside Shatila refugee camp, supporting the health and dignity of survivors, their descendants, and those who have moved into the camp over many years.

“To the survivors, we want you to know that we will never forget you or your loved ones. We keep the memories of your land, your olive trees and orange groves, the keys that you still have to your homes in Palestine in our hearts.” – Dr swee chai ang.

“Forty years have passed since the massacre at Sabra and Shatila and, many generations later, the painful memories remain. Some will want to bury these events; others will simply forget. But I want to remember the Palestinians who taught me profound lessons about justice and struggle. I will continue to honour their memories,” said Dr Ang.

“To the survivors, we want you to know that we will never forget you or your loved ones. We keep the memories of your land, your olive trees and orange groves, the keys that you still have to your homes in Palestine in our hearts.”

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Nakba (‘catastrophe’ in Arabic), where at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from and fled their homes at the hands of militias during the creation of the state of Israel, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continue to live in a state of permanent exile and humanitarian crisis.

Discrimination and marginalisation frustrate Palestinians’ access to health, education, employment and social protection, leaving them perpetually dependent on assistance from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). But UNRWA’s chronic funding deficit and Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis are increasing health and humanitarian needs, particularly for women and children.

“On this important commemoration of those who were brutally murdered in Shatila refugee camp, we take inspiration from the strength of the victims and survivors,” said Dr Ali Dakwar, MAP’s Lebanon Director.

“Decades on, Palestinian refugees still remain unjustly displaced from their homes, and are among those worse affected by Lebanon’s economic collapse. We therefore commit to continue our joint efforts towards a better future where all Palestinians can realise their full rights to health and dignity.”

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Photo: A woman who has lived most of her life inside Shatila refugee camp, catching what little light filters down through up to ten stories of tightly packed apartments to her alley-side plastic chair. (Credit: Elizabeth Fitt for MAP).

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