Lebanon’s young refugees tell their stories through the lens

Ahmed el Sabeh

To mark World Humanitarian Day, Canon Europe and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are showcasing photos taken by five young refugees documenting what life is really like in the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon. Through photography they told the stories that were important to them and showed the reality of their lives, helping to highlight the importance of local perspective in expanding the narrative around communities’ experience of conflict.

Fatima is 19 years old and has spent her entire life inside Ein el-Hilweh. She took part in the first stage of the project in 2018, and returned for the second session in 2019. She is applying to study an interior design degree, and outside her studies, she enjoys drawing, but has never had the opportunity to learn more. Her photos focus on the building structure of the camp, highlighting how the walls keep out the sun – and the dangers of its poor construction.

Also 19, Hala is a refugee who lives outside Ein el-Hilweh, but regularly visits her family and friends inside the camp. Inspired by the friendships she’s made, she took a job as a football coach within the camp. Her photography explores life for women in the camp, focusing in particular on the General Union of Palestinian Women and Children, which puts on programmes for women within Ein el-Hilweh.

Yehya is 26 and was born inside Ein el-Hilweh. He holds a degree in civil architecture which he received after securing a scholarship to study abroad in Cyprus. However, he struggles to find work as his status as a refugee prevents him from joining the Lebanese Order of Architects. Through his photography, Yehya explores how the life of refugees is misrepresented in traditional media, often to the detriment of those within the camp trying to build a better life through education.

Daniel is 22 years old and lives in Sidon, just outside Ein el-Hilweh, but knows many living in the camp. He’s studying business management at the Lebanese International University and teaches photography within the camp in his spare time. The project has helped him to develop his own skills for teaching others. In his own photography, he documents older people within the camp who are often forgotten about, emphasising how it’s important to remember their stories too.

Twenty-one-year old Ahmed feels like a stranger whenever he goes outside Ein el-Hilweh. Frustrated by the lack of job opportunities and poor pay for those that do exist, the photography project has allowed him to highlight the boredom faced by many living within the camp.