Little hands

Story and photos by Emad Ghaly, Rukban Network

26 MARCH 2022

A secluded place on the edge of oblivion, Rukban camp is where Douaa was born. In the middle of the desert, she knows nothing of this vast world, with its greenery, rivers and seas.

She does know one thing, that she is in a place that she cannot leave. Douaa did not see the war that led to here, its armed hordes, men with guns, and military checkpoints. Her world is sand and its ceiling is the sky, and what is between them is nothing but deprivation.

‘I am Douaa. I was born in this camp when my family arrived here in 2015. In the morning I go out with my brothers, Nour, Druze and Omar. We carry empty bags, and walk for long hours, collecting everything we can find on our way, wood, cardboard, plastic, empty boxes, everything that could make food for the fire in our house.

‘The more things we find, the longer the fire is burning in her house. My mother cooks our food on the stove, and she keeps it burning on cold days. But it doesn’t burn for long. The fire quickly devours what we collect.

‘There is firewood in the camp, but there is very little of it. My father says that we are poor, and we do not have money to buy it, so we come here, to this place where garbage is collected. Here we have a good chance to get what we want, but we have to walk long hours between the houses, in the yards around the camp.

‘I don’t know why I don’t go to school. I see some children go there. But there are also other children like me in the camp, because we meet them when we go out in the morning, or during our wanderings. These tours of the camp are not fun. In summer the heat kills us, and in winter the cold kills us, and walking for long hours, our feet get tired.’

We ask, ‘Douaa, do you have wishes? What do you want in the future?’

Her only reply is silence.