In Box

The Middle-Class Syrian Refugee

What do you carry when you've left a life behind?


Abdel Baset Bushi, 56, hails from the Syrian city of Binnish, in northern Idlib province. Before the war, he used to travel regularly between Beirut and his hometown for both work and play. These days, however, he finds himself stuck in the Lebanese capital. "I’ve been here for one year," he says, sitting on a bench along Beirut’s seaside corniche.

Bushi and his family fled Syria last year, when the regime’s bombardment of Binnish became too intense. In his hometown, he was the owner of a photography and video business. But in Lebanon, he is unemployed and lives with his family of four grown sons and their children in three small rooms of a flat in Beirut’s Borj Abi Haidar neighborhood. "It’s cramped, but the most important thing is that we’re not afraid of the artillery, the warplanes, anymore," he says.

According to the U.N., more than 800,000 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon. The scope of the crisis has put an enormous strain on Lebanon’s domestic politics, its humanitarian assistance efforts, and the local economy. "The cost of living here is impossible," Bushi says. "We used to receive food vouchers from the U.N., but they stopped them."

These days, Bushi has taken up a cost-free hobby. To pass time, he walks across Beirut, including along its beautiful Mediterranean coastline. He says he does not support the rebels or the regime. "Both sides are bad," he says, looking out at the sea.

Home, for now, is where he ends up. He hopes to be resettled along with his family somewhere in the West, but isn’t picky about his final destination. "We would go anywhere, really."

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