Sepia Prints (2014 - Present)
Portraits of Denial & Desire Sepia

Abu Samir. Digital Print. Sepia.
80 x 60 and 110 x 80 inches
John Halaka © 2015

Abu Samir - Yousef Daher - Born 1935 Deir El Kassi - Lives in Mar Elias Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon.

Abu Samir was exiled from Palestine in 1948 when he was almost 13 years old.  He grew up in Tel el Za’atar refugee camp in Lebanon, which was totally destroyed in 1976 after a brutal 6 months siege that took the lives of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

He told me his story of leaving tell El Zaa’tar carrying his 13 year old crippled daughter while stepping over dead bodies, and of almost being executed by Lebanese Phalange militia at a check point outside the camp.  The only thing that saved him was a militia officer who had sympathy for the crippled girl.  Abu Samir has lived in Mar Elias refugee camp in Beirut since surviving the destruction of Tel El Za’atar.

The most common thread that connects all Palestinian refugees is the experience of sudden, total, catastrophic and repeated loss.  I saw Abu Samir several times during my year of fieldwork in Lebanon, as he worked serving coffee at a political office in Mar Elias camp.  During that whole time, I never once saw him smile.  It seems that smiling was one of the many things that he lost during a life of repeated displacement, violence and hardship.

“I’ve seen a lot of misery.  My crippled daughter died.  My wife who was diabetic, went blind… had kidney failure and died a year after my daughter… My son was killed in an explosion a year later… The fourth year, another daughter died. In four years, each year I lost one. Each year! Those are God’s wishes and no one can question them… I live with the suffering and pain, but I give thanks to God for our burdens.”