DAMASCUS  – Abdullah al-Khateeb  –  January 01, 2014 –  MESOP – The child was very happy with where he lived and with the republic to which he belonged. He could reach the four farthest corners of the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp — the largest in Syria — in less than two hours.

He was even happier to believe in his youth that the world’s tallest tower, the Eiffel Tower, was located right here in his “republic” at the end of Ouruba Street. He was very proud of his camp, strangely convinced that the Shaker stadium was bigger than the Real Madrid Stadium in Spain. As the days passed and the little boy grew, he did not differentiate between the various nationalities in the camp, whether Syrian or Palestinian. Ironically, he believed that those Palestinians who held the same nationality as he did were the majority, and that a little minority had managed to get his country’s passport and had assimilated, mastering their dialect of Arabic and its idiosyncrasies. The little boy never doubted that he did not belong to the majority.

Reality and Big Dreams

At the turn of the new millennium, the little boy, now grown, realized that the Eiffel Tower is in France and that the Shaker stadium is nothing but an eggplant plantation. He also realized that he belonged to Syria’s minority Palestinian population that was 1 million strong.

This realization brought an interesting thought. How could the minority affect the majority [to such an extent] against all the odds? Past lessons from history and the evolution of communities hold the idea that minorities usually assimilate with the majority in any community.

That thought never left the little boy as he made his way through university as a sociology student. His main goal was to write his master’s thesis on the “Palestinization of communities” as a model of sociological anomalies.

The young man’s dream of going to university meant he would soon leave the parameters of his little republic. However, as dreams always have a tendency of being two steps ahead, the young man was unable to fulfill his dream and soon returned to his republic to begin a journey of a different kind. He rediscovered his home and found that although it had shrunk, emotionally it had gained much more weight.

War and Survival

The camp no longer resembles itself: landmarks are disappearing and camp residents are now either detainees, casualties, expats, injured, displaced, survivors or traitors. The neighboring state soon decides to close its borders, halting any movement of goods into the little republic. The little republic brandishes values that go against those of neighboring state: the values of freedom, justice and dignity. And the neighboring state drops its rockets and mortars on the little republic.

However, this only adds to the resilience of the people of the little republic, and they decide to continue establishing their country as a functional state. “Ministers” are assigned to take care of the multiple facets of life in the small republic.

Osama is the agriculture minister. He goes around from one garden to the next ensuring they’ve been turned into vegetable patches to ease the suffering of the residents who are now living under siege.

Radwan oversees the operations of waste management and control as well as those of self-generating electricity in his capacity as environment and infrastructure minister. The minister of health, along with his three aids Bashar, Abed and Hussam, spends his day between the medical assistance point, the hospital and the free pharmacy. Education Minister Abu Salma is responsible for over 3,000 students across the republic. He has a large number of assistants and the educational system has significantly improved to make the little republic the first state in the world to never leave a child behind.

The supplies minister, Abu Miaaz, works to provide for the republic’s citizens according to availability, while Defense Minister Ali defends the republic from any external invasion while protecting the citizens and overseeing that internal security is at the ready.

Foreign Minister Abu al-Abed spends his days trying to strengthen relations with other friendly states. Information Minister Ali and his two aids, Ayman and Qusay, hold regular meetings on how to improve their media operations to give a more accurate picture of what’s happening inside the little republic. The rest of the ministers continue with their responsibilities as best they can, yet things are taking a nosedive due to the siege. The young man mentioned in the beginning of our story sees all this and is speechless. Suddenly the pylon at the end of the street is once again the Eiffel Tower.