Celia Peterson

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon - 15/10/2016: 85 years old Sharifi had tattoos produced on her hands and face when she was 10. The Dom used to be famous for this but the new generation no longer practices this tradition. In Syria she lived in a tent with no chairs and moved into a concrete home when she was married at 15 years of age. She speaks Domari and is now living in a tented settlement in the Bekaa valley: “We had everything in Syria, now we have nothing. We are happy.”

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – 15/10/2016: 85 years old Sharifi had tattoos produced on her hands and face when she was 10. The Dom used to be famous for this but the new generation no longer practices this tradition. In Syria she lived in a tent with no chairs and moved into a concrete home when she was married at 15 years of age. She speaks Domari and is now living in a tented settlement in the Bekaa valley: “We had everything in Syria, now we have nothing. We are happy.”

On the fringes of Lebanese society is the Dom community who’s origins go back to India from where they originally migrated to the Middle East and now reside in countries including Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

They suffer from extreme poverty and social marginalization despite having been granted Lebanese citizenship in 1994. They have little access to health, education, formal employment and adequate housing. Despite having rescinded a nomadic lifestyle, many still face discrimination with a third surviving on less than a dollar a day. Having led a nomadic life until the mid/late 20th century, they are now largely sedentary. Yet the Dom from Syria are on the move again, this time not to practice their crafts and trades but to flee from a ruthless conflict with no end in sight. They sought asylum in the neighbouring countries including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Many now live amongst other refugees in informal tented settlements in Lebanon.

Many Dom choose to hide their ethnic origins to avoid discrimination and are often confused with the Bedouins and other ethnic groups. Their language, Domari, is fast disappearing as they choose to converse with their children in Arabic. As their children become educated and their original nomadic lifestyle becomes sedentary, so their traditional way of life changes.

See the full story here.

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