Tawergha: Returning to a place once called home
Whenever Mohammed dreamed about returning home, he recalled the house in which his children grew up. A home filled with joyful memories of family and friends. A place to which he felt deeply rooted in his hometown Tawergha.
Today, the walls that provided him and his family with safety are reduced to rubble. “All we have left is this one room, where we stay with our 6 daughters,” Mohammed says. His home, once a large single-story family house, almost looks like an empty skeleton. Most of its facade was destroyed, while piles of debris surround it.
About 40,000 people fled as their town of Tawergha, about 250 km east of Tripoli, was pounded relentlessly through the conflict in 2011. Armed forces had prevented people from returning to their homes. Many of the former residents have been displaced, sometimes multiple times, for over 10 years.
“I only returned a few days ago. Since we fled in 2011, we had been living in Tripoli, but we were threatened with eviction. We had nowhere else to go, so we came back,” Mohammed says. According to the local council, around 6,000 Tawerghans have already returned in the city. The incremental increase in eviction threats against displaced Tawerghans in their current areas of residence creates push factors for unprepared and rushed returns. Many humanitarian actors are concerned that premature returns without adequate planning and support to reintegration is likely to aggravate protection risks and incidents, including risk of sexual and gender-based violence, risk of trafficking and risk of arbitrary detention.
Many families like Mohammed’s have returned to homes without running water or electricity. Children have limited access to education or healthcare as many schools, hospitals and residential areas have been destroyed, and the lack of electricity or internet in the area impedes them from remote-learning opportunities.
“Water is the biggest problem for us at the moment as our water storage tank was damaged. I also don’t have enough money to pay for electricity,” Mohammed adds. And while access to livelihoods and basic services pose great challenges for safe and dignified returns, for many families it is the only option.
“I lost three of my sons due to the war,” Mohammed says as he is entering the only room that is still standing with a large rug covering the floor. While it is clear that he has little left to lose, there is much to regain. However, for this to happen, people like Mohammed depend on assistance and on authorities to develop durable solutions focusing on physical, material and legal safety. Only then can dreams about returning home potentially become a reality for thousands of Tawerghans still displaced.