All That Was Left of Yarmouk: Notes to an Accomplice

“All of the people just want to leave, they want to leave Syria altogether. Assad is going to end up remaining in the country by himself. ” –Nidal Bitari

The hollowed ribcage of Yarmouk reveals itself once more in a photograph being circulated on the Internet. The refugee camp, once a cultural and intellectual center of diasporic Palestinian life, has been reduced to a gaunt spectacle, collecting the ephemeral lamentation of cowards who ignored it then opted to obscure the culprits menacing it.

It has been around two weeks since the last armed Palestinians in the refugee camp forfeited their weapons in a deal struck with the Syrian regime. Syrian opposition fighter had already fled awhile before that. It was hailed as a truce; it more closely resembled a surrender. “Starvation or submission”, the cornerstone of Assad’s offensive. In actuality, the sloganized tactic had a sinister clause. Submission never actually meant an end to the imposed blockage. The regime would demonstrate in Yarmouk, and elsewhere, that upon surrender the famine would endure. It seemed the real line should have always been “starve or surrender then continue to starve for your initial breach of submission.”

The weapons have been evacuated. The oppositional fighters are gone. The siege continues. The checkpoints leading outside of the camp have opened only a couple of times since the “truce”. The majority remains trapped. The promised aid never arrived, save a few insufficient instances.  The refugee camp has transformed into a cruel waiting room. No ones name is ever actually called out, everyone is assured that it will be any minute.

The number of Palestinians killed under torture continues to rise. The names of 145 Palestinians scar an ever-expanding list. The arrests have resumed. At least 25 students from Yarmouk were disappeared while trying to leave the camp after the deal was struck. I pray for their safe return, though one has to wonder what really they have left to return to.

The peculiar charm of Yarmouk has been erased. Palestinians from Syria always used to describe the strong affinity they felt towards the camp despite all of its shortcomings. Will they ever be able to conjure up the memory of that old Yarmouk? Or is memory capable of being stained. The barrel bombs, the shelling, the famine, the grief. Memory, no matter how bright it once was, is not resilient to everything.

There is, of course, the anger towards those who remained silent or only spoke to say that all parties shared the blame. Well, only one of those parties remains. There are no more weapons in Yarmouk. No more oppositional fighters. All that is left of Yarmouk is the enduring horror; it’s raspy sobbing telling us what we should have known all along. The devil doesn’t go away simply because you meet his demands.​


Talal Alyan

Talal is a Palestinian-American writer based in Brooklyn.


  1. Great article

  2. Read Nidal Bitari’s long article on Yarmouk Camp in the Journal of Palestine Studies here:

  3. Reblogged this on Asma Alabed and commented:
    Once again, Talal Alyan succinctly delivers a harsh reality.

  4. We linked to this article on our home page at

  5. fine sad article. We linked to it at


  1. […] Alyan, a Palestinian-American writer based in New York, writes for Beyond Compromise, “All That Was Left of Yarmouk: Notes to an […]

  2. […] is often written off as a inevitable consequence of the complexities of the Syrian conflict, a shameless lie unveiled by the continued enforcement of the siege during the brief period of truce in […]

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