By Bassem Mroue, AP
BAR ELIAS, Lebanon–When Saada Khalaf, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, lost her husband to a long illness earlier this year, she could not find a place to bury him in the eastern Lebanese town where the couple had lived since they fled the civil war back home.
The nearest cemetery where she and her relatives were allowed to bury him was in the village of Dalhamiyeh, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the town of Bar Elias.
Some 1.5 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s conflict are believed to be living in Lebanon, equal to about a third of the Mediterranean country’s population of 4.5 million people.
With many cemeteries almost full, Syrians are facing difficulties finding places where they can bury their loved ones who die in Lebanon. Most are not able to take them back for burial in Syria because of the dangers and closed roads — just some of the results of the five-year civil war that has killed more than a quarter million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.
“Syrians have become a burden whether they are alive or dead,” said Riad Rashid, a refugee from the Syrian city of Homs.
Khalaf, who fled from Homs after Syria’s crisis began in 2011, only remembers that her husband, Ali Jomaa, died on a Monday morning a few months ago. She says she is illiterate and does not know exact dates.
She and their neighbors had brought him to a clinic that morning, suffering from asthma-related breathing problems, and he died shortly afterward.
During the funeral in Dalhamiyeh, she did not attend the funeral — as a woman and in accordance with Muslim tradition — while male members of the family took the body for prayers and burial.