Bringing Refugee Stories to Life

My name is Aysar al-Saifi and I am a 29 year old Palestinian writer. I am raising funds to translate and publish my work.

My Story:
Seventeen years ago, when I was a student at Dhiesheh Refugee Camp Elementary School, my Arabic language &literature teacher asked me to write an essay on the topic of life in the camp. It was during winter and I was about 13-year old. I could not write anything; perhaps I was not interested in writing about the camp as much as I was interested in finding warmth during the cold winter months. It was natural that the school was crowded with students because it was located in a crowded refugee camp. And due to the increased number of students, the school opened new classes built out of sheet metal, wood and other poor materials, which the school could afford. At that time, there were 45 students in each class, sitting on broken wood desks within a small space. This was my beginning with literature and writing. 

These tin roof classes shaped the development of my character, my understanding of the concept of the camp, and the state of life as refugees. Those classes were my world at that time. I spent a half of my day there, and the other half I spent discovering other concepts related to life, the camp, and the suffering. I did all of that while I was running through the narrow alleys of the camp, playing soccer, or ringing houses' bells and running away. There were no special spaces for childhood. I still remember my mother at those moments when she would make me wear my socks and cover them with plastic grocery bags before I put on my shoes. And on the top of that, she made sure to cover my shoes with another  plastic bag before I went out. All of that for her and for me was to prevent the penetration of water to my feet, which mostly got wet once I stepped outside the house.  

At that time, the political and social circumstances of the camp were very difficult. All cultural activities and public gathering were banned by the Israeli Army. Since 1987 (the first Intifada) the army had frequently imposed curfews, closed schools, and arrested thinkers and writers. Even more than that, many books, novels, newspapers, and magazines were considered political activities and banned by the army which arrested everyone who were suspected of keeping a political book at their house. The army did this as an attempt to break the cultural movement and destroy the Palestinian consciousness, which I would call the process of "Sahher Al Wa'ie". The closest translation would be "melting the consciousness." Sahher Al Wa'ie is inclusive to all Israeli activities that aimed to clear out the Palestinian national consciousness /memory and turn it into a blank page. The goal of the Israeli Occupation's Sahher Al Wa'ie practices is to destroy the unity of the Palestinian people, change their liberation beliefs, and make the culture of resistance a very expensive idea. 

These Israeli strategic practices seek to control Palestinians, ruin them, weaken their will, and push them to doubt their beliefs. Thus, Palestinians would be mentally unattached to their reality because they cannot control it. The occupation tries to create a new memory of a place that erases the Palestinian existence from memory and history.  

Today, I am 29 years old, and I have already written 2 novels about the camp and my life here. Although I did not write that essay, which the Arabic teacher assigned to me when I was a boy, I still believe that there are many great stories that have never been written and tales waiting to be told. Therefore, I decided to run this public support campaign in order to get the required funding to publish and translate 2 of my works.

My Ask:
I am seeking funds to assist in translating and publishing my work in English and other languages  in order to reach a broader audience and share the stories of my life in a refugee camp. $6,000 will cover; the cost of a professional translator, the design and printing of 500-1,000 copies, and promotion for both existing books; 1 novel, and 1 collection of stories currently in Arabic only.

For each donation of $100 or more, I will include your name in the credits.
For any donation of $250 or more,  I will send you an autographed copy of the novel of your choice.
For donations over $500, I will send an autographed copy of each 2 published books.

A donation of any size is greatly appreciated, and as such I will welcome you to visit Dheisheh, and organize a tour and meal with you.

For More Information:

Article in Italian 

Article in French


  • Imogen Rickert 
    • €50 
    • 41 mos
  • Alessandro Petti 
    • €100 
    • 41 mos
  • Campaign total raised 
    • €5,236 (Offline)
    • 41 mos
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Aysar Alsaifi 
Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan