Abdel Bari Atwan
Rivers of crocodile tears are flowing in the Arabic media as its writers waste ink feigning grief over the tragedy of the Syrian refugees who risk their lives on the sea or in refrigerated trucks in search of survival. They are only seeking survival, not even a life of dignity, after everything they hold dear has been destroyed and squandered after many forces – both internal and external – have conspired to ruin their country and their lives… not to mention the hundreds of thousands who have been killed.
It is a great paradox that the Gulf States – who have most loudly boasted of their support for the Syrian people and spent billions on arming the opposition – are the most resistant to receiving refugees from Syria and have closed their doors in their faces. And these countries are immensely rich with huge sovereign funds.
Meanwhile, other, impoverished Arab states, have received hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, which are burdened with immense debts and budget deficits have opened their ams and sympathized with their plight.
Which of these countries we ask you are consistent with the values of Arabism and Islam and honour and compassion?
Several European countries have received hundreds of thousands of Syrians and provided them with aid and assistance, education and jobs. They have granted them citizenship and permanent residence after a few years in which they prepare themselves to adapt to their new communities.
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor has been accepting more than 50,000 refugees every year, including 350,000 Syrian, emphasizing the international commitment to Justice and Humanity. Her Interior Minister, Thomas de Maser, has passed legislation designed to speed up processing refugees by making the system less bureaucratic. In response, one of the ‘Islamic’ channels has complained that Mrs. Merkel leads a Christian Party, and expressed the concern that those Syrians who find a safe haven in Germany will become Christians.
At the beginning of the crisis, journalists visiting the refugee camps in Jordan where Syrian families had fled in search of safety from bombs and shelling, told disgraceful tales of lecherous old wolves, their pockets swollen with money, prowling the camps with brokers of human flesh, in search of an underage girl to purchase. There are dozens of reports and documentaries which confirm what we say.
Syrian girls are turned into slaves, while their Government commits massacres and pours oil on the fire, not in the interest of the people of Syria, as it claims, but to avenge the hatred of the Syrian President.
Nor is President Assad the only one intent of the destruction of Syria; there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that foreign meddling is designed to fragment the country along sectarian fault lines.
Having seen the children of Syria drowning in the high seas or their decomposed remains frozen in trucks would you not expect to hear fatwas from our distinguished clerics like Qaradawi or al-Uraifi demanding that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait rescue them? Aren’t they Muslims? Aren’t they also Sunni?
Germans “infidels” organize demonstrations against racism and demand that their Government receive Syrian refugees without restrictions or obstacles; we have witnessed football fans in the stands waving banners demanding the same thing… so why is it that our own most wealthy regional leaders cannot offer even a quarter of this help?
The Gulf States refuse citizens of other Arab nations basic medical care and education, so no wonder that they do not want Syrian immigrants… how could they host them?
Not only do they not wish to house these refugees but they are actively interfering in their country’s affairs, sending arms and money to destroy them and sow the seeds of sectarian strife, escalating the violence and the desperation of displacement. How is it that they wish to ‘help’ the Syrians at home but abandon them abroad? If you do not wish to honour the humane requirement for offering hospitality to these refugees, please cease your sinister meddling in their affairs. Or prove to us that we are wrong.
Nor is this crisis limited to Syria. The Saudi military intervention in Yemen will produce its own waves of refugees… where will they flee to, and how? We are only asking, we know that we will not receive any answers, but insults and oaths as usual.
After the Kuwait war in 1991, some Iraqis sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, including soldiers and their families: what happened to them? They were placed in the Rafha camp in the middle of the desert, amid tight security and were prevented from leaving for over five years. Many were obliged to return in despair to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, most of them Shiite Muslims who revolted against Saddam himself as history shows.
The Saudi authorities have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to UN and NGO refugee organizations which arrange for refugees to be accommodated in Western countries such as Sweden, Norway and Canada, and yet they will not allow any of them to stay in the Kingdom. By contrast, Riyadh was happy to welcome 1.5 million US soldiers in Kuwait. This shows the difference between us and European Crusaders.
Years ago, I was invited to deliver several lectures in Canada, including one in the capital city of Ottawa; I was surprised by the large number of attendees who described themselves as “Kuwaitis”, and when I enquired as to why, they told me that they had emigrated to Canada during the crisis and obtained Canadian citizenship but still viewed themselves as Kuwaitis and remembered their country with nostalgia.
These duplicitous standards of the rich Arab nations are the cause of disillusionment and alienation among Arab youth, pushing some of them into positions of extremism which makes them ripe for recruitment by organisations such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda and inclined to undertake ‘suicide missions’.
It seems that we, as Arabs, offer the most heinous examples of racism, and not these Europeans, who put us to shame, sympathizing with the Syrian refugee who carries his children on his shoulders, as well as the burden of suffering and humiliation. The latter do not ask him whether he is Sunni or Shiite, Alawite or Christian. They see him only as a human being in need of help.