MUHAMMAD SALJUK GONDAL
On September 2, 2015, the tale of a three-year-old Syrian boy named Alan Kurdi shocked the entire world. Kurdi’s family embarked on a trip to Greece from Turkey with the hope that they would finally reach a country that they could call their own.
However, their hopes were shattered when the small boat that they were using to make the journey capsized within minutes of departure. The three-year-old’s body was later found washed up on a Turkish beach, setting off a chain reaction of gasps throughout the world. The saddest part is that Kurdi’s story is one that repeats itself ten times a day and does not seem likely to stop anytime soon.
A host of problems plague the lives of the people of the Middle East; ISIL, political unrest within Syria, Iraq and its vicinities, lack of adequately functioning governments to cater to their peoples’ needs; the list goes on. Suffice it to say that life for the people living in these areas is deplorable, even by third world standards. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were forced to abandon their homes. They did so, however, with the faith and hope that life held something better for them elsewhere.
First, they turned to their neighbours. While some answered their pleas, countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and an array of Gulf States ignored them. The refugees’ belief, that these Muslim majority countries welcome them with open arms as part of the same Ummah, turned out to be an utterly naive one.
Exactly why were they ignored? “We’ve done enough,” the countries claimed, in reference to the millions of dollars collectively donated by these states to aid the plight of the refugees.
However, owing to the bureaucratic hurdles that the crumbling governments of these war-torn countries are renowned for and the sheer number of refugees that have risen, one struggles to see the impact that this indirect help has made. The money given to the government to help provide for the refugees’ basic needs fails to water down to the needy, being pocketed by the corrupt instead. Money given to non-governmental organisations in these countries reaches a similar end. Few organisations tend to fulfil the noble cause that they were initially set up for and there is only so much that they can do. Moreover, other countries have provided millions of dollars in aid as well, without that stopping them from also taking some people in. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the Arab countries, which closed their borders to these refugees with a flat ‘NO’. So much for Islamic brotherhood.
Deprived of a country, the refugees hurriedly approached the towering gates at the borders of European countries, confident that their first world hospitable hearts would not treat them the same way that their neighbours had. Reality put an end to their optimism once again and long queues of stateless individuals started accumulating at borders without evoking an ounce of sympathy in the hearts of state citizens on the other side.
Then came Kurdi’s story. The terrible event received worldwide media coverage and with it came global pressure to act. While it came at a grave cost, the incident finally seemed to have answered the refugees’ prayers and woke the European nations from their slumber. Pressurised to act, they reluctantly opened up their doors to the ever-increasing numbers of people encamped outside their borders. The refugees seemed to finally be getting the home that they had craved for.
Sadly, it was too good to be true. As Kurdi’s story died down, so did the reaction of the countries towards the refugees as they found a reason worthy of excusing themselves from their burden: security.
As the situation in Iraq and Syria got worse with the Islamic State sharing increasing accounts of their senseless violence with the rest of the world, the European state’s reason to deny refugees a country got stronger. The Arab nations who had previously rejected refugees jumped on the security bandwagon as well and reinforced their stance of not letting any immigrants in. The recent attacks in Germany and France, tragic as they were, simply strengthened this reason.
The argument of security, whilst appearing seemingly legitimate, has a gaping flaw. It fails to understand the nature of these refugees. These are people who have been forced out of their homes by radical groups like the Islamic State under fear of being kidnapped, tortured, bombed, or subjected to some other inhumane crime. They are the ones who have run away from terrorism, losing their friends, families, and countries in the process. Security is what they yearn to get, not take away from others. Therefore, disturbing the peace and security of these countries is probably not going to be their topmost priority.
At the end of the day, the current situation of the refugee crisis is simply appalling. It is a massive question mark on the face of humanity and makes us wonder if we need the media to highlight another terrible story like that of Alan Kurdi’s to jolt the world back into action.
The globe has turned its backs on nation-less people, citing a lack of resources, the Islamic State, and security concerns as their reasons. Call it what you will. All of it is just another attempt to hide the shameless flagrant truth: this is who we are and we have no one to blame but ourselves.