This year has been the toughest year for the humanitarian and refugee crisis around the world, in particular the Middle East. The war in Syria rages unabated and now there’s a new player in the mix – Russia. The only silver lining I see is, hopefully, sometime in the not too far future, this war will come to a decisive end. Russia has joined the fight with the Al-Assads, in order to protect their interest in the region, the Syrian port city of Tartus, which besides Crimean Peninsula, is Russia’s only gateway to the Mediterranean.
The complaint from the West (US, Nato, EU, UN) is, Russia is indiscriminately fighting ALL the forces against Al-Assad regardless if they are ISIS and other Al-Qaeda affiliates or not. Well, it’s time to put up and shut up. Since the West do not have the political will nor regional interest anymore and someone else is willing to do the dirty work for us, the West should be relieved and make nice with Russia again. Speaking as an American voter who strongly opposed both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I will not be supportive of any administration ordering troops on the ground to fight another war in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. If the so-called Free Syrian Army or ‘moderate forces’ were effective, they’d gain more ground by now. In the face of Russian offensive, they have two choices, join the Russians or get out of the way. Remaining in their positions to serve as human shields or martyrs does nobody any favors. Making conditions in the Middle East livable again is the only way to stem the refugee crisis.
My grandparents were refugees, given a choice, had their lives not been in danger after Mao’s rise to power in China, they would have gladly stayed. Most people do not rejoice at the fact of becoming refugees. The prospect of parting with your home, your possessions, family, friends, your country, everything you love and hate about your homeland to trade it with facing danger, financial ruin and possible death on your way to a ‘better’ life, which for most refugees mean a reduced circumstance forever, is not something they take on lightly, unless they are in grave danger or live in desperate hopelessness. Austria and Germany do look pretty in pictures but the refugees know it’s not a Promised Land. There’s no pot of gold waiting for them. There is only hardship which can be overcome with some luck, dedication and hard work. They will face all sorts of obstacles, economic and societal. Xenophobia and Islamophobia is in overdrive in Europe right now, refugees are being treated like the brown scourge invading in their peaceful, pristine, and beautiful lands. ‘Europe will no longer resemble Europe’ some say, since there are so many brown people who cover their hair and worship a different religion ‘swarming’ our lands (the refugees right now represent about 1% of the TOTAL European population). The European Union, who just won a Nobel Peace Prize a couple of years ago is no longer such a tolerant peaceful place which promises to protect and shelter all people fleeing from danger. But in spite of all this, the refugees will be safe. Their families will be safe. There are no bombs dropping on them or some sadistic people abducting or butchering their families. Life will be tough, they will start from zero again, they must learn a new language, new culture, a new way of life, live amongst people who do not like them. They have nothing but their lives, but it’s something.
Many in the EU hoped, like with previous years, the onset of autumn means the tide of refugees will decrease until the weather conditions get better again. But in the year 2015, this hasn’t been the case, more people are getting out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan at an even more ferocious pace. Why after enduring four years of civil war in Syria do people choose to leave now and not earlier, because things are getting desperate in Syria. The fact that a lot of refugees are coming from the greater Damascus area shows that even in Al-Assad strongholds, conditions are worsening. People know that their country is finished, there is no hope anymore. Even if the war ended tomorrow, conditions and infrastructure have deteriorated so badly that to even get back to equilibrium will take years. For many people, it is not an investment they are willing to make for a country that has abandoned them and their needs. The Al-Assads are Alawites, a Shia sect, which only represent 10-15% of the population in Syria. Al-Assad does not represent the interest of his people, he represents the interest of the Shiites, which are a minority in Syria. Even if the war ended tomorrow, no one knows how post-war Syria will look, will it go the way of Iraq? Divided by sectarianism? Or will it go the way of Lebanon, which bases its government representation on population of each group, but this power sharing has led to an immobilized government and they can’t decide where to put their rubbish.
So, where do all these desperate people go? To Europe of course. It’s the only place where they can have any hope of a normal life, where they can work, send their children to school and their personal safety guaranteed. And all of this is subsidized by the government until they can get back on their feet. Where else in the world are they going to find that? They would come to the US too if they could find a way here, if it weren’t so far away. If the US was bordered with any one of the Middle Eastern countries, they’d be here too, just like the Mexicans and Central Americans.
Though there are millions of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, they are unable to work and there are restrictions and limitations placed on them. The refugees must survive on handouts from the UNHCR or other charities, which due to lack of funding have cut off aid to a lot of people. The economy in these countries are on shaky ground already, if the native population have difficulty finding jobs, never mind the refugees. Their resources are stretched to the max. What’s missing from this conversation are the rich gulf nations? Where is their charity? Why aren’t they helping their fellow Muslims in their desperate hour of need?
This is a case of chickens coming home to roost. Since Post World War I, the West has inserted itself in the affairs of the Middle East. The West divided up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire and redrew borders and created new countries that made no sense to the people living there. And when oil was discovered in the Arabian Peninsula, the West had even bigger interest in the Middle East and meddled some more. The CIA toppled democratically elected regimes they didn’t like (Iran) and installed puppet regimes which were corrupt to the core. The US propped up ruthless dictators and kleptocracies with military and economic aid whilst they oppressed and robbed their people. The US supports the Al-Saud family even though they are rotten to the core, they oppress their people, women are permanent second class citizens. The Al-Sauds chose a person who has dementia to be their next king, out of thousands of possible candidates, they chose a guy with dementia and all this is done with the blessing of the United States government, their biggest customer. Former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was an ‘ally’ with the US, the US gave his regime military aid every year while their own economy floundered due to high level corruption and mismanagement. But because Mubarak recognizes Israel’s right to exist and promise to not go to war with Israel, all is forgiven.
So, now after 10 years of war in Iraq, 15 years of war in Afghanistan, the destabilization of Iraq bleeding into Syria, where do all these desperate people go? They go to the gates of the West. The pristine lands of Europe (and the US if they can manage). The economic pie of the world is shrinking. The West, due to its adeptness at plundering the resources of the developing and Third World, has made itself rich, while the people where these resources originate do not reap the rewards. The West, led by the US, goes into Iraq and Afghanistan, dismantles their whole government and didn’t put anything back in its place. Now it’s descended into lawlessness and chaos, so where do these people go? To Europe of course. Where else do you expect them to go where they can even attempt to live a life of peace and economic prosperity? We went into their countries, smashed everything to bits, promising them prosperity and democracy without having any plan in place to do so, without any sense of the history of the people of the places we conquered. So they come to our shores to rebuild their lives.
Maybe ‘democracy’ as prescribed by the West is not suitable for every society and culture. In the Middle East and Africa, there are lots of tribal loyalties. It’s impossible for some to think beyond loyalty to one’s tribe or ethnic group. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, it just is. So in these cases, any ‘elections’ held would be moot, people would vote for their tribes, and the biggest tribes will win most of the votes. Votes are not based on a candidate’s platform or policies, it’s based on his tribe.
The waves of migrants in the past few years is a phenomena arisen out of decades or perhaps a century of oppression, poverty, political instability, corruption and wars. After so many years, people can only take so much. The idea that in the 21st century, when the West (despite going through a big recession) is so affluent, doing so well, has everything going for it, but parts of Africa, Middle East, East Asia are still so desperately poor, where clean drinking water is not available to everyone, the thought that one has try to live in these intolerable circumstances, to try to raise a family in these conditions is no longer a position they can countenance. So, they pack their things and set sail for Europe. They could die enroute, they could get beaten, be swindled by people smugglers, all kinds of unimaginable things, but to stay behind in a country that has failed you is even more unacceptable.
The waves of humanity are coming. They are risking everything, some have already lost everything. So the fact that they are walking through rain, snow, sleet and hail, risking foot rot along the way, is nothing compared to what they have already gone through. And there is no stopping them. They don’t care about the sneers and dirty looks. The immediate assumption of their lack of culture or civility is nothing they can’t handle. The fact in which their religion is held against them means nothing either. When you are running for your life, you only have one thing on your mind and that is survival, survival in spite of everything, survival despite of everything. Some women have days old babies in their arms, that’s courage. When the generosity of Germany, Sweden and Austria runs out (that day is coming sooner rather than later) and they can’t get their xenophobic and racist neighbors to accommodate more refugees, the next place they will look is the United States. That day will come when the US will be forced to reckon with accommodating and housing refugees on our shores because we helped make them refugees.