Friday, September 04, 2015

A Requiem for Alan Kurdi

Absurdity and deep sadness. Those were the feelings I had when I accidentally came across the photo of Alan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian refugee that drowned off the coast of Turkey en route to Greece. Why has the world failed to act?

The answer is complicated, but the picture itself humanized the invisible tragedy that is going on around the world today: we are living through a period where there are more refugees or internally displaced people now than anytime since 1945. According to a recent report, 73 million people -- or one percent of the global population -- have been forced to leave their homes in the past 4-years. Most come from the Middle East, where 13 out of the 22 million people in Syria have been displaced. These numbers are mind boggling. The human suffering is unimaginable.

Much of the discussion of the international refugee crisis revolves around the irresponsibility of nations not taking in more refugees. The EU has come under heavy criticism for its immigration policies and yet what is the cause of these crises and who should be playing the most important role in mitigating this vexing problem?

The cause of these crises are bad policies by regional actors and the United States. Although regional actors and the United States are the primary cause of this problem, regional actors need to play the biggest role in mitigating this crisis. While help from the EU would be great, the onus should be on Arab states -- especially the wealthy gulf monarchies -- to help solve this crisis. These countries should shoulder the burden for the devastation in the region that has often been enabled or exacerbated by their policies. Saudi Arabia in particular needs to step up, as it has done next to nothing to resolve the refugee crisis and in fact has been a huge contributor to it because of its inane intervention in Yemen and its arming of insurgents in Syria.

The refugee crisis will get worse if states don't step in and do something. Until states act, NGOs and non-state actors will continue to provide whatever minimal support they can on the ground. But that is not a long-term, tenable solution. The only solution is for the states in the Middle East to come up with a plan to reduce regional conflicts and provide for refugees. Until this happens, the world will have to stand witness to more Alan Kurdis.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un

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