It some ways it is a terrible comment upon the calibre of our political leaders that the harrowing images of a young Syrian Kurdish boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach has done more in several days of media “celebrity” to prick the consciences of Europe than several years of meetings and conferences across the European Union and beyond. The three-year-old, along with his mother Rehan and five-year-old brother Galip, drowned while trying to cross the eastern Mediterranean to Greece, following a perilous journey from Kobane, the embattled town in Syrian Kurdistan, to a three year sojourn in south-western Turkey. Exploited by people-traffickers they, like many others, sought escape from their uncertain and impoverished plight by daring a life-threatening journey to a place within the EU, perhaps as a stepping-stone to elsewhere in the world. As we know that journey, as is not infrequently the case, ended in death.
However while the press-driven fury over the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum on the continent – principally from the territories of north Africa and the Middle East – currently grips the headlines one suspects that in time the general public, both individually and collectively, will move on. While most of the left-wing, and some conservative, media find this a good cause célèbre to beat their breasts over, an excuse to berate those in positions of leadership they believe not as worthy as themselves to lead their respective nations (which is the underlining motivation of many a newspaper columnist), few have any real inclination to clinically address the political and economic causes of the humanitarian crises gripping the Mediterranean region.
Aylan Kurdi, and an unknown number of others, died not because of the refusal of the European Union to grant asylum en masse to those crowding its borders. They died because of the refusal of the European Union to deal in any meaningful way with an internecine war that has forced some several million people to flee their homes to seek safety – however untrustworthy – elsewhere. The long-term solution to the refugee “problem” as a whole is not to be found in the “opening up”of the borders of the EU but by solving or radically alleviating the political and socio-economic problems of the countries and territories whose form, and in many cases present plights, have been shaped by the historic exploitation and interference of nations like Britain, France and Italy, not to mention the United States and its allies. To argue otherwise is to suggest that the solution for the Irish people to the holocaust of the mid-1800s, An Gorta Mór, was to be found in the slums of Liverpool and Glasgow, New York and Boston, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, some have queried the response, or lack of response, to the Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish refugee crises by the potentates of the Gulf States. Money has been found to ease some suffering, but not as much as that which has gone into recruiting, training and equipping various regular and irregular proxy-forces fighting various opponents of the sheikdoms, nominal or otherwise, across the region. Note this wire-report from Al Jazeera:
“Forty-five soldiers from the United Arab Emirates’ military and five troops from Bahrain have been killed while taking part in a Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, in the deadliest day for Gulf forces since the conflict began.
Pro-government Yemeni security officials said the UAE troops were killed on Friday when a Houthi missile hit a weapons storage depot near their position in the province of Maarib, about 120km east of the capital Sanaa.
In a separate development on Friday, Bahrain, another Gulf country involved in the coalition’s conflict against Houthi fighters, announced that five of its soldiers were killed in southern Saudi Arabia where they had been posted to help defend the Saudi border. It did not give a precise location.
Saudi Arabia and a coalition of other mostly Arab states have been fighting since March to restore Yemen’s exiled government and to repel the Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September last year.”
The governments in Riyadh, Kuwait City, Manama, in Damascus and Tehran, and elsewhere are just as complicit in the death of Aylan Kurdi as those in the capitals of Europe. This is a horror story with more authors than one.