Arab Press Reacts To Syrian Refugee Crisis: Condemnation Of Arab Indifference, Calls For Internal Reform, Alongside Criticism Of West, U.S.

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Reform in the Muslim World
September 8, 2015Special Dispatch No.6152

Arab Press Reacts To Syrian Refugee Crisis: Condemnation Of Arab Indifference, Calls For Internal Reform, Alongside Criticism Of West, U.S.

The crisis of the Syrian refugees currently streaming into Europe, which has been seared into the global consciousness by the image of the toddler Aylan Kurdi who drowned as his family attempted to cross the Mediterranean, has evoked many responses in the Arab press. Many of the articles addressing this matter criticized the Arab states, claiming that they were partly responsible for the crisis by failing to provide Syrian refugees in their territory with adequate conditions, and called upon them to take in more refugees and to direct more resources towards caring for them and integrating them. Criticism was also leveled at the wealthy Gulf states for not forming a strategy to address the crisis, despite possessing the financial resources to do so. Most of these articles contrasted the hospitality and tolerance encountered by the refugees in Europe with the apathy of the Arab countries towards their plight. They scathingly accused the Arab nation of callousness and lack of human sentiment, pointing at education as the main cause for this attitude. One article called for extensive reforms and for a domestic “velvet revolution” to change the norms and outlook of Arab society.

Conversely, other Articles blamed the West, chiefly the U.S., for creating the refugee crisis through its “failed”, “wretched” and “dangerous” policy towards the Middle East. They held the West responsible for “abandoning” Arab countries, such as Syria and Libya, and remaining silent in the face of the daily massacre of their peoples. They argued that the only solution for the conflicts and crises in the Middle East is to remove “murderous regimes”, such as the Assad regime and its Iranian patrons, yet the U.S., the E.U. and Russia not only object to this but actually support and strengthen these regimes.

The following are excerpts from some of the articles, as well as some cartoons published in the Arab press regarding the refugee crisis.

Self-Criticism: Why Can’t The Arabs And Muslims Be As Humane As The West?; Internal Reform Is Needed

Article In Qatari Daily: Arab, Islamic States Partly Responsible For Crisis, Should Take In Refugees

‘Ali Al-Rashid, a columnist for the Qatari Al-Sharq, wrote: “The Arab and Islamic states, their governments and peoples, bear no small share of the responsibility for the situation of the Syrians and for their ongoing exodus to Europe… because this ongoing and growing stream of refugees that is flowing into Europe, especially in recent months, has several underlying causes. Perhaps the most important of these [causes] is the restrictions that have been placed on Syrian refugees in most of the countries bordering Syria where they have been compelled to stay, whether [restrictions] on [finding] employment with reasonable pay that would meet the basic needs of sustenance, or in providing education for their children and health services for their families. In these countries they are also subjected to constraints on their freedom of movement…


“Arab activity” on behalf of the refugees (Al-Sharq, Saudi Arabia, September 3, 2015)

“The Arab countries – governments, peoples, NGOs and charities – have a duty towards their Syrian brethren that arises from ties of brotherhood and from moral [obligations], [namely] to view the Syrian tragedy in a different light… [Both] official and popular elements must provide material and moral support, on a scale befitting the magnitude of the disaster. For example, refugees who have specialized [skills] and scientific and professional qualifications must be permitted to find employment in the Arab states that require workers in the fields of medicine, engineering, education, commerce, etc., and should even be given first priority [in employment]… [The countries must also] increase governmental and nongovernmental budgets for the Syrian refugees… find sources of income for the refugee families… train and develop human resources, provide schools and scholarships to universities and vocational schools, improve conditions in the camps, remove the restrictions to which the refugees are [currently] subjected, for instance in Lebanon, and provide financial assistance to the international and regional humanitarian organizations and the Arab charitable associations.[1]

Qatari Daily: The Silence Of The Wealthy Gulf States In The Face Of The Refugee Crisis Is Deafening

The English-language Qatari Daily Gulf Times criticized the wealthy Gulf states : “Thousands of Austrians held welcome placards outside a Vienna railway station a couple of days ago saying they would be happy to see the refugees settled among them. In a small German town, people have opened their houses to the Syrians… Europe’s biggest economy this year expects a record 800,000 asylum applications, more than any other EU country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has emerged as the go-to person for virtually any calamity hitting Europe, has been named ‘Mama Merkel’ by the migrants…  Tragically, the cash-rich Gulf countries have not yet issued a collective statement on the crisis – much less come up with a strategy to help the migrants who are overwhelmingly Muslim. Turkey has taken in more than 2.5mn Syrian refugees, while not-so-well-off Lebanon is also hosting hundreds of thousands. In this part of the world [i.e., the Gulf], however, the silence is deafening.”[2]


The Arab, barricaded behind a closed door, asks Europe: Why don’t you open the door to them, you ungenerous people?” (Makkah, Saudi Arabia,September 1, 2015)

Saudi Journalist: We Are A Nauseating Nation Whose Sense of Humanity Has Become Dull

Saudi journalist ‘Ali Sa’d Al-Moussa in his column for the government Saudi daily Al-Watan leveled scathing criticism at the Arab and Muslim nation: “Let us analyze things as clearly and transparently as possible. After the criminal terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, on the train [system] in Madrid, and on the London Underground, it took a long time for some [Muslim] religious institutions to issue confused and sheepish condemnations of these crimes. [And] let me state clearly and honestly: were it not for the pressure exerted by the political [echelon], the religious [establishment] would not have issued [even] these condemnations. Conversely, [only] hours after the tragic incident in Hungary in which 70 immigrants were killed in a truck, the Pope appeared and said: ‘This is a crime against morality that contravenes the human values of compassion, tolerance and coexistence, and Europe must apologize and feel shame over this disaster…’

“Without a moment of hesitation, let me say… that we are a primitive nation that has lost its sense of humanity. Consider the following image: Syrian immigrants flee their land in order to save the lives of their children from the mass killings perpetrated by ISIS, [Jabhat] Al-Nusra, Liwa Al-Tawhid, Jabhat Al-Sham, and Hizbullah. We are a nauseating nation that kills people for their opinions or affiliation. Compare [this] to the parallel image: in the central train station in Munich, dozens of German citizens gather to welcome the first train arriving from Budapest carrying hundreds of immigrants…

“We should feel some sense of shame for being victims of an education [based on] curses, which has been adopted by all the circles, schools, speeches and platforms – from the pan-Arabists and the Nasserites to the Ba’thists and the Islamic extremists. After all these curses and inculcation of hatred, we discover that the [norms of] tolerance and acceptance [that characterize] European society have become a goal worth risking our lives for Europe is now home to 11 million Arab immigrants… who have attained rights and have a prospect of receiving citizenship, equality and justice under the law – all the things whose absence drove them to flee their Arab countries of origin…”

“Stop talking about the hypocrisy of [Western] morals and values, because reality exposes nothing but our own ugly countenance.”[3]


“Popular anger over the [drowning of] the Syrian child” (Al-Ahram, Egypt, September 4, 2015)

Editor Of Iraqi Daily: We Need A Domestic Revolution To Become Humane And Moral Like The West

Similarly, ‘Adnan Hussein, acting editor of the Iraqi daily Al-Mada, also praised the moral and humane approach of the West, and severely criticized the Arab and Muslim states’ apathy to the refugees’ plight. He claimed that the Arabs and Muslims need an internal “velvet revolution” that would be expressed by far-reaching political, social, educational, religious and media reforms. He wrote: “The peoples and several governments in Europe, especially Germany and Austria, cordially welcomed the flood of refugees into their countries, and in our countries their humanitarian approach evoked a storm of bewilderment over the European morality, along with fury over the moral [standards] of our own Arab and Islamic societies and governments that showed no interest in the disaster of the Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and other refugees.

“Those who have lived in Europe know that there is nothing strange about this, and it would [actually] have been strange if the European peoples and governments had taken the opposite approach. A society where people care for cats, dogs and birds the way a mother cares for her child could feel nothing but shock and anger and its conscience had to be troubled by the sight of the refugees arriving in Europe…

“The lofty [value of] human sentiment is rooted in cultured societies from Japan to the US… In Europe and other civilized countries a sharp sense of humanity is inculcated from early childhood. There a child does not live in a home with ongoing and ever-intensifying domestic violence, like our children do. [There] the child does not witness on the street and in the neighborhood the scenes that commonly exist on our streets and in our neighborhoods, of people fighting and exchanging curses and slurs, and of cruelty to animals. At school the student doesn’t learn what we, our parents and our grandparents were accustomed to learning in history and religion classes, [namely] encouragement of cruelty and incitement to violence. People attending church do not hear sermons accusing [others] of apostasy and inciting to kill and take [people] captive. On the contrary, they hear sermons that call for forgiveness and tolerance. In the media, the masses are not shown sights of people being beheaded and roasted while hung up like hunted animals, or people drowned or burned while imprisoned in cages…

“We too could be like them and our countries could be like their countries, which do not persecute the citizens and do open their arms to the victims of natural and political disasters. Yes, we could be like them if we  thoroughly examined our barbaric political regime, our backwards social order, our obsolete curricula, our media that operates without professional norms, and our religious establishment that interprets the texts in a barbaric fashion, inciting to hatred and to abuse of the other, even members of the Islamic faith! This situation clearly mandates a velvet revolution that the educated [sector] must launch.”[4]


The Arab says to the drowning Syrian refugee, “Honestly, we feel your pain!” (Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, September 3, 2015)


The boy’s death is also the death of the Arab League and the U.N. (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, September 5, 2015)

Egyptian Columnist: The Image Of The Child Aylan Kurdi Symbolizes The Death of the Arab Nation

Muhammad Hussein, a columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote that the picture of the toddler Aylan Kurdi proves that the Arab nation has died: “How difficult, sad, shameful and painful is the picture of the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who drowned in the sea, and [it is amazing] how this picture, with its infinite sharpness, can encapsulate all the disasters that afflict the [Arab] nation, jeopardizing its existence and cohesion and threatening to take it back to the days of tribalism and sectarianism… I think, and not every thought is sinful, that there is no time like the present to answer the question that the great Arab poet Nizar Qabbani posed in a poem [written] a few years before his death: ‘When will they announce the death of the Arabs?’…What would he have said if he had lived through the disaster that his nation is experiencing today?… Have the Arabs indeed died, or are they in their death throes? Does the picture of the boy who drowned represent the death certificate of this nation, which died recently and is [now only] awaiting a burial permit?…

“In the face of the boy who drowned I saw the face of an entire nation cast out [on the beach] like a small dead fish that exudes a stench of death, but also additional foul smells of oil, shame, impotence, treachery, conspiracy and collusion…”[5]

Blaming The West And The U.S.: They Ignore The Root Of The Problem – Iran And Assad – And Even Exacerbate It

Saudi Journalist: The West Is To Blame For The Current Crisis

Mshari Al-Zaydi, a regular columnist for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: “The picture of the boy in the red shirt lying face down on the salty beach, the deadly foam engulfing his downy cheeks, is enough to shock any human being and leave him speechless. Suddenly, the picture of the Syrian boy Aylan has come to symbolize the entire Syrian catastrophe, but there are millions of [other] Syrians like Aylan, fleeing through the deserts and seas… Who knows? Perhaps the shock over the image of Aylan will awaken the conscience and the reason of the world and lead to [finding] a real solution for the Syrian crisis – if not out of moral or human considerations then out of [awareness] of the consequences of neglecting the Syrian disaster. Among the consequences of this global [neglect] is the emergence of the black ISIS [forces], [who are] the savages of the current century, as well as the waves of Syrian migrants that are storming Europe…

“A recent UN investigation of the [Syrian] disaster criticized what it called ‘a global failure’ to protect the Syrian refugees. [But] the main cause of this tragedy is the indecisiveness of the U.S. administration from the very beginning [of the crisis], and its failure to listen and to genuinely cooperate with the countries that wanted to solve the problem at an early stage and which explicitly warned of these consequences.

“Yet now there is talk of ‘a global failure!’ This is the failure of the West, aided by the savagery of the Syrian regime’s allies in Moscow and Tehran. That is the [real] state of things!”[6]

 
Te European Union besieges the “refugees from Syria”(Al-Sharq, Saudi Arabia, September 5, 2015)


The EU denies the refugees entry (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, August 30, 2015)

Iraqi Journalist: Obama Gave Putin, Iran Free hand, And Is Now Shedding Crocodile Tears Over Refugees

Iraqi journalist ‘Aziz Al-Hajj wrote in a similar vein in his column on the Elaph website: “Obama commended [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel for Germany’s willingness to take in over 750,000 refugees. But why doesn’t he himself offer to take in a few thousands[?]…The West is responsible [for the crisis], not because it is unable to absorb millions of refugees that might transform Europe’s social and cultural fabric… but because of the wretched and dangerous Western policy, in particular Obama’s policy, which has helped spark crises of conflict in our region, especially in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq. If those who preach humanitarianism – in fact, if the international community at large – had cared for the lives and security of our [Arab] peoples, they would not have abandoned Libya mid way, and would not have shrugged off the decisions of the [June 2012] Geneva I [Conference on Syria] when it was still possible to find a balanced, gradual and peaceful solution [to the Syrian crisis] that did not include Assad. Back then ISIS did not exist and there were no deadly barrel bombs… Another opportunity came when it was proved that Assad had used gas [i.e., chemical weapons]… [But] Obama withdrew his threats [to act in Syria]… and, backed by the EU, he allowed Putin and Iran to do as they pleased, yet now he is shedding crocodile tears over the tragedy of the [Syrian] refugees… The West, and the entire international community, must invest serious efforts in seeking some partial solution that will stop the daily mass killing in Syria…”[7]

    
Te “global conscience” steps right over the Syrian child (Al-Iktisadiya, Saudi Arabia, September 3, 2015)

“The world” turns its back on the “Syrian refugees” (Al-Tahrir, Egypt, September 5, 2015)

Saudi Daily ‘Al-Sharq’: Europe Must Address The Root Of The Problem – Iran And Murderous Regimes

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq likewise criticized the U.S., Europe and Russia for failing to address the root of the problem, namely the “murderous regimes” and Iran. It stated: “The leaders of Europe are still putting the cart before the horses in seeking a solution for the crisis of the incoming refugees… Syria was never a country that drove out its own citizens. [This began] only in the wake of the systematic destruction and massacres that are being perpetrated on a daily basis by Assad, by ISIS and by the [Shi’ite Iraqi] Hashd Al-Sha’bi militias while Europe and the West remain silent. Resolving the crisis of the Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan refugees does not involve finding legal ways for them to reach Europe, granting them entry permits, or even punishing the smugglers who drown innocent people in the sea. The European leaders surely know full well that this crisis, which stems from [regional] conflicts, cannot be resolved as long as Iran – with whom they are racing to form diplomatic and economic ties – continues to support the Iraqi militias, the Assad regime, the Houthis and the Lebanese Hizbullah, as well as the terror of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

The influx of refugees has become a European crisis of the first order… The U.S. and Russia – who are mostly to blame for the conflicts in the Middle East – have managed to saddle Europe with the repercussions of these conflicts that they are manipulating. [Russia and the U.S.], each in its own way, continue to foil any feasible solution for these conflicts. The leaders of Europe know what is the best way to stem the flow of migrants into their countries, yet until now they have made do with seeking lame solutions for the crisis. The Security Council is inactive, but [the European leaders] are able to renew its activity, not only in order to resolve the refugee crisis but in order to resolve the conflicts and address their real causes, behind which are murderous regimes whose leaders must be brought before the international court…”[8]

 
The EU props up the Assad regime while refugees stream into Europe (Al-Arai Al-Jadid, London, September 4, 2015)


Syrian refugee beset by ISIS, Assad regime, Jabhat Al-Nusra (Al-Madina, Saudi Arabia, September 5, 2015)

‘Al-Sharq Al-Awsat’ Columnist: Assad Must be Removed They Way Nazism Had To Be Removed

‘Eyad Abu Shakra, a veteran columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, compared the plight of the Syrian people to the Jewish Holocaust, and argued that hosting the refugees is not enough; rather, Europe must help remove the Assad regime, just as the Nazi regime was removed: “…The disaster of the Jews during the Nazi era ended only after Nazism was overthrown. [Likewise,] the disaster of the Syrian people, which[also] derives from the regime that rules them, will not find a through solution, and the waves of immigration will not cease… until the Syrian regime is toppled, and this is the unvarnished truth…

“Receiving the Syrian refugees in the countries they have managed to reach alive is a necessity and a human obligation, but the crisis also has a political dimension. This means that it is necessary to address it on the political level, instead of transforming it into a simple humanitarian crisis… It is necessary to remove the source of the crisis, or whoever caused it… [If European countries] make do with taking in the refugees, while the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, with its fighters of various nationalities, [continues to] perform sectarian cleansing… this is tantamount to helping the Assad regime and ‘its nanny’, the Tehran authorities, to carry out the scheme of partitioning Syria…[9]


Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, September 3, 2015

Endnotes:

[1]Al-Sharq (Qatar), September 3, 2015.

[2]Gulf Times (Qatar) September 2, 2015.

[3]Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 5, 2015.

[4]Al-Mada(Iraq), September 4, 2015

[5]Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 6, 2015.

[6]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 4, 2015.

[7] Elaph.com, September 3, 2015.

[8]Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), August 31, 2015.

[9]Al-Sharq Al-Awsat  (London), September 6, 2015.