By George Eid
From two countries very close to Syria I have been monitoring the Syrian crisis. The majority of Syrian refugees are living in Jordan and Lebanon, and despite the weak infrastructure and dire political situation, Lebanon is still accepting refugees.
From Cyprus, where I have been a regular guest for the last 20 years, I have been noticing the impact of the refugee crisis as well, first when the Iraqi war erupted and now with the ongoing Syrian war. Even small Cyprus, which was struggling with its economic crisis, has had to lend a hand to refugees.
What I saw this week while monitoring the Arab media channels and newspapers was so shocking it pushed me to write this article.
A toddler was found washed ashore in Turkey after a refugee boat had failed to reach its destination. The scene is devastating and cruel.
Many media outlets blamed it on Europe and its refugee policy. Certain Arab media had the picture transmitted all day with live coverage and sparing no effort in questioning Europe’s humanitarian values.
Yet, for once I stopped and looked in the other direction. It was then that I asked myself: How can some Arab countries criticise European policy towards refugees, while they still keep their doors shut to them?
I heard and read in the last few days strong criticism in response to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s statement this week in which he warned that “the wave of mostly Muslim refugees coming to Europe threatens to undermine the continent’s Christian roots”. He also expressed his worries about the increasing numbers of refugees seeking refuge in Europe.
Some Arab Gulf channels who referred to the speech as extremely “religious” have really forgotten to look in their backyard. There, where people are being thrown out for merely trying to pray in the privacy of their homes. There, where churches and other “non-compliant” temples are limited and controlled, or closed down in some cases.
Certain Arab channels and journalists have forgotten where we live and why these people are leaving the Middle East in the first place. We have never asked ourselves: Why don’t the Syrian refugees flee towards the rich and vast Arab countries? Or, why are some of our brothers begging mercy and food at the doors of Europe, when the bellies of many leaders are stuffed to the limit?
Well the answer is clear. The doors of humanity are closed in the Middle East. Some Arab leaders do not want to disturb their large acres of Arabian lands or their pockets. So let Europe carry the burden. Apart from some blankets and sheets, nothing much is being done by the Arab countries to assist the refugees.
Why drown in the sea trying to reach Europe when some Arab countries are drowning in money and longing for employees for their mega projects?
Why question Europe’s humanitarian values when some of us have none? I am an Arab citizen, and I am ashamed that my brothers are dying in their attempts to reach Europe by boat when they could simply walk to a rich neighbouring country. Let’s stop asking from Europe to open its doors when we keep ours shut.
For Syrian refugees getting assimilated in any Arab country is ten thousand times easier than learning German and finding a job in Frankfurt. We do not want Arabs to leave for Europe when other Arab countries have the luxury and space to let them stay and prosper in the Middle East.
Let us in the Middle East handle our problems and start practising the very humanitarian values we insist on from Europe. Let’s stop this hypocrisy and adopt the universal values of humanity.
George Eid is a Lebanese broadcast journalist