How is the Arab world responding to the refugee crisis?

Rich gulf states have not absorbed refugees from Syria and Iraq and are now facing criticism.

September 5, 2015 19:26
2 minute read.
Bodrum Child

Bodrum Child. (photo credit: STR / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY / AFP)


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Since the publication of the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the dead Syrian refugee toddler found on the beach in Turkey, the world has directed its attention to the refugee crisis in Europe.

The reaction in the Arab world to the crisis, given that many of the people seeking to escape to Europe are fleeing from Syria and Iraq, speaks for itself.

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Arab criticism has been directed at the wealthy Gulf States who have not absorbed even one Syrian or Iraqi refugee.

Critics have blasted the silence of Saudi news outlet Al-Arabiya and Qatar’s Al Jazeera, who in the past championed the cause of the Syrian people and have been opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The Syrian boy has sent tremors through the world, but the silence is deafening in the Arab world,” a Syrian writer said on a site associated with the rebels.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of London based Arab online newspaper Rai al-Youm, attacked the Gulf states for not absorbing refugees.

“The paradox is that the nations [the Gulf states] who called for the liberation of the Syrian people from the tyrant [Assad] and have directed billions of dollars to the rebels, have not absorbed refugees, while the poor Arab nations like Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt have received millions of refugees, when these countries do not even have water for their citizens,” he said.

The well-known Syrian actor and director Duraid Lahham, who supported the Assad regime in the past, came out against the Syrian president and mourned the situation of the refugees.

“Arabs, lower your flags to half mast. We have been offered up for sale today,” Lahham tweeted.

Political cartoonists have focused on the dead Syrian boy Kurdi. In one photo, Assad and his family can be seen celebrating over a birthday cake with the child at its center as the family blows out the proverbial candles.

So why aren’t the nations absorbing refugees? The Kuwaiti politician Fahed al-Shelaimi, who heads the Gulf Forum on Peace and Security, provided an answer that shocked millions in the Arab world.

“Gulf states are expensive and aside from being laborers, these people are not suitable for life here,” he said. “At the end of the day, people from a different environment who suffer from emotional problems cannot be received in your society.”

A video in which Shelaimi makes the above comments has gone viral on social media networks in the Arab world.

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