The Deir Zor desert

65 Million Refugees on Conscience of Humanity


Every day, horrifying pictures are seen on television and computer screens around the world. The United Nations has estimated that a record 65 million people have been displaced from their homelands and habitats this past year and they are at the mercy of rough seas, desert heat and the immigration offices of prospective host countries. These immigrants drown in the seas, die of exhaustion or hunger, are killed by mercenaries and are abused by human traffickers. They are the victims of political machinations and “regime change” expediencies; in a word, man-made disasters.

Above, the author in Deir Zor with a friend; below, along the Euphrates

If humanity lived up to the word, many of those immigrants would remain in their homelands and enjoy dignified and safe lives, even if they had to endure poverty.

Children are the most vulnerable category among refugees; they are subject to malnutrition, rampant diseases, rape, forced labor and neglect, each of which can lead to death.

The commemoration of World Refugee Day on June 20 provides a moment to contemplate the fate of these destitute people, expelled from their homelands and thrown into the whirlwind of politics, sometimes even abused by their supposed protectors, when some trickster tries to derive dividends out of their misery.

As humanity advances in terms of technology, it is thrown back to the stone age when it comes to its conscience.

We watch the faces of emaciated women and dead children on beaches and then flip the TV channel to more entertaining programs and thus we can sleep soundly at night.

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The plight of refugees resonates in the hearts and minds of people whose families — parents, grandparents — have gone through those same harrowing experiences. Armenians are among those peoples; they have experienced refugee life throughout their history. There is even a culture, both literature and music, based on this refugee existence. All this, of course, even before the great cataclysm, the Armenian Genocide.

For many of Armenians, the current pictures on TV screens are painfully real and familiar. They strike a very sensitive chord as they reminisce about the fate of their parents and grandparents.

The small girl who was pulled out of the rubble of her house in Syria, with scars on her face, could have been my own mother, who actually and literally paced the desert in Deir Zor and by a miracle survived after losing 40 family members.

Despite the horrors associated with the death marches during the Armenian Genocide, I was compelled about 15 years ago to take a trip through all the towns and villages where my mother’s family had marched: Aleppo, Qamishly, Markadeh, Deir Zor, Raqqa and many others. Under a blazing August sun, on the white sands of Deir Zor, one can hardly stand for more than 10 or 15 minutes. It is stunning how some people survived the forced marches of the Armenian Genocide after living there for three or four years, but it also explains how millions perished there or were drowned in the Euphrates River, whose waters they were forbidden to drink.

Today, refugees are all over the world, running away from war zones, persecution, kidnapping and all forms of catastrophes that the major powers have brought to their countries. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and many other countries have become failed states and cannot sustain or protect their own populations.

The refugee problem has even hit Armenia, which was already home to 300,000 refugees deported from Baku and Sumgait, who could not survive there and were scattered around the world.

Most recently, Armenia has received 22,000 refugees from Syria and after last April’s war with Azerbaijan, 2,000 Armenians fled from Karabakh to Armenia.

World organizations are not equipped nor do they have the means to deal with the global surge of refugees. “You’re basically looking at an entire primary school generation losing the opportunity for education before the international community will even move,” said Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK to Newsweek. He continued, “While the precise numbers are difficult to unravel, there could be as many as 10 million refugee children globally who are either out of school or likely to drop out of school.”

It is not enough that the children cannot attend school under the bombs in Syria; in other countries, schools are targeted for destruction to deliberately drive the young and uneducated children to the dark ages.

Thus, Boko Haram, a hardcore Islamic group, has destroyed more than 1,400 schools in Nigeria. About 1,000 schools have been similarly destroyed in Yemen as a result of Saudi bombing.

“Attacks on schools is a war crime,” added Watkins.

The UN has announced that it would set up a unit to collect evidence for future war crimes prosecution in Syria. Britain’s Metropolitan Police have started examining allegations of war crimes by Saudi Arabia in the Yemen conflict. In Nigeria, the International Court has carried out examinations.

Eventually, these fact-finding missions are rendered into a political football, whereby powerful nations use them to punish their enemies. No amount of documentation can affect Saudi Arabia, which recently signed a $110-billion military contract with the US and received the green light from President Trump to wreak havoc in the region. There is even talk of “regime change” in Iran by the Trump associates, as if bloodshed in the region was not staggering enough.

Turkey has been playing its own political game by using the Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip. It is reported that 2.9 million refugees have found a safe haven in Turkey. The Ankara government opened the floodgates to inundate European countries with waves of refugees until those governments came begging President Erdogan to staunch the flow. The latter extorted $3 billion to close this open door to Europe from his country.

Rather than punish Turkey as a main cause of the refugee problem, Europe bought its silence at a very steep price.

Turkey trained, armed, and unleashed Islamic State (IS) extremists to destabilize Syria, causing the current sorry situation of the refugees.

When Turkish journalists recently caught red-handed Turkish army officers delivering arms to ISIS fighters, the government accused them of treason, for divulging “state secrets.” In no other country have journalists shown similar courage to stand up to their governments to expose their deadly deeds in promoting wars, famine, misery and refugee problems around the world.

Knowing the nature of politics, there seems to be no end in sight to those man-made tragedies. The United Nations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and people of goodwill do not possess enough power to stop this tragedy.

Wars are triggered, countries are torn apart, refugees inundate the world, children are abused and murdered and 65 million scars are seared on the collective conscience of humanity, which seems to have become numb to their painful reality.

It is fully understandable why the Armenians’ cry for justice for the mass murder of its people a century ago does not impact people’s consciences when 65 million living victims roam the globe helplessly.

The governments are the culprits along with a pliant media, which shuns exposing the root cause of this great tragedy.

And the rest of the world sleeps with a clear conscience after flipping the channel or reading a different, more pleasant story on their computer screens.

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