New Age Islam
Sun Jan 17 2021, 04:31 AM


Islam and the West ( 14 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Militant Nationalism Threatens Turkey's Social Fabric: New Age Islam’s Selection from World Press, 15 September 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

15 September 2015

Militant Nationalism Threatens Turkey's Social Fabric

By Galip Dalay

The West's Hidden Tribalism

By Khaled Diab

A Jewish Sisi, Masonic MB? Egypt’s Crazy Conspiracy Theories Are No Joke

By H.A. Hellyer

Putin’s Latest Land-Grab Is in Syria

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Suu Kyi Best Bet for Rohingyas

By S. N. M. Abdi

Syrian Refugees and World Hypocrisy

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Militant Nationalism Threatens Turkey's Social Fabric

By Galip Dalay

14 Sep 2015

The cycle of violence that has engulfed Turkey amid the resumption of the fight between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkey is increasing its toll. The wider and bloodier it gets, the more consequential it becomes.

What started as a largely contained, low-intensity warfare between the military and the PKK is increasingly having implications on the fabric of Turkish society and leaving its imprint on Turkey's collective psyche.

Since the breach of the ceasefire between the government and the PKK, the human cost of the fight has been obvious.

Mob Violence

But besides this tragic loss of life, the ongoing conflict risks dishing out a sharp social and emotional shock to the country.

Two recent attacks over the past two weeks by the PKK on the military and police, which resulted in 16 and 15 deaths respectively, and the ensuing developments in its aftermath, clearly demonstrate these risks.

A mob, triggered by the far-right Nationalist Movement Party's call to take to the streets, used these losses of life as a pretext to attack ordinary Kurds, as well as the headquarters and countrywide offices of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).

The balance sheet of these mob attacks against the Kurds is menacing. Ordinary Kurds were attacked, and many Kurdish shops were looted and set ablaze - as have the HDP's headquarters and branches. The anti-PKK slogans soon morphed into anti-Kurdish slogans.

These developments are worrisome. Increasing attacks against ordinary Kurds in the western part of Turkey risks the societal fragmentation of the country, which, in turn, would encourage political fragmentation and feed into the PKK's narrative as being the sole protector of the Kurds.

In a sense, Turkish nationalists are giving a precious gift to Kurdish nationalists, some of whom desire the break-up of Turkey. Attacking the Kurds, on the basis of their ethnic identity fuels feelings of alienation among Kurds with a concomitant sense of detachment from Turkey.

Kurdish Nationalism

The governing Justice and Development Party (AK party) has been the social and political glue that has tied the Kurds to Turkey's political mainstream over the past decade. Until the last general election, there were only two significant political forces in Turkey's Kurdish southeast: the AK party and the Kurdish nationalists.

The AK party offered a civic form of citizenship to the Kurds, buttressed by a shared history, religion, and destiny. In contrast, the Kurdish nationalists employed a nationalist terminology reminiscent of the nationalist parlance that dominated other ethno-national struggles.

Prior to the AK party, it was other conservative Islamist parties that contested the dominance of the nationalists in representing the Kurds in the political system. Yet, in the last election, nationalism saw rising currency on the political scene. Informed of regional developments, particularly those in the Kurdish region of Syria, Kurdish nationalism was at its zenith.

Likewise, hoping to reverse the tide of electoral decline, the AK party - but particularly President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - adopted an increasingly nationalist discourse. This boded ill for the Kurdish peace process.

This strategy proved particularly self-defeating for the AK party in terms of its electoral fortunes. Once the game was played on the nationalist field, the winner wasn't hard to predict. The Kurds deserted the AK party in droves during the last election in order to join the ranks of the HDP.

Turkey-centrism of Kurds

Such a consolidation of the Kurdish political presence under the banner of a Kurdish party is novel in Turkey. In contrast to other Kurds in the region, Turkey's Kurds have been very Turkey-centric in their political disposition. Even their nationalist organisation, the PKK, makes more references to iconic figures from Turkey's left than any historical Kurdish nationalist figure.

Istanbul accommodates the largest Kurdish urban population in the world - three to four million Kurds.

Unlike the experience of those in Turkey, when the Kurds suffered immeasurably at the hands of the Baathist regime in Iraq, they did not seek refuge in the Arab-dominated part of Iraq. They either sought temporary refuge in the mountains of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, crossed the borders to take shelter in one of the neighbouring countries, or retreated further into the Kurdish heartland.

Such a difference in the socio-political reality between Turkey's Kurds and other Kurds of the region was one of the primary factors that rendered the secessionist aspirations of the Kurdish nationalist in Turkey less plausible.

Same Mistakes

Turkey just marked the shameful anniversary of September 6-7, 1955. On those days, a mob - infuriated by the false news that the house of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had been bombed in Thessaloniki, attacked Istanbul's Greek community, along with other religious minorities - committing murders, setting businesses on fire, and destroying churches.

In the aftermath of this tragic event - depicted as an Istanbul pogrom - a large portion of Istanbul's Greek community emigrated from Turkey, rendering the country less cosmopolitan and its cultural scene poorer.

The early republican period's demographic homogenisation project and phobia of different cultures, religions, and ethnicities left Istanbul's cemeteries much more multicultural than its living society - a clear reflection of a deep social malaise that plagued the country back then.

Over 40,000 deaths resulted from this mindless war. There is no better alternative to the peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue than the Kurdish peace process. Though now largely in tatters, it has been the best hope to date.

Galip Dalay is senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, research director at Al Sharq Forum.


The West's Hidden Tribalism

By Khaled Diab

14 Sep 2015

The disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya - and the increasing likelihood of the redrawing of their maps once the dust settles - are widely regarded by the West and the Arab world as a symptom of tribalism and sectarianism that the  imperial powers were unable to contain through the "artificial borders" they imposed.

While it is true that many of the conflicts in the region have taken on a tribal, sectarian or even religious dimensions - or a combination of the three - they did not start out that way. The idea that centuries-old, Sunni-Shia animosities are behind the violence in, say, Syria or Yemen, are simply self-serving myths and half-truths.

Yet, the media and politicians continue to fixate on this conviction, echoing the late Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir's infamous quip that: "Egypt is the only nation-state in the Arab world. The rest are just tribes with flags."

While a number of countries in the region are small enough to qualify as a tribe with a flag, this is not unique to the Arab world. And I'm not just thinking of Africa and other developing societies there.

Traditional Tribalism

Despite the Enlightenment era's focus on individualism and the shining light of reason, the West, after all these centuries, has not shaken off many elements of its traditional tribalism, and new forms of tribalism have also emerged.

As a small example, take Belgium: the country of which I am a naturalised citizen. Not belonging to either of its two main linguistic communities, I have often been baffled by the amount of mutual bitterness and distrust on view.

The quiet conflict between Flemings and Walloons that has been simmering for over a century could easily be framed in "tribal" terms - what is (ethno-)nationalism, after all, except a broader form of tribalism? However, to frame it as so would be to oversimplify an extremely complex situation.

As for "artificial borders", Europe, like the Middle East, is replete with them. The two world wars were, at least partly, a case of border insanity.

Belgium is a prime example of how fake European frontiers are. Following Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 and the dissolution of the first French empire, what is today Belgium was handed over to the Dutch king, William I.

Like Sunnis in modern-day Iraq, the Protestant minority controlled the state, though all citizens theoretically enjoyed legal equality.

Belgian Revolution

Some 15 years later, as the revolution fomented in neighbouring France, the Catholic majority of the southern Netherlands revolted in what became known as the Belgian Revolution.

How much of it was sectarian and religious, and how much was a reaction to William I's unlimited (despotic) power and his bulldozer approach to modernisation (imposing modern notions of equality on his traditionalist subjects and stripping the Catholic Church of its centuries-old privileges) is hard to ascertain.

Sectarianism was the apparent driver of the conflict back then. Language is today.

Responding to the uprising, the great European powers agreed to give Belgium its independence, drawing lines in the mud, similar to those they would draw later in the Middle East's sand. Belgium was destined to serve as a buffer zone (read: regular punching bag) between Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

And fault lines like this abound across Europe. In fact, there isn't a country in Europe whose borders are not artificial, whose past frontiers do not overlap with those of its neighbours, or whose population is not a messy mix of peoples.

This raises the question of how and why it is that European states manage to keep their tribal undercurrents in check, while the Middle East is apparently being torn asunder by the very same forces.

That's because it is not. If it were, then Egypt should be - due to its apparently more homogeneous nature and far clearer regional boundaries, not to mention the head-start it got as a modern nation-state - the most stable country in the region.

Brink of Failure

Tribalism is the symptom, rather than the cause, of the Middle East's ills. Unlike the generally much older nation-state experiments in Europe, many Arab states have failed and others are on the brink of failure.

This is due to a complex mix of poor governance, corruption, authoritarianism, economic and gender inequality, poverty, under-education, foreign domination, overpopulation, environmental stress, and more. The vacuum left by this enormous, state-shaped black hole has enabled the demons of tribalism and sectarianism to rear their ugly heads.

That does not mean that the West is immune. It is simply cushioned by effective governance, relative prosperity, greater freedom, and the painful memory of the totally destructive power of modern-day tribalism, both between nations and within them.

But there is no room for complacency. Disintegration can come fast, like a chain reaction. Order can quickly descend into disorder, and the most "civilised" can rapidly descend into the most "barbaric".

Many of the ingredients of that sort of unravelling are already in place, but the secret combination that unleashes mayhem has not yet been mixed in. Early signs of this include the growing "tribalism" within and between European states, including the Greek-German standoff and the rising spectre of far-right nationalism from France to Hungary - not to mention huge levels of youth unemployment, growing hardship, and inequity.

Across the Atlantic, the United States has among the greatest inequalities in the advanced industrialised world, enormous interracial tensions, massive gun crime, mass incarceration, growing class divisions, and longstanding tensions between the north and south that could rapidly erupt given the right catalyst.

While Western societies  today appear robust enough to deal with these challenges, the chance still exists that, with time, the "never again" of yesteryear will become the "not again" of tomorrow. Let's hope that does not happen.

Khaled Diab is an award-winning Egyptian-Belgian journalist, writer and blogger. He is the author of Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land.


A Jewish Sisi, Masonic MB? Egypt’s Crazy Conspiracy Theories Are No Joke

By H.A. Hellyer

14 September 2015

Bizarrely, it would appear some quarters believe that a man of ‘Jewish origin’, who was seeking to implement a ‘Zionist plan’ to divide Egypt, now inhabits the presidency.

Elsewhere, people are talking about the Muslim Brotherhood as a ‘masonic group that aims to bring a new religion into Egypt’ - something inexplicable, but an idea gaining great currency.

There are great ironies to such theories on the one hand – and disquieting consequences on the other.

There is a particular irony when it comes to conspiracy theories in the Arab world. Arab culture is indelibly imprinted upon by Islamic traditions, irrespective of whether one is referring to Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, or Jewish Arabs, for example.

Islamic Tradition

Within the Islamic tradition, the emphasis on verification of information is incredibly important – Quranic scholars, for example, will recount to students that the text of the Quran is related through the generations with huge numbers of transmitters at every generation. Thus, authenticity is assured. Specialists on Prophetic narrations, the source of the second basis of Islamic law, developed highly sophisticated systems of sifting through the different kinds of dependability of historical reports – they are still taught today.

When it comes to modern discourse, however, that seems to be secondary to political considerations. Few observers of the Egyptian press can deny that such notions are present, and at senior levels of different establishments – whether that is among supporters of the present political dispensation of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, or among supporters of the previously elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

Sisi’s ‘Zionist Plan’ – Oh, And Manmade Tsunamis…

The strange claim of Sisi wanting to implement a ‘Zionist plan’ to ‘divide’ Egypt was not uttered by some kind of radical fringe. Rather, Gamal Nassar, a long-time Muslim Brotherhood member, who held a senior position in the group’s political wing, declared it on satellite television in 2013, with enduring currency for the idea. Adel Azab, head of the National Security’s extremist activity investigations department, put the assertions about the Brotherhood being a ‘masonic group’ forward recently, according to Egyptian media.

Of course, there are more to pick from. Last week, an Egyptian talk show discussed a conspiracy involving a “world supreme council” which reportedly is trying to wreck Egypt by using “fifth generation warfare”. One of the guests argued that the “new form of warfare involves controlling the climate to create tsunamis, floods and activate volcanoes, as well as directing asteroids towards enemy countries.”

Evidence included a foreign conspiracy blog, an album cover by an American hip hop band (named, “Army of the Pharaohs”), and graffiti paintings in downtown Cairo.

Again – this would be highly amusing, if the guest wasn’t a former high-ranking military officer in the Egyptian army.

A Laughing Matter?

When one looks at the conspiracies, often bereft of evidence, one is tempted to scoff in amusement. Sisi’s policies in Egypt are worthy of criticism and critique on a variety of levels. The claim about his origins is incorrect on the one hand, and irrelevant on the other. His parents and grandparents are all Muslims, but were he to have Jewish origins; he would have joined the many Muslims in history whose ancestors were Jewish, going from the Prophetic period until today.

When it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, there are many things that can be noted about the group – but being a ‘masonic group’ with a ‘new religion’ is one of the least likely. Particularly as one piece of ‘evidence’ for this is that the founder of the Brotherhood’s last name means builder – or, mason. If that were truly the case, then the Muslim religious establishment of Egypt has a lot to answer for, for not pointing this out to unsuspecting Egyptians much sooner.

My Theory: Conspiracies Have Consequences

But while one is tempted to scoff indeed, it is no laughing matter. There are consequences to such discourse. When, for example, someone claims that a team of journalists were encouraged by “the devil” in order to “use journalism and direct it towards actions against” Egypt, one might want to smirk in amusement – but that formed part of the words of the judge in the original trial against Al Jazeera English journalists last year. He found them guilty.

The conspiracies continue in other ways and fashions. If one wishes to, one can explain the existence of ISIS as a plot of no less than 10 countries, all of them have vastly different policy agendas – Israel, the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UK… the list is endless. (In this regard, I confess, I’ve personal experience – in that as an analyst, I’ve often been accused of being both pro-military and pro-Brotherhood in Egypt, on the same day, but by different people, for the same piece of analysis.)

In the aftermath of the revolutionary uprising in 2011, as elements opposed to the revolution grew stronger and stronger, they argued that revolutionary figures were agents of foreign interests trying to bring down Egypt’s institutions. That kind of discourse is not cost-free – it allowed for the marginalization of that movement entirely from the public sphere, and later on, many were detained.

At the best of times, in stable democratic societies, conspiracy theories are detrimental. They do not inform citizens, but misinform and mislead them, and eventually lead to their disempowerment, as they become accustomed to blaming unseen maniacal forces for everything.

But when such types of theories inform not only the radical fringe, it becomes ever more dangerous – especially in societies that already have such grievous polarisations. Discourse matters – it was only through dehumanisation and demonization of the most base kind that has allowed for the most extreme types of abuses in Egypt by different quarters; the state and otherwise.

Conspiracy theories are, alas, one of the great weapons in that arsenal – and rather than sit back and be amused by their frivolity and idiocy, we all ought to be very concerned about where such discourse can lead.

Dr. H.A. Hellyer, non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Royal United Services Institute, and the Harvard University Kennedy School, previously held senior posts at Gallup and Warwick University.


Putin’s Latest Land-Grab Is in Syria

By Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

14 September 2015

The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been getting weaker over the summer, and we were on the cusp of a profound reorganization of the balance of power in the Levant. The regime had suffered serious losses, both in terms of battles and key strategic holdings, both to ISIS in the east and central Syria, and to Western-backed rebel groups in the south and the north-west.

Analysts had pointed out that the regime’s strategy shifted from trying to keep hold of all territory, towards retreating and consolidating in its key Alawaite heartlands, on the Western strip of the country which includes Damascus, Homs and Hama.

I have written before that this set the scene for Russian involvement on the ground in Syria. And sure enough, the evidence now suggests that Russian personnel are embedded in most levels of the Syrian war effort.

And the evidence also shows that Russia is coordinating with Iran in its Syria policy: Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ ‘Quds Force’, the supreme commander of Iran’s war against ISIS, reportedly flew to Moscow to speak with the Russians just weeks after Iran signed the nuclear deal with the Western powers.

What Chance of Negotiation?

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been keen to portray himself as a mediator in the conflict, certainly between the Assad regime on the one side and the Western-backed rebels on the other. But if Russia is seen to engage directly to aid the Assad government like this, it is highly unlikely that Syrian rebel forces could be persuaded to come back to the negotiating table – not unless the Russian intervention leads to a dramatic reversal of the situation on the field.

The die is now cast, however. The evidence of Russian involvement is even clearer than the evidence for their involvement in east Ukraine. And Putin has also been a lot less circumspect about the role he is now playing, and intends to play in the future, in the conflict. Of course, this is a hugely risky enterprise for Putin. Even Russians remember that a protracted, seemingly endless conflict against radical Islamism in Afghanistan eventually contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and also Islamist insurrections in Chechnya later in the 90s. Even if history will not repeat itself, surely there will be at least some on the home front who are now questioning Putin’s judgement. So Putin is taking a personal risk here as well.

Putin’s Land Grab

But he must be thinking that the risk is worth taking. And the main reason to think so is the calculation that now Russia will have locked the West out of the conflict in Syria – at least as far as fighting the Assad regime goes. Does the U.S., or indeed do any of their European allies, really want to take the risk of direct military engagement with Russian troops in Syria? Does anyone have the stomach to risk that kind of escalation in this new cold war we are witnessing?

No doubt, Russia will be keen to underplay the extent of its involvement. And it will claim that it is on the ground simply to help combat terrorism. But one way or the other, Putin has made another land grab, and has put the Western allies in a position where they cannot themselves respond without risking escalating the conflict to levels they are not committed to undertake. Just as he has done in Crimea, and in East Ukraine.

What the fallout from this will be is yet unclear. But some contours are already shaping up. The Assad regime will be sustained, in some form. Russia will seek to put it in the strongest possible position before any negotiations for a settlement will even be considered. The West is left scrambling for a strategy, trying to balance the unholy mess of “allies” it has in the region, between the rebels it is arming and funding, the Kurds, the Turks, and the neighbouring Sunni states of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is not clear what their negotiation position will eventually be, but whatever hope there was that the indigenous militants they are training might one day take over the Syrian government has been decisively dashed. And Iran looks set to happily walk into the power-vacuum and consolidate for an eventual onslaught against ISIS.

But the region remains a tinderbox, and one can never know when a stray shot will cause the current alignment of alliances to unravel and blow the whole region up once more.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Lecturer in International Security at the University of Chicago. He completed his PhD from the University of Cambridge and served as an International Security Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a World Fellow at Yale. Over the years he has met and advised numerous world leaders on policy development and was ranked as a Top 100 Global Thinker by the European Social Think Tank in 2010 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.


Suu Kyi Best Bet for Rohingyas

By S. N. M. Abdi

15 September 2015

I have a golden piece of advice for Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of the Nov. 8 landmark general election in Myanmar. The upcoming polls will not only decide her political future but will be a major test for the fledgling democracy battling military rule in one of the most secretive corners of the world.

Let me say upfront that I have a vested interest in Suu Kyi’s electoral success and am offering the advice in the earnest hope that the Nobel Peace laureate will stand by Rohingya Muslims, who are being subjected to the worst form of apartheid in the 21st century, after taking over the reins of her country.

As a first step, Suu Kyi must take a leaf out of Sonia Gandhi’s book. She should zero in on her own Manmohan Singh in order to defeat the generals’ designs to deny her the presidency through Clause 59(F) of the military-drafted constitution. The clause disqualifies anyone whose spouse or children are foreign nationals from holding Myanmar’s highest office.

Michael Aris, her late husband, was a British academic. Her sons, Alexander and Kim, hold British passports. So even if Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy wins hands down and NLD MPs want Suu Kyi as president, she still won’t be sworn in as president thanks to 59(F) the sole purpose of which is to ensure that she never becomes the country’s ruler.

In 2004, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had made a big issue out of Gandhi’s “foreign” origin after she led the Congress Party to a massive victory evicting the BJP from power. Although the Indian constitution didn’t disqualify her from becoming prime minister, she stumped everyone by stepping aside and appointing her proven loyalist, Manmohan Singh, as the premier. The masterstroke silenced the BJP and cleared the decks for Gandhi to rule by proxy from 2004 to 2014.

Now Suu Kyi must quickly find her own Manmohan Singh — an NLD MP in whom she has full faith: Someone who will happily be her puppet. After the NLD’s victory in the November election, Suu Kyi can appoint as president a party MP who enjoys her unwavering trust and will unquestioningly execute all her orders. This is the best way to bypass Section 59F and beat the generals at their own game.

Just last month, Iyad Madani, Secretary General of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), articulated the concern of all right thinking citizens of the world when he urged Suu Kyi to speak up for Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims who are being systematically disenfranchised in the run-up to the general election.

It is hardly feasible for Suu Kyi to take up cudgels on behalf of Rohingya Muslims right away. Any such move would immediately alienate Buddhists who account for nearly 90 percent of Myanmar’s population. And, without Buddhist support, there is no question of NLD emerging as the single largest party — a prerequisite for Suu Kyi’s Manmohan Singh becoming the president.

The persecution of Rohingya Muslims is comparable to the oppression of blacks in South Africa or Jews in Hitler’s Germany. Already, there are restrictions on their movement within the country, employment and access to education and health care. A Rohingya couple is not allowed to have more than two children. And now authorities are stripping them of their right to vote, which would reduce them to a zero.

Suu Kyi is a wise and experienced 70-year-old lady. She is a global human rights hero. The citation for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize explicitly said the awarding committee wanted to honour her “for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.”

Let’s hope and pray that Suu Kyi emerges as the most powerful person in Myanmar after the general election. She is the best bet for Rohingya Muslims being subjected to pogrom after pogrom. Many have slammed her for not taking a firm stand against Buddhist extremism. One hopes that she will take a bold and principled stand after coming to power and do whatever is necessary to safeguard Rohingya rights.

Without her, Rohingyas are doomed to statelessness, unless of course Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia fully backed by the US step in and knock some sense into Buddhist heads before it’s too late.


Syrian Refugees and World Hypocrisy

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

September 14, 2015

It’s now official. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have been giving asylum and support to millions of Syrian refugees. Saudi Arabia alone has accepted 2.5 million refugees since the conflict erupted in 2011. The Kingdom has also paid over $700 million in humanitarian aid to Syrians and set up clinics in various refugee camps in other countries, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) stated. That does not include the private support from charities and individuals in response to government calls. The country has also provided humanitarian aid through international relief organizations.

A Royal Decree has permitted 100,000 Syrian students to enter Saudi universities for a free education, not to mention others who entered public education at earlier stages.

The difference between what the Kingdom of Humanity is doing and other countries is that we don’t brag about it, and refugees are not treated as such. Rather, they are integrated into the social fabric. To preserve their dignity and safety, they were given freedom of movement. The hundreds of thousands who chose to stay were given proper residency with the right to free health care, education and work.

SPA on Friday cited an official source in the Foreign Ministry as saying that the Kingdom had to clarify its role in helping refugees, in response to international charges that it was not doing enough.

While none of the Gulf Cooperation Council members—Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar—has signed the UN Convention on Refugees, which has governed international law on asylum since World War II, they have taken in millions of Syrians since the civil war began, just not as refugees.

Now let's compare numbers. Europe is complaining about thousands of refugees who chose to risk their lives to seek asylum in its rich, populous and powerful countries. America has just decided to take in some 10,000 refugees and less were invited to the UK. Other European countries may take hundreds each. None were taken into Russia and Iran, which ignited and prolonged the crisis by supporting the Syrian regime's war with its own people. The same could be said of China which voted with Russia on every Security Council resolution meant to resolve the conflict. The capital of each of these countries numbers more than the entire population of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which already face serious demographic challenges.

Saudi Arabia has always been hospitable, hosting refugees since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Besides Palestinians, they came from as far as the Islamic republic’s victimized by Communist Soviet Union and China, such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Western China. Burmese, Yemenis, Afghanis, Iraqis and others have been welcomed in the Kingdom at various stages in recent history. In 1990 alone, we welcomed Kuwait’s entire population, in addition to neighbouring areas of Iraq.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, Syria’s neighbours are taking millions of refugees. Turkey has taken 1,938,999, Iraq 249,463, Jordan 1,400,000 and Lebanon, with a population of 4 million, is hosting 1,113,941. Other refugees could have chosen to stay in these countries, but chose the West instead. Europe, America, Australia, Russia, China and other members of the “Rich and Powerful Club” should do more than offer lip service to refugees. Their media must focus on what their own nations should do rather than blaming and criticizing those who are already shouldering the greatest share of the responsibility.

The responsibility is not just to deal with the by-products of a crisis, but to solve it at its roots. Syria’s neighbours have been calling on the superpowers of the world for ages to help in protecting the Syrian population from a rogue regime which is intent on staying in power even if the price is the death of its population and the destruction of the entire nation. This has created a security vacuum and an inviting environment that terrorists have found irresistible.

The unholy alliance with Iran brought more militias in support of the regime. Now there is open sectarian strife among Muslims and an endless war with an ever-increasing number of players. Russia and China continued to block any UN resolution and America and the West did nothing about it. It was left to Syria's neighbours to pay the bills, and deal with everything the crisis produced—including terror and refugees.

Only now, that some of these refugees are knocking on the doors of the rich club have some people woken up.  Unfortunately, instead of working on the source of the problem, and providing real—not showbiz—help, they have chosen to blame the victimized neighbouring countries.

I would say to the hypocrites of the world, all you need to eliminate your refugee problem is to get rid of one person, so that millions will be able to return home. His name is Bashar Assad and his address is the Presidential Complex, Damascus!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @kbatarfi