Thursday, September 18, 2008

After Syria, where else is there for us to go?

Syria has been in the spotlight a lot more in recent years and this has not always been for good reasons. The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, events in Lebanon and the continued aggressions of Zionism have all renewed attention in this small part of the world. Unsavory countries such as the United States, Britain and France continue to take turns waving either carrots or sticks in order to pressure Syria into submission to Israel, parting ways with Iran or with wielding an influence on the various resistance groups with links to Damascus. One of the sticks they have been using with great effect has been the prevention of any sizable assistance towards the refugee crisis which they, the West, have created through their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It shamed me to hear that Syria had effectively closed its borders last year and implemented tighter entry requirements on the Iraqis but regardless, Syria remains the best option for many Iraqi refugees amongst the other so-called 'Arab' countries. Primary and emergency healthcare are available to some extent but a large number of Iraqis there still have to rely on what little humanitarian medical assistance is available, primary and secondary education are free but materials and uniforms must be purchased, placing a bigger burden on already struggling families. It is far from perfect and certainly not comfortable but history has again chosen to have this ancient land play the role of unwilling refuge for the truly downtrodden and oppressed of this world. Throughout this article I refer to the land and its people rather than any passing government, past or present.

In Damascus there is an area called the Muhajireen (the immigrants) which had been used to house refugees from the Balkans and Eastern Europe that had been ethnically cleansed off their land. As the Ottoman empire crumbled, the advancing Europeans forced thousands of families off their lands and villages. Many of these, escaping to Islamic lands, found refuge on the mountain slopes overlooking Damascus in two successive waves, 1890 and 1896. In 1897, many more joined them as they escaped from massacres which had been taking place on the island of Crete. At the beginning of the 19th century the French invasion and occupation of Algeria had also begun and many Algerian families were exiled or escaped to Syria. Including these was the great hero Abdul Qadir al Jaza'iri, whose troops prevented the massacre of Christians during ethnic tensions in Damascus. His remains were eventually repatriated to Algeria upon its independence but his home and burial place remain to be seen in Damascus. At the turn of the 19th century, Circassians (including my great-grandfather) who were being ethnically cleansed by the Russian Tsar's troops also found refuge in the land of Sham (Greater Syria) and settled across the region, assimilating into the population. Then again, in the First World War, Ottoman massacres of Armenians also forced many thousands to seek refuge in these same lands and again, a fresh wave was added to the complex but beautiful patchwork which makes up the peoples of this land. The occupation and continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine driven by Zionism added fresh waves of Palestinian refugees to the mix and again, unlike in other Arab countries, they were not forced into ghettos nor persecuted. During the tensions in Jordan many Jordanian refugees also came to Syria and were subsequently given permits to work in various jobs such as taxi drivers. Some remained there. For many Lebanese, Syria has also been a safe haven during times of war and this was never made clearer than during the Israeli aggression of 2006 when thousands were given assistance and shelter, sometimes by normal Syrian families of meagre incomes.

It is inevitable that tensions would arise since this is not a rich country, but to have others, including many Syrians and supposedly 'progressive' bloggers and writers, lecture everyone else about the need to eliminate Syrian 'racism' is ludicrous. When I hear the British media talk about 'multi-culturalism' as if it is something they can teach to the rest of the world, I smile. The inherent racism which makes such a statement and political posture necessary would be looked at with curiosity in a country like Syria where it is part of the very fabric of society. Yet the West has always projected its own failures, its own sexual perversions and its own immorality on its victims, then sought to save them from themselves. Western (including Zionist) academia, the media and politicians all weave the lie, then believe it. They need the lie in order to feel good about themselves, in order to believe that what they are doing is just rather than see themselves for the rapists and pillagers that they really are. That some Arabs believe this discourse, internalise it and then have the temerity to lecture other Arabs about it is sad and misguided to say the least. Time and again, in spite of its many flaws, Syria remained the safe haven for all those in the Arab and Islamic world who have been persecuted and oppressed - mainly in the name of Empire. Syria has been hiding from the world for a long time, playing its role quietly, but we all know that the greed of these people is insatiable. After Syria, where else is there for us to go?


Nobody said...

. After Syria, where else is there for us to go?


Nobody said...

At the turn of the 19th century, Circassians (including my great-grandfather) who were being ethnically cleansed by the Russian Tsar's troops...

You forget to mention that Russians gave Circassians a choice to settle in Russia instead of going to exile. Soon Russian consulates in the Middle East were flooded with petitions by Circassian refugees to be allowed go back as the Turks and local populations have happened to be very short on hospitality. In fact, the tzunami of these petitions has happened to be so huge that the Russian czar came to suspect that the Turks are plotting something in the Caucasus and refused to authorize any more of them. This fact is actually mentioned so much in most books dealing with the issue of Circassian Muhahjirs that I am sure you have read about it. If not, then read your books again.

Maysaloon said...

Wonderful bit of advice Nobody - and what a wonderfully apt name. You go and apply for a visa or asylum with an Iraqi passport and see how far you get.

Thank you for the lecture on the Circassians by the way - not that you would have read any of these books yourself but that's not the point is it? Wikipedia and Google let people like yourself still sound ignorant but with style.

Nobody said...

Wassim said...

Wonderful bit of advice Nobody - and what a wonderfully apt name. You go and apply for a visa or asylum with an Iraqi passport and see how far you get.

it works nicely for some people though. Some of them seem to have like it so much that they are hardly planning to go back any time soon. I am even wondering when was the last time they have paid a visit to their beloved Syria.

As to the Circassians, there was a lot of debate around this issue at some point in Russia when local Circassians demanded recognition of the events that followed the Caucasian war. While the estimates of the casualties of the war varied significantly, both sides agreed that what was happening across the border where many Circassians preferred to move was a continuation of the catastrophe. Never mind that Circassians live in Israel too, they continue speaking their language and they serve in the Israeli army, which shows that some of them not only failed to assimilate into the surrounding Arab population, but that they still remember what welcome they received upon their arrival here.