Gaining notice in various media of late is the fact that Arab nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and UAE, have taken in so few Syrian refugees, despite sharing a common language and heritage.
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, bluntly tweeted this about the matter recently: “They’re wealthy, Muslim and not taking ANY Syrian refugees: Saudi Arabia & other Gulf states.” It seems obvious enough what he thinks about the matter.
Persecution, security, refugees and rebels
The situation bears further scrutiny, however, in light of such sentiments. Why are those wealthy states, which do seem to share a common language and heritage, not helping to grant asylum to the Syrian people who have been trying for the last five years to escape the terror of Islamic State militants and dodging chemical weapons being used in an ongoing civil war? A story posted last September, before the bombings in Beirut and Paris, may also add perspective to the matter.
“The majority of Syrian refugees are Sunni Muslims, as are most people in the Gulf nations,” according to a Christian organization called BarnabasAid. “But Gulf countries are concerned about the potential threat to security should Syrian refugees supportive of Bashar al-Assad enter their countries with the intention of carrying out revenge attacks. Gulf nations have backed rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime in Syria, which is supported by Iran, a Shiite Muslim regime.”
Last December, AmnestyInternational added up the numbers of Syrian refugees taken in by surrounding nations at that point in time. Lebanon hosted 1.1 million refugees registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which amounted to around 26 per cent of the country’s population, Jordan hosted 618,615 registered refugees, approximately 9.8 per cent of the population, Turkey hosted 1.6 million refugees, about 2.4 per cent of the population, Iraq hosted 225,373 registered refugees, about 0.67 per cent of the population and Egypt took in 142,543 registered refugees, which amounted to 0.17 per cent of the population.
‘Shoot us or help us’
Of course, many of the refugees are heading to Europe and possibly into the United States of America as well. As reported from CNN, they are saying desperate things: “Shoot us or help us.” But writers Mairi Mackay and Jessica King also point out these are not just refugees from Syria. Iranians have also come seeking refuge and some of these have sewn their lips together to protest “being stuck on Greek-Macedonian border.” It is being called, in their story highlights, as the “[g]reatest migration of people in Europe since WWII” and it continues “unabated.”
Writer Barbara Boland posted another story on the WashingtonExaminer online news. “With half of Syria’s population displaced in the worst refugee crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations, and Europe overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of people flooding the continent,” Boland wrote in September, “accusations are flying as to why the wealthy Gulf states are not welcoming people with whom they share a common language and heritage.”
Gulf states have cited possible security concerns, for not taking in Syrians, Boland adds, and the worries “that Syrians might eventually compete for jobs” exist as well she believes. But the Syrians understand the answer as being “they are not welcome.”