A Humanitarian Award For Syria, a Censure for America?

James Denselow writes of the horrible conditions of refugees inside and outside Iraq, 4 million of them, including minorities inside Iraq with no militia to protect. This includes Palestinians, of course, who, already living in horrifying camps, have been beaten and tortured by Iraqi police.

As the violence against Palestinians in Iraq continues, the number of refugees in al-Waleed camp has increased to more than 1,700 today. They live in conditions totally unsuited to extended human habitation. Hazards include an extremely harsh physical environment, extreme temperatures (+50 C to sub-zero) outbreaks of fire amongst the tents, accidents caused by passing trucks and infestation of snakes and rats. Residents of this camp are assisted by UNHCR’s Iraqi Operation Unit in Amman and aid agencies such as Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP). Unlike the Palestinians in the al-Tanf no-man’s land camp they suffer of a severe lack of protection as they are still located in Iraqi territory.

Between the 22nd and the 24th of May, 15 Palestinian men from al-Waleed refugee camp were tortured by the local Iraqi police in their police station after having been arrested by the police with help of the Multinational forces (MNF). Photos taken by MAP’s doctors show injuries from beatings, knife cuts and spots of cigarette burns all over their bodies, including around their genitals. Such an incident underscored the extremely vulnerable situation these particular refugees face. Urgent resettlement is needed. Whilst the Syrian government is saturated with refugees and the Iraqi government too weak to ensure safe return, the onus lies with the international community, and in particular the United States and United Kingdom, to provide safe haven.

In the midst of all of this, there are some interesting statistics that emerge. The abysmal failure of the American war in Iraq has led to the biggest exodus of refugees in Middle East history. Now these millions of refugees are displaced everywhere. Pakistan has taken in 2 million for example, whereas Syria has taken in 1.5 million. But there is a difference. Relative to its population 1.5 million people is 7.5% of its population, as reported in the discussion at joshualandis.com. Now let’s see where the United States comes out, the land whose Statue of Liberty asks for everyone’s poor and tired, the country that displaced all of these refugees with a terribly fought war. Denselow also reports in the same article that Ambassador Foley is trying to reach the Bush Administration’s goal of accepting 12,000 refugees. That comes to approximately .00004% of the American population. So .00004% of a population represents the largesse of the greatest democracy in the world, and 7.5% of the population represents the largesse of the last remaining Ba’athist regime of the world. What is going on here? What has happened to the United States? I want democracy globally as much as the next person, but if you were living in Syria or Iraq right now, if you were Palestinian with nowhere to go, beaten by the police that are being armed by the United States, what would you think of who deserves a humanitarian award and who deserves censure. We are in a dark time for the reputation of Western democracy.

© Marc Gopin