Opinion / OP Rana

His name was Aylan, or humanity washed ashore

By OP Rana (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2015-09-04 14:12

His name was Aylan, or humanity washed ashore

Aylan Kurdi (L) and his brother Galip pose in an undated photo provided by the Kurdi family. The two Syrian toddlers drowned with their mother and several other migrants as they tried to reach Greece. [Agencies]

A photograph of a Syrian refugee, resignation written across his face, carrying his sleeping four-year-old daughter while hawking pens on a street in Beirut, triggered an online campaign that raised about $108,551 in 24 hours a week ago. The Good Samaritan who posted the photograph using the hashtag #buypens on the Internet was a Norwegian activist named Gissur Simonarson.

The distraught Syrian refugee, Abdul Halim Attar, with two daughters to care for broke down when he heard the amount“I am so thankful” and kept on saying, “I want to help other Syrians”, wrote Simonarson. This indeed was a story intended for another tragic ending but took a turn for the good in a time where the Middle East acts as a theater of war.

But for every lucky refugee there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tragic souls.

His name was Aylan. He was a Syrian refugee and all of three years old. His body laid there, face down. He was found on the beach of Bodrum, a resort city in Turkey on Wednesday. And he was one of at least 12 Syrians fleeing the war-torn country who drowned trying to reach the Greek island Kos. Among the victims are believed to be his 5-year-old brother Ghaleb and his mother, Rihana. The only one from the family to survive was Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, who was found semi-conscious and hospitalized.

The photograph of Aylan has apparently done what the continuing horror stories and other photographs from the war-torn Middle East and North Africa couldn’t do: awaken humanity. Perhaps the hashtag, #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, which means “humanity washed ashore” has something to do with it.

But that is just part of the story. The outpouring of emotions on the Internet that Aylan has evoked with his death is the aftermath of a tragedy, which, to begin with, should not have played out the way it has done.

The armies of hungry, desperate, battle-scared people from the Middle East and northern parts of Africa making a beeline for Europe might not have shamed the European countries had the West, under the able leadership of the United States, not embarked on the noble mission of spreading democracy in uncivilized, despotic lands. The European Union might not have to deal with another gargantuan problem even before overcoming its debt crisis had it not added to the mayhem in the Middle East and North Africa.

The history that lies in ruins from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria and Libya is another story altogether. Suffice to say the Levante, the cradle of human civilization, first lost its archeological masterpieces to ignorant US and other Western soldiers and is now at the mercy of fanatic Islamic State extremists, who of late have blasted two ancient Roman sites in Palmyra.

Perhaps a graver tragedy is that, even after failing on all fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and its NATO allies prefer getting mired in Libya and Syria to different extents, without even waiting to think of what would be the consequences of the upheavals in those countries and how it could effect the EU countries.

Now, the EU is a house divided on the refugee crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the “refugees must be fairly divided in Europe” while British Prime Minister David Cameron is adamant that “taking in more refugees is not the answer”.

The question is: If Cameron is not ready to accept refugees, why did he help unleash unprecedented bedlam in Syria, Libya and other Middle East countries? A war of words rages in the EU as Hungary and some other EU countries refuse to accept refugees and Greece is overburdened with more than a hundred thousand people fleeing the ravages of civil war in their countries even as it grapples with its own credit crisis.

The EU should have known that by virtue of being safe across the Atlantic, the US will not have to deal with any of the immediate human crisis that European countries have to face because of the upheavals in the Middle East.

This lack of foresight and absence of humanity in the enlightened civilizations of Europe is at the root of the suffering of millions of people in war-ravaged Middle East and North Africa.

The author is a senior editor with China Daily. oprana@hotmail.com

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