In times of late, issues regarding the safety and protection of those at the centre of Middle Eastern conflict have appeared atop the international political agenda more and more. The discussions on such subjects have been far from pleasant. With a worsening refugee crisis, Syrian and Iraqi cities and towns have crumbled at the hands of so-called Islamic State extremists. A fierce sky raging with Western airstrikes, and an appalling disregard for migrants simply in search of better days, have come to define a new era a global politics. It is clear that our governments are leaving fellow global citizens behind.
Western nations are trudging on in their anti-Islamic State crusades, a long spate of devastating warfare. Such sickening expeditions have often delivered unsettling scenes of bewildered young people, trapped in a world of detritus and despair. Yesterday, the disturbing footage of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh absorbed newswires and social media feeds. Pictures showed the desperate boy being tugged from a mound of rubble, carried to an ambulance, plonked down in a daze, and rubbing his dusty, bloody forehead, astonished by reality.
His story is certainly not unique. The UN estimates that children make up 41% of refugees, young people demoralised and displaced by the disorder of a new era of war. Others, young and old, are sure to have experienced similar terrors. Over 250,000 citizens have died as a result of coalition-Islamic State Warfare in recent months, and the number continues to rise. Many more are sure to have sustained unthinkable injuries. Possibly worse is that, last month, the Guardian reported that as many as 73 civilians were killed in just one Syrian village by a US airstrike, 35 of whom children.
Those living their lives in the middle of warzones must now deem this type of trauma as something normal. The very fact that they have remained alive in the midst of such chaos is something of a great achievement. The upsetting reports of Omran Daqneesh have doubtless raged many in the Western world. There is only so much that the citizens of developed nations can do, however. Their raising of awareness may tug heartstrings, but our leaders seem to be in a state of denial. How can such painful airstrikes, and the sight of perishing humans diminish the complacency of Islamic State guerrillas, whilst killing and hurting the most innocent people at the heart of the conflict – Syrians and Iraqis themselves?
The answer is that it does not. This approach sacrifices many for a long-term goal, currently far from being reached. Of course, extremism and Middle Eastern terrorism must be diminished – and it must be done fast. It is often this argument that has served to justify the mass airstrikes and divisive domestic policies which have taken states such as Syria and countries of the EU, respectively, by storm.
But as our nations continue to barricade themselves against the tempestuous tidal wave that is terrorism, both at home and abroad, we have become lax and afraid in rescuing those at the heart of global conflict – in some ways, we are maybe becoming ignorant to it. Our responses to the new global political crises are defining our place in the world. We have closed ourselves off to the tribulations of many fellow human beings. Rhetoric from hard-right populists has served to inject cultural fear into the international community, fuel an epidemic of xenophobia, and build back up the bricks of national borders.
In such attempts to punish extremism, an of those aimed at thwarting the callous programme of the so-called Islamic State, our governments have forgotten about our fellow global citizens. This, in essence, means that we are not global citizens either.
Developed nations have become consumed in a decade of selfishness, with a lack of concern for deaths within warzones, and with disregard for the traumatised Middle Eastern civilians who are seemingly disposed into camps such as “The Jungle” in Calais – some of whom as a result of Western involvements.
The West has stood back for long enough, with too many nations continually turning their backs on the mass exodus of refugees flowing from war-torn nations. Many of those making their way to the European Continent come from no extremist background at all, merely seeking to evade the bombs and broken buildings. Germany has been one of the most willing recipients of Middle Eastern refugees, with over 1.3m entering the country. Meanwhile, nations like Britain have accepted only around 9,000 refugees today. Spain has taken in 8,000, and France has absorbed 11,000.
The resistance and half-hearted responses of so many Western nations is very disheartening. Last week’s Nauru files, detailing horrific child abuse towards detained Australian asylum seekers, has shown a deep disregard for fellow global citizens, too. With such lacklustre for solving the problems of refugees displaced by the chaos of extremism, the West will become similarly troubled. Failing to fully involve ourselves in a broad taskforce of UN nations committed to clearing up the side-effects of Islamic State conflict will only create larger social and political problems in the long run. Ignoring those who have been stranded as a result of the Islamic State’s agenda will only top up the fuel tank of their campaign, and threats to the stability of domestic politics will only become more regular. Showing that the West can adapt to the problematic Islamic State regime, and treating the moral high ground, is the true way towards the defeat of such barbarism.
Some reassuring news is, however, coming to light. Britain is part of a team of global nations providing material aid to Syrians – to the amount of $1.1bn, in fact. The USA, Israel and others have been keen to contribute, too. Hopefully, a few more refugees will be welcomed soon. News came today in the Guardian of MP Stella Creasy’s parliamentary amendment attempts, which could see thousands of Calais refugees making their way to Britain if successful. Lords peer Alf Dubs has already managed to force the government to bringing as many as 3,000 more child refugees to Britain.
There is still work to do, however. The West must make sure that it continues these efforts, and that it builds upon them. The UN reported in February 2016 that 13.5m people are in grave need of humanitarian support, and that 11.4m have been displaced the Syrian schism. These people will not vanish. Recent attacks have likely pushed up these totals much higher. The so-called Islamic State’s bloodshed has been ramped up in recent weeks, as the siege of key strongholds like Aleppo and Raqqa builds more intense every day.
The more developed Western nations of Europe, North America, and Oceania have a moral duty to respond to the challenges of extremism with boosted humanitarian support, and open borders. Maintaining our moral strength, and resisting the taunts of extremists aimed at breaking down the integrity and principles of our societies, is key to defeating groups such as the so-called Islamic State. Avidly tuning in to populists and their rhetoric, and implementing divisive, barring policy, will only draw our societies closer apart.
But the main problem is that there is no global agenda and that the atmosphere of co-operation is dangerously thin. Western nations now see themselves as separate entities. We are not Europeans, or Westerners. We are British, French, German, American and Australian. The European Union has broken down, and the West is intent on rubbing its hands of common global issues like those of refugees, off-shore corruption, or even climate change. We are no longer Earthlings.
How will we be able to come together in the future, ready to fight our corners against extremists? We must confront the problems facing the children of the future along with the their demoralised families, with a matter of urgency. If we do not, our places as global citizens will remain in question.
This entire mess of extremism, hatred, and halted migration currently ravaging our world questions each of us directly, in fact. Are we really global citizens? Global citizens aren’t bystanders who watch on whilst fellow human beings perish, whilst children are deprived of futures and human rights, and whilst extremists take over the political landscape. The only way of solving common issues is via common involvement and common progress. If the refugee crisis has taught us anything, it is that unity is the only way forward.