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  • Marium Rafiq

An opinion piece on the forgotten victims of a ‘New War’

Mehmet Bilgin, 2014

Photograph: Flickr / Mehmet Bilgin

After the Paris attacks, it seems that the revived ‘war against terror’ is now looking more like a ‘new war’. I use the word ‘new war’ with reference to Mary Kaldor’s ‘New War Thesis’, for such the conflict derives from identity politics. Kaldor claims that the new mode of warfare will be based on the targeting of civilians, as seen in the Paris attacks recently. But as my heart goes out to all those who died in Paris, Beirut, Nigeria and Kenya, I can’t help feeling that the world is forgetting the victims that have been at the heart of the conflict since the very beginning. Those who saw their homes destroyed and families murdered countless times. I speak of the Syrian refugees. The people who wake to the sound of bullets being shot at their loved ones, and then go to sleep hearing of yet another family member being taken by ISIS.

The sad truth is these people are now seeing the barriers being reinstated, doors closing before they’ve even opened to the sanctuary that is the West. Since the terror attacks on Paris, the CNN has reported that 31 American states oppose the welcoming of Syrian refugees. In Britain, 44% of people believe that the UK should close its border to refugees completely. I doubt this article will change the minds of such people, but I would ask them to remember that the terror that you fear, is the same terror that the refugees are running from, endangering their lives in the process.

I suspect that soon there will be worldwide consensus to carry on with refugee camps, and so deny refugees entry into western states. These camps may look great on the outset, with the British government having paid £1 billion in aid to the camps in Lebanon. Yet, they are far from being a safe haven. 90% of families have no access to electricity in the camps, according to The Guardian. The camps may be a short-term solution at best, but in the long term the outskirts of Lebanon cannot be made into a makeshift state for Syrians. Amnesty International, has listed ‘8 ways to solve the world refugee crisis’. Besides being an interesting read, the article states that the 1951 refugee convention meant most countries have a duty to protect refugees. Leaving them defenceless and homeless is hardly protection – it seems more like condemning them to death. Governments need to develop a more efficient system of checks and balances if anything, to distinguish extremist militants from genuine refugees. While this itself may be flawed, at the very least it will give innocent Syrians a chance to state their case.

Many would argue it is our moral duty to save these people, not turn the boat around and push them back into the battleground. It is our morality that makes us human – it is what differentiates us from extremists, and it is ultimately what can save the younger generation from becoming radicalised. Essentially by saving the refugees, we are saving our future selves. The point is, that right now, they may be the forgotten victims of a merciless war, but with our help they could be so much more.

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