Friday, September 4, 2015

Who is to Blame for the Drowning of Alan Kurdi? by Tarek Fatah

A single photograph of a three-year old boy named Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach, has rocked the conscience of the world.
The picture will remain seared in our collective memory forever, just as the image of a nine-year-old girl running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back in a napalm bomb attack shook us up on June 8, 1972. That was Phan Thi Kim Phuc, who later settled down in Canada.

Despite what was initially reported by Canadian media, Alan Kurdi was never headed to Canada.
His aunt in Vancouver, Tima Kurdi, tried to sponsor Alan's uncle and family under what is known as a "G5 privately sponsored application for asylum." Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander personally took up her application after receiving it from Fin Donnelly, the MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam.
However, because the UN in its wisdom wouldn't register the Kurdi family as refugees, and because the Turkish government wouldn't grant them exit visas (as they didn't have passports), the application for asylum in Canada couldn't proceed any further.
Instead of targeting the real villains in this drama, Canada's Liberals have gone after their political opponents.
With no legal options, the family did what tens of thousands of refugees in Turkey have done — they took a risky boat ride from Bodrum in a flotilla of dinghies headed for the Greek island of Kos. The boat capsized about 30 minutes after it set off. Alan, his brother Ghalib, 5, their mother Rehan, and many others drowned.
It's a tragedy that should have brought out the best in all of us.
Unfortunately, the New Democrats and Liberals tried to use it to attack Chris Alexander and the Conservatives and depict them as heartless and cruel, in the most unethical and immoral manner.
To understand the calamity unfolding in the Mediterranean, illustrated by the photograph of Kurdi, we need to step back a century, but even a year is helpful.

In essence, it's the story of a Kurdish family that fled an Arab country after an Islamist attack and took refuge across the border in Turkey, a country known for its hostility towards its own Kurdish population. In the words of the boy's aunt in Vancouver, the treatment of her family in Turkey was "horrible."
Instead of targeting the most visible and apparent villains in this drama — the Assad regime in Syria, the Turks, ISIS, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — the Liberals and the NDP sharpened their knives and went after Alexander, the very man who has been quietly helping people escape tyranny and settle down in Canada.
We cannot lose sight of the Syrian Revolution that began as protests in the early spring of 2011 as part of the Arab Spring. Instead of paying heed to his people, President Bashar al-Assad unleashed his military forces in violent crackdowns that forced 3.2 million people to flee the country and internally displaced 6.5 million others. Alan was just the latest victim.
Hadi Elis, spokesman for the Kurdish Community Centre of Toronto, told me he was shocked how Trudeau and an NDP MP from British Columbia used Alan's tragic death to attack Alexander.
"Minister Alexander has been one of the strongest allies of the Kurdish community and stood by the Syrian Kurds in their darkest hour in Kobani from where the boy and his family fled in the face of attacks on them by Islamist ISIS and their Turkish allies," Elis wrote in an e-mail.
"It is despicable for Liberal and NDP politicians to use the dead boy as a political tool to score partisan political points. Shame on them. They want Canada to stop attacking ISIS, and then shed crocodile tears when a victim of ISIS drowns on a Turkish beach," he continued.
"If there is anyone who is guilty of this crime, it is Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UN, all those who have refused to embrace hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war, not Minister Chris Alexander who needs no lectures on compassion by politicians who are catering to the Islamists inside Canada."
Neither the NDP nor the Liberals dare say a single word against Turkey, Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan for fear of losing the imagined Muslim vote in Canada's large riding-rich cities. Instead, by depicting the Conservatives and Alexander as anti-refugee and anti-Muslim, they hope to harvest a supposed rich crop of pro-Islamist voters.
Refugees fleeing war zones in the Arab World could easily be accommodated in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
It's possible they might even succeed in this venture given the way many mainstream media outlets have formed a lynch mob targeting the Conservatives with disdain and shameless partisanship.
Canadian voters, on the other hand, must recognize the stories they're reading or watching also reflect an illiteracy and ignorance among Canada's chattering heads on matters of the Middle East and South Asia — ignorance they cover up by ensuring no one with a background in the area is given the opportunity to challenge what wrongly passes for objective and balanced discourse.
The fact is all these refugees fleeing war zones in the Arab World could very easily be accommodated in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Instead, while Turkey wants to dump them in the sea and hope bleeding-heart, guilt-ridden liberal Europeans embrace them and pay for their resettlement, the Saudis have an even simpler solution: Shut down the border and seal it so not a single Alan Kurdi dare walk across from Iraq or the new "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" into its territory. Period.
Strictly from a management perspective and common sense, Saudi Arabia has the land, the resources and lies in the vicinity of the crisis. The refugees and the Saudis speak the same language and settlement and integration could happen sooner and at a fraction of the cost.
But it's far easier to call for the head of Chris Alexander than to be honest and admit the villain in the drama is Saudi Arabia and criticising the Saudis might upset the Islamist vote bank both the Liberals and the NDP covet.
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.