This article can also be found at Degree180.
We all know it: what happened in Paris last week has stirred up a lot of talk about Syrian refugees. Should we allow refugees to settle in this country?
Syria is undergoing a monumental crisis, but it goes much farther back than the rule of IS. Do people even really know what’s caused the violent displacement of 4 million people? Considering EVERYONE seems to have an opinion on it – Twitter has been a shitstorm this week – We at Degree180 are here to break down the worst humanitarian crisis of our time into terms we can all start to understand.
Spoiler alert: it’s complicated as hell.
It all began in the Arab Spring of 2011, when the Syrian military shot at people peacefully protesting the government’s incarceration of political prisoners. The violence escalated over the following months and international powers started weighing in on what should be done. President Bashar al-Assad was internationally pressured to step down on multiple occasions, but he stayed in power.
While all that drama was going on, Syrian rebels came together to combat the government’s crackdown. Over time, these groups split apart and individually gained power.
Extremist groups largely drowned out the moderate ones in seizing power and territory. At this point it was evident that conflict was occurring not only between the Syrian people and the government, but amongst the rebel groups themselves (this part is important).
In September 2013, eleven of the largest rebel factions said “hell no” to an offer of help from Western countries, and instead formed an alliance that we now know as the Islamic (or as I’ll refer to it, IS).
As we all know, IS has (very publicly, thanks to the Internet) committed horrible atrocities against the Syrian people and brought acts of terrorism around the world. The recent attacks in Paris sent a shock wave of fear and paranoia into the hearts of many Westerners, including right here in the United States.
So, the civil war in Syria has displaced more than 4 million Syrians and more than 200,000 people have been killed. The country’s economy has collapsed and more than 80% of the population now lives in poverty. On average 144 people die EVERY DAY due to the fighting, at least half of whom are civilians.
Still, many people in the United States oppose the notion of allowing more Syrian refugees into the country due to sheer ignorance on the issue. Currently over half of US governors are fighting the idea of admitting more Syrian refugees into the country, citing that it would be too great a risk to our national security.
To put it bluntly: people don’t want to let refugees into the country because they’re afraid they’re terrorists.
Seriously, people? This is why we need to educate.
First of all, it’s not as if the US will let absolutely anyone into the country – refugees will have to go through a very extensive screening process before they resettle. They’re screened by MANY different agencies, including the UN.
Still worried about national security? Think about it this way: half of the refugees admitted to the United States have been children, while only 2% have been male and of combat age. And out of the 784,395 Syrian refugees that have been admitted into the United States since Sept. 11 in 2001, only three have been arrested on terrorism charges. If you do the math, that’s only .000004% of all of the refugees we’ve accepted.
And you wanna know the real kicker? Rejecting refugees could actually be aiding IS instead of fighting it. “By rejecting Syrian refugees, American governors are in fact helping [IS], because they are proving [IS]’s argument that the west does not want to assist Syrian Muslims, and that their only salvation lies in [IS].”
Refugees aren’t the enemy: they are afraid of exactly the same things that you and I are afraid of; many are fleeing precisely because of these extremist groups. “Sowing fear of refugees is exactly the kind of response groups like [IS] are seeking, ” stated Iain Levine, Deputy Executive Director for Program at Human Rights Watch.
Rejecting refugees out of sheer paranoia is ignorant and racist. We’re denying many innocent people the right to provide better lives for their families. When it comes down to it, Syrian refugees aren’t so different from you and me. It’s more important now than ever for us to help our fellow human beings and to stay informed in this time of crisis. We can’t let ignorance get the best of us. We are, after all, the land of opportunity and a nation of immigrants.
If there are any refugees reading this, please know that here at Degree180 we support you. Stay strong.