SHAFAQNA – Jordan has been the target of much criticism this week as Amnesty International, the prominent rights group, accused the Arab country of “fueling a humanitarian disaster” on its doorsteps by “denying entry to the refugees.”
Taking to the media, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, the head of Amnesty’s refugee and migrant rights emphasized: “As the conflict in Syria continues, it is critical that Jordan, and Syria’s other neighboring countries, keep their borders open to those fleeing bloodshed or persecution.”
According to aid workers on the ground an estimated 12,000 war refugees, mainly women and children, have been denied safe passage into Jordan – abandoned to their fate as winter is fast closing in.
Homeless, destitute, and oftentimes direly sick, Syria’s refugees stand on the edge of a knife – should they stray but a little …
Before such pain, and heartbreaking tragedy though, powers have offered but lip-service to rationalize their inadequacy and pandemic apathy.
Across the media, the sound of politicians’ promises of distant fundings and humanitarian aid have intermittently broken over the litany of bombs and destructions the West’s billions manifested, offering nothing but mirages to a broken people.
For if Western powers are keen pacifists on paper, it is war they only ever invest in. And because it is weaponry and the sale thereof which allows for the spinning of those corporate wheels, it is unrest and engineered human misery which will unravel unabated – the new product of Western imperialism.
But Jordan did not just close its borders. Words have reached that the state has begun expelling individuals, forcing entire families to return to Syria regardless of the risks such travels inherently imply. If not for the dangers posed by those Western warplanes which haunt Syria’s skies, Syrians remain still at the mercy of ISIL radicals, those barbaric hordes which have long established their penchants for cruel rampages against innocent civilians – a mean to strike fear and command submission among communities.
In October 2014, aid agencies and newly arrived refugees reported that between 45 and 80 per cent of asylum seekers leaving Syria were sent straight back through the Raba al Sarhan Transit Centre in north-eastern Jordan before they were able to register with the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Such practices are contrary to international law and could actually be characterized as war crimes under current circumstances.
It is important to note that reliable figures on this are hard to come by. Deportations usually take place shortly after a local governor’s order, making it difficult for non-governmental agencies to track the process.
Still, in the face of mounting criticism, Amman is standing its ground, its officials silent before the pain of a people besieged by war.
Amnesty International’s warning came only days after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on Amman to allow the refugees into the country. In a report, the rights group noted that over 10,000 civilians were stuck in Rukban and Hadalat crossing points, located in northern Jordan.
Experts have already rationalise Jordan’s decision by arguing the small kingdom welcomed its fill of refugees over the years: Palestinians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians …
And indeed, to some degree Jordan did after all provide sanctuary for an ever-extending stream of war refugees – offering aid and safety to nations at war.
According to UN agencies’ estimates as well as rights groups’, there are about 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan – notwithstanding tens of thousands of Yemenis, about a million Palestinians and an excess of 700,000 Iraqis. Those numbers alone attest to Jordan’s generosity.
So why the sudden change? Why did Amman chose to tighten its immigration policies when violence has all but consumed Syria, and beyond, the region?
While answers may lie in the need for a coordinated regional humanitarian effort, it is sadly politics, or rather, geopolitics which stand at the core of Jordan’s decision.
In all fairness, Amman government should not be expected to carry alone the burden of wars; other Middle Eastern powers should too, shoulder their responsibilities vis a vis their brethrens – if not out of a sense of solidarity, then maybe religious duty.
After all if King Salman of Saudi Arabia can claim to the title of Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, thus positioning his bloodline as the guardian of Islamic tradition, then it would be only natural to expect his government to accommodate those communities in dire need of help …
Only the kingdom does not indulge in such distasteful activities as charity, or humanitarian aid. The kingdom does not open its coffers unless its immediate interests are served. Needless to say that assisting Syrians in their hour of need does not figure on Al Saud’s to-do list.
Not that the kingdom could not handle millions of refugees … it just doesn’t want to! The same can be said of Qatar, the UAE, Turkey and other nations in the immediate region.
But today’s crisis was not born from selfish policies, rather a desire to engineer a human crisis to serve a very political agenda.
In interviews with Reuters, aid workers and Jordanian officials attributed the sudden rise in refugees to Russian bombing of ISIL-controlled areas in eastern Homs, including as Palmyra, and in the terror group’s Raqqa heartland.
If such statements have vastly gone unnoticed for now, they fall within a narrative of blame and shame against those powers which have refused to abide by Washington’s rules, namely Russia and Iran.
Jordan has closed up its borders knowing fully well it would exacerbate Syria’s humanitarian crisis. By willingly engineering unrest, Western powers, and their regional allies in the Middle East intend to blame Russia and Iran for their “nefarious” military intervention. The idea is to position both Moscow and Tehran as irresponsible powers, allowing for Washington to claim the moral high-ground.
Although such machination lacks in finesse, it remains effective – especially when a well-thinking Western world has already been programmed to hate “dissident” capitals.
We would do well however to remember why Syrians came to flee their homes and abandon their lands. It was terror, and Western capitals’ desire to play regime change which plunged Syria into the throes of war.
As for Russia and Iran, they intervene under invitation of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s legitimate authority. And while many might dislike al-Assad’s policies, the rule of law stipulates that such matters will forever remain in the hands of Syrians, not foreign powers.
By Catherine Shakdam – This article first appeared on the American Herald Tribune