The horrific image of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body is considered a wakeup call for humanity. Alan, his 5-year-old brother, and their mother were among at least a dozen who drowned crossing the Aegean Sea to reach Greece from Bodrum, Turkey. Though the crossing from Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos is only two miles long, the suffering associated with death on these waters is immeasurable. The Kurdi children and their mother are among thousands who have drowned in an attempt to flee Syria, according to a UN report, yet only a few make headlines.
Countless Syrians, among other refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq, have fled their war torn homes in hopes of rebuilding their lives abroad, mainly in Europe and other western countries. Alan’s unfortunate death shook the world and pressured some European countries, namely Germany, Austria, and Sweden, to open their doors to the refugees. Germany went so far as to suspend the Dublin Regulation, which requires EU countries to examine an asylum seeker’s claim in the country in which he or she first arrived. With widespread support from its citizens, Germany alone is expected to admit 800,000 refugees this year. Moreover, The European Union and its member states have mobilized a sizable amount of financial aid while Kuwait and Qatar are among the top donors from the Gulf countries providing aid to refugees.
Despite these positive developments, it is unfortunate that Alan’s story, which so profoundly shook the world, has not stirred many oil laden Gulf countries in the same way. Logically, Syrian and Iraqi refugees would have a better chance of reintegration and resettlement in countries that share a similar language, culture, and religion. Another noteworthy point is that the majority of these refugees are young or middle-aged, while the elderly, who are incapable to tolerate the sufferings associated with these journeys, are left behind in the war torn country. Resettlement closer to the home country would provide an opportunity for families to keep their elderly close to them.
Most Gulf nations have sufficient wealth, resources, and land to resettle displaced refugees from nearby countries. In these petroleum-rich nations, however, there exists no legal system to process refugees- immigrants are not awarded any benefits or rights, only adding to their existing vulnerability.
Islam is a religion that teaches compassion and benevolence towards all, regardless of race, color or religion. The Qur’an urges believers to be servants of humanity, as it states, “You are the best people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others” (3:111). The highest rank to be the best is granted conditionally, that is, only if you serve others. We cannot deny the fact that only service-minded nations that promote the welfare of society can be considered the best. Those who usurp the rights of others or neglect their duty to serve the needy can no longer claim this title. For Muslim countries, particularly those rich in petroleum resources, it is not only a moral but also religious obligation to host destitute refugees fleeing persecution. As time progresses, it will become vital for the Gulf countries to remove the “Do Not Disturb” sign from their doors and wake up to the plight of regional communities. The world does not need another horrific image to communicate this basic message.