Editor’s note: An edited version of this was published by the Times Literary Supplement. (Photo: Anna Pantelia)
By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
The only surviving example of William Shakespeare’s handwriting is preserved at the British Library in the manuscript of the play The Book of Sir Thomas More. Shakespeare’s contribution to the co-authored play is a speech by deputy sheriff Thomas More addressed to a mob rioting against immigrants. He appeals to the mob’s empathy by inviting them to imagine themselves in the shoes of the “strangers”, exiled from home.
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d
To find a nation of such barbarous temper
That breaking out in hideous violence
Would not afford you an abode on earth.
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But charter’d unto them? What would you think
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
Over four centuries later, empathy for the stranger remains an uncertain virtue. Since 2015, when the media elevated refugees to the status of a “crisis”, their influx has sharply declined (from a peak of over 221,000 in 2015 to less than 11,000 in 2018). However this reduction has yet to be acknowledged in the fevered registers of Europe’s political discourse. Immigration—or, rather, its perception—is roiling an entire continent, empowering the right and seducing even left-wing populists into xenophobia. The consequences have been catastrophic, in political, economic, and human terms.
It has been nine months since the introduction of the EU-Turkey deal, under which refugees arriving on Greek islands face the threat of deportation back to Turkey. Since then, thousands of refugees have been stuck in inhumane conditions, in camps lacking basic resources like heat and electricity, as they await to have their asylum requests processed. With the arrival of winter, the situation continues to deteriorate.
Meanwhile, UNHCR and the EU’s aid department (ECHO) have been accused of mismanaging millions in emergency funding earmarked for upgrading shelters, leaving thousands sleeping in freezing conditions in camps across Greece. On Chios, refugees have begun to protest against these intolerable conditions. ‘We all are fighting this battle with the leaders of Europe’s non-humanists. Yes, we are now one team fighting the lies and hatred, racism and the enslavement of human beings and the imprisonment of freedom,’ writes Mohammed, a refugee from Deir ez-Zor.
The following commentary, originally published in Politico last week, was written in response to the European Commission’s proposal to resume ‘Dublin transfers’ back to Greece.
By John-Mark Philo & Ludek Stavinoha
In the same week as the world marked Human Rights Day, the European Commission announced its plans to resume the so-called “Dublin transfers” of refugees back to Greece. If the recommendation is adopted at Thursday’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels, EU member countries will be able to start returning refugees who arrive on their territory back to the country of their first entry into the European Union, wherever that may be.
Chris and Xand van Tulleken – doctors, part-time aid workers and twin brothers – want to see for themselves what conditions are like for migrants fleeing through Europe at the height of winter. They travel to Lesbos in Greece, through the Balkans and on to Berlin and Calais to understand what’s being done on a medical and humanitarian level in response to the refugee crisis.
Spending time with medics, charities and volunteers in camps and clinics, at border crossings and transit points, they find out what the situation is like on the ground and, wherever possible, lend a hand in the biggest migration crisis of our times.
This panel discussion on Syria’s future was held on 23 November in Denver at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). It featured Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch, James Gelvin of UCLA, Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma, and Najib Ghadbian of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces. I chaired and moderated. As I say in my introductory remarks, the questions explored in the discussion include:
How does Russia’s intervention in Syria change the equation?
How might the Paris attacks impact the geopolitical calculus—with France and Russia upgrading their assault on ISIS and the gap between Washington and Moscow regarding Syria’s future seemingly shrinking?
What might come of the Vienna peace talks set to begin in January?
Is Syria as a nation-state over? If so, what will emerge in its aftermath?
How can the carnage in Syria be brought to an end?
In the increasingly disfigured debate about Syria, it is scarcely even remembered that it all began as a popular uprising—indeed, as a nonviolent and non-sectarian one whose goals were dignity, justice, and freedom from a one-family mafia torture state in power for more than four decades.
Wendy Pearlman is out to set that record straight and explain why the Syrian uprising happened in the first place.
Benedict Cumberbatch lends his support to a Save the Children charity single raising money for Syrian refugees.
Conversations about home (at a deportation centre)—Warsan Shire
Well, I think home spat me out, the blackouts and curfews like tongue against loose tooth. God, do you know how difficult it is, to talk about the day your own city dragged you by the hair, past the old prison, past the school gates, past the burning torsos erected on poles like flags? When I meet others like me I recognise the longing, the missing, the memory of ash on their faces. No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. I’ve been carrying the old anthem in my mouth for so long that there’s no space for another song, another tongue or another language. I know a shame that shrouds, totally engulfs. I tore up and ate my own passport in an airport hotel. I’m bloated with language I can’t afford to forget.
With the publication of the incredibly powerful photograph of Aylan Kurdi, the boy who drowned while fleeing the fighting in Syria, let’s hope the world pays attention to that awful war for more than one news cycle. Aylan has become the symbol of the current refugee crisis, the largest mass migration since World War II. You can see more at MarkFiore.com.
The word Genocide is fast becoming yet another synonym for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, alongside Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing. I’ve already began to scratch the surface of the applicability of the Crime of Genocide to Israel, by examining the definition provided in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9th 1948. My conclusion prompted me to create a call to action, calling for concerned citizens of the world to contact the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and demand an enquiry and publish its findings and recommendations as to the possibility that Israel is committing the Crime of Genocide.