Humanity Washed Ashore

People don’t become refugees because they want to. They become refugees because they have no other choice. The Syrians who are fleeing their war-torn country once had a home, a family, a job, a business. They were surrounded by people they love. They did not ask for their homes and lives to be destroyed. The war is not their making, not their choice.

People who look at refugees fleeing from war with disdain forget one very important thing. Sometimes we have no control over our fate; sometimes the decision and greed of others shape our destiny. You may consider the refugees as a burden to your country, but you forget that by a twist of fate, it could be you who are fleeing from your war-torn country. I hope you will be shown the same level of compassion when you need it.

The image of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a beach was heart wrenching. It finally opened the eyes of people around the globe of the desperation of many fleeing the war. How many had met a similar fate before Alan? I can only hope that he was the last.

Alan’s aunt asked that people stop sharing the photo of his lifeless body and share the photo of him happy and smiling. I don’t know which is more heartbreaking… knowing that we are all a little guilty of killing his smile.

This image was shared by Europe Says OXI. If only.

As this 13-year old Syrian boy said, “You just stop the war and we don’t want to go to Europe. Just stop the war in Syria, just that.”

I end this post with a tribute written by Samah Sabawi.

Red shirt… blue jeans… little sneakers. Not on a boat of asylum seekers. Not holding the hand of a hijab wearing mother. Not in the embrace of a brown skinned father. Not in the company of anyone that the world can demonize. Face down in the sand, with his eyes eternally shut he pries open our eyes. He looks familiar, like a son, a grandson, a nephew, a toddler in the playground. He looks like that kid at the grocery store who always manages to stare us down.

Red shirt… blue jeans… little sneakers. No papers, no visa, no ID. A victim of our policy. The wars we started over there have come to haunt us here. The voices we muted for so long have suddenly become loud and clear. A picture is worth a thousand words, but how many words do we need to erase our fear of the other? How many words does it take to affirm humanity? The resort was the last place they expected to be confronted with this. The tourists were shocked. All they wanted was to watch the sun rise and make love on the beach. ‘He was not supposed to be here washed up on our shore’ .

Red shirt…blue jeans…little sneakers…thoughtless refugee. Did he really have to drown in our sea? Can we just take one minute to learn from history? Palestinians were the first wave of dispossessed in the Arab world, now they are a drop in the ocean of exile and grief. The lesson learned is this: When injustice is left to fester, it expands beyond the horizon. Everyone becomes a refugee.

Red shirt…blue jeans… little sneakers…they were riding the waves along the shores of Haifa, desperate they climbed into wooden boats to escape from the Irgun. Face down in the sand. Nakba is infectious. Untreated and unopposed, Nakba grows past the checkpoints and the siege of Gaza, it spreads to Syria… Iraq …Afghanistan…and Yemen… Its poison taints the waters of the Mediterranean.

Red shirt … blue jeans…little sneakers. He is beautiful and intact. Face down in the sand, the sharks did not devour him. They left him for the bigger beasts. The arms dealers…warlords and oil sheiks. The neo cons in the west and the tyrants of the east. He is an offering for their feast.

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