Saturday, October 31, 2015

Syrian Refugees and the Banners (II)

These days the faces of ever growing refugees from Afghanistan to Syria are all over the media marching across fields and roads. Mostly young and energetic, they are the ones who can endure the long trip, some with small children in tow are seen demanding the right of passage to the more affluent parts of Europe. Many want to travel to Germany. When this wave of refugees began flooding the borders of Europe they were met with few activists carrying signs of "Welcome" along with armchair moralists encouraging them. There is nothing wrong with welcoming someone or being a moralist armchair or otherwise, but mostly they fall in the category of impulsive reaction and does not provide an overall view of the problem at hand.

When looked from the point of view of the host countries anxiety among broad spectrum of Europeans facing this flood is rising. Some do not want any refugees permitted in. Others concede that Europe cannot accept all these refugees but at the same time cannot shut its eyes on the current armed conflicts and must keep the gates half open to the "eligible" refugees. Others promote the idea of direct intervention to end the conflict as a means to stop the flood of refugees.

Afghanistan and Iraq have proven that direct intervention does not provide a quick solution to the refugee problem. Libya and Egypt are showing that what was perceived as Arab Spring is really the beginning of a protracted and enduring social conflict and more often than not it will end in a civil war.

These social movements while opposing the status quo have strong religious Islamic overtones. The question of social reforms particularly women's rights are buried under the slogans of "Allah is great". Europeans watching women refugees in their overwhelming majority, heads tightly wrapped in cloths, ask themselves who are these refugees and feel the secularism of the European societies threatened. Some even wonder if there are Islamic fundamentalists among these refugees who are using this mass exodus as a cover to penetrate Western countries for their recruitment purposes and destructive operations.

It seems that all opposition groups who operate in Syria have cloaked themselves in religious fervor and if there are any secular forces they are small and ineffective. The only viable group is the Kurds who is taking advantage of this turmoil and is carving out an independent existence for itself, similar to the Kurds in Iraq. The Kurdish forces can be used to keep the Islamic extremists in check but their Kurdish national identity cannot be a model for all of Syria. The recent move by President Obama to station some U.S. army special operation units in Kurdish region could be a very good tactical move.

Looking at the situation in Syria and the waves of young refugees hopping and jumping fences and confronting the security forces, it occurred to me that they are very good candidates for forming an army. This new army initially stationed in Europe for training will be completely secular in its goals and training. This army should be composed of both men and women units to win territories in Syria with the full support of the U.S. and Europe. Any forces inside Syria that wants to seek the support of the Western forces has to support and work with this new secular army and eventually integrate into it. This new army could be the best filter for all the problems that this wave of refugees could potentially pose to the Western societies and maybe it becomes a new way of approaching the problem of secularism in the Middle East and north Africa.

At this time there are an ongoing negotiations between "interested" parties in Syria. While one should never miss a chance for negotiation one thing is clear, the Western countries cannot find secular inroads in those conflicts by negotiation alone, war is the predominant force.

Any secular agenda pivots around the women's question. Any group lacking this agenda in their daily operations, but claiming secularism, should be dismissed as unreliable. The Western societies cannot tip toe around this fundamental principle of women rights and at the same time think that they can negotiate their way toward stable societies.

These waves after waves of refugees could subside when the refugees learn that they have to take care of their conflicts along a truly secular path and new recruits for this army could halt. In that juncture our job is to be patient and keep the gates of the barracks of the new secular army open. Eventually they will come when they get tired of killing each other in their sectarian ways. We just have to make sure that no sect will prevail while they are slaughtering each other.

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