The One Thing World Refugee Day Should Help You Remember
World Refugee Day comes amid renewed fears surrounding terrorism in the United States in the wake of last week's horrific Orlando mass shooting. On the back of this tragedy, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is repeating, more loudly than ever, his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Terrorism discourse in the United States tends to focus myopically on American national security and Americans' safety, but the occasion on Monday offers some much-needed perspective. One thing to remember on World Refugee Day is that Middle Eastern Muslims are suffering at the hands of terrorists the most.
The Syrian Center for Policy Research reported in February 2016 that about 11.5 percent of Syria's population has been killed or injured since war broke out between ISIS and rebel groups in the country in 2011. That figure includes an estimated 400,000 deaths directly related to violence and an additional 70,000 to war-related causes, including lack of access to health care and food scarcity.
BBC News reported that more than 1 million migrants entered Europe in 2015 alone; the majority are from Syria, but many are from Afghanistan and Iraq, two other Middle Eastern countries subjected to the violence of ISIS and similar groups in the regions.
The UN Refugee Agency describes its goal for 2016's World Refugee Day thus:
In a world where violence forces hundreds of families to flee each day, the UN Refugee Agency believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees, and it will launch its #WithRefugees petition on June 20th to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees.
This is a message that the American public and the American government need to hear. The approach exemplified by Trump overlooks the suffering of Middle Eastern Muslims and frames the fight against ISIS as an East versus West, Muslim versus American war. At a time when Trump is viciously attacking President Barack Obama for supposedly failing to call terrorism what it is — "radical Islamic terrorism" — the hypocrisy is ripe; Trump and others who frame the fight as East against West fail to accurately identify who these groups serve as the primary enemy of. Groups like ISIS are, first and foremost, a threat to the Middle Easterners and Muslims around them.
Terrorism has impacted the United States and led to tragic losses of life, and national security is important. But if we hyperfocus on the impact terrorist acts have had or might have on us to the point of closing our eyes to the vastly disproportionate and immediate destruction of lives at the hands of terrorists in their home countries, then we become susceptible to the hazardous rhetoric of divisiveness Trump is spewing forth. This not only puts us in a position to abandon those suffering most, but creates a hospitable environment for anti-American sentiment and radicalization. It is inhumane and counterproductive at the same time.
The humane and reasonable response is solidarity, which is what the UN Refugee Agency is calling for on June 20 and beyond. The #WithRefugees petition will be presented to the UN before its September 19 General Assembly summit, where leaders will discuss the migrant crisis. Sign the #WithRefugees petition to let the government, and the rest of the world, know that Trump-style rhetoric does not represent the American public.
Image: Tina Gong/Bustle