Humans of the Middle East: The Truth About Refugees

Zaid suggests that one reason for their neglect could be attributed to the sectarian divide in Islam between Sunnis and Shias.
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Zaid suggests that one reason for their neglect could be attributed to the sectarian divide in Islam between Sunnis and Shias.

Iraq, true to its Middle Eastern heritage, boasted a blended nation with both Islamic sects- Sunni and Shia, strongly represented as well as Christian and Jewish communities co-existing peacefully before 2003.

“My best friend growing up was Christian and honestly before 2003 I never even knew about Sunni and Shia in Islam.”

“It was only until 2005, that I really understood that there was a Sunni and a Shia. I remember asking my father, Am I Sunni or Shia, because I never knew until then.”

“None of that mattered. It was the character of the person that determined if you would be friends or not,” explained Zaid.

After failing to start afresh in Dubai, it was then that Zaid turned his eyes to Turkey.

“I then said that I would come to Turkey and think about what I should do after I learned about the U.N. in Turkey [and their efforts to send people affected by sectarian clashes and war in the Middle East to Europe and America]. And so I did. At four in the morning, I arrived in Turkey by plane two years ago, January.”

About the same period of time that many like Zaid thought it would take for the U.N. to interview and offer them asylum in Europe or America. Many, who took this sanctioned route to freedom are still waiting for the U.N’s interview, with some, many of whom professionals in law, medicine and business, so frustrated with the process, opting to return to their war torn countries than settle for inertia.

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Ironically, it is his and others like him, value of character, integrity and liberal secular views that have seen them finishing last in the race to gaining entry into the West.

“I don’t know where is the justice,” said Zaid.

“Many people have come after me and got the interview with the U.N.. The most liberal people are stuck here in Turkey while fundamentalist people.. you know the ones who insist that women should be wearing burqas are now in America and Europe.”

“I don’t understand the justice.”

While there have been people who waited on the U.N. and were granted asylum, many more have made it to the West, particularly Europe, by illegal means suggested Zaid. Most paying thousands of dollars to illegal smugglers to get into Europe. Those not able to afford the exorbitant price of freedom, left to settle for raft boats across the Mediterranean… still for a price, albeit much less (if not counting the risk of death).

Coming from comfortable means, Zaid pointed out that he and his father have had that option of paying to enter Europe, but to do so would be, again, to betray their respect for law and due process.

” I will only go the legal way, the way as a respected man,” asserted Zaid.

“I am not a criminal, I am a human.”

Those who give the word refugee a bad name

As for the refugees who have made it into Europe, engaging in criminal acts and spreading fear,  Zaid acknowledges the West’s negative perception of ‘refugees’ as ‘just’ if not a natural result, void of any hidden agendas.

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“If people came to my country and created these problems, I would feel the same way too.”

Perhaps, it is important to proffer that many had this ‘criminal mind’ before leaving their homelands. And that with many holding extremists views about non-Muslims as well as Muslims of different sects, the situation occurring in Europe was inevitable.

Turkey as a refuge

“I understand that some people don’t like me because I am a ‘refugee’- not because I am Zaid, just because I am a refugee,” acknowledged Zaid.

Being on the receiving end of a lackluster reception from some Turkish people, he is quick to suggest that with Turkey’s own precarious economic situation at the moment being felt by many Turkish people and with the influx of refugees seemingly benefiting from the government in the form of accommodation and allowances, Turkish people are rightly frustrated.

“Before, I did not know anything about Turkey, their customs and so I felt isolated because language is important in connecting with people and very few people speak English,” revealed Zaid, whose English is fluent.

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