Why are oil-rich Arab states doing so little for Syria’s refugees?

A few days ago, the Saudi Daily Makkah Newspaper published a remarkable cartoon. It showed two closed doors: one that represents Europe and the other one representing the Gulf States. From that second door you could see a man with traditional Gulf clothing yelling at Europe “Why don’t you let them in, you discourteous people?!” while having barbed wire in front of his own door, making sure no refugee is coming in.

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These days it’s all over the news. Every day you read about countries that are having an overload of refugees, countries who think they have an overload, and countries that won’t even let them in. Especially Europe seems to draw a lot of attention with its closed borders policy. Strangely enough it seems like for a while we had all forgotten about those countries in the Middle East where there isn’t a war going on and no overload of anything, except maybe an overload of money. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: the Gulf States.

Officially, Syrian refugees can enter a Gulf state by applying for a tourist visa or work permit, but that costs a lot of money – something these people don’t have. And even so, in practice, it’s commonly known that many Gulf States aren’t that willing to give Syrians a visa. In other words, they’re not helping at all, which is a shame seeing how many other countries in that region are opening their borders for those in need, like Turkey and Lebanon.

What’s even more of a shame is that people now start comparing with the Gulf States. They’re asking why they should let refugees enter if even their own Arab neighbors are closing their doors. They’re too busy discussing such things, forgetting they’re talking about human beings. Human beings just like them, who have nothing but a wish to be safe. Forgetting they had a life, just like them, in their own homeland, with their own business and family.

Just ask yourself a few questions. What would you do if there were war right where you lived? Would you stay? Would you watch your family getting murdered and your house being destroyed? Or would you leave and search for a better place for you and your children? And most of all, would you want people to react the same way as you’re doing now? That’s why sometimes we need to learn that it’s not so much about the differences between people as it’s about the similarities.

Written by Hayat El Khattabi

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Hayat Jamal is a 22-year-old History student. She likes to read, write and practice sports.