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Vol. 80/No. 33      September 5, 2016


Endless Mideast wars: catastrophe for working people

As the wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East continue with no end in sight, the catastrophe visited on working people across the region continues to worsen. Last year alone, millions more were forced to leave their homes, with many also driven from their countries. The refugee crisis in turn has caused political turmoil in Europe, furthering the unraveling of the European Union.

The vast majority of refugees end up in neighboring countries. Out of the close to 5 million people who have fled Syria, 86 percent are in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Every fifth person in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.

“We’re stuck here. We can’t go on and we can’t go back,” Hikmat, a farmer, told the United Nations Refugee Agency in June. He lives in a tent near a shopping center in Lebanon with his wife and children. “My children need to go to school, they need a future,” he said.

Half of the refugees are children. Of the million refugees in Lebanon, 250,000 of those aged 3-18 are out of school. With adults risking arrest if they work, many families rely on child labor to survive.

With rising costs for rent, food, health care and heat, Syrian refugees face disastrous living conditions. More than half of those in Lebanon can’t afford enough food and some 70 percent live on $3.84 or less a day. The majority lack residency status and cannot legally work.

The number of people displaced within their own countries in the Middle East increased by nearly 5 million in 2015.

Yemen accounted for half those people — a result of the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s airstrikes and military intervention to prop up the tottering regime of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi against the Tehran-backed Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis, who seized the country’s capital in February. Workers and peasants also fall prey to the forces of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic State.

The total number of internally displaced in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan stands at 15 million.

With no prospects of going home, months become years in the lives of impoverished refugees living in makeshift camps with inadequate health care and education, which led more than a million to make their way to Europe last year, or die in the attempt.

Led by the richer capitalist states in the north, governments within the European Union responded with “temporary” border controls, essentially scuttling their agreement for EU-wide visa-free travel. As a result, close to 200,000 people are stuck in camps in Greece and Italy, often in squalid conditions.

“No one tells us anything — we have no idea what our future is going to be,” Shiraz Madran, 28, trapped with her four children in a Greek town near Macedonia, told the New York Times Aug. 13. “If we knew it would be like this, we would never have left Syria.”

In March German Chancellor Angela Merkel cut a deal with the Turkish government to try to stem the tide. In return for the promise to consider visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens and to restart talks about Turkish EU membership, Ankara agreed to take back refugees who reached Greece.

But after the failed coup in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ensuing assault on political rights and mass arrests, and his charges of EU and U.S. complicity in the coup, the agreement is in limbo. The Turkish government says if visa-free travel is not in place by October, the deal is null and void.

Refugee crisis roils EU

Nevertheless, the number of people reaching the continent has fallen by three-quarters, with barbed wire blocking borders along routes tens of thousands of refugees had previously used.

The refugee crisis is at the top of the political agenda in virtually all European countries, and anti-immigrant, anti-EU political formations have seized on it to push their line and foster violence against Muslims and Arabs. At the same time, Islamic State terror assaults have spread across the continent.

These developments have driven another nail in the coffin of any dreams of a united capitalist Europe.

The international attention the refugee streams to Europe brought last year is largely gone, but there is no end in sight to the wars, the social dislocation and the worldwide capitalist economic crisis they stem from. A Europol/Interpol report in May said there were 800,000 refugees in Libya hoping for an opening to attempt the journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
Related articles:
US-Turkish war moves in Syria seek to block Kurds
US, Turkish, Syrian hands off Kurds!
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