Oct 1, 2012

Whose Refugees Matter More?

In my previous post, I wrote about the recent meeting of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council about Bahrain. Recommendations “demanded” Bahrain to stop its systematic violations that include killing protesters, arresting hundreds, torture cases, and many other things. Will Bahrain take the recommendations seriously? If not, will the United Nations put sanctions on Bahrain? Will it send observers to Bahrain? Will it discuss any kind of intervention? The answer is: of course not!
It is no surprise that the United Nations with all its bodies has brought nothing but disappointment to the Arab world, but when it comes to the regimes of the Gulf and their practices, the story is even worse. Another establishment of the United Nations that should be looked at is the UNHCR – or the UN Refugees Agency. If you are constantly following up the statements made by the agency’s representatives, you will not be surprised to know how double their standards are. In Syria, for decades, the Agency did not bother to fight for the Kurdish community, stating that they would rather work in Syria according to the regime’s rules than lose their place in the country and thus be unable to help other refugees.
Similar statements were made in all the interviews with the Agency’s representatives in Kuwait. Although the agency includes the stateless (Bedoon) community in Kuwait under the umbrella of refugees, the agency offers no help to them and makes no comments on Kuwait’s continuous violations against them. A few days ago, Hanan Hamdan, the head of the Agency’s office in Kuwait, enraged the Bedoon by stating: “Naturalization of Bedoon is a decision up to Kuwaiti authorities.” She also suggested that Kuwait should organize a conference to speak about its “leading experience” in dealing with the issue of statelessness; surely she wasn’t referring to the state’s experience in arresting more than 200 protesters, torture cases, and denying Bedoon their rights to documents, health care, employment, and education. The meeting covered by Kuwaiti press showed Hamdan with Saleh al-Fidala; the man assigned by the Kuwaiti government to solve the issues of Bedoon despite his being openly racist against the stateless community.
This meeting and Hamdan’s statement came right after Kuwait’s donationof a million dollars to Syrian refugees. Certainly, no Bedoon or Kuwaiti objects to the offering of aid to Syrian refugees, especially after seeing their government, in the absence of a parliament, give billions to the regimes of Bahrain, Jordan, and Oman a couple of weeks ago. The objection comes to the policies of the United Nations establishment that cares more about keeping donations from Gulf regimes coming by complimenting their “brilliant” plans in dealing with statelessness!
Shortly after that scandalous meeting, three international human rights organizations published a letter addressed to the Emir of Kuwait calling him to grant rights to the Bedoon community. The statement confirmed that Kuwait hasn’t fulfilled any of its promises made to international committees regarding the issue of Bedoon. It also states that Bedoon are facing continuous abuse and discrimination and are denied their basic rights, documents, and deserved naturalization.
So what should we expect from UN bodies in the Gulf? Well, nothing really. As long as Gulf regimes keep throwing money at them, we will never see them standing clearly against the violations of their donors. The better option is not to expect much of them and to, instead, keep unveiling their hypocrisy.

* published in AlAkhbar

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