By Nadiah Sakurai
“Why are you here?” – This was the question that journalist Robert Fisk said people in the Middle East asked him repeatedly.
On Sept. 25, the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) brought award-winning Middle East correspondent for The Independent Robert Fisk to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church to speak about the current situation in the Middle East.
“We should not have a single soldier or weapon in the Middle East because they are not our land, not our people and they do not belong to us,” Fisk said. “I think that the only people who can define and decide the future, are the original people who come from there, not us.”
He also said that if the leaders of the west were to send their soldiers to the Middle East, it would only worsen the situation.
Fisk stated that the issues in the Middle East lie in the history of broken promises the West has made. After the end of the First World War, the League of Nations gave France and Britain a series of mandates from the Middle East to organize, “chopping them up into bits and frontiers,” Fisk said.
At the same time, the West had promised the Jews in Palestine a Jewish Nation Home, while also promising the Arabian monarchy an Arabian independence. However, Fisk said both promises were never kept. The broken promises led the people to stop believing in the West.
During the Arab Spring, “nobody had asked for democracy,” Fisk said. This is because they associate democracy to the West that had broken promises and supported their dictators.
He said, this is also why many people are fleeing their country. “They do not believe they have a country. They didn’t believe in the nation-state that we had set up,” Fisk said.
It is important for us to know the role the west had played in the problems of the Middle East because it also shows us that we should take responsibility and take in refugees.
The photograph of Alan Kurdi, the body of Syrian refugee who had washed up ashore, made global headlines, raising discussion about the Syrian refugee crisis.
The Canadian government has announced that they will speed up the immigration process and bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016. However, Fisk is one of the people not convinced it is enough.
“What is going on in your country?” Fisk asked the audience. The refugees “that we are supposed to be afraid of” being a security risk, he said, “comes unarmed.”
Instead of constantly painting refugees as suspects, Fisk said, Canada needs to follow Germany’s lead.
In the time when refugees are fleeing for their life, we need to assist them not by sending soldiers to the battlefield, but by taking them into safety, he said.