by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 43, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1435)
Even while Saudi and Qatari vultures prey on vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey, the government of Lebanon as well as Hizbullah are gamely looking after more than a million refugees that constitute a quarter of their total population.
Tiny Lebanon — total population 4 million — hosts at least one million Syrian refugees, a quarter of its total population. The plight of refugees is often invoked to create mass hysteria against the government of President Bashar al-Asad even while such do-gooders as the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey continue to arm, train and shelter terrorists creating mayhem in Syria. If the US were to accept a comparable figure of refugees, it would have to take in 75 million.
The refugee problem is the direct result of the foreign-inspired war imposed on the people of Syria. There are millions of internally displaced people and about 2.5 million have fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. It is interesting to note that Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan are used for recruiting fighters against the Damascus government while tiny Lebanon, including Hizbullah, offer services to refugees without consideration of their political or religious affiliations. This has even been acknowledged by the refugees in Lebanon.
The plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon again got media attention because Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie who acts as UN ambassador for refugees was in Lebanon recently. She visited refugee camps and was photographed with Syrian children that make for great copy in celebrity conscious media outlets. Jolie called her visit to the refugee camps “a heart-rending experience.” As part of her visit, she toured a camp that housed more than 3,500 children, most of them orphaned or separated from their families in Syria. “They have lost their families and their childhood has been hijacked by war. They are so young, yet they are bearing the burdens of their reality as if they are adults,” Jolie told the media trailing her during the February 25 visit.
The UN estimates that 4.2 million people have been displaced inside Syria. In recent weeks, through local efforts, some relief supplies have been delivered to people trapped inside the Palestinian camp at Yarmouk as well as Homs. Both areas were taken over by rebel fighters who were holding residents hostage. Locally brokered deals enabled UN food supplies to be delivered to people as well as allow them to leave the besieged areas if they wanted.
In Yarmouk, some Palestinian fighters from inside Gaza have also joined the rebels. Under a deal brokered by local representatives, the rebel fighters handed in their heavy weapons while they were allowed to keep light ones. Also, all fighters were given amnesty. In some instances, government forces and rebels also manned checkpoints together. Such deals are becoming more widespread as the rebels realize that they cannot overthrow the government by force and that they are being used by powers that have their own ulterior agendas.
It is also revealing that in the refugee camps in Jordan, especially the Zaatari refugee camp, Saudi and Qatari men have been prowling around picking up young girls and taking them away. Conditions in the camp are so bad that parents are forced to sell their daughters. Some girls sold to Saudi and Qatari men are as young as 12 while the men are in their 60s and 70s. This disgraceful trade in flesh is going on even while the Saudi and Qatari regimes claim they are supporting the people of Syria.
In Lebanon, the condition of the refugees may not be ideal but the degrading practices indulged in by the Saudis and Qataris are not permitted. Many Syrian refugees are located in the eastern Bekaa Valley where the conditions are undoubtedly harsh in winter. This past winter has been particularly severe with snow and bitter winds. The tents housing the refugees offer little protection from the vagaries of the environment.
While Lebanon shelters Syrian refugees, Saudi-backed terrorists continue to create mayhem in the country. In recent weeks, there have been several terrorist attacks killing scores of people, almost all of them civilians. At the beginning of January, Majed al-Majed, a Saudi intelligence operative was captured in Sidon. He was believed to be a high-powered Saudi intelligence official. Unfortunately, a few days after his capture, he was found dead, almost certainly killed by other Saudi agents to prevent him disclosing information about the Saudi terror network in Lebanon.
As is customary, whenever there is a celebrity visiting a country, arrangements are made for her to meet high officials. Jolie was no exception. She met Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Tammam Salam as well as President Michel Sleiman. She praised Lebanon for accommodating the children and Syrian refugee families. “The generosity and solidarity shown by Lebanon and Lebanese to its neighbour serves as an example to the world for which we should all be grateful. We all need to help them bear this burden,” Jolie said.
Her call is likely to fall on deaf ears in Riyadh and Doha. The rulers there are more interested in creating mayhem in Syria rather than worrying about the plight of suffering children. After all, photos of starving or freezing children make for good publicity to whip up mass hysteria against the Asad government. At the same time, visits like those of Jolie’s — this was her third visit to Lebanon — help mask the role of Western governments in creating the refugee problem in the first place by backing the terrorists.
The UN children’s agency, UNICEF estimates that nearly 2,000 children in Lebanon are in danger of starving to death if they do not receive immediate treatment, warning of a malnutrition crisis in a statement on February 25. “Malnutrition is a new, silent threat among refugees in Lebanon,” said Annamaria Laurini, the UNICEF representative in Beirut. The problem is linked to “poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, diseases, lack of immunization and improper feeding practices of young children,” she said. Of the one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 200,000 are children.
UNICEF said a study conducted last October and November showed some 2,000 of the children “are at risk of dying and need immediate treatment to survive.” The most-affected regions were in northern and eastern Lebanon, where the cases of “severe acute malnutrition” doubled from 2012–2013, according to UNICEF. Zeroual Azzedine, UNICEF’s chief of health and nutrition, said under-fives were the most vulnerable to malnutrition, particularly those living in harsh conditions in camps. “The child who suffers malnutrition has no appetite, he does not want to eat… because malnutrition hits the brain first,” he said. According to UNICEF’s Azzedine, the current malnutrition rate among children is 6% that he describes as the “real beginning of the crisis.” But if it hits 15%, it would become an emergency.
While Jolie was visiting Lebanon, the Zionist regime’s US-supplied air force planes attacked the Bekaa Valley on the night of February 25th (other reports said the attack was inside Syria). This was Israel’s contribution to helping the Syrian refugees. Did the US condemn such provocative attacks? Perish the thought; its illegitimate child can do no harm even when it attacks refugee camps or kills children. It has honed its murderous skills killing innocent people, including children in Occupied Palestine. Now it is putting these skills to good use in Lebanon as well.
Israel’s other contribution to the Syrian conflict is to treat terrorists that have been injured in fighting against Syrian government forces. The Zionist regime has set up an emergency hospital on the illegally occupied Golan Heights where the terrorists are brought for treatment.