Humanity Washed Ashore – OpEd


By Fatma Yılmaz-Elmas

Yesterday, September 2nd 2015, not only Europe but the whole world was shocked by a photograph of a refugee. He was a small child, at the Bodrum Beach, whose family must have believed that Europe’s “values” would grant their son the right to live…

No, he is not enjoying the sun while the end of summer approaches. His dead body is likely cold in spite of the heat…

Everyone is ashamed of their humanity, including me, as a human, as a woman, as a mother of a son of the same age…

I know that I have no right to defend myself. I assert identifications like “Mediterranean: a fatal route”; I am busy with data for my PhD thesis, updating it with new statistics on immigrants; I concern myself with sending messages to politicians, and identifying problems and theorizing the reasons behind them. It is what I do, but is this truly all that my capabilities can achieve?
With this piece, I am writing with a heavy heart, trying to express my silent scream, working as if entering my thoughts into a diary. This time it is not my academic character but my sore heart that is using the keyboard…


I have the European Migration Forum at Brussels in mind. The date is January 26th and 27th 2015… Majid Hussain is a Nigerian refugee in Italy. He is as “primary source (!)” a guest at the meeting; he is in front of all of us addressing Europe passionately shouting the words, “We deserve equality. Life is the only goal. Where is humanity?”

Milen Eyob is an Algerian refugee and human rights activist in Sweden at the moment … He is telling us about her journey with her dad, and she is clearly still under the influence of what she experienced. When he says “you may sell your organs during the journey” to reach Europe, we are struck with terror. At the end, she is applauded by Europeans for a while … But Eyob summarizes his unnecessary gratitude to Europeans with these words: ““Why should we extra thankful more than local (European) people to the system for our rights provided to us?”


The “European journey” which is set out upon at the expense of selling your organs or succumbing to death… It is a choice between two fires, either die in your own country or die trying to give your children a better future…

Europe has not understood that people set out on this journey because they have no other options, thus Europe has tried to repel these people by deeming their claims “bogus”. Also, it has criticized Italian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which in fact utilize Europe’s own resources, because the possibility of securing a rescue in the sea encourages the migrants to cross the Mediterranean (!)…

Advocates of this immoral rationale seem to have forgotten the millions of Europeans who fled war, torture, and poverty during World War II.

Today, the weekly deaths of migrants do nothing to put an end to the delay of taking concrete steps and they have still not convinced Cameron… He continues to say “majority of Mediterranean migrants not asylum seekers”. Even the day that the innocent tiny body washed ashore like a fish, he advocates “there is no answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”


During the beginning of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East that came to be identified as a sort of “Spring”, it was obvious that the crisis would not be solved only by taking refugees. On the one hand, Europe has supported the countries affected by the uprisings in their democratization efforts (“more for more”, the more democratization the more financial assistance); on the other hand, it has continued to fund regimes simply in order to control immigration, regardless of whether these governments are democratic or not.

Therefore, the steps that are not taken by Europe at the right time today result in the bodies of countless other refugees that have not made it ashore.


In short, the European “migrant-centered” approach offered after the ‘Arab Spring’ considers migrants at its center, but in wrong direction … Unfortunately, once again, the ‘rhetoric’ does not match with ‘practice’…


Of course, neither Turkey nor the Muslim world can get out of responsibility by shifting the blame onto Europe. Because the child, who command his lifeless body on the beach to a Muslim community to be buried in accordance with his beliefs, will surely ask “where is the religion of humanity, where is your hospitality and are there truly any brother countries?”, albeit in another place and time.


JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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