Such days are gone. Snow falls on Jerusalem and Amman and most certainly in the higher uplands and mountains of Lebanon, Syria and Turkey and the fighting goes on, hopelessly, relentlessly, and, seemingly endlessly. In the last 2 months alone another 250 000 Syrians have fled across the border looking for refuge. That brings the official UNHCR count to around 4 million, making the Syrian Refugee Crisis the largest refugee crisis in the world right now.
Since 1979 the largest refugee group have consistently been the Afghans, what with the USSR invading, the resultant sectarian mess with the mujahadeen and the taliban, and then of course everything that has happened since the US invasion. Every year since 1979 until 2015 it is the poor old Afghans who have been the largest group of refugees. For now, that dubious honor is being passed to Syria.
At least, that is, if the contentious Palestinian Refugee issue is set aside for the moment. The Palestinians claim there are 6 million refugees, making them the largest group. The Israelis, for their part, propose a much lower figure. The whole issue comes down to the much argued subject of "right of return", and heading into that area is akin to tip-toeing through a metaphorical minefield (an appropriate metaphor in this case). Let it simply be said that there are 59 Palestinian Refugee camps operated by the UN. That says a lot....
As the conflict in Syria slogs on with no viable end in sight Syrians have been leaving their country in droves. This series of blogs gives an over-view of the fate of these refugees, with particular attention being paid to the major countries that are taking in Syrian Refugees - Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. This first part provides some intriguing background for the intrepid reader, with the focus on the grand span of human history leading up to the UNHCR, the main governing body running most refugee camps today.
Other countries have taken in varied numbers of Syrian Refugees. Germany has taken 40 000. Sweden has taken 20 000. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina have all taken a few thousand each. Italy has taken about 4000, France has taken about 1500 and the UK about 500. The USA has taken 100, which is still more than Qatar who have taken 32! China have not taken any but have made a donation of $200 000!
If one scans the ancient literature, from Medieval European and Icelandic, to Classical Greek and Roman, to older texts from the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Middle East, it is abundantly clear that in times of war and battle, mercy was rarely shown. The defeated were generally completely annihilated, the men killed, the women and children killed or driven off for a life of servitude. The vanquished often fade from existence, or historical visibility, the names of tribes and nations erased from the map.
Three thousand years ago, as you can see here in this bas-relief from the reign of Tiglath-Pilesar III, if you were defeated in battle you were almost certainly destined for a painful departure from life. Here we see three victims being impaled on wooden spikes. The Assyrians were big fans of the use of impalement. They most often chopped off the hands and feet as well to ensure the struggle of the victim was a particularly gruesome affair. The Assyrians liked to flay people as well. How could they be so cruel? Well, they are no different from us. Instance of people being impaled have carried on through the ages and skinning people alive is by no means limited to the Assyrians.
|Assyrians impaling the vanquished|
If one was fortunate enough to live (I guess), one might be deported to a far-flung part of the Assyrian Empire, far away from any kith and kin in order to break up any sense of ethnic identity or tribalism. Such would be your destined lot.
|Assyrians deporting the vanquished|
|Cassandra Clings To Statue Of Asalaeus. Sneaky Ajax coming up behind|
|King Aethelbert. c.600 AD|
|Hexham Abbey Frith Chair|
|The UNHCR logo|