Editorial | Syria: an echo from the past

North Wind Staff

It’s been nearly five years since the events of the Arab Spring sparked revolution and an ensuing civil war in Syria in an attempt to overthrow the oppresive regime of Bassar al-Assad.re-NWLogoSocialMedia

To date, the rebel uprising has failed to dislodge al-Assad from power, as he still controls around 30 percent of the country. In addition, the instability that classically accompanies all major revolutions made for an inviting target to Islamic-extremist groups like ISIL, which now control one-third of the country as well.

The ceaseless butchery of men, women and children by ISIL and its wanton destruction of the ancient world’s most precious artifacts has inspired a mass exodus of Syrian refugees across the European continent, but the refugees did not find the welcome they expected when they reached safe havens like Hungary and Germany.

Earlier this month, as horrified Americans cried over photographs of dead Syrian toddlers washing up on Turkish beaches, pressure mounted to do something about the  growing refugee crisis.

In response, President Barack Obama announced a plan to allow asylum to no less than 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year, with the potential for more in the year 2017. However, not all Americans are seeing things his way.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found a sharp divide in opinion over the issue. Fifty-one percent of Americans believed the U.S. should not allow refugees into the country, some citing fears over potential terrorists entering the country.

The North Wind staff disagrees with that assumption. History teaches us that this narrative has happened before, with disastrous consequences  as in the sad story of the ship M.S. St. Louis.

Turned away from a Florida harbor in 1939 carrying 908 Jewish refugees seeking escape from the Nazis, the M.S. St. Louis was also refused asylum in Cuba and Canada as well. It is estimated that a quarter of those refugees sent back to Europe by the United States later died in German concentration camps.

The U.S. government had the ability to act then, and failed.

We hope the current administration will remember the mistakes of the past and honor the mantra of acceptance inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, which reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”