U.S. very ungenerous in accepting Syrian refugees: anthropologist

September 20, 2015

TEHRAN - William O. Beeman, a professor of anthropology at the State University of Minnesota, criticizes the United States for accepting limited number of Syrians displaced by the long-running war in the country, saying Washington “has been very ungenerous in accepting the Syrian refugees”.


“If Germany was willing to accept 500,000, the United States should be accepting 2 million in proportion,” Beeman tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.

Beeman is also quite convinced that the United States is mostly responsible for the refugee crises in Syria and Iraq.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Which countries are guilty for the refugee crisis which has engulfed Europe? What is the share of countries such as the U.S. and Britain for the current situation in the Middle East?

A: This is simply a terrible tragedy for which the European Union was unprepared. That is in a way no excuse. There are a million Syrian refugees in Jordan and another million in Turkey living under miserable conditions. It could be foreseen that many would want to travel to Europe, but the crush of numbers was overwhelming. The Europeans simply couldn’t handle them. Added to that was the xenophobia of the Hungarian prime minister. He could have done a lot to facilitate the passage of the refugees to Austria or Germany but he didn’t want them at all, and thought that shutting down transport out of Hungary would somehow stop them from coming.

The United States has been very ungenerous in accepting the Syrian refugees. If Germany was willing to accept 500,000, the United States should be accepting 2 million in proportion. The United States and Britain are slowly being shamed into increasing the numbers they will receive, but there is no money appropriated for transport.

Q: Don’t you think the United States’ policies and its military presence in the Middle East are to blame for germinating terrorist groups and a consequent refugee crisis?

A: Most definitely. The United States program of de-Baathification in Iraq after 2003 created the conditions for the entrance of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and eventually for the formation of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). Essentially all Sunni military and officials were eliminated from the government and they were very very angry. However I must also point out that the Al-Maliki government’s refusal to include the Iraqi Sunni population in power sharing also added to this. In addition the United States determination to help groups wanting to oust Bashir al-Assad inadvertently strengthened Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). The United States actually trained many of the Daesh fighters, including, it is rumored, Al-Baghdadi.

Q: Why some countries in Europe are not eager to accept refugees?

A: Hungary and even some Scandinavian countries are increasingly right-wing and xenophobic in their politics. The Hungarians have been discriminating against the Roma people for some time. They don’t want “Arabs” even passing through. This is a problem, because they are obliged to help under the rules of the EU. This has created a crisis for the EU itself because Hungary is defying the rules. There are even right-wing conservatives in Germany, especially in Bavaria, who are putting pressure on Chancellor Merkel to stop the immigration. Germany sees the Syrians as an eventual asset given Germany’s low population growth. However, the right wing doesn’t want any one admitted except young, very well educated people. This kind of “pick and choose” mentality is simply killing the necessary efforts to save these people.

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The United States determination to help groups wanting to oust Bashir al-Assad inadvertently strengthened Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). The United States actually trained many of the Daesh fighters, including, it is rumored, Al-Baghdadi.