The media has been giving more and more attention lately to the issue of refugees. From Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria, the number of refugees in the wider Middle East has been climbing exponentially as violence continues to rage in the region.
According to the latest UN data, nearly 2.5 million Syrians have so far been displaced in the ongoing civil war. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the UN has counted nearly 2 million refugees and displaced persons, with millions more having left the country.
In the vast space between these two countries lies, you guessed it, Iran. Almost without anyone noticing, Iran has been operating on two tracks concerning refugees (not unlike its two-step on the nuclear issue, which we discussed in a previous post): quick to announce it would help refugees (mainly refugees from Syria and Afghanistan), while at the same time exacerbating the conflicts that displaces refugees (Syria).
Bolstering embattled Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s ranks by sending over senior commanders, elite forces, intelligence personnel and military experts extends the battle and results in millions of displaced people.
While the one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.
In November, journalist Robin Lustig, blogging for The Huffington Post, warned that a nuclear agreement with Iran may deal a harsh blow to Syria’s refugees. Days before the Geneva deal was inked, Lustig warned:
As temperatures continue to drop in the Syrian winter, and as tens of thousands more terrified refugees seek shelter and sanctuary wherever they can find it, the fighting will continue. An emboldened Iran may well step up its weapons supplies to Damascus.
This week, Iran’s ISNA reported that UN Refugee Chief Antonio Guterres was due in Tehran Monday for “talks with officials on the plight of hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.” While the media found the space to report about that, no mention was made in the report of the plight of Syrian refugees – nor of Iran’s significant contribution to its perpetuation.