For millions of refugees, the crisis continues

Marcia C. Inhorn
Marcia C. Inhorn

By Marcia C. Inhorn
William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs; chair, Council on Middle East Studies

Sept. 11 was a devastating event for the United States, causing the senseless deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans and the injury of more than 6,000 others. Sept. 11 was also a tragedy for the Middle East, as the U.S. responded by initiating two wars, one in Afghanistan in 2001 and one in Iraq in 2003. These long-term and costly wars in the Middle Eastern region have killed thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions of people.

Of the 26 million refugees and 80 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, the majority are from the Middle East, especially Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Indeed, we are now in the midst of an Afghan refugee crisis, the magnitude of which is yet to unfold. The United States has a moral responsibility to accept and care for these Afghan refugees, especially those who assisted in U.S. military and reconstruction efforts. Yet, as my own work with Iraqi refugees shows, our record of Arab refugee resettlement is far from stellar. Most Iraqi refugees who have come to the United States in their moment of need remain quite impoverished and structurally vulnerable. (I have written and co-edited books documenting their experiences: “America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins” and “Un-Settling Middle Eastern Refugees.”)

With the current Afghan refugee crisis now landing on our doorsteps, we must prove, 20 years on, that we can do better. The United States has just ended its longest-ever war, with very little to show for it. But our Afghan refugee crisis has just begun, providing an opportunity for our nation to live up to its principles.

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