On Tuesday, Jan. 26, Dr. Beau Bothwell of the Kalamazoo College Music Department gave a presentation at the Arcus Center on the history and current status of the Syrian Refugee Crisis called “Neighbor Before the House.”
During the talk, Bothwell put a very heavy emphasis on the fact that the current conflict in Syria is not the result of thousands of years of conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims as many politicians have described it. Instead, he argues that the recent sectarian movement is rooted in the nineteenth century during the decline and eventual break up of the Ottoman Empire.
Bothwell explained the more recent history of Syria from the 50’s onwards. He used these events as another way to emphasize how sectarianism was not the status quo in Syria until the Assad regime used it as a way to break up the protests in 2010.
The role the dissolution of Iraq played in the current conflict was also mentioned by Bothwell, who said, “During the last few years of the 2000’s the border between Iraq and Syria becomes a highway, basically, 2000 Iraqis were moving into Syria a day. In 2010, there were 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria.”
Bothwell described the Syrian Civil war as “incredibly complex.”
“If anyone tells you they know what is going on in the Syrian Civil War, they’re lying to you,” Bothwell said.
The current sectarianism that defines the Syrian Civil War as “a particularly modern phenomenon that is pursued consciously in the pursuit of power,” described Bothwell.
At this point in time, as a result of the conflict, “Nearly half of the population of Syria is either internally displaced…or, in many cases, they are outside of the country as refugees. The UN says there are 4.5 million Syrian refugees.”
According to Bothwell, the United States has only taken in 2,600 refugees. Bothwell wants to push the government to take in more refugees and brought up a list of organizations that are either attempting to lobby the government or help the refugees currently here.
Kaspar Hudak K’19 commented on how helpful the talk was for him, “The presentation [explained] what the news doesn’t.”
Students interested in learning more about the Syrian Civil War and ways to help refugees should contact Dr. Beau Bothwell.