Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Not Fit for Publication | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Those who follow the opinions and debates featured in Arab-based news websites would have noticed a number of comments and assumptions critical of a large segment of fellow commentators’ way of thinking.

Usually, statements of resentment and opposition are repeated in protest against publicizing certain news no matter how serious the news item is. In a situation like this the news item is regarded by its denouncers as taboo or an embarrassment to society, therefore, such news is labeled as “provocative”.

In this regard, objection does not stem from skepticism or protest against the accuracy or validity of the news item but merely against broadcasting such news without any other consideration for what the news actually reflects with respect to human tragedies.

Recently, one news item caused some confusion amongst spectators regarding the comments of a UN official who spoke about the worsening of the problem of Iraqi refugees who are forced into prostitution under the euphemism “weekend marriages”. According to the UN official Erika Feller, the miserable situation of Iraqi refugees who are stranded in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon has driven many families to marry off their daughters in a traditional ceremony to men who are willing to pay for these brides provided that they can divorce them after a few days. This news was announced by the international officer after she had visited Iraqi refugee camps in Syria.

News that covers such sensitive religious or social issues is usually touched upon by some news websites without being highlighted on the same level of importance on satellite news channels. It is as though there is a state of compliance between protestors who represent public sentiment on one hand and those in charge of news channels and bulletins on the other hand that such news can be published on the internet but should not be discussed on our television screens.

Regardless of the policy of “sticking one’s head in the sand”, we should not deal with serious and alarming indicators such as the issue raised by Erika Keller in such a superficial and cold manner. Iraqis have become refugees and the number of Iraqis who have fled the country is believed to exceed four million and this is the most pressing refugee issue in the world today. This figure is almost equivalent to the number of Palestinian refugees, however news focusing on their suffering is tackled with little enthusiasm and attention. Of course, one cannot overlook the magnitude of censorship exercised by states to where these Iraqi refugees have fled. Filming these refugees and giving them the opportunity to express their thoughts on their situations is not easy and cannot be done freely and this further marginalizes their problem. Before the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, any journalist who visited Iraq would have immediately sensed the feelings of bitterness within different groups of Iraqis regarding what they considered the overlooking of their suffering by the Arab media in favor of the Palestinian cause. Even after the downfall of the American invasion, the occupation of Iraq and the explosion of the internal crises, such bitterness remains strong. Undoubtedly, news that features the conditions of some Iraqi female refugees is an extremely tragic aspect of the suffering of Iraqis who were forced to flee death.

What is even more tragic is the continuing failure to face these facts.