Sending refugees to Turkey a misadventure – Robert Fisk

Journalist and author speaks at UCD Law and Philosophical Societies on ‘Life after Isis’

The EU is embarking on a misadventure in sending refugees to Turkey – a country which has a history of human rights abuses stretching from the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to more recent attacks on the Kurdish people, journalist and author Robert Frisk said on Monday.

Addressing a joint meeting of UCD's Law and Philosophical Societies attended by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Dr Fisk said there was an irrational fear of refugees who had turned their backs on Isis, and who believed – probably correctly – that the rest of the Arab world did not care about them.

Dr Fisk said refugees would not give up and would switch to north African routes through countries such as Spain, or would go "back to Malta".

The inability of the EU to deal with this could see the downfall of the union, he said.

Capacity audience Empires crumbled from within, not without, because of policies that did n

ot work, he told the capacity audience, including Palestinian Ambassador Ahmad Abdelrazek.

Western thinking on the Middle East is convulsed with fears of the Muslim Brotherhood and of "Muslim terror" being visited on Europe by one million refugees, journalist and author Robert Fisk said in UCD on Monday.

Addressing a joint meeting of UCD’s Law and Philosophical Societies on the subject of “Life after Isis”, Dr Fisk said he suspected there was another subtext to what he called the Arab Awakening, or what the west rather annoyingly referred to the “Arab Spring”.

The subtext was the involvement of the trade union movement.

Dr Fisk said unrest had broken out in 2006 in Mahala, about 75km north of Cairo, Egypt, inspired largely by women cotton workers who shamed their men into action.

Independent trade unions there staged an attempted coup against then president Hosni Mubarak - five years before the Cairo Tahrir Square revolution.

Cotton workers, led by women, occupied the centre of Mahala and held off riot police and “plain-clothes cops” for up to a week, calling in the country “fellahin”, or agricultural labourers to support them by using mobile phones and social media.

Trade unionists were released from detention, they got pay rises - but did not destroy Mubarak.

When Egyptians gathered en masse in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, the regime had to destroy the independent trade unions.

Secular socialists were more dangerous than the Muslim Brotherhood as they could close Egypt down and destroy its economy, Dr Fisk said.

He recalled hoping a doctoral student would explore this aspect of the Arab Awakening, but when Italian Cambridge University student Giulio Regeni did just that, his brutally tortured body was found dumped close to the Cairo-Alexandria motorway.

Disturbing questions It was a strong indication that the student had been asking disturbing questions of

Egyptian President al-Sissi’s regime, Mr Fisk said.

Turning to the issue of refugees clamouring to get into Europe, he said it was significant these people had not gone to join Isis “but had gone the other way”.

Reading from a long list of the various western states and alliances who were fighting on and off in the Middle East, he asked the audience what western foreign policy was.

He said it was significant the refugees were going generally not to the US or to Britain, which had bungled in the region, but to Germany.

In a question-and-answer session after the lecture, Dr Fisk said refugees did not go to "friendly" Arab countries such as Morocco because it and other Arab states were "fraudulent".

“I don’t think the Arab world cares about the refugees, and I think the refugees know that,” he said.

Following the lecture, Dr Fisk was presented with honorary life membership of the UCD Law Society.

The event was hosted by the Law and Philosophy Societies, with the support of the UCD university relations.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist