In the aftermath of the attacks and bombings in Beirut, Nigeria, Paris, and the bombing of the Russian passenger plane, it has become apparent that ISIS is desperate to strike at the heart of those who are eradicating their hold over Iraq and Syria.
ISIS has stated that it is seeking to initiate a global war between Muslims and the rest of the world. They believe this is possible if they utilize small terrorist cells whose attacks will strike fear into Western society, and cause the estimated 44 million Western Muslims to be vilified and radicalized. To this end, we see the Parisian terrorists utilized a stolen Syrian passport and traveled from Turkey through to Greece and the Balkans, and then on to Western Europe.
This news quickly exacerbated an already tense environment and, as planned, created a backlash against Muslims in countries like Australia and America. In Europe, the attacks have had a much larger consequence for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq.
In October alone it was estimated that 218,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrived in Europe from across the Mediterranean, while another estimated 500,000 refugees — mainly women and children — have arrived in Lebanon and Turkey over the past year. While the actual figures are expected to be much higher — as many pass through undetected — it is clear that these people now face being locked out of Europe.
In Poland, for example, less than 24 hours after the Parisian attack, the incoming European Affairs Minister, Konrad Szymanskic, stated: “In the wake of the tragic events in Paris, Poland doesn’t see the political possibilities to implement a decision on the relocation of refugees.
‘The attacks mean there’s a need for an even deeper revision of the European policy regarding the migrant crisis.’
Hungary has also rolled out thousands of meters of barbed wire around its borders in an effort to stop refugees entering. Far-right politicians in Britain, Paris, Belgium, and the Netherlands have called for a closure of their borders in the past few days. Sweden, a country usually seen as progressive and peaceful, saw racism taken to a new level, with two schools that were being converted into refugee shelters burned to the ground over the last weekend. In Germany, a leading Mayoral candidate, who supported refugee resettlement, was stabbed in the neck by an anti-immigration activist.
Is ISIS the winner?
So, as the xenophobia runs rampant across Europe, an estimated 700,000 refugees are seeking a new home. Who, if anyone, benefits? According to Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and author on Islamist politics, in the case of France, it is ISIS.
‘Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment really play into ISIS’s hands.’
“The more that happens, the more French-Muslims feel alienated, and are susceptible to extremist recruitment. France has long had a problem with integrating its Muslim population, and France does have a disproportionately high contribution of foreign fighters to ISIS. So, there’s a deeper issue here, and it hasn’t gotten better; it’s only gotten worse,” Shadi Hamid said, according to The Huffington Post.
The real losers
So, as ISIS goes full-steam ahead with its plan to set the West against the Muslim world, it is the refugees who are going to pay the price. Locked out of decent shelter and food, as the brutal European winter approaches, refugees shunned from countries will have to be housed by other less prepared or equipped nations. In places like the German-Austrian border, where many refugees have gathered, a police spokesperson told The Guardian: “We’re doing our best to get the people out of the cold as quickly as we can,” he said. “But it will not be long before a child freezes to death.”
Dr. Victoria Kelly-Clark received her doctorate in political science and international relations from the Australian National University. She has lived in Central Asia and specializes in Russia and its former Soviet territories. For more information, go to Central Asia and Beyond.