Kobani, the UN Refugee Agency, and Human Rights

(Registration for our UN Day Luncheon is now closed. If you have reserved a seat for the luncheon, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, October 18th)

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The current violent onslaught against the Syria town of Kobani is the latest dramatic example of why the life-saving work of the UN Refugee Agency is essential in today’s world.

By the time our UN Day Luncheon program takes place next Saturday, it is possible that Kobani may have fallen to the ISIS militants. If that happens, then a new wave of refugees may begin in Iraq or elsewhere in Syria. There is speculation that Baghdad may be the next target of the ISIS jihadists. The prospect of a million people fleeing from the Iraqi capital is chillingly real.

The UN Refugee Agency has twice been the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace. It is a recognition that, year in and year out, the world needs the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

In 1981, the Nobel Prize Committee wrote about the UN Refugee Agency:

“…The problem of refugees is one we encounter in every part of the world. We are face to face with a veritable flood of human catastrophe and suffering, both physical and psychological.

“The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has, in the opinion of the Committee, carried out work of major importance to assist refugees, despite the many political difficulties with which it has had to contend. This work is supported and supplemented by the large-scale contributions made by other international organisations, state-sponsored as well as private….

“The establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees was based on respect for human rights. It is on this basis that we must seek to find the answers to the refugee problems of our age, both on the national and international plane.”

Today, in 2014, the number of refugees in our world has expanded to numbers that haven’t been seen since the end of World War Two. When Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to the UN General Assembly last month, he noted that, “Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies….” 

When we meet on Saturday, we will reflect on the platform of human rights upon which the work of the UN Refugee Agency is built. We will consider America’s response to the present crisis — both as a national security concern and as a response of individuals acting in community.

We have assembled a panel of experts who can speak knowledgeably and passionately about The Refugee Crisis:

Joe Meinhart, a college professor who promotes social responsibility and international education;

Julie Lewis, whose every day job with Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City involves supporting the resettlement of refugees in Oklahoma; and

Imam Imad Enchassi — the son of a refugee, a man who has lived in a refugee camp, and a man of faith who is celebrated as a defender of vulnerable populations.

Please join us in this timely discussion of one of the most profound issues facing our world today.
Tickets are on sale until Tuesday at Noon. After that, our online registration form will be closed.
Reserve your seat today … We hope to see you on Saturday, October 18th.

Whirlwind of violence surprises some residents in northern Syria

8 October 2014
© UNHCR / I.Prickett

SURUC, Turkey, October 8 (UNHCR) – Faysal thought that the conflict plaguing Syria since March 2011 had bypassed his home in the north, so he was stunned when the whirlwind of violence came recently to Kobane (Ayn al-Arab).

Photo Credit: MSNBC

The 35-year-old civil servant had long seen TV news reports of Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries from other parts of Syria. It filled him and his wife, a teacher, with a huge sadness. But somehow he believed that his family, including three children, was safe on the border with Turkey.

That all changed in mid-September, when ISIS fighters launched a major offensive to capture Kobane. The group had attacked the predominantly Kurdish area several months before, but this attack was different. Now, the militants were using tanks and artillery in addition to small arms, Faysal said.

Under cover of darkness, Faysal gathered his family and fled to the border, carrying his 90-year-old father, who was barely conscious, and skirting minefields along the way….

Continue reading at the UNHCR website,

Watch “Faysal’s Flight from Kobane, Syria”

— a 4-minute video from the UN Refugee Agency.


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