In Rich Gulf Arab States, Some Feel Shame Over Response to Refugees


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When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, fellow Gulf states raced to shelter thousands of displaced Kuwaitis. Fast forward 25 years, and the homeless from Syria's nearby war have found scant refuge in the Arab world's richest states.

For critics of the Gulf's affluent monarchies the contrast is profoundly unflattering, especially as several are backers of the combatants in Syria's conflict, so must, they argue, shoulder a special responsibility for its consequences.

The wrenching image of a Syrian Kurdish refugee boy drowned on a Turkish beach has stoked debate in Europe. The official silence of Gulf Arab dynasties makes many Gulf citizens uneasy.

Paintings and cartoons of the young boy's death crowded Arab social media, one depicting little Aylan Kurdi's corpse laid out before an open grave with inert figures in traditional Gulf Arab cloaks and robes holding shovels.

Another showed the three-year old's head slumped toward a tombstone marked "the Arab conscience".

Sara Hashash of rights group Amnesty International called the Gulf Arab states' behaviour "utterly shameful" and criticised Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees.

Turkey hosts almost 2 million, tiny Lebanon over a million and other restive and poor neighbours hundreds of thousands.

The Gulf states' supporters say the numbers involved in Syria's crisis are vastly larger than in Kuwait's case. They point to the funding Gulf states have given to aid efforts in countries neighbouring Syria.

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