2014 has been a terrible year for the Middle East, and—free of all sarcasm or flippancy—that’s saying something.
The region is one of the most historic, culturally-rich, geographically beautiful and absolutely unique and incredible regions in the world, and has been for millennia. Sadly, it’s also been one of the most blood-soaked, war-ravaged,
That’s especially true now. ISIS has ravaged Syria and Iraq, claiming the lives of thousands of innocents and committing a string of abhorrent atrocities while targeting entire tribes and peoples, destroying centuries-old landmarks, and leaving a swath of death in its wake. Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a shooting war once again, with both sides claiming legitimate grievances and Hamas and fringe, far-right Israelis reducing Gaza to rubble as Israel itself sustains damage and operates under climate of constant war and terror. Before either of those conflicts broke out, the Syrian Civil War has seen gas attacks, hundreds of thousands die, and even more become displaced.
Whether you’re someone who’s been displaced by one of these or one of the other many conflicts in the region, or else simply want to leave the Middle East for somewhere new, here are a few emigration options.
Options Within the Middle East Itself
First, if you find yourself displaced, you might well want to explore options within the Middle East itself, for obvious travel, economic, familial and cultural reasons. The United Nations, Red Cross, and other international organizations help millions every year when it comes to these sorts of crises, so look to their websites for more information.
In the past few decades, Jordan has seen a lot of immigration from neighboring areas, and is one option you might want to explore.
Of course, in an area as steeped in ethnic and religious history as the Middle East, those factors are going to be huge determinants in deciding where, if anywhere, you wish to locate to in the region. Women with a conception of equality and women’s suffrage might, for example, find themselves at odds with highly-restrictive, anti-suffrage nations such as Saudi Arabia. Shiites and Sunnis aren’t always going to find harmony in the same emigration areas within the Middle East, simply because of centuries-old divisions which are now becoming more and more inflamed by recent tensions in the region.
Many Kurds in particular are definitely going to have a hard time finding new, conflict-free areas to settle down within the Syria-Iraq area, especially with ISIS carving a swath of destruction across the region. Many Kurds also live in and around Turkey, but there are long-standing historical problems there as well. One day, there may well be a Kurdistan, but for the moment, the best bet for Kurds might be more “neutral” areas, or else, if they’re not willing to stay and fight for a potential Kurdistan, to instead try one of these regions abroad.
To begin our look at the possibilities for Arabs and other groups looking to emigrate from the Middle East, we start with Detroit. Much has been said about Detroit’s once-booming economy auto industry going bust—and with good reason. That being said, however, Detroit is also home to the largest Arab population in the United States. Given the challenges many Middle Easterners encounter when trying to settle down in new locations, that’s definitely something to consider. What’s more, because of the economic collapse, Detroit’s housing prices have fallen through the floor, meaning that if you’re coming from an economically-depressed area yourself, you still might not find yourself priced out of a home in the Motor City. Michigan has an especially-high proportion of Arab-owned businesses and Chaldean peoples, which may well be seen as welcome news for those looking to flee the situation in Syria and Iraq especially.
In addition to Detroit, America’s two largest metropolitan areas likewise have large—and growing—Arab populations. Both the Irvine-Anaheim-Los Angeles and New York-Boston-D.C. metropolitan areas have active Arab populations.
Parliament Buildings [Public Domain]
The capital of the UK is quickly becoming one of the Muslim Meccas in Western Europe as well. Islam as a practiced religion has skyrocketed in the UK in recent decades, and there’s overall a more developed Muslim community there than in other areas. For English-speakers looking to escape Syria, Iraq, and similar besieged areas, Detroit and London represent two good, distinct emigration destinations.
The South of France has a long history of Arab/Islamic influence. Whether you’ve gone to school in the East or West, chances are you’ve heard of the Frankish king Charlemagne. His victory at the Battle of Tours in 732 is one of the key points in the long and sordid history of conflicts between the West and Middle East. His victory, to a great extent, halted Islam’s expansion into Western Europe. Even so, pockets of Muslims have remained in France, particularly in the Southern region around Marseilles, for centuries, and recent decades have seen a spike in immigration there. Add to that the fact that the French language has had some impact on African and Middle Eastern culture given France’s imperialist history in the region, and France could work well if you and your family are Francophones as well as Arab speakers.
France is probably the most controversial listing here, and with good reason. Recent Arab-led mobs attacking Jewish shops, synagogues, and civilians have led to some tension in the South of France, as have recent political rulings against traditional-Islamic items such as the burqa.
However, France is also…France. It’s one of the most unique and distinguished countries on Earth, and one of the most culturally-rich and economically-progressive at the moment as well. If those attributes sound familiar, despite the historical and present-day conflicts occurring there, then France might be worth a look.
Spain arguably has the longest history of Islamic and Arabic influence of any nation in the West. Islamic empires dominated the Iberian Peninsula, and still exerts a strong cultural influence to this day. There’s a large Muslim population in Madrid and other parts of Spain. Add to that the fact that Spanish is a hugely-common second language, and easy to learn, and this may well be one of the more realistic and reasonable options open to you. While the economy of Spain at the moment is definitely struggling, the cultural familiarity may be more than enough to entice you to at least give it a once over when choosing a new home.
You may not think of Canada as a natural destination for Middle Eastern expatriates, but cities like Toronto, for instance, have a growing number of Middle Eastern developers and real estate speculators - particularly from Kuwait and the Emirates - and there’s been a growing community of Persians in the suburbs of Markham and Richmond Hill as well. But Canada has long been an attractive destination for the Lebanese, who have particulary thrived in Quebec - nearly half of all Lebanese Canadians live in Greater Montreal - and who have deposited Shawarma and Falafel restaurants seemingly everywhere (including communities with few Arabs, such as Hamilton, Ontario). The biggest thing Canada has going for it as an expatriate destination is simply the fact that it’s historically a very open, polite, and welcoming nation, particularly when it comes to immigrants.
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