Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
The Kurds cannot stay where they are.
They cannot go forward into Turkey or Iran.
They cannot go back home.
These are the facts that World Vision is surveying right now in Turkey. Impossible facts.
Unless one of these facts changes, these people will continue to die. One report put the deaths at over 1,000 a day.
Fact #1 You can't stay here.
The most difficult fact to change is the first one. The Kurds cannot stay where they are.
It's just an impossible place for so many people to live.
It's no good for the world to look to World Vision and similar agencies to keep these people going while we think about other solutions. If they stay where they are, most are going to die. That's the fact, whatever World Vision does.
The people are crowded together on steep, muddy hillsides. The temperature is around freezing. It's raining a lot.
Our World Vision of Britain colleagues, Ric Williams and Derek Davies report, "TV can show the pictures but not the stench of human waste mingling in the seas of mud with decomposing offal from animals long since slaughtered in the struggle to survive; the biting wind searching out the yawning gaps in the primitive shelters, where the elderly and very young huddle. We heard that Red Crescent (Turkish Red Cross) trucks are snow bound ten kilometres from the main supply town."
Attempts to air drop supplies have killed nine people so far, giving new meaning to the phrase inappropriate aid.
The Turkish authorities do not know which way to move.
The local Governor said the refugees "must stay where they are." But, at the same time, he emphasised that even short term survival was uncertain.
We have to face the fact that lots of people will die if they stay where they are.
Fact #2 You can't go forward.
The Governor is right. We might hope that the Turkish authorities would allow temporary camps to be set up. But everyone knows that temporary often becomes permanent in the refugee world.
Just ask Thailand about the temporary camps it set up for refugees from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Ask Pakistan about temporary camps set up for refugees from Afghanistan.
Ask Malawi about temporary camps set up for refugees from Mozambique.
Still, fact #2 is not as hard to change as fact #1.
In theory, Turkey could transport these people to more suitable places.
Whether Turkey will permit this depends on whether Fact #3 can ever be changed.
Fact #3 You can't go back.
The talk has been of an enclave inside Iraq. Policed and protected by the United Nations.
It's a grand idea. It is also a dream too small.
The Kurds need a bigger dream. The world needs a bigger dream.
The protected enclave idea is based on old thinking. Old thinking that is not merely out of date, but useless. It just does not work.
The old thinking is that people can be protected by force.
Let's force our way into Iraq. Force Hussein to keep out of Kurdish territory. Force a solution.
As any good mechanic will tell you. If you've got to force it, you're not doing it right.
We need new thinking. Our political leaders need new thinking.
Gareth Evans, our Foreign Minister, told Jana Wendt last week that world political systems do not always permit us to do things which are morally right.
It would be morally right to provide a long term solution to the Kurdish problem. It happens to be politically impossible.
In one sentence, one of our leading politicians admitted the moral bankruptcy of much of international politics.
In one sentence, he admitted that political systems are incapable of making a difference to an injustice that is killing thousands a day. How pathetic!
In an ABC radio debate in which I took part, the Kurdish spokesperson said, "The Kurds don't want an independent enclave. They want to live with freedom and justice in Iraq with other Iraqis."
The present world system fails at this point because it assumes that States are kind to their citizens. That the governments of all States act in the best interests of all the citizens within its borders.
This assumption is much more often wrong than right.
The UN will not interfere in the Kurdish problem because it assumes that the government of Iraq will do what is best for them. Does anyone believe this?
If we want to see justice in the world, we need to change fact #3.
We need to find a new way to help people to live in reconciliation.
The old way is by force. One would like to believe that superpower support for revolutionary movements was motivated by a desire to bring about justice.
Even if this were true, helping one side to beat the other side by force does not solve the problem. It does not bring justice. It often creates new dictators, new injustices, a new underground revolutionary movement.
There are many pressing development problems in the world. Solving this one would help eliminate one of the most significant world problems -- the huge mass of refugees and the profusion of civil wars.
The people of the world must admit that the drawing of lines on a map does not bring justice. Nor does enforcing the line. Justice comes when people live in right relationships with one another. Reconciliation.
The world must transform its relationships.
What should be World Vision's role in empowering that transformation?