John Carpenter’s film Escape From New York made quite an impact when it was released in 1981. The movie takes place in a dark future where Manhattan Island had been transformed into a massive, maximum-security open-air prison surrounded by 15-m high walls. The people’s struggle for life trapped behind the walls created horror and fear in the audience.
Open-air prisons represented a scary and heartless future portrayal for the people of 1980s. They were dystopian punishments that could be seen only in a dark future apt for horror movies. Yet within just 35 years, these walls have become a part of everyday life across the entire world. Today, in 65 countries, people are separated by high walls. There is also an important difference between the imaginary walls of Carpenter’s dystopian action film and the actual walls of today: The people of the 21st century often confine innocent people behind walls rather than criminals. Today, walls are no longer a way to punish criminals. Instead, they have turned into huge blocks meant to keep people from seeing the ugliness that lies beyond.
Today, walls have been built on the borders between the US and Mexico and between India and Bangladesh. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza – along with hundreds of thousands of refugees in Europe – are living their lives surrounded by walls. In the Western Sahara, in Algeria and Morocco, immense deserts are separated by walls. The cities of Belfast, Sao Paolo and Homs have been divided in two by walls. Indeed, each country’s desire to protect its own security is very natural, but these precautions will never produce results. Walls can’t prevent hunger and poverty. They can’t stop radicalism or violence. They can’t prevent wars. They can’t barricade helpless refugees.
Walls cannot solve problems. People driven to desperation will feel even lonelier behind these walls. The lovelessness and hatred resulting from this state of mind will create an angry generation, fuel radicalism and some people will resort to violence for their problems.
The world has lived with the Palestine refugee camp experience for the past 70 years. This issue, which could have been easily resolved with a simple population exchange, escalated into Arab-Israeli wars. Three large-scale wars have taken place and became the basis of many ideologies that currently cause bloodshed across the Middle East. Three generations of Palestinians currently reside in these camps. PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Abu Nidal, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and many other groups were born and developed in these camps. Refugee camps surrounded by weapons have created only more violence.
People outside the walls often have a false sense of security. It is because it is impossible to build a wall of enough height to stop ideologies. It becomes easier for people who are humiliated and rendered as outcasts behind walls to gravitate towards radicalism. Therefore, the measures that are necessary to be taken against radicalism are not to build new walls, but to intellectually counter and disprove radicalism.
The immigrants risk journeying thousands of kilometres over dangerous high seas to reach security. With their children and their whole families, they are trying to reach European coasts on scrappy boats. It is not possible for walls to stop this deadly desperation. The solution for the tragedies refugees experience doesn’t lie in building walls. The problems which cause millions of people to abandon their homes should be fought with knowledge. While a large part of the world lives below the hunger threshold, losing their lives due to poor nutrition, the other part shouldn’t waste their resources.
Our world has enough resources for 7bn people. The duty of conscientious and sincere people is to share these resources fairly and correctly. Poverty, hunger, destitution, and violence are common problems of the world and humanity needs to act with a collective conscience. Trying to confine these problems within walls is nothing but burying heads in the sand. Unless an intellectual path is followed to solve these problems, evil will continue to exist. Moreover, as the collective conscience of the world seems to have vanished, evil will continue to get stronger to become an overwhelming force.
Today, 66mn people have been forced to leave their homeland. The majority of these people are innocent women, children and old people who are trying to escape from death. They have nothing left to lose other than their own lives. These innocent people are waiting for us to open our doors and extend our help to them, to provide a cure for their desperation. The refugee problem is not an issue that humanity can ignore or simply try to hide behind walls. The most urgent necessity of the current situation is to carry out a comprehensive mobilisation of aid.
Humanity lived with the shame of slavery for 300 years. South America, Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia were heavily exploited due to the ravenous hunger of imperialist powers, and tyranny continued in the 20th century with world wars and close to 200mn people were massacred in a matter of a few decades. Today Germans live with the shame of having the Nazis as a part of their past, the British of having exploitative rulers, Americans for their ancestors that massacred Indians, Spanish for their soldiers who ended the civilisations of the Inca and the Maya for a couple of trunks of gold, and Russians for their communist leaders that condemned millions to starvation. Being remembered by future generations for having condemned innocent people to death behind walls will be the shame of today’s people.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Gulf Times & MENA FN & Ekurd Daily & Only Kashmir: