Angelina Jolie is coming! She’s coming! She might be coming! Hmmm. Guess she’s not coming after all. Well, that was certainly a disappointment to the government and NGO reps who were excited to show Angelina all that’s lovely and delightful about Moria. On Wednesday morning, word was circulating among the volunteers that Angelina was coming to visit Moria. Refugees were allowed to stay in the rooms unlike on typical days when they have to be out from 8-3 to allow for cleaning. Government workers even removed a layer of razor wire from the exterior walls of the camps (as if that changes the lovely view of several more layers of razor wire).
But, alas, Angie changed her mind, dissed Lesbos completely, and headed north directly to Idomeni without even as much as a wave and a smile. No time to visit Moria, Skala or Kara Tepe on this trip. Sarcasm aside, the real tragedy right now is definitely in Idomeni, so if the Good Will Ambassador and Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees can only make one stop, she is choosing the most appropriate place to call world-wide attention to the crisis.
Last week in Idomeni, I shared a hotel, a restaurant and an airplane with Jim Yardley, New York Times Rome Bureau Chief, who was working on a story. His piece came out today and is a nice summary of the refugee impact on Greece and Greece’s impact on the refugees—personal stories that hit hard. The writing and photos are excellent. Everything he says rings true to what I’ve seen in each of the places where our paths crossed.
For those who are asking, how did it come to this, I have to say, “Well, go back a century.” Historians know what I am talking about: the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Cairo Conference.
I have read two books recently that really help explain the history that led up to this debacle. I can recommend both of them: Mary Doria Russell’s Dreamers of the Day is a fictionalized account of the Cairo Conference which describes the cavalier way in which European dignitaries drew political boundaries for the current Middle East; Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 takes the long view to understanding the development of Al Qaeda; his analysis has relevance for the current refugee crisis and the development of ISIS in the region.