Refugees ‘asset, not burden,’ UN rights chief says

Refugees ‘asset, not burden,’ UN rights chief says

Razi Canikligil NEW YORK
Refugees ‘asset, not burden,’ UN rights chief says

Turkish artist Fahrelnissa (C) with her grandsons Prince Zeid (L) and Prince Mired (R) during a vacation in Italy in 1968. The photo is courtesy of Prince Zeid.

Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad of Jordan, who became the first Muslim United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in September, has said refugees should be seen as an asset, not a burden.

“We have to try to find a way of changing this, as they are not so much of a burden, but they are an asset if you really look after them,” he recently told daily Hürriyet.

“And I think from my father this is one of the lessons I learned … You can develop through a sensitive connection to people who come across your border a loyalty that would be so strong,” Prince Zeid said, referring to Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid, the head of the royal houses of Iraq and Syria, who was a refugee from 1958 until 1962 when he was admitted by Jordan.

When asked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement that “new Lawrences of Arabia are tearing up the Middle East,” Prince Zeid, whose grandfather had once joined the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, initially declined to comment.

“My hope is if everyone looks internally, then we can all learn; but if everyone points at others, then it becomes a difficult proposition because it invites counter attacks,” he said.

Prince Zeid’s grandmother is Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid, a renowned Turkish artist who died in 1991. The U.N. rights chief's Istanbul-born grandfather, Prince Zeid bin Hussein, was related to an Ottoman grand vizier, but joined in the Arab Revolt between 1916 and 1918.

“When I look back growing up in Jordan and you look at many of the older officials and this is going back 30 years, you know all of them grew up speaking Turkish. All of them had been part of the Ottoman experience, so there is a very strong connection with Turkey,” Prince Zeid said.

Refugees ‘asset, not burden,’ UN rights chief says

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad holds a book about his Turkish grandmother's art. Photo: Razi Canikligil / Hürriyet