Victims or Terrorists? A Critical Analysis of Western Media Discourse in the Depiction of Iraqi Refugees (2007-2017)

Document Type : Research Papers


Faculty of linguistics, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran


Introduction: Iraq has faced many dogmatic, circumspect, and social plights throughout a long and troubled past. Serious problems arising as a cause of these plights have caused a large population to seek sanctuary and protection in other countries. As a result of this condition, the increase of refugees currently inhabiting Eastern and Western countries has become a focal point of the media. The way these refugees are depicted and perceived by the public as terrorists or victims in the host and non-host countries is heavily influenced by media reports, and as such, they have a crucial role to play. The aim of this paper was to highlight the most significant linguistic choices coupled with the ideological point of view of the participants.
Methodology: To achieve this goal, the researcher analyzed British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news reports employing critical discourse analysis. Accordingly, Wodak’s (2001; 2009) discourse-historical approach and van Leeuwen’s (2008) sociological categories of actor representation approach were employed.
Results: The findings have revealed that Iraqi refugees are portrayed as victims targeted by hostile laws in the Netherlands, while they are portrayed as terrorists that threaten society in the USA. Furthermore, the way the media depict Iraqi refugees is attributed to the use of generic references. Despite the negative representation of Iraqi refugees by the Dutch government, USA policies, and the Iraqi government, the BBC media coverage continues to represent them in a neutral light.
Conclusion: The findings of the current study indicated that the most prevalent topoi found in the selected texts are victimization, danger, threat, and terrorism.