Wednesday, March 23, 2016

We Mourn in Paris and Brussels . . . But What About the Rest of the World?

Terrorism Strikes Again
In January 2015, over a dozen innocent civilians were murdered in a terrorist attack on the offices of the Charlie Hedbo magazine and elsewhere in Paris.  Government leaders and others from France and beyond marched through the streets of the French capital to demonstrate their solidarity.  The western world stood together through commercial and social media in solidarity against terrorism.  Last November terrorists struck again in Paris, murdering over 130 innocents and once again western governments and peoples stood together in solidarity against terrorism.

Yesterday morning dozens were murdered in two separate terrorist attacks in Brussels, not only the capital city of Belgium, but the administrative seat of the European Union.  Since these attacks the western world has come together again in solidarity against terrorism.  French President Hollande, no stranger to the deplorable aftermaths of terrorist attacks, perhaps said it best . . . this was not an attack only against Belgium, but against all of Europe . . . the world.

Not just the western world.  The entire civilized world.  Western Europeans are getting into the unfortunate habit of assembling at the sites of unspeakable carnage, to light candles and to spread flowers, all the while promising they will win in the battle to defeat terrorism.  Iconic structures throughout Europe are illuminated in the national colors of the latest country to fall victim.  And yet the terrorist attacks continue at a time and place chosen by any number of terrorist cells operating with almost impunity across the continent. 

European diplomats continue to meet and pass treaties in the hopes of stemming the tide of terrorism.  National representatives met to sign the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which was adopted last October in Riga, Latvia.  Its purpose is to supplement the provisions of the original Convention adopted by the Council in 2005, codifying the criminalization of any  participation in an association or group for the purpose of terrorism, the traveling abroad for the purpose of terrorism, participation in a terrorist offence, receiving training for terrorism, organizing or otherwise facilitating foreign travel for the purpose of terrorism, or the funding of foreign travel for the purpose of terrorism.  So far
26 countries have signed the Convention over the past decade.  Still terrorism continues, and since many of the acts are the result of suicide bombings, almost no one has been tried and punished for these heinous acts of terrorism.

But terrorism is not confined to Europe; it knows no boundaries.  There are terrorist acts being committed across the globe yet only a few, mostly those occurring in North America and Europe, seem to generate international solidarity much less interest or coverage in the western media.  Why weren’t the national colors of Mali (20 killed), Tunisia (13 killed), Burkino Faso (30 killed), Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast] (16 killed), Somalia (15 killed), or Indonesia (8 killed), illuminating the Eiffel Tower or Brandenburg Gate in the wake of recent terrorist bombings in these African and Asia countries?  I suspect the answer lies in the fact that these countries are in Africa and Asia.  Do the lives of the victims of these recent terrorist attacks mean any less than those who were murdered in Paris or Brussels?   They were, in most cases, victims of the same terrorist organizations responsible for the attacks in Europe.  These victims should matter just as much.  But they don’t.  Not where we live.

And what about the spate of deadly bombings in Turkey?  Yes, it is a predominantly Muslim country, but it has been a long-standing ally of the United States and much of Europe as a member of NATO and other international organizations.  Turkey has been the victim of seven deadly bombings over the past year.  They are becoming an increasingly common tragedy.  On June 5, 2015, there were bombings in Diyarbakir, a town in southeastern Turkey, during an election rally.  Four were killed and over 100 injured.  ISIS is believed to have been responsible.   A few weeks later, on July 25, another ISIS bombing occurred near a cultural center in Suruç, another southeastern town, killing 33 and injuring over 100.  In October over 100 were killed during a peace rally outside the central railway station in Ankara, the nation’s capital.  This neighborhood is the home to several government ministries, a court and a police station. Over 400 others were injured making it the deadliest terror attack in Turkey’s recent history.  Once again ISIS was the suspected perpetrator.  An ISIS  suicide bomber attacked Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square in the fashionable Beyoglu district on January 12, killing 13 and injuring more than a dozen.  Most of the victims were foreign, including several Germans.  A car bomb was detonated in Ankara on February 17, killing 29 and injuring 60.  A month later, on March 13 (just ten days ago!), another car bomb was detonated in Ankara’s Kizilay district near a major transit bus hub and not far from the central railway station, killing 37 and injuring hundreds of others.  Another ISIS suicide bombing occurred along Istanbul’s busy Istiklal Avenue on March 19 - just four days before the Brussels attacks yesterday - killing five and injuring approximately 40 more.  The street is often clogged with tourists and the victims were mostly foreign nationals, including two holding US citizenship.  In the light of these attacks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a rather prescient comment shortly after the March 13 bombing in his capital.  “There is no reason why the bomb that exploded in Ankara could not explode in Brussels, or in any other European city . . .  The snakes you are sleeping with can bite you at any time."  I don’t often agree with much that Erdogan has to say.  But this time he is correct.   And I don’t believe it is over.

 Governments have responded to the attacks in Africa, Asia, and Turkey with quotidian words of condolence and promises of support.  There was limited media coverage, but nothing like what we saw in the aftermath of the massacres in Paris and Brussels.  Where was the popular solidarity?  The lighting of candles and citizen assemblies bearing witness to their solidarity with the other victims of terror?  My Facebook time line is full of calls for solidarity with our European friends.  “Je suis Charlie Hedbo.”  “Je suis Paris.” “Je suis Bruxelles /  Ik ben Brussels.”  It was full of commentaries mixed with calls for prayers for the victims and the survivors.  I don’t recall seeing any of the other “Je suis . . . . ” shown in the cartoon above in which Brussels asks whether there might be a small place for it among that crowd.  I did not see one reference on my time line to any of the Turkish bombings even though some of them were just as deadly as those in Paris and Brussels. 

I am not saying we should not mourn the victims in France and Belgium.  But what about the rest of the world?   Its time to realize that the life of a murdered victim of terror in Africa, Asia, and Turkey is just as valuable as an American or a European victim.  No single act of terror is more loathsome than another.   Terrorists don’t ask names, religions or national identities before they detonate their bombs.   Life does not matter to them.  But it does for the rest of us.  All lives matter!

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