It would be remiss of me to not mention the violence that occurred in Paris last night, as the explosions and firing there not only lit up France’s capital city, but the world’s media. A glance at my Facebook timeline shows a high proportion of those I know, and those they know, have updated their profile image to include a French tricolour flag superimposed over their picture, in show of their solidarity with the people of Paris.
According to the BBC, this is the worst such attack in the past decade for France, and this may be partly the reason that so many are so appalled by the horrific actions of a few individuals that are impacting many.
What the media have not focussed on to such a degree, are the attacks that have happened in other countries in recent days. Beirut, Lebanon was attacked two days ago, one of their worst such events in recent years, and one that is fracturing the peace being built there. Baghdad is suffering attacks. These and many other atrocities are not given similar attention in the media, do not cause similar outrage, do not evoke such sympathy or empathy, and do not spur a large proportion of people to change their profile images on social media in solidarity.
I am appalled and saddened at the carnage in Paris last night. I am glad the people I know in France are safe. I am glad Facebook allows people I know to check in to tell us that. I am deeply sorry that function has not been made available when attacks are made in other parts of the world, and its absence reveals an awful bias in the (social) media many of us use daily.
All I am trying to say has been most eloquently written by a fellow Sussex student, Roua Naboulsi. You can read her original post here, and I would encourage you to like or share her post directly if you agree.
What happened in Paris last night was awful. I stayed up late following the news in disbelief and I am so sorry to anyone who has been affected by thee horrible attacks. The international community has responded, as predicted, by showing their unwavering solidarity with Paris.
The night before that, a bomb went off in my country, Lebanon, killing 43 people. No one prayed for us. No one kept us in their thoughts. No world leaders made late-night statements about us. No one changed their profile pictures. There was no hashtag. No option to be “marked as safe” by Facebook. Just silence.
Syria has suffered more than can be quantified in words and distilled into a Facebook status. They get nothing. Just more silence.
73 Palestinians were killed by Israel in October alone. Silence.
Nearly 100 people were killed by explosions at a peace rally in Ankara last month. Just silence.
At least 3,500 people have been killed in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger in conflict this year. Silence.
I’m not even angry at this point, just tired. Exhausted. Exhausted that an assault on an open air prison like Gaza which leaves 2300 people dead gets little to no attention but the minute something happens in Europe, something happens to white people, everyone is so (I think quite genuinely) broken up about it.
I’m not saying don’t be. I’m not saying that the people who lost their lives last night do not deserve to be mourned because of course they do. They were innocent and now they are dead. As an Arab, we know better than anyone how it hurts and we should all continue to keep them in our thoughts. But what about us? Don’t we deserve to be mourned? Are we not human enough? Are we too Arab for you? Too black for you? Too Other for you? Do you find it impossible to empathise with us because of the colour of our skin? There’s a word for that.
And then, after all of this, after all is said and done. After it hits us, just how little we matter. Just how insignificant and inferior we are as human beings. That’s when the best part comes. My favourite part.
Apologise. We are told to apologise. It is demanded of us. WE need to apologise for the actions of barbarians who have been doing their worst to us for so long now. We are the victims. What you experience at the hands of these extremists is a fraction of what Syria experiences. Of what Lebanon experiences. We put up with it every single day. And now, in some kind of sick, twisted joke, we are asked to apologise. We are to be held accountable. The main victims and refugees of this tragedy must pay. As if we have not yet paid enough in blood and land and dignity.
Sorry. We’re sorry that you have occupied our lands, pillaged them, divvied them up between you like gold. We’re sorry that you’ve robbed us of our wealth, dignity and freedom. We’re sorry that you’ve left nothing in your wake except rubble and anger. We’re sorry that those disillusioned and disenfranchised people you left in your wake hurtle into extremism. We’re sorry that you benefit from their barbarity. We’re sorry that you allow them to do these things to us, that you encourage them and provide them with the resources they need to do us harm. We’re sorry they turn against you in the end. We’re sorry they come back for you. We’re sorry. We hope you can find it in you to forgive us.
Whilst I very much want peace for the citizens of Paris this weekend, and for the future, I want equally to see peace across the world. Peace from extremism, peace from war, peace from abuse, peace from personal and systematic attacks based on religion, disability, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status or any other excuse for discrimination and violence, issued by individuals, organisations, or governments through their policies.
Although this post is not about my own mental health, I cannot help thinking of the emotional impact of the attacks that occur daily across the world. My thoughts are with all those suffering violences.