Paris – its prequel, its aftermath and different opinions

This picture was taken at the march on 15th of November at Market Square which was organised by UCR students

By Corine Fontijn & Rebecca Fobbe

Friday night, Paris. Young and old are attacked and taken hostage while attending a concert at the Bataclan theatre. A second attack – a drive by shooting- on a group of restaurants and bars in the centre of social life of Paris. Third, suicide bombings close to a football match between Germany and France attended by approximately 80,000 people. 129 people – from different nationalities – were killed that night, 352 were injured and had to go to hospital, of which a hundred still fight for their lives. All of this caused by three teams of terrorists, in total allegedly consisting of seven people. Some hostages managed to escape from the Bataclan during the night, and these and other wounded result in Parisian hospitals to initiate ‘Plan Blanc’: all medical personnel has to report, and treat anyone arriving wounded. Additionally, president Hollande initiated another plan: ‘Plan Rouge’, the implication of martial law and mobilization of thousands of soldiers, while increasing the authority of the police.

Saturday morning. IS officially takes responsibility for the attack and announces that states like France will stay on top of their target list. Both because of their ‘wrong values’ (Paris was referred to as the capital of prostitution) and because of their ‘crusade’ against those of IS. The Western world responded in shock and immediately engaged in expressions of solidarity and pain. Western leaders like the Dutch prime minister Rutte and French president Hollande state explicitly that they are at war with IS, clearly being inspired by Bush’s words after 9/11, but also pointing out that this is not a war against any religion. Hollande describes Paris this past Friday as being a victim of an act of war led by a terrorist army. A terror attack led on France that is a free and liberal country. He uses strong words – the rhetoric of war. But this rhetoric aside, what did actually happen? Is there proof that the bombings were actually centrally coordinated by the IS headquarters? Can you even define those headquarters as an army? This piece aims to give an overview of the events as much as this is currently possible. Additionally, we also want to present the mass discourse this incident has caused.

Islamic State (IS) is a widespread terrorist militia, which defines its main goal as creating states ruled by Sharia law and their officials. Their strategy to achieve such a system includes both warfare on the ground in unstable countries like Syria, and terrorist attacks mainly aimed at scaring and threatening the rest of the world. One of the reasons why Western states currently intervene against IS in countries like Syria and Iraq, is the fundamentally different value system that the IS pursues. For example their aim to overthrow democratically elected states in order to impose their own values. The Western states hence not only try and support citizens of these countries (while it is questionable to what extent current strategies help), but also try to protect their established values in the democratically weak countries in the Middle East. The French have been involved in interventions in this conflict since 2014. They can be seen as an assistant of the US: in approximately one year, France undertook about 200 airstrikes in Iraq (compared to the 6400 of the US). After the terror attacks on Paris this weekend, France continued the airstrikes and bombed the IS ruled city, Ragga as a form of retaliation.

But how are the attackers of this weekend related to this fight? The origin of the alleged perpetrators of this attack differs and is still being speculated upon. Two perpetrators are identified to be Belgian, another one hold refugee status in France after entering the European continent through Greece. Whereas the origin of the former two implies that threats can come from home ground and terrorism can also grow in the banlieu, the origin of the latter immediately showed repercussions on the heated refugee debate, when refugee routes were portrayed as possible transport routes of the evil.

This refugee crisis is not the only debate this past weekend has sparked. Criticism about the reactions of world leaders as well as solidarity of normal citizens is uttered as well. The rhetoric, which is similar to past 9/11 rhetoric, being employed is heavily criticised due to the implications that the original 9/11 speech and reaction had – nobody wants recent history to repeat itself. Another, more widespread, debate questions the general public reactions to the events. Why do we mourn en masse for the attacks on Paris, when similar, or even more gruesome, attacks happened in Lebanon, Beirut and Kenya and many other places only receive little attention. Not only does it matter about what the public mourns, but also how: will changing a Facebook picture into a French flag really make the cut? The situation does not only show the capabilities of a single terror attack, but also shows a sort of double standard: Are we in the position to mourn at all, while French fighter planes most likely killed civilians in Syria or Iraq? Or is the sadness and solidarity that is sweeping over France just fine as it is. In the end, every person should be allowed to mourn in every way and for anything.

While this was a very brief summary of what has happened in Paris, as well as of certain debates that were raised this weekend, we have also collected a series of opinion pieces of students at UCR. We want to make sure that these pieces portray the opinions of the writes, and not necessarily those of us.

Indya Duivenbode, Class of 2016

The attacks in Paris leave great horror behind. It has never been so close to home that something so indescribable happened. Close to home, close to our families, close to our friends, close to our loved ones. We call these attacks inhuman, because it is impossible to understand that a human being can do this.

Personally, it is close to my heart. I told my boyfriend (French-American, currently living in France) today that if the situation would escalate even more in France, he should come to the Netherlands. I thought about the train tickets we booked last week to spend Christmas in Paris. I felt a desperate need to protect the people close to me, and a need to avoid the place that seems unsafe. Today, I felt a small percentage of fear and protection the people in the Middle East and all the refugees must feel every day.

I hope it will make us stand together, as we protect our homes, our friends, our families, our loved ones, and most importantly, as we protect humanity. I hope it will make us connect with the many refugees entering Europe. I hope it will make us understand their fear. I hope it will make us a little bit more human.

 Aimah Moiz, Class of 2017

I am from Karachi, a city that has been victimized by terrorism for a decade. I was accustomed to seeing hundreds of people dying in my city. With the media coverage such news received, seeing the mangled bodies, the weeping families… at some point I became insensitive.

The news would rage “Another blast in Karachi”, and I would realize that it was not very close to my neighbourhood, and life would move on again.

So when I heard about Paris I felt terrible about the insensitive person I had become. And I began to pray. But I could not pray for Paris alone. For me, a mourning family in Paris is no different from a mourning family in Karachi, or in Beirut. However, I do find it peculiar how Paris alone has brought the world to mourn while there are hundreds dying every day in worse cases of terrorism. It makes me feel that I live in a very polarized world.

So yes. Pray for Paris, but also pray that every place in the world, regardless of you even knowing of its existence, is freed from terrorism. Because there are some places that may need more prayers than Paris does…

Nicolas Rogers, Class of 2016

It is with a heavy heart I find myself writing this opinion piece, as once again Paris finds itself the victim of a traumatic terrorist attack from an ideological group that seeks to divide us: not Muslims, but a small, unrepresentative band of cowards using their name. However, it is the choice of European leaders to offer unlimited asylum to all who would enter the continent has resulted in our inability to check those who enter our borders, in a situation where both refugee and ISIS assailant originate from the same town, walk the same path, and gain equal refuge in Europe. As already widely reported, one of the terrorists in Paris posed as a refugee, took the Greek route to Europe and then committed atrocity against us. So long as our asylum policy cannot differentiate between the needy and terrorists, these attacks will become both more frequent and more normalized. To protect Europe, we must take the Australian policy of returning all sea-migrants to their port of origin, seal-off Eastern Europe as Hungary has begun, and use triage to airlift the longest suffering, most needy refugees from camps in Jordan to Europe. Only then can we be sure those we let in are refugees.

Calin Marginean, Class of 2017

The bombing in Paris is a tragedy without doubt, more than 100 people now being dead, Europe mourning once more. Unfortunately this is only one episode of the recent attacks perpetuated by IS (such as the Sinai plane crash) and such episodes are likely to continue. Despite this, we should not succumb to the temptation to blame and condemn all Muslims because a few religious fanatics carried out the attacks and any collective blame would simply be unjust. What should be done instead is to focus more on tolerance, dialogue and most of all, living together. In fact anti-Muslim sentiments and their translation into action would only offer ISIS more manpower by alienating people. A critical part of this is the safeguarding of freedom of speech, civil right and most of all, freedom of laughter: we should not repeat the Charlie Hebdo experience of limiting liberty in favor of security because the latter is only a shadow, an illusion. Liberty and laughter on the other hand are critical for when everything is debated, discussed and critically analyzed, when all opinions are included into the conversation then fanatic radicalism is warded off, especially when wit and laughter are present, for laughter is the thing that banishes fear.

Mathijs Bekkers, Class of 2016

The tragic events which took place in Paris yesterday remind us of the still very existent threat of extremists and their hostile view on western cultures. However, as I followed the news and social media yesterday, I slowly came to realize that I was becoming more frustrated with the social media hype created around such events, than the actual events themselves. Before taking in the situation, thinking of what had just happened, understanding the facts, individuals had already taken to the social media to seem ‘involved’ in the issue and wanting to contribute that sense of solidarity to themselves. It is out of near pure self-interest and seeking reinforcement from their peers that such people took to social media as if to say: ‘oh, look at the great person I am, caring for these victims’. Additionally, there is a process of ‘bandwagoning’ going on whereby some people have changed their profile picture, others feel the urge to do so as well. They don’t do this out of respect of the event concerned, but because they want to fit in. When you start to get involved in social media concerning such an event, while doing it out of selfish social gain, I think individuals should clearly rethink their motives. Innocent people have been killed cold-bloodedly, and you see it as opportunity to seem knowledgeable and empathetic in front of your Facebook friends.

Furthermore, the amount of global news and social media attention these events are getting is completely blown out of proportion when you compare it to the lack of attention other tragic, recent events have received. As this has occurred in ‘our’ western civilization, it suddenly becomes much more important. Well, that is how the media and social platform portray it. Two days ago, on Thursday evening, IS, the same perpetrators who were involved in the Paris attack, killed at least 41 people in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, through suicide bombing. When I asked people if they knew about this tragedy, many didn’t have a clue. It becomes concerning and worrying when we prioritize and put forward ‘our’ terrorist attacks over ‘their’ terrorist attacks. Where is the solidarity for Beirut? If we have to use social media as a way to claim this solidarity, where are the Lebanese flags?

 Kira Lemgau, Class of 2016

I only heard about the attacks in Paris on Saturday morning, and I felt so numbed by disbelief, and sadness as if someone had pushed me over. All of my friends in Paris are safe – they were lucky enough either not to have been close to the sites of shootings and abductions, or narrowly escaped without being harmed. I cannot begin to describe how relieved I am; yet, feeling with those who have been hurt consumes me.

It does not matter how close a person was to the attacks to be plagued by grief and shock. What do I wish for? I wish that the millions of affected people in Paris, or anywhere else will somehow find it in their hearts to heal. I would like to embrace those who are scared, anxious, and traumatized by seeing corpses on the streets, or hearing about the immeasurable death count. I wish I could hold your hands, and tell you that, if anything, I am here with you in spirit, and I am indescribably sad that this has happened to you, or to anyone. Love will prevail.

 Lilia Romero, Class of 2016

When I woke up on Saturday I still had no idea of what happened and was very confused by all the stories on Facebook. I quickly figured it out…I expected that this would happen one day. I saw that my mum tried to call me 5 times last night and the thought that one of my two brothers of 16 and 19 years old might have been killed crossed my mind. I started panicking and crying… I called my mum. Fortunately, they are safe. My closest friends too.

I want to express a thought for the daughter of my mum’s friend. Her name is Lola, she is 17 and went to see the concert at the Bataclan with her dad. Nobody has heard from her since Friday which probably means… well you know… I do not know her personally but I can’t think of anything else than her and her devastated father still waiting… This thought gives me this bitter taste in my mouth…It feels so close. Nobody I love was hurt in these attacks. At least not this time. I am afraid that this is only the beginning and now the war feels very close…

Mimi Magusin, Class of 2016

If the Paris attacks have resulted in anything more than pain and grieve, it is in a widened gap between people. All over my facebook I see opposite opinions:

Some ask to pray for Paris, others blame those who do so for not caring enough about the rest of the world. Some feel unsafe and want to close the borders, others call those who do so racists or stupid. And the other way round.

This only leads to further escalation: people choose a side stop listening to each other and radicalise. I can only see this leading to more anger, attacks and maybe even war. So I would ask you: please, keep talking and – even more importantly – listening to each other. Ask yourself: Why do people want to close the borders? Why do they feel unsafe and are there any facts that show whether they might be right or wrong? Why do people care so much about Paris now? Is it really because they are ignorant about the rest of the world, or is it simply because it is so close to home and at places where you could have imagined to be yourself? I am arguing not for ‘Camp in Favour’ and ‘Camp Against’ but, as the Dutch comedian Arjen Lubach once said, for ‘Super Camp’, to speak up: the group of people that takes a bit of both sides, and with passion and facts tries to find a solution for the problems going on right now.

If you have any thoughts, opinions or sentiments you would like to share, you are very welcome to share them in the comments section below. 

One thought on “Paris – its prequel, its aftermath and different opinions

  1. I am one of the people that Mimi describes as thinking that people should care about the world. But I am not looking for a fight, I think we should end one. Yes, all the French flags over facebook annoy me, because I think it’s time we took the time to think about how to solve this problem instead of treating it as something far away. In my opinion, it is very hypocritical to cry about 200 people, may they rest well (I mean this most sincerely), who died in Paris, while before not displaying any concern for the thousands of people killed by and the millions of people who lost their houses because of the same organisation. I was very upset when I found out that someone put a huge French flag on my building, for one because I think it is a building, not a billboard for anything whatsoever, secondly because I believe we should send out a different message. Not one of reconciliation, which I think is exactly what IS want. Instead we should make clear that we condemn IS, but not the Islam. We should definitely not shut out the refugees as Poland has done and Nicholas suggests. They are running from the same organisation as we are. We should offer them a home until they can back. I’m also very upset with France because they launched a reconciliation attack against what IS has named their capital, killing innocent citizens. Did we not find out some 70 years ago that bombing cities with innocent citizens who don’t even want a war to begin with is not the way to humanely win? Preferably I would like to sit down and talk, but I am no fool and know that IS will never succumb to that because it is directly against their philosophy. The only option I do think we can use is the one we used in Afghanistan years back. We should eliminate the leaders and we should be very sure of whom we are assassinating. We don’t want to repeat our mistakes we made in Iraq where we assassinated the wrong people, where we left a power vacuum. We should infiltrate and free the Syrian people, not bomb those who happen to live in a city IS has claimed for its own. I stand with Paris, but I also stand with Damascus and with Sinjar, with Beirut and with New York. I stand with the world, which is why I haven’t changed my profile picture to the French flag, but to all flags of the world. I still dream of a peaceful world and I am not naïve.

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