On November 13th, thousands of onlookers, including French President François Hollande, packed the Stade de France in Paris, hoping to watch the highly awaited French and German friendly soccer match. At 9:20p.m, the first of three incredibly loud booms sounded throughout the stadium. It wasn’t until much later, when the game ended, that the spectators and players learned the true cause of the disturbances: three bombs had exploded, killing three innocent civilians and sparking what would later be recognized as the beginning of the Paris terrorist attacks. Twenty minutes later, at an Eagles of Death Metal concert across the city, armed gunmen stormed into the crowded arena, held hundreds hostage for several hours, and ultimately opened fire on the crowd with automatic rifles, killing dozens.
These atrocities were only two of the six coordinated attacks, for which the militant terrorist group Islamic State has subsequently claimed responsibility. In total, at least 129 innocent civilians lost their lives and hundreds more were critically injured in the Paris attacks. And this comes less than one year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, when armed gunmen belonging to the terrorist group Al-Qaeda forced their way into the offices of the French satirical newspaper in Paris.
In the wake of such a tragedy, most media outlets have fixated on Paris alone, but Beirut and Baghdad are also reeling after similar ISIS attacks in their respective nations. In Beirut, 293 casualties resulted from a suicide bombing. In Baghdad, 18 lost their lives in an explosion and roughly 50 more were wounded. The question thus arises: why has such little attention been given to these equally horrific tragedies? In response to this question, Caitlin Weldon ’16 remarked, “Because Paris is in many ways a symbol of the Western world. We all have romanticized ideals associated with the city of lights, but that does not in any way excuse the lack of attention given to these other tragedies.” Alex Afeyan ’16 commented, “If you look at the entire region (i.e. the region of Beirut and Baghdad), the baseline of violence and tragedy is so high that, despite the severity of the recent events there, they are not quite as jarring as the horrific attack on Paris. In addition, the range of ISIS capabilities to spread terror was shown so powerfully by the attacks on Friday that the attacks on relatively closer places like Beirut and Baghdad seem less terrifying and immediate to Western observers.”
Politicians around the globe have been quick to point fingers and politicize the violence. In France, President Hollande blamed ISIS for this “act of war,” eliciting comparisons between his comment and Bush’s reaction after the 9/11, closed France’s borders, and declared the nation to be in state of emergency. Even the Pope chimed in, asserting that the massacre is part of a “piecemeal Third World War.” Among the United States’ presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump was criticized for his comment on the day of the attacks that France’s tough gun control laws contributed to the tragedy. At the Democratic Debate on November 14, frontrunner Hillary Clinton stood firm in her belief that “[containing ISIS] cannot be an American fight” and called on Turkey and the Gulf states to do more.
The effects of the November 13th attacks are being felt across the world, even an ocean away in the Boston community. With parallels being drawn between the Paris attacks and the Boston Marathon Bombings, one cannot help but reflect on the tragedy of these senseless deaths. Even within Winsor and Belmont Hill, students who spent a year abroad in France, who have family members in Beirut, Baghdad, or Paris, and even those who do not have any tangible connections to these cities, have all been hit hard by the terrorist attacks.
Didier Lucceus ’16, a Belmont Hill student who studied abroad in France last year along with Winsor’s Iona Forrester ’16, commented “I lived in France for nine months, and even though I didn’t live in Paris the news was definitely shocking. It was scary because just a few months before, France was the place I called home.”
On Facebook, Madeline Batt ’15 wrote about the potential backlash that many Muslims may receive because of the Islamic States’ attacks, saying, “My thoughts go out to all those affected by this senseless violence: victims, their loved ones, Muslims who experience unfair backlash because of events they played no role in, and especially those who are still waiting to hear news of their friends and family members. Remembering, too, the victims of violence around the world, especially those whose deaths won’t be covered by the press or memorialized by a Facebook profile picture filter.”
Standing in solidarity with those affected by these tragedies, the Panel has decided to focus our center spread to the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, Baghdad, and Beirut in November. We hope that this sheds light on the tragic nature of these events and sparks further conversation within our communities.