A Reflection on the Way We Respond to International Terrorism

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Over the last few years, the world has seen a major spike in deadly terrorist attacks like the one that killed over 100 people in Kabul, Afgahnistan, just yesterday. The United States itself has seen multiple attacks by foreign terrorist groups. Other attacks have occurred in France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. These terrible acts of violence have killed thousands around the globe, but in looking at the way the media covers threats and even the way we react to them a distressing pattern emerges- one of Euro-centrism and constant stereotyping

This piece started all the way back in June 2015 during an ordinary ride to school. I was listening to the radio and heard the announcer mention a string of attacks in Kobanî, Syria. Over 200 civilians were killed in the ISIS-perpetrated offensive. That’s 200 innocent lives taken suddenly over the course of multiple attacks. But the next thing I knew the story was over, replaced by something about the newest indie documentary or a new Whole Foods item or something dumb like that. I didn’t see or hear another thing about this terrible tragedy after that one mention. I was a bit shocked we ignored Kobanî like nothing happened, but, of course, I felt bad for a few minutes and then went on like nothing had happened.

That thought would never have come up again if not for the horrifying attacks in Paris a few months later, where 130 innocent people were killed. Over the following days, story after story was done on the terrible event. #PrayForParis was everywhere, and across social media posts of hope for Paris were being made by everyone (including myself). In the aftermath of the attack it felt like everyone was together in condemning this atrocious act of violence, united in sending their thoughts and prayers. It was truly a beautiful response, as we Americans comforted our French brothers and sisters.

Despite all of this, one thought kept popping up in my head: what about all those people in Kobanî? Those people who suffered through the pain and loss that comes with an attack of this size were ignored by the American public. Was this because of a lack of coverage? Why was there a lack of coverage? Or maybe some other circumstances I did not know about? These answers may have helped brush away some questions, but nothing really explained Kobanî being ignored. Only one terrible thought made sense: that we simply do not see Syrians as brothers and sisters like we do the French and other Europeans.

Upon looking into this subject further, it becomes blatantly obvious that this is the sad truth. When it comes to terrorism, we treat the Middle East and Africa like it should be natural there. But when an attack is made in Europe or the United States we mourn for weeks. This has remained true as attacks keep happening around the world. The whole country wept as dozens were killed in Manchester, San Bernadino, London, and Brussels. But we turned our cheek as thousands were killed in Peshawar, Mogadishu, Bir al-Abed, and Baghdad.

Before I conclude, I want to make my argument clear. We must stay aware and send thought and prayers to anyone who is affected by terrorism anywhere. I am not calling for less attention to attacks in Europe; rather I am asking for more attention for attacks in the Middle East and Africa. When we ignore an attack in Somalia or Pakistan, we are normalizing the idea of terrorism in those areas. We are making it seem like it is and always will be a part of everyday life there, and that that’s just how it is. We need to remember that this is not the case and never will be the case. The life of an innocent American must not have greater value than that of an innocent Iraqi person or an innocent Nigerian. The effects of terrorism do not diminish because it is more common in one area than another. We all feel the same effects of a loss of a friend or loved one, no matter where we live or what our background is.

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A Reflection on the Way We Respond to International Terrorism