I am Paris, I am Ankara, I am the World
Something has been bothering me greatly over the past few months and this morning I read a news article by the Independent which spoke to me, angered me and compelled me to write this response.
Yasmin Ahmed wrote an article with the subtitle “Our indifference is fuelling terrorist organisations like ISIS” and the tone of the piece suggested that we don’t care as much about Turkey as we do about European countries following a terrorist attack.
Of course, if you read on, her opinion is not quite as clear cut as that. Her article is a warning against separatism and a clear suggestion that we shouldn’t put all Muslims under the same umbrella, but the fact that she felt compelled (or was asked to) write the article is concerning. It just fuels the suspicion that Europe only cares about itself. It aims to substantiate the claims that all westerners think that Muslims are terrorists. It suggests quite clearly, and quite offensively, that we just don’t care about anyone but ourselves. I strongly believe that this is a sweeping generalisation and a massively unfair judgement.
Obviously, articles like this are written with the intention of pulling in readers and getting opinion and creating an argument on the subject, and that is exactly what it has done. Just this morning I have seen this article shared 5 times on my Facebook feed and since it was published 19 hours ago, the Independent has had 33,000 shares of this article and have gathered 587 comments. I shared it myself, but not necessarily because I agree with it. Everyone has an opinion. Unfortunately, the Independent has just managed to add fuel to the fire.
Gut wrenchingly, 223 attacks have occurred of one kind or another, on human life on this earth in the past 3 months. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t. Did you know that a suicide bomber killed 10 people and injured 7 in Haditha, Iraq at the end of February? Did you know that 9 people have been shot dead in Thailand at the hands of Islamist militants? But did you hear about the countless number of people who have been killed in Ankara and Istanbul? Yes, because no matter what some say, it was all over the international news. Even though it shows that our national media is selective, doesn’t it mean that we care a little bit about Turkey?
Both David Cameron and Barack Obama expressed their sadness and anger at what has happened in Turkey this year. No, we weren’t lighting up the Turkish flag on Downing Street and the French didn’t flood the Eiffel Tower in red light for Turkey, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t care. Just as America is a country of united states, so is Europe. Great Britain may well be an independent country, perhaps more so if we leave the EU, but our affiliation with Europe is that we basically see ourselves as an entity, a partnership, and we all know that Turkey is not a European State. In 2013, Boston was bombed in a terrorist attack. As my memory serves me, we didn’t raise the American flag that day, Brussels didn’t colour their city with red, white and blue and Turkey didn’t illuminate their government buildings with the American flag, just as they didn’t promote the Union Jack when London was bombed in 2005. But I am sure every leader in the world expressed their sadness and offered solidarity, just as they did after incidents in Ankara and Istanbul. Just because we don’t raise the Turkish flag, doesn’t mean we don’t care.
While I’m on the subject of Cameron and Obama, anyone who really believes that we don’t care about Turkey needs to remember that the actions of world leaders are not the reactions of their people. Now, I am not stupid, I know that we don’t all sing from the same hymn sheet. Sadly there will always be people who believe that all Muslims are responsible for every terrorist attack in then world and that Islam is the root of all evil, but these people are generally uneducated in the subject, uncultured or are religious extremists themselves. Yes, there are some crazy Christians out there too. However, the vast majority of people do care and do understand. Just because our government or our royal family didn’t choose to raise the Turkish flag after the attacks in Turkey, doesn’t mean that the people of Great Britain weren’t praying for Ankara in their own way.
Facebook and Twitter have their pros and cons. In a time where the vast majority of people have the right to freedom of speech, social media is an amazing outlet for opinion and beliefs. Just as there are always going to be people in the world who believe in things or see things differently, social media is always going to be the platform that people use to express themselves and these opinions will always be openly divided. But what has surprised me is that articles like today’s in the Independent lead to assumptions that because more people generally empathise more with Brussels or Paris, that it means we don’t care about human life in Turkey. Well, I may have more friends in my Facebook feed than most who are Turkish or love Turkey like I do, but I saw more Turkish flags on Facebook after the attack in Ankara than I did Belgian flags over the past couple of days. I follow 1500 people on Twitter and I saw more reaction to Ankara than I have done to Brussels, but everyone’s feeds are going to be different, which is why sweeping generalisations about a nations feelings towards another country are simply unfounded.
This brings me on to another point. We care about what we know. If the majority of Brits have visited Paris at some point in their lives, the minority have seen it on television or in films and the Eiffel Tower is an international symbol for Paris, instantly recognisable. It is easy for us to feel empathy for Paris because we feel like we know it. Brussels also to a certain extent. But is it possible that our “support” for Brussels has been less so because less people have been there; Brussels is less recognisable than Paris and therefore we feel slightly less empathy.
How about Ankara? I have been to Turkey over 10 times, but I couldn’t tell you what Ankara looks like. I have no idea what government buildings they have there and I don’t have an image of a national monument in my head, because I haven't been there. I’ll be honest, I may have felt slightly more empathy for Istanbul that I did for Ankara because I have been to Istanbul, I can picture it, I can imagine being there and there is an element of “it could have been me”. Ankara on the other hand, is just another city somewhere that I haven’t visited. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the countless lives that have been lost there at the hands of terrorists.
Terrorism. It’s a bad word, and one that many people use to generalise the people who kill others in the name of religion. I have said this before, and I will say it again, the vast majority of attacks that have happened in Turkey over the past year have been as a result of the Kurdist-Turkish conflict. That is not to say it is an excuse, but I believe that many many people do not understand the politics of Turkey and what is really going on there. The situation in Turkey is complicated, they are not immune to ISIS, but most of the issues there are political and have been going on for decades. It is difficult to get your head around, Turkey is being attacked from all angles and they need the world's support, but lack of understanding leads to lack of empathy. It doesn't mean that nobody cares.
The sad fact is, Muslims kill Muslims. Many more Muslims have died at the hands of Muslims than any other religion in the world and more countries of Islam are suffering at the hands of Islam terrorists than any other country in the world and many people forget this. But don’t let the minority speak for the majority. Just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that we don’t care. This blog post may well be the opinion of just one person, but I feel like I speak for the millions of people who have faith in humanity and who love other human beings just as we love ourselves. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what religion you are, death at the hands of another human being is incredibly sad and wrong and a flag on the Eiffel tower or on your Facebook page isn’t going to change that and it certainly isn’t the only way to show solidarity or the fact that you care.
Sadly, the whole world is affected by terrorism, including Islamic countries, more so in fact. But I implore the Turks to understand that our press is not our only voice. We do care, we just don’t understand enough and comments like “Turkey remains just outside of our realm of care, not close enough in proximity to afford our grief” is simply unfounded and ridiculous. I spent 10 minutes searching through social media for comments to add to this post in support of Turkey and found hundreds. Another 10 minutes could have found thousands. Don’t let the voices of the few lead you to believe that nobody cares. We are all selfish, we all go about our days and worry about ourselves too much, but don’t lose faith in humanity. Millions of us care, even if we don’t show it.
I didn’t change my Facebook profile picture to the Turkish flag, but I didn’t change it to the French flag or the Belgian either, just as I didn’t change it to an American flag after 9/11 or to the Union Jack in 2005. This is one way to express your feelings, but it’s not my way and I won’t apologise for that. Instead, I will continue to visit cities in Europe and of course Turkey, I will continue to be friends with people from these countries and I will continue to educate myself about why these terrible things happen in this world and try to understand, empathise and show solidarity and heart.
But here is my flag if that is what is truly required to show that I care.
Let’s worry less about who supports which countries more and worry more about humanity as a whole and fight terrorism together.
Je suis dans le monde. Ik ben de wereld. Ich bin der Welt. Dunyayım. I am the world.
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