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Paris attacks: response shows western lives worth more

Mourners lay flowers at the site of one of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

It is eleven days since the tragic attacks in Paris which killed 128 people and injured 352. It is also eleven days since a suicide bomber blew himself up during a funeral at a Baghdad mosque, killing 17 people and injuring 33. And it is twelve days since twin attacks in Beirut killed 44 people and injured more than 200, and six and seven respectively since two successive Boko Haram inspired attacks in Nigeria: The first one on a market in Yola in the east of the country which left 32 people dead and a 118 injured; and the second the following day in a busy market in Kano the biggest city in the North, which killed 15 people and left more than a hundred injured.

But while the former was given blanket media coverage, the others were given footnote status. It took me a while to find a story about the Beirut and Baghdad attacks and while I found reports about the Nigeria attacks a lot more quickly, the coverage was still dwarfed by the focus on Paris.

And it was the same story on social media as well: Paris was trending on both Facebook and Twitter with Facebook offering people the chance to change their profile picture to a French Flag in the click of a button whilst also offering them the opportunity to use the ‘mark safe’ button, normally only used during natural disasters.

The southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh after the deadly attacks.

The southern Beirut suburb of Burj al-Barajneh after the deadly attacks.

But of course if I wanted to change my status to a Lebanese or an Iraqi flag, I couldn’t. And if someone caught up in either the Beirut or Baghdad attack wanted to mark themselves safe they couldn’t. Following complaints, Facebook allowed this option to be used following the terrorist attack in Yola. But it was too little, too late. And the hypocrisy doesn’t end there: International leaders such as David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin expressed their sympathy and solidarity to France and its people. But no such expressions of sympathy were offered to the Iraqi and Lebanese people and no national landmarks were lit up in solidarity with them- ditto Nigeria this week.

Suicide bombing at a Baghdad mosque,

Suicide bombing at a Baghdad mosque

But this isn’t the first time that a tragedy outside Western borders has been ignored by the West: last January,just before the terrible Charlie Hebdo attacks, 2,000 christians were burnt to death by Boko Haram militants, and the Western media ignored this massacre. A study by the Global Terrorism Index last week said that Boko Haram had now overtaken ISIS in the number of people they had killed last year: the former killing 6,664 people and latter killing 6,073. But who do the Western Media give more attention too? Yup, ISIS of course.  And there are other examples of the Western media’s apathy to terrorist attacks against non-westerners.

Unfortunately the response to the Paris attacks has just shown once again that Western lives are deemed more important than Arab or African lives. It is a sad indictment on humanity that the loss of lives from a big western nation is seen as more important than the lives of people from a war-ravaged region. We are all human beings and regardless of where we’re from, each of our lives are just as valuable as each other’s.

The charred remains of a vehicle after the Yola attack.

The charred remains of a vehicle after the Yola attack

Don’t get me wrong, the Paris attacks were a terrible tragedy which have saddened me deeply and I really feel for the family and friends of those who were killed last weekend. But my grief and sympathy for them doesn’t outweigh my grief and sympathy for the families of the victims in Baghdad, Beirut, Yola and Kano, and everywhere else in the World where people are dying because of terrorism. Each of their lives were just as important as those in Paris.

May we in the West grief just as much over the lives lost in Iraq, Lebanon and Nigeria as we do for the lives of those who died in Paris.

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