In the last week, France has entered another period of mourning, whilst Lebanon is just emerging from one. Both of these crimes are horrific and incredibly saddening. However the question remains, why wasn’t Lebanon as reported on or acknowledged as France?
On Thursday evening, Lebanon experienced its worst terrorist attack in Beirut in years. The double suicide bombing left some 43 dead and more than 250 injured. It has been confirmed that a would be bomber who survived the blasts claimed to be from ISIS.
Late Friday evening, Paris experienced six co-ordinated gun and bomb attacks simultaneously across the city. In this case, some 129 people were killed as a result of the attacks and 352 injured – including 99 who are in a serious condition.
Both of these terrorist attacks are disgusting – but what is the difference between them? None, because they are all result in a loss of life and they should both be regarded and reported to the same degree.
The disparity between the reporting and the reaction of these events is truly shocking. On one side, mainstream media has given most of their attention to the Paris attacks, whereas Beirut was reported minimally. As was another suicide bomber attack, which took place on the same day as Paris, at a funeral in Baghdad.
Most importantly however, there was no international condemnation of the attacks in Beirut to the same degree that Paris received. There was little to no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people by high ranking officials, or the offer from another country to light up its land marks in the colours of the Lebanese flag. These actions, which were immediately implemented in the wake of the Paris attacks, but not the Beirut attacks.
One Lebanese blogger, Elie Fares, explained how it felt from the Lebanese side quite eloquently,
“…There was no global outrage that innocent people whose only fault was being somewhere at the wrong place…”
Some have seen the attack on Paris to echo similarities of the World Trade Centre, where it could be speculated that this attack would be enough to make France go to war. In turn that would be the ultimate difference between the French and Lebanese attacks. French President Francois Hollande has described the attack as an an act of war, where he continued to state that,
“Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action.”
The question still remains though – why was it reported and reacted to so differently? If you specifically compare Beirut to Paris, why was Paris more important than Beirut? Or is it not because it is more important, is it down to the geographical closeness of Paris? Is it down to the familiarity of the country compared to elsewhere?
As Chris Graham, publisher and editor for the New Matilda highlighted,
“How do we explain our identification with French suffering and our apparent indifference to Lebanese suffering?”
Graham continued to note the complexity of the situation. He observed how those in the West have been given a small taste of the constant fear similar to those who live elsewhere have had for generations – so solidarity with and compassion for, the French is a definite. However, he continued to note that,
“….solidarity and compassion for the victims of terrorism everywhere is even better, in particular those who’ve fallen victim to the terrorism sponsored in all of our names…”
Elyane S Youssef, a Lebanese blogger, who writes for the The Elephant Journal, commented that,
“World leaders should understand that the innocent people who lost their souls in Paris are the same ones who are losing their souls every single day in any another country facing terror and violence.”
In the wake of these attacks, it has become clear that social media has not been operating on its normal neutral stance. Currently Facebook only offers one option to change a profile to the French flag – what about the Lebanese flag?
Alongside this, the Facebook safety check-ins to make oneself ‘marked safe’ on the social network was not extended to the Beirut bombings.
Another Lebanese blogger, Joey Ayoub, noted with great sadness that,
“We’ don’t get a safe button on Facebook. ‘We’ don’t get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.
‘We’ don’t change policies which will affect the lives of countless innocent refugees
This could not be clearer.”
Facebook has received a lot of criticism regarding the ‘safety check-in’ option. In response, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that it was only after the Paris attack that it was decided the option was to be activated. He noted it the ‘safety check-in’ option will be activated for more disasters going forward as well. He continued to state that,
“We care about all people equally, and we will work hard to help people suffering in as many of these situations as we can.”
All loss of life in any terrorist attack is wrong. The horrific attacks which took place in Paris are incredibly sad. Yet so are the underreported Beirut attacks and the bombing in Baghdad which haven’t gained as much global attention as the Paris attacks, for whatever reason.
Ultimately, every human being who dies as a victim of a terrorist attack is someone we should mourn. We should mourn them irrespective of what nationality or passport they have, as all loss of life is incredibly sad. There definitely cannot be any excuses or exceptions to this rule.