Eurocentric Sympathy Forgets Beirut and Baghdad

It seems that we are constantly confronted with news reports of astonishing devastation, mass loss of life and disturbing exhibitions of inhumanity. This past week has been particularly violent with the vicious terrorist attacks in Paris and Baghdad on Friday night, as well as the attack in Beirut the night before.

The news of Paris circulated exceptionally fast, through traditional channels of news, and moreover through social media. BBC reports that the three separate attacks appear to have been carried out by three coordinated teams, whom the Islamic State (IS) militant group have claimed responsibility for in an official statement. With the use of suicide bombers and heavily armed gunmen, the terrorist organisation strategically targeted the heavily populated areas of Stade de France Stadium, Rue Ailbert and the Bataclan Concert Hall, all within an hour’s time frame. The attack resulted in 129 people killed and 352 injured, France, together with the rest of the world still reels in shock and devastation.

Problematically, the less spoken about terrorist attack occurred the night before on Thursday, the 12th of November. Beirut became a scene of massacre when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the residential area of southern Beirut, targeting a bustling shopping district during rush hour. The area has a large population of Shiite Muslims, whom the IS view as apostates, and just as in Paris, IS has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack thus confirming suspicions. With 41 people killed and more than 200 people wounded, the attack was the deadliest bombing in Beirut since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990.

(Photo credits: BBC)

The horror of the weekend continued, when on the same night as the Paris attacks, a suicide bomber killed 18 people and wounded 41 in Baghdad. The IS claimed responsibility for this bombing at the funeral procession of a pro-government Shiite Muslim fighter, releasing an online statement that their target was "a group of rejectionist Hashid," Hashid being a term used by the IS in reference to the Shiite militia.

With social media and the news awash with news on Paris, it was far too easy and acceptable to go through the weekend mourning only the lives lost there. Any news on the terror in Beirut and Baghdad appeared to be buried underneath the continuous stream of information on Paris. While Paris received global sympathy, as worldwide monuments were lit up in French colours, Presidential speeches made speaking of solidarity and support, and Facebook allowed for the France filter on user’s profile pictures, Lebanon and Baghdad received no such recognition. Furthermore, Facebook’s safety check allowed those in Paris to "check in" as safe during the horror of the attacks, however those in Baghdad the same night, and Beirut the night before were unable to reassure their friends and family the same way.

(Photo credits: First Post)

Through such unequal representation in the media, society implies that the lives lost in Beirut and Baghdad mean less than those lost in Paris. Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor, writes: “When my people died, they did not send the world into mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in THOSE parts of the world.” The disturbing lack of attention given to the terrorist attacks on Beirut and Baghdad demonstrates the disgustingly false, yet continuing notion that white lives are worth more than PoC (People of Colour) lives.

This is not an issue with how much attention Paris has received - the city rightfully deserves sympathy, mourning and unwavering support from the rest of the world in their time of grief and need, but as do the non-Western nations, like Syria and Iraq for example, that are so regularly ripped apart by terror and death, and yet not shown the same compassionate representation.