Yesterday, 15 people were killed by terrorists whilst travelling on a bus in Peshawar, Pakistan – but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that.
Furthermore on Wednesday, another 22 people were killed at a mosque in Maidugari, Nigeria, and on Tuesday, 19 people were shot and killed on a beach in Grand Bassam, the Ivory Coast. To add to that statistic, on Sunday, a bomb blast near a bus stop in Ankara, Turkey killed 37 people, yet still, the same international news calculus applies.
You’d perhaps be forgiven for not knowing any of that either.
The list of attacks and accompanying casualties could go on and on, but the most important question of all is simply – Why don’t we know? What do all these attacks have in common? They were all senseless acts of terrorism committed by extremist groups, but what’s more startling is that all of these stories only made the mere footnotes on the mainstream news despite the vast death tolls and injuries, as opposed to the likes of both Paris and Charlie Hebdo last year. Both attacks in Paris were of equal measure, where a significant amount of innocent people lost their lives, including 130 souls in Paris in November 2015. This in turn spurned a tremendous outpouring of support and condemnation worldwide, as it rightfully should.
However, does the same apply when it comes to countries that are not in The West? For the most part, media conglomerates tend to remain momentarily silent. And to put it simply, this is not due to whether an agenda is newsworthy or localised, but because the majority just do not care enough.
When I first heard about the attack in Pakistan, I thought to myself, why always Peshawar? Peshawar is my father’s childhood city, and at the moment it truly feels as if this one half of my motherland (the other being India) always seems to bleed, and Peshawar, of all, is always one of those cities that appears to bleed alone. Having been prone to several acts of terrorism including the school massacre in December 2014 when 141 people, mainly innocent children, unjustly lost their lives, Peshawar has been hit by similar tragedies and mass casualties in recent years, with the only difference being a slightly smaller death toll in comparison. However, Peshawar and all the other aforementioned cities are not civil war zones, where attacks like the above can be expected as a part of normal daily life. Peshawar is just like any other normal city with an air of colourful ambience and sparkling mystery. What makes it any different to Paris?
If I were to ask a bystander in the street whether they had heard of the attacks in Pakistan, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast this week, they most likely wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Mentioning Turkey may evoke the slightest sense of reaction considering it is located on the borderline of both Europe and Asia, however, it’s still not enough to divert a significant amount of personalised and sustained attention. In fact, it is still not enough to divert an equal amount of media attention, which is all that needs to be given – no more, no less.
However, when it comes to international crisis and turmoil in anywhere but The West, It’s almost as if there is a figurative concept and subjective determination of worthy and unworthy victims within the media. Do these deaths not matter as well? Are those in predominately Muslim majority countries, such Africa, Asia or the Middle East not human beings worthy of our empathy and compassion too? Disproportionate to the high number of victims, attacks as such only tend to receive one fifth of the coverage given to those in The West, often fruitlessly helping to shape the public’s perspective of any given crisis and accompanying political policy, it’s almost as if by that visceral element and dissemination alone, we have been taught as consumers to only care for tragedies occurring in the local hemisphere.
In addition, the fact that these people are victims of apathy and ignorance due to their location is highly contradictory. Dehumanising people who live in areas of the world that are supposedly “different” to us doesn’t make any sense at all, especially when just like Paris, they also didn’t ask to be attacked by a bunch of secular, uncivilised, evil bunch and twisted psychopaths that are a complete disgrace to humanity.
I’m still waiting for the likes of Facebook to allow users to show support for this cause just like Paris, but it seems as if vocally supporting victims of further apathy in other continents causes too much heightened distress, despite the fact that they are just as worthy of our compassion. Why are we not saying Je Suis Peshawar or Je Suis Ankara? We prayed for Paris, London and New York – Why can’t we pray for Pakistan, Turkey and The Ivory Coast? Terrorism has no religion, ethnicity, nationality, colour or face and it never will, let’s not let it divide us when we should be as one.
A life is a life and we are all the same. We all bleed red.
You and I can be Charlie and we can be Paris and rightfully so, but when it comes to all of the other countries that are not in the West, it appears we are all only one thing.