Downing Street raises the Belgian flag and we tweet for Brussels – but where was this sympathy after Ankara?

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Our indifference is fuelling terrorist organisations like Isis
    • Yasmin Ahmed

Yet again Europe has been shaken by the impact of a terrorist attack – and, once again, it has responded in a way that we have come to see as tragically routine.

On social media we have Facebook safety check-ins, Twitter hashtags and sharable cartoons. In real life the Belgian flag will be hoist or projected over the national monuments of neighbouring European countries. The responses have taken on the morbid ritual of a funeral. And arguably, they are important to help us process the inexplicable horror and to give us some tools with which to communicate defiance in the face of terror.

The Mayor of Paris has tweeted that the Eiffel Tower will be illuminated in the colours of the Belgian Flag, Downing Street has raised the Belgian flag and the BBC reported that the word ‘Brussels’ in various languages dominated Twitter’s list of top worldwide trends.

However, there is unease as we share the cartoon by Plantu showing France expressing solidarity with Belgium. Where was our cartoon for those who have died in Turkey at the hands of terrorists? Why didn’t Downing Street raise the Turkish flag after the atrocities in Ankara?

Last week three died and 36 were injured; in February 28 died and 60 were left injured; in January two attacks left 18 dead and 53 injured. In 2015 a swathe of attacks left a gasping 141 dead and 910 injured.

The weight of a terror attack shouldn’t be measured in terms of the numbers hurt and killed. Each life taken to prove a political point is an outrage. But the figures stand. There were so many more lives lost in Turkey, while Europe remained mute.

There seems to be limits to our solidarity and these boundaries look uncomfortably like the map of western Europe. Turkey remains just outside of our realm of care, not close enough in proximity to afford our grief.

Turkey is somewhere exotic, somewhere we holiday, but not somewhere we need to understand or lavish with our sympathy.

The motivations behind the attacks in Turkey are different to those behind the Brussels bombings. Some are carried out in the name of a century-long Kurdish independence movement against the Turkish state; some are carried out by the same Islamic fundamentalists  – Isis – who carried out the Brussels attacks. But their tactics are the same: terror. And so should be our collective response: sympathy and solidarity.

Our indifference and our casual suspicion of Islam is fuelling terrorist organisations like Isis. As a Muslim and a survivor of terrorism, Malala Yousafzai recently spoke out against the problem of dividing victims of terrorism in the East and West: “If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it, because [that] cannot stop terrorism.”

We should heed her final warning: “It will radicalise more terrorists.”

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