Way To Hell

Of ‘Paris’ and Double Standards

Neha Dabhade & Irfan Engineer

Once again, we have seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all humanity and the universal values that we share. —Barack Obama

Obama, issued the above statement immediately after the attacks on Paris on 13th November. Eight unidentified attackers carried out bombing at six sites of Bataclan concert hall, Stade de France, Rue de Charonne, Rue Fontaine Du Roi and Le Petit Combodge in Paris, France. These attacks took the casualties to 129. Over 300 people were hospitalized and more than 77 stated to be seriously injured. ISIS or the Daesh as called in Arabic have claimed responsibility for these attacks. Such horrendous attacks claiming lives of innocents are unforgivable and unjustifiable. The culprits must be brought to justice and the scourge of terrorism must be fought with determination.

Understandably, the reactions of world leaders expressed solidarity with France and considered this attack not only on Paris but against entire humanity, and values of liberty, equality and fraternity. To show solidarity towards France and its loss, monuments across the world were lit up in the colours of the French flag. Facebook enabled a setting of having display pictures in the backdrop of the French Flag. The collective mourning and outpour of sympathy and compassion by the sheer coverage given to the attacks was tremendous.

While it is heartening to see such shared concern and solidarity, it compels some to wonder if the leaders of European and North American countries, and the media controlled by them would extend the same empathy for victims of all violence. Would they condemn all violence unequivocally? It is absolutely crucial that such violence, anywhere in the world, must be seen as a threat to humanity and the values like nonviolence, love, compassion, respect for life and dignity of other human being inherent to all civilizations. In this context, the statement by Mr Obama is significant. While the attacks on Paris are perceived as attack on entire humanity, why doesn't he feel the same way when the same terror organization carries out attacks on innocent civilians in Beirut, Lebanon or in Palestine? Or, are the Arab residents of these countries lesser human beings?

On 12th November, a day before Paris was attacked, Daesh also struck Beirut with brutality claiming more than 44 innocent lives. Descriptions of the aftermath from Beirut with a 14-year-old been killed in his scout uniform in the second blast are deeply disturbing, heartrending and shocking people's conscience. As one news post wrote "...the street where the bombings took place was strewn with lettuce and parsley from pushcarts overturned in the blast. Men washed blood from sidewalks. A shop's inventory of shoes—from small children's slippers to women's clogs—was scattered across the pavement. Several funeral processions were massing, ready to march to cemeteries". Isn't this loss and grief the same as experienced in Paris? But no world leader took note of this attack and the victims it claimed. Facebook didn't give an option to its users to have their profile picture against the colors of the Lebanese flag or activate safety check like it did after Paris attacks. This attack was dismissed and to some extent justified as retaliation to Hezbollah, a traditional rival of lsrael and US.

Who are responsible for the creation of Daesh? The five year long civil war in Syria wherein the rebels are fully backed, supported and provided arms and equipments to fight the Bashar al- Assad regime and to install a regime favourable to US led coalition has resulted in birth of Daesh. Innocent Syrian citizens are facing brutal violence and suffering in this civil war. About 210,060 people have died in Syrian civil war, making it on an average of 144 people killed daily. Closer home, Mumbai was attacked on 26th November, which claimed 169 lives and in another attack in bombs placed in trains claiming 188 lives. The world leaders then didn't condemn the attacks with the same intensity and firmness. Such equivocal reactions compel one to think if lives from one country are more precious than lives from other countries?

While France is part of the Western world and a tourist attraction, it also happens to be a symbol of Europe, an economic powerhouse, one of the global leaders and most importantly, an ally of US in its war on terror. In short, as put by Hollande, this was an attack on 'our way of life'- entrenched in values like equality, liberty and fraternity. The attempt by US and now France is to juxtapose this to the non-Western way of life. Islam is subtly and not-so-subtly portrayed as barbaric with no respect for liberties and everything that the West stands for, reminding one of Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilization" theory.

However this isn't true. Just to cite few examples, the Palestinian people fully supported the Allied forces during the World War-I and fought their co-religionists—the Ottoman Empire in the hope that they would have right to determine their future and be able to have democracy. The Sufi saints in India preached and lived by the values of equality, love freedom of conscience, and are considered an important component of the social and cultural history of the country. The holy Quran states that to kill one human being is like killing the entire humanity and saving even one life is saving the whole humanity. The classic 'Clash of Civilization' influenced an entire generation and imbibed it with hatred and Islamophobia which has engendered numerous conflicts even in diverse societies. Daesh and the attack on Paris are being utilized to justify the US, UK and France supported war to throw out regimes inimical to their economic and political interests. In this endeavour, they support, and are supported by worst and brutal dictators, including the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Shah of Iran, military dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Zia-ul-Haq.

When US invaded Iraq in 2003, it destabilized the socio-political order in the country by bringing about a regime change and installing in its place a Shia led partisan government. The US distrusted the traditionally powerful Sunnis who were predominant in the army and bureaucracy. This professional military machine of Saddam Hussain rendered unemployed because of distrust was then mobilized by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to establish ISIS. The rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad and who had adequate resources, arms and equipments provided by US and allies, also joined Al-Baghdadi occupying strategically important cities and territories from Syria and Iraq. One can't help but draw parallels between the results of the American invasion of Iraq, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In all three instances the invasion led to political destabilization, long drawn civil war and loss of millions of lives. The US armed the Taliban to bring about regime change in Afghanistan with disastrous and far reaching implications.

The popular revolt by the Arab youth in Tunisia and Egypt and their movement for democracy initially worried the US as they were directed against the dictators supported by them. The movement was popularly called as Arab Spring. However, the US misused the prestige of the popular non-violent movement in Tunisia and Egypt to support and equip rebels in Libya and Syria to bring about regime change and trigger off civil war in these two countries. France too played an important role in destabilizing Syria and perpetrating the civil war. France armed Syrian rebels with weapons like assault rifles, pistols and ammunition. It played a crucial role in lifting the European Union arms embargo on Syria enabling supplies to the rebels. The condition imposed for political dialogue was that the President of Syria gives up power first which was impractical. This hardened stand spells doom to any peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict. The implications of this ongoing war have spilled beyond security and also taken shape of refugee crisis. French President Francois Hollande declared that the attack on France is an act of war. But shouldn't France's role in Syria be taken as an act of war too?

Apart from Iraq and Syria, regime changes were brought about in Yemen. In Yemen, civil war is on between the Houthis and government dominated by Sunnis. The fighting has claimed more than 4,300 lives and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes according to UN agencies. The remaining population has no access to clean water or electricity and health facilities leading to frequent outbursts of dengue, malaria and other ailments due to destruction of key infrastructure. As reported by Amnesty, the campaign by Saudi Arabia and the allies have left a "bloody trail of civilian deaths" amounting to war crimes and killing many civilians including children. The US has fostered the South Yemen separatist movement under the garb of conducting political workshops with the youth spending millions. The French in Libyan conflict provided around 40 tonnes of arms to the rebels for an assault on Tripoli. UK has sent around 8 million pounds worth of "non-lethal" aid and along with its allies continues to supply arms and trainings to rebels.

In the attempt to create a uni-polar world the West has destabilized the region and compelled an exodus of civilians to flee the region and take refuge in other countries like Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan and as far as Germany, France and Australia. Four million Syrians have fled and spread across these regions. Iraqis and Syrians undertake dangerous voyages to reach safer places to protect lives and families. They have no clear status—sometimes refugees and sometimes immigrants. They have no livelihood, legal documents, shelter or medical aid. The only routine is to sit around and pass their days. The only recreation is football which they have to pay for. A substantial number of infants are born in refugee camps. But due to lack of information, legal documents and access, they are not registered with UNCHR or the refugee State, rendering these children stateless. It's needless to explain the plight and ramifications of being stateless. After the Paris attacks, France is contemplating closing its borders to refugees who are trying to flee the after effects of the war supported by France. A backlash is also expected on the Muslim immigrants residing in France. This imperialism in the form of engineering regime change and fueling civil wars for vested benefits of the US and its allies is tearing apart the socio-political landscape of the Middle East and affecting entire humanity. There are also attempts to redraw the boundaries of the Middle Eastern countries in order to weaken them and secure Israel.

Vol. 48, No. 24, Dec 20 - 26, 2015