November 18, 2015

LEUNG | For Adel Termos

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Je suis Parisien.

After the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and 352 wounded, sympathy and support spread across the world. The attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II. Facebook launched a French flag tint for profile pictures, #PrayforParis spread throughout social media, candlelit vigils were held across the world and international monuments were lit in red, white and blue.

As tragic as the events were in Paris, it is important to note that terrorist attacks have affected other cities as well, and their stories are not as publicly known.
Two days before the attack in Paris, a double suicide bombing attack took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing over 43 people and wounding 239. The suicide bombers were ISIS recruits. The shock and sadness of the event spread through the city. According to a New York Times article, entitled “Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten,” many people were disheartened that another stricken city — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy when theirs seemed forgotten. Elie Fares, a blogger and physician in Beirut, showed his grief at being part of a forgotten terrorist bombing by writing on his blog, “When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. 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 media coverage of Paris has also masked a real-life, heroic deed: that of Adel Termos, a regular Beirut resident, who saved countless lives in a split-second decision. While walking in an open-air market with his daughter, he, and countless others, witnessed the first suicide bomber detonate his explosives. Termos caught sight of the second bomber preparing to blow himself up and tackled him to the ground. The bomb went off, killing Termos, but saving hundreds of others, including his daughter. Elie Fares told Public Radio International in an interview that “there are many, many families, hundreds probably, who owe their completeness to his sacrifice.” Fares further explained that Termos’s heroism was one which “broke human nature of self-preservation,” for “to make that kind of decision in a split second, to decide that you’d rather save hundreds than to go back home to your family […] is something that I think no one will ever understand.” Termos’s story was covered locally by media and he was instantly memorialized in Facebook posts in Lebanon. However, his heroism went largely unnoticed by the international community.

Major terrorist attacks in American and European cities capture the world’s attention in ways atrocities in other countries don’t seem to. A potential explanation for this “empathy gap” is the United States’ familiarity with Paris. An estimated 1.6 million Americans visit Paris every year, while Lebanon has received 1.3 million tourists total in 2013; few of them from the United States. The average American sympathizes more closely with violence in Paris than other parts outside of Europe, because people seem to relate to events when they themselves can relate to the victims. Due to media and cultural exposure of French influences, Americans feel an affinity for Paris — something that is absent when it comes to Beirut. Paris is envisioned to be a tourist destination, a romantic city, a global center of art and culture. Beirut, a city in the Middle East, is automatically linked to warfare and strife. Most cannot even identify Lebanon on a map. People have become desensitized to violence in the Middle East, even though the bombings in Beirut represented the deadliest terrorist attack in the capital since the civil war that ended 25 years ago.

Karuna Ezara Parikh wrote a poem on social media in response to the Paris attacks, which highlights the unfairness of this “empathy gap.” She begins with “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings two days before Paris, is not covered in the press. A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad and not one person’s status update says ‘Baghdad,’ because not one white person died in that fire.” Not only should we be aware of the bombings that happened in Beirut, but the other terrorist attacks that have affected Egypt, Israel and other non-European countries.

We must remember to not focus only on stories emphasized by the media. In order to fully understand the circumstances of world events, we should realize that there are always other stories throughout the world that are just as important. The amount of worldwide sympathy and support towards Paris is immensely powerful, and entirely deserved. Yet victims of any attack are unique individuals. It does not matter if they are French, Lebanese or Iraqi. We must remember the people who will not be remembered and desire peace for not only Paris, but the world.

  • Arafat

    “Two days before the attack in Paris, a double suicide bombing attack took place in Beirut, Lebanon, killing over 43 people and wounding 239. The suicide bombers were ISIS recruits.”
    Different Islamist name (ISIS) same result.
    >>The Beirut Barracks Bombings (October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon) occurred during the Lebanese Civil War when two truck bombs struck separate buildings housing United States and French military forces—members of the Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon—killing 299 American and French servicemen. An obscure group calling itself ‘Islamic Jihad’ claimed responsibility for the bombings.[2]<<

  • Arafat

    Different Islamist group…Same goals and same Qur’an inspired motivation…same result.

    The name ISIS means nothing. Boko Haram has killed more than ISIS, Hezbollah has caused half the Christians of Lebanon to leave for other countries making Lebanon the nest piece of the Muslim caliphate puzzle. And, of course today in Mali, more of the same.
    >>October 23, 1983 – 241 U.S. service personnel — including 220 Marines and 21 other service personnel — are killed by a truck bomb at a Marine compound in Beirut, Lebanon.

    Three hundred service members had been living at the four-story building at the airport in Beirut. There were 1,800 Marines stationed in Beirut at the time.

    A multi-national force with units from France, Italy and the United Kingdom was also on peacekeeping duty in Lebanon at the same time.

    At the same time the Marine barracks was hit, a suicide bomber drove a pickup truck full of explosives and crashed into a building housing French paratroopers. Approximately 58 French soldiers were killed in the attack.

    This was the deadliest attack against U.S. Marines since the battle over Iwo Jima in February 1945.<<

  • Arafat

    If you seriously want to spend your life mourning victims of Muslim terrorist attacks then visit the excellent website “The Religion of Peace”. This site keeps an up to date inventory of each and every Muslim terrorist attack and the list is mind-numbing. The list makes you indifferent. Not even Mother Theresa could have kept caring when every single day another Muslim (and in the name of Allah) murders women, children, the elderly, journalists, gays, Jews, Hindus, you name it.

    If nothing else this list gives you context. It informs you to understand that Paris, Beirut, Baghdad are just the tip of the iceberg. It informs you that ISIS is just the latest name in an endless string of Islamist groups all fighting for the same goal – the Qur’anic inspired worldwide Caliphate where infidels are slaves and Muslims rule all others.

  • Arafat

    Let me try to be more on target with this comment, more responsive to Gaby’s article.

    Gaby, if you lost a friend or relative in a random terrorist attack would that specific attack mean more to you than any other attack?

    Maybe this is the point. Paris means more to the west than Beirut or Baghdad. It’s pretty simple. It does not matter if you’re a white Christian or a Buddhist monk or an Animist, Jew or Hindu what is closest to home will impact you the most. It’s basic human nature. It might be called selfish or callous but it is natural and why one would choose to give it mean-spirited connotations is beyond me.

  • Arafat

    And another take…

    Forty years ago Beirut was called the Paris of the Mediterranean. Back then it was a banker’s city with beautiful hotels, great restaurants and a fun night life. Back then it was mostly a Christian city. It fueled prosperity for the entire country. This was all before the restive Muslim population started changing everything.

    Thanks to the oil boom and the unprecedented wealth it has provided for Wahhabi Muslims like the Saudis and the Ayatollahs, Beirut and the entire world has been torn apart. The endless money and power has gone towards spreading fundamentalist Islam across the Middle East, Africa, and even into the West. In Pakistan, Wahhabi mosques can be found in every town and village. This brings us back to Lebanon.

    The Muslims in Lebanon were mostly Shi’ites and their funding came from Iran, from the Ayatollahs. During the 1970s and beyond they started one civil war after another. They slowly but surely killed off the Christian leaders and attacked prominent Christians places of business and their homes too. Beirut, the Paris of the Mediterranean, became dark; it became a place to avoid.

    Fast forward to today. Today nobody knows about what Beirut once was even though this was just a few short decades ago. The Shi’ite funded terrorist organization Hezbollah has destroyed Beirut and Lebanon. And, of course, Hezbollah’s main target is Israel. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The only country in the Middle East where gays, women, Christians are safe. Israel home to Tel Aviv a city of lights, great restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Let’s hope Tel Aviv does not become the next Beirut of the Middle East.