Many people outside France or the Francophone world did not know about the existence of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper, before January 7, 2015. That is most likely not the case anymore as the attack on the newspaper’s office made headlines internationally.
The barbaric and atrocious attack led to killing of 12 people and was followed by five more deaths and the taking of hostages. All the events ameliorated the shock, horror and yearning for unity, but also unleashed an enormous cynical wave of hypocrisy and revealed the great problems of perceptions of the world around us.
The wave was orchestrated by the media through its dramatic coverage, through hysteric social media initiatives that lauded Charlie Hebdo and its journalists as a symbol of freedom of speech and even martyrs for the democratic and prosperous future of Western civilization. The shooting was perceived as an attack against freedom of speech, republican values, and lastly as an Islamist terrorist act. This is a true paradox of perception.
We should withstand every inhumane act wherever it takes placeMaria Dubovikova
The killing of 17 people - three policemen, 10 journalists, four Jewish customers of the kosher supermarket – is an intolerable and barbaric act. But the tragedy is that many other barbaric acts pass in silence.
Victims of extremism
The Committee to Protect Journalists has tracked the death of 61 journalists who were on duty, reporting from hot spots in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq. Only two of those deaths attracted general public attention and triggered a shock wave – of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Both were beheaded by ISIS and the execution was filmed, transformed into a media instrument and used as a weapon of inducing fear. What about the other 59 journalists? Their deaths passed unmentioned by the broader public, in silence. So I say #jesuisjournaliste.
According to the recent reports, Boko Haram has killed 16,000 in Nigeria since 2011, and 11, 000 people were murdered in 2014 alone. This year already, having taken the Nigerian city Baga, Boko Haram killed as many as 2,000 people according to approximate estimations and reports. There is no public support for Nigerian people suffering from one of the bloodiest extremist and Islamist groups. There is no shared feeling of horror. There is no debate on how to stop the Nigerian bloodshed. Is this because of the fact that death 12 concrete people, with names and faces is more touching and personal than death 2,000 anonymous Africans: children, women, elders, adults? So I say #JesuisNigeria #JesuisBaga.
On the January 7, a car bomb killed 35 people outside the Yemen Police College, dozens were wounded. Yemen authorities blamed al-Qaeda for committing this terrorist attack but the international community barley reacted. If this had occurred on French soil, the uproar would have been much louder. So I say #JesuisYemen.
In Lebanon, on January 9 a bomb blast killed seven people in Tripoli and injured 30. This is little when compared to the 200,000 victims of the Syrian civil war (however, it seems that the international community has already got used to these figures) but these deaths should not to be ignored. Neither should the victims of Parisian tragedy. A tragedy ignored could one day knock on your door.
In early December, Chechen terrorists undertook an insolent attack on Grozny and ten local policemen were killed and 38 injured. The media called them “rebels” it would not be out of place to remind readers here that Chechan terrorists were also involved in the Beslan massacre of 2004, when they captured over 1,100 people (including 777 children) in a local school in North Ossetia - an autonomous republic in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation. That tragedy ended with 385 people’s deaths. By the way, this dreadful tragedy was not accompanied by worldwide hysterics and appeals to stand strong and united in face of international terrorism. There was no reaction on the same scale as we have seen in recent weeks. So I say #JesuisGrozny, #Jesuispolicechechene, #JesuisBeslan.
Another aspect that attracts attention is the wave of hypocrisy over the tragedy and the polarization of the drama from internal state level to the international one. French political leaders, with their sincere speeches and addresses to the Nation, have apparently started the rush for the votes of the electorate. Despite proclaiming national unity, freedom of speech and defense of republican and democratic values, Marine Le Pen’s Front National that has the reported support of 34% of population was not invited to the #marcheRepublicaine, as Francois Hollande (having 13-15% of electorate support) made it clear that her presence is undesirable. Israel’s Netanyahu, who did not feel comfortable these past few months following the new wave of Palestine State recognition, decided to take advantage of the tragedy, to express support and to compare the massacre to Hamas’ firing of rockets (unfortunately he didn’t mention the killings of over 1,500 civilians in Gaza from Israeli rockets). Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk decided to profit from the situation, trying to fan the flames of the quarrel between Russia and the West in the most awkward manner: “Some might say that what is happening in Ukraine - the anti-terrorist operation against terrorists headed by Russia - will not affect us. But it happened. It happened in Canada, Australia, Belgium. Yesterday it happened in France.” Russia, for her part, was trying to use the situation as a pretext for détente in relations, indicating that the true common threat is not Russia, but ISIS, al-Qaeda and other partisans of Islamism, extremism and terrorism – as their threat has no limits and restrictions.
The apogee of hypocrisy was the VIP column of the Republican march that took place under the slogans of democratic values, freedom of speech and unity.
There was the Turkish PM - prime minister of a country with a hoard of jailed journalists and there was the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose battalions according to Amnesty International block humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine, violating international humanitarian law. The president of a country that oppresses the media and opposing political forces. The president who has forgotten about the massacre in his own country. On May 2, 2014 in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, 43 people were burnt alive just because they had another point of view than their pro-European opponents. The Western leaders took very neutral position on this tragedy, not willing to give any trump cards to Russia and to sully the reputation of its ally.
The list of the people in the VIP column is longer, but these two examples are enough for illustration. However, it should be admitted that it is senseless to wait for sincerity and honesty from politicians.
The march itself was sincere. But discord will gain back the upper hand over the feeling of unity as the tragedy has sharpened rifts it seems.
The Charlie Hebdo attack is above all about the Islamist and extremist threat to Europe and the entire world, not about the oppression of the freedom of speech. Wrong perceptions lead to wrong conclusions and wrong conclusions to major mistakes and tragedies. The Charlie Hebdo attack is one of the disgusting faces of the global tragedy that has no nationality and can knock on any door. The one thing should be always kept in mind is that we are human beings. There are no their problems, they are ours. There are no their tragedies, they are ours. And we should withstand every inhumane act wherever it takes place. So I say #noussommesleshumains, #wearehumans.
Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogmeSHOW MORE