Naming the dead

brussels 2

Once again I’m naming the dead.  Listing the names of the latest victims of murderous fanaticism.   But whilst the names of the dead in Brussels are emerging, gradually, and will be published in our news media as they do, I have trawled the internet in vain for the names of those who died at Grand Bassam, as I did for those who died in Ouagadougou and Bamako, in Ankara and elsewhere. I’ve found a few – usually those of foreign nationals – but only a few. I want to honour them too, they merit that as much as those who died in Brussels or Paris. But I don’t know who they are.

So if I list the names of those who died this week in Brussels, as I listed those who died in Paris, it is not because I think European lives are more important or that terrorist attacks on European soil matter more than atrocities in Africa, Asia, the Middle East.

What listing the names of those murdered in European cities does is to show the cosmopolitanism of those targets.  The names tell their own stories of migration and mobility – those who travel freely for pleasure or work or family, as well as those who have travelled to escape desperate poverty, persecution or war. That’s exactly what Daesh hate, of course.  That on those city streets those of every faith and none mix freely, travel together, work together, eat together, enjoy music together.

But whilst the attacks on Paris and Brussels are explicitly aimed at the western cosmopolitanism that epitomises the grey zone, ‘that place between black and white, where nothing is ever either/or and everything is a bit of both’, the majority of their victims are Muslim.  After all, most of their murderous attacks take place in predominantly Muslim countries – Daesh hate those who espouse what they regard as the wrong type of Islam as much if not more than they hate those who espouse a different faith or none at all.

How we respond on social media to these atrocities does matter.  It may be easy to retweet, like, share, sign and so forth but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless.  It’s not enough, of course, but for many of us it’s all we can immediately do.

So what do we say?  Do we change our profile pictures to the flag of the country where the latest murders have taken place?  Do we assert that ‘je suis/nous sommes/we are all…’?  Again, it’s important if we do those things that we do them for Mali, Ivory Coast, Turkey or Pakistan as readily as we do for France or Belgium.

brussels paris turkey



Whatever we say, we need to say and keep saying that refugees are welcome.  Because even before the names of the dead or the backgrounds of the killers are known, the usual suspects here and in the US are telling us that we’re to blame for letting ‘them’ in.  Even before we know who died, and who killed them, we’re told that it’s the refugees fleeing war and terrorist brutality who are the cause of ‘our’ losses.  We have to reject that othering which is, after all, exactly what Daesh want.  In their world everything is polarised, and most of humanity is that Other that can be slaughtered without compunction.  As terrorists they want us to fear and to hate, and governments to react with repressive and prejudicial legislation, to drive people out of the grey zone and into crusadership or caliphate.

not afraid

Of course we may well be afraid, however much we assert otherwise to show our solidarity with each other against the murderers.  We will be angry, we should be angry, that so many lives are being taken, that such brutality is being unleashed on so many.  But alongside those emotions, we need to inform ourselves, to try to comprehend.  As Jason Burke says, in his important and fascinating book, The New Threat from Islamic Militancy,

Trying to understand does not imply any sympathy.  It simply means we need to set aside our very natural anger, disgust and fear in order, as dispassionately as possible, to learn.  We need, above all, to avoid the trap that the extremists have fallen into: that of shutting ourselves off, of closing our minds, of succumbing to the temptation of wilful ignorance.  In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, victims, the maimed and the bereaved, always ask a very fundamental, very human question, ‘Why did this happen?’   We owe it to them to make the effort it takes to find the answer.

We honour the dead by naming them, when we can.  By refusing to shut our minds and our hearts – or indeed our borders.  By asserting our shared humanity, that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.  By trying to understand.

brussels wall

We Can Never Beat Terrorism Until We Care About All Of Its Victims Equally

, ,

  1. #1 by Gerry on March 25, 2016 - 4:15 pm

    The best thing I’ve read on Brussels and the other atrocities.In the UK we could also remind ourselves that we lived through a much deadlier decade of IRA bombings, somehow without halting the free movement of Irish nationals into the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. #2 by Gerry on March 25, 2016 - 4:17 pm

    Reblogged this on That's How The Light Gets In and commented:
    The best thing I’ve read on Brussels and the other atrocities.In the UK we could also remind ourselves that we lived through a much deadlier decade of IRA bombings, somehow without halting the free movement of Irish nationals into the UK.


    • #3 by cathannabel on March 25, 2016 - 4:30 pm

      Thanks Gerry, I really appreciate your comment, and the reblogging. And that’s a very good point about the IRA bombings and their effect on migration etc .


  3. #4 by paul middleton on March 25, 2016 - 5:44 pm

    Thanks Gerry, for all your comments & images … I have re-read Peter Taylor’s book “States of Terror”, published in 1993, & he also presented the recent Panorama program “Inside Europe’s Terror Attacks” 2016 …

    Twenty three years ago he wrote ” ‘Terrorism’ is one of the most emotive & subjective words in the English language. It is a value judgement in itself, & the condition is seldom as black & white as the state would like to paint it. The cliche “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” may well be well worn but it is often true, a historical fact to which Menachem Begin, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, & a host of others bear witness. (and in 1993) What price Yasser Arafat or Gerry Adams ?”

    “However, I recognise that many people who resort to violence do so because of injustice & a situation they have inherited from history. Governments ignore genuine grievances at their peril. Addressing them does not necessarily mean ‘giving in to terrorism’ but it may mean replacing rhetoric with political courage. In human terms the price is high, & suffering is not confined to one side.”

    And I say to myself, “What a wonderful world … ”

    And each of us can really believe that, & always act on it … Paul


  4. #5 by o1kric on March 25, 2016 - 11:51 pm

    It shouldn’t be that difficult to detect people who are deliberately making explosives to harm, to maim, to kill innocent civilians. What we don’t want is a knee-jerk reaction stirred up by ruthless western politicians. On a broader perspective, while there is so much desperate inequality around the globe it will drive predominantly young men to make desperate acts of violence. We have to address the root cause of the violence which is I believe inequality leading to violent resentment. Today it’s called Daesh, tomorrow it may be called something else, but it will not go away until the world becomes somewhere all people can live with an equal chance of self-determination. My thoughts are, as always, with the innocent victims of mindless violence.


    • #6 by cathannabel on March 26, 2016 - 10:00 am

      Thanks for commenting. I agree – though the root causes as far as those who create and lead these organisations are arguably different to what leads young, often naive men to join them. It’s complicated, inevitably. And not helped by the exploitation of the terror by western politicians to generate xenophobia, or by the twisting of any attempt to understand or explain Daesh etc into some sort of excuse/apology for them. It would be very easy to despair – but I refuse to do that!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. #7 by o1kric on March 28, 2016 - 3:08 am

    One of the meanings of ‘religion’ is that it is something which binds people together. Yet many of the major religions have split and the resulting factions are now hostile to one another. So religion in that sense has failed, it no longer binds together. Where the human race goes from here I do not know, possibly the threat of disaster through global warming will cause everyone to forget their differences and work towards a safer, happier world? None of the present world systems seem to be doing very well at the moment, east or west. We need, as Einstein said, a new direction – the old way of thinking cannot think us out of our modern dilemma.


  1. 2016 – what the actual?? | Passing Time
  2. Naming the Dead: The List | Passing Time

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: