I have a confession: After hearing of the Brussels attacks this morning, riding my bike past parliament to the The Hague Central and seeing a dozen Royal Marrechaussee armed with automatic weapons, and hearing that Hoofddorp station near Amsterdam had been shut due to an ‘incident’, I got on to a train. A young Middle Eastern man sat next to me, speaking in Arabic on the phone. He was wearing a thick coat, and had a big square bag between his legs. And for a moment I felt a flash of fear. I thought about the possibility of a bomb being in the bag, and images of Brussels ran through my mind. The moment passed very quickly, and I felt stupid and guilty, not believing that I really had been worried for a minute. But I did feel fear, for a brief moment. Continue reading
Yesterday President Obama announced that Cuba would be taken off the US’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism, to which Cuba replied “thanks, about time“. It shows real progress towards better relations with Cuba, but also raising an interesting question – what does it mean to sponsor terrorism? More importantly, what is terrorism actually? In this adaption of an essay I wrote for university in my first year, I take a lot at how useless this word really is. Continue reading
This week saw yet another horrific attack by extremist Islamist militants. 148 students at Garissa university in Northern Kenya were slaughtered by four men from the Somalian jihadist group al-Shabab. The men broke into the campus before killing students in their classrooms and dorm rooms, separating Muslims from Christians as they went. It took hours for the Kenyan army to regain control of the situation, and parents are still faced with the task of identifying the victims. It was as brutal, personal, and on the same mass scale as an attack that left me similarly lost for words five months ago. So who is al-Shabaab, and why are they fighting a war in Kenya? Continue reading
As so many have pointed out on social media, the massacre at Charlie Hebdo wasn’t the only such horror to take place in recent days. This week reports began to reach the outside world of atrocities in Borno State in northern Nigeria, committed by the Islamist group Boko Haram. It appears that after overrunning a military base in the town of Baga, the militants went on a rampage of burning and killing. Despite what some reports on social media have said, it’s still unknown how many were killed, with guesses ranging from 150 to 2000. So why do we know so little about what’s going on? And why is the Nigerian government doing so little? Continue reading
A day after the attack on the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, the world has responded in a massive way. From editorials in every newspaper there is, to millions of tweets, to blogs like this one, people have voiced a huge range of opinions. They range from positive expressions of solidarity to criticism of Islam or even Charlie Hebdo itself. It’s these last two that have serious issues. Continue reading
Less than two hours ago two armed men entered the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They opened fire with automatic rifles, killing at least 12 people, including two police officer. The police have described the attack as a ‘massacre’ and ‘carnage’. Pictures from the scene show bullet holes in a police vehicle outside, and journalists being carried out on stretchers. The two suspects escaped in a car, and are still at large. Given Charlie Hebdo’s history, the suspicion immediately falls on Islamic militants. Continue reading
Sometimes things happen that are hard to write about. Not just because they’re so cruel, or horrific. The torture I wrote about last week was hard to stomach, but there was plenty to talk about. But sometimes it’s hard to think of something to say that will actually have meaning.
Yesterday in Peshawar in Pakistan, seven Taliban militants broke into a school run by the Pakistani army for children from 10 to 18. They went from room to room shooting students until as many as possible were dead. They chased students through the hallways, and shot bullets into children on the ground until they stopped moving. They didn’t take hostages, but instead tried to kill as many children as possible. When surrounded by the army, they either blew themselves up or fought until killed. At least 132 children were killed, and 9 teachers.
What do I say about this? I could look at who the Pakistani Taliban are, or how they justified their attack by saying that these are the children of army officers. I could talk about the fact that the attack will turn the country even more firmly against the Taliban.
But how much meaning does that have? The Pakistani Taliban’s ideology now justifies attacks designed to kill as many children as possible. They found seven men willing to slaughter children in the most up-close way possible in the name of their ideology. What can any analysis say to that? How do you respond? I have no real words. Nothing can give this meaning.