The victims of the Barcelona attacks
The Ramblas, one of the most iconic streets in Barcelona, was one of the latest objectives of the terror-van strategy adopted by extremist terrorism. Realistically vans are perfect weapons. They are easy to come by and due to their role in modern transport, very hard to control. An everyday object, turned into a lethal weapon, was used to kill 13 people, and injure over 100 more. The list of victims is however much longer, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay homage to their loss.
As mentioned above, the first victims which come to mind are the dead and injured. These were ordinary people. Not soldiers in a battlefield, not police officers out on service, not firefighters rushing to the flames. They did not sign up for danger, but instead were trying to lead normal lives. Be the reason they left home that day work a trip to the shops or tourism, they had every right to a safe existence, and their lives were taken from them by ruthless assassins when they had nothing to be blamed for.
Many people were lucky enough to be far from the attacks or close but not hit by the van. Even though they survived, it shouldn’t be a surprise if they do not feel as safe as they once did walking in big cities. Their right to walk the streets and feel safe was also stripped from them. One can only hope that the occurrences of last Thursday don’t have a long-lasting effect on these people, and that they will one day be able to lead normal lives.
Early, only just into the following Friday, another vehicle ploughed into pedestrians in the town of Cambrils, injuring another seven people and leading to another death. In this case the police got to the attackers, and they were subsequently in shot time, with four dying on the spot, and the fifth later on. The police officers who bravely acted in defense of the people of Cambrils, and all of Spain, will have to live with this forever: having participated in the death of another human being. Be it in self-defense, the protection of others or any other reason, killing someone is permanent and is difficult to come back from. It is not a police officer’s job to take lives, and psychological trauma shouldn’t be unexpected. As the dead had the right to live, and the survivors the right to live unterrorized lives, these police officer’s had the right to not be forced to take another’s life. The thoughtless attacks also destroyed these rights.
The importance of the following victim cannot be stressed enough: cultural integration. It is hard enough a task for diverse cultures to coexist in harmony without mitigating circumstances, and the difference between Muslim and islamist is often forgotten after this kind of attack. The usual wave of islamophobia followed the events in Barcelona, as it did following the Paris and London van-attacks. The many sectors of society demand that Muslims apologize for the actions of savage terrorists, to rally for the control of Islam or forbid its practice altogether, or to stop the entry of Muslims into their countries. These attacks add flames to the fire of islamaphobic and racist groups who wish to exclude those of different origin or faith from our societies.
The victors of this situation will be determined in the following weeks. If we allow fear to take roots in our societies and the attacks to modify normal life, the terrorists will have won. If we are not careful to remember that the real enemy is not the Muslim who lives three doors across, but a small number of radical despots willing to play with people’s lives for their selfish objectives, then evil will emerge as the victorious party. The best thing for the memory of the deceased, the future lives of the injured, to thank the involved the police officers involved for their dedication and the future of our globalized world, is to live life as normal. We must continue to walk, drive and shop. We must continue to wish our neighbors a good day every morning, be they of any faith or nationality. We must continue to value people for their actions, not for their origin.
The best weapons to use against those who would sew terror are not guns, bombs, knives nor vans. Not prejudice, suspicion or hate. This is where the problems inciting terrorism, in all its forms, have their ultimate origin. Kindness and unity are our best defence against these acts, to show the perpetrators that the peace among cultures which has taken centuries to build will not be destroyed so easily. The ordinary people of Barcelona have already shown their empathy and kindness. Once again, acts of terror have brought out the best in people. May courage and kindness continue to beat terror.