By Kyle Hoekstra, News Editor (words and pictures)
Royal Holloway students assembled to express solidarity with victims of ISIS following unprecedented terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut between the 12th and 13th of November.
Approximately 50 students gathered in Founder’s North Quadrangle on Monday 16 November, mustering by a repurposed bed sheet below Queen Victoria. The group stood for a minute’s silence at 1pm, before lifting the banner and marching together around Founders to finish on Nobles Field.
The demonstration was organised by second-year Politics and International Relations student Ryan King, who hoped to emphasise a disparity in western media in the prominence accorded to the November 13 Paris attacks and the November 12 multiple bombings in Beirut.
King said he was worried by the “possibility of further resentment of Muslim and Asian groups” following the terrorist attacks and sought to remind people that “the vast majority of the victims of Islamic terrorist groups are Muslims.”
He said that attacks across the Middle East are often marginalized as “routine”.
Writing on the Facebook event page, King also stressed the role of “decades of Western interference in the Middle East” in creating the conditions for jihadist movements to “thrive and multiply”.
Campus security accompanied the march and halted traffic as it was led by Ryan King from Founder’s north entrance, around the building. Defying a light November chill, the group then settled on Nobles Field with Founder’s Building behind them, and stood for photographs.
Among the attendees were Professors of History Sarah Ansari and Justin Champion, whose research interests include public engagement with academic knowledge.
Professor Champion described the attacks as “an attack on all of us,” and said some reaction, calling to close British borders, was a “knee-jerk reaction… just pitiful.”
“The asylum seekers are fleeing these lunatics,” he said, adding:
“The reason why these things are happening is because of Tony Blair and George bush’s foreign policy.”
Professor Ansari suggested that “we should be careful how we respond to [Paris] in case we forget about the people in the Middle East,” stressing the devastation of the “proud, long histories” in the region.
Fenadis, a Royal Holloway student from Kenya who attended the event, said that “religion and terrorism are two different things,” explaining that we must take care to differentiate between what is religiously motivated and what is driven by other factors.
Within three hours, 130 people were killed at six different locations in Paris and 43 were killed in Beirut after a double suicide bombing, with hundreds more casualties in both cities. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for both attacks, in addition to recent attacks in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.
The events in Paris provoked condemnation and grief throughout the world, with President Obama describing them as “an attack on all humanity and the universal values that we share.”
French president François Hollande pledged “merciless” retaliation against ISIS and denounced the attacks as an “act of war.” Police staged 128 raids targeting Islamic State militants in France on November 16, while French airstrikes proceeded against targets in Raqqa, Syria.
The Founder November 2015