Police investigations outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, November 14. Demotix/ Jonathan Tessier. All rights reserved.It was like spring in autumn. The weather had been turning warm, day after day, in this early November 2015 in Paris. One month later the town will host the UN Climate Conference COP21… Such unseasonable weather, the hottest November ever, must for sure have something to do with climate change.
It was an evening of football, with France vs. Germany at the Stade de France, in Saint Denis, north of Paris. Meanwhile the café’s terraces on the 11th arrondissement, the “swinging quarter” of the City, were packed with people enjoying the equable temperature. Nearby, 1500 people were gathering at the Bataclan, a well-known and popular music-hall, to attend the hard rock concert of the group Eagles of Death Metal.
But other Death Eagles (or rather Demons), were on their way to kill. In Saint Denis, the murderers were not able to enter the Stadium (where President Francois Hollande was supporting the Team), so they blew themselves up outside. The audience was evacuated from the stadium only after the end of the match, in a very well organized way. But in the centre of the city, near Republic square, it was a massacre: shooting from cars against peaceful customers in bars and restaurants, an attack on the Bataclan concert hall, with dozens of victims in no time followed by a three-hours-long hostage taking… As I write this letter, already 150 people are dead and the number will increase.
Of course it was a Daesh (ISIS) operation. Claimed as retaliation against the French bombing on ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. But not only this.
In the coming hours and days, police will identify the murderers. And for sure, they will be French “jihadists”, coming back, or not, from a terrorist internship in Syria. But above all, people from French society. They wanted to instil fear in us by attacking ordinary people. They were not attacking the symbol of economic, political and military powers (like the 9/11 attacks in the US): ISIS never really does attack powers. They just killed people (mainly young people), listening to a concert, having fun together in a bar, or sharing a meal with friends in a restaurant… They wanted to kill others “guilty” of following a football match… All these decadent habits in the “capital of abomination and perversion” as is written in the communique of the so-called “Islamic Caliphate”.
But this is also a conviviality which is not shared by some of those who feel excluded from French society and who have taken refuge in radical “takfirism” (sectarian fanaticism as Muslims refer to it).
Such bloody attacks were expected. There have already been several attempts. What will come next? Probably other attacks…
Of course, besides stunning us with such a nightmare, there were a lot of signs of solidarity between people, of their willingness to unite, to stick together… Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, for sure. But we have already seen after the January attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket, that this unity is not in evidence for everybody. Islamophobia rears its head and French Muslims have to endure more harassment, discrimination, even physical aggression. Xenophobic, antisemitic, racist, discourses multiply in all directions. And these do not only come from a scared periphery of the population, not only from the ever-growing far-right National Front, but increasingly from the mouths of mainstream politicians, journalists, intellectuals, from the “left” as from the “right” part of the political spectrum. These discourses are not confined to “a Radical Islam problem”, but also address the “migrant invasion” and the refusal to host “Muslim” refugees, the social unrest in the popular districts and “banlieues”, the “enemy from within”, etc.
Of course, facing these murderers, intelligence, police and military measures are necessary. The new anti-terrorist laws already passed are clearly already threats to liberty and not efficient means against terrorism. The warmongering rhetoric used by the authorities does not make the fight against ISIS more effective. But it does contribute to limiting freedom of expression and debate, and the organisational capacity of civil society.
What are the goals of ISIS and followers? To spread fear… That will not alleviate the military pressure on them in Middle East. But this precise strategy of ISIS has always been clearly expressed: “the more you attack us, the more we will gain support”. And it is true that the first effect (and effective goal) of the Russian operation in Syria has been to undermine the rebel groups opposed to ISIS while temporarily reinforcing ISIS’ “anti-crusader” prestige.
The real goal of the attacks in France, as well as those in the Shia southern suburb of Beirut a few hours before this, is through fear, to spread division (in Lebanon to reignite an “inter-confessionnal” war, in France to create an atmosphere of internal tension, so that French Muslims are in one way or another considered as responsible for the Paris attacks, and therefore as a threat of further attacks). This must be a serious concern for the whole of French society.
There is an acute and growing tension between the concern for safety and the protection of our freedoms. How do we handle this? Read more from the World Forum for Democracy partnership.