Yesterday as I sat in Casablanca, a phone call came. There were attacks in Paris: the Stade de France was being attacked. A restaurant had been shot at. As we sat in a quiet restaurant watching the screen broadcasting the amicable football game between Germany and France, the images seemed to discredit the news. Nothing.
We turned to the manager to tell him. He answered:
“C’est une blague?”
It’s a joke? It was not a joke.
The evening of Friday 13th saw a series of coordinated attacks shake places of gathering in Paris. As the news came through via TV broadcasts and social media, it turned out that the Stade de France attack was carried out by two suicide bombers and caused one dead as the explosions took place outside the stadium, and not inside where hundreds could have been killed. The amplitude of the carnage was revealed with 82 dead at the Bataclan- a concert hall where people were shot at gun point. At Republique, on the terrace of a pizza place 5 people were shot with automatic rifles. There was one dead on the Boulevard Voltaire. At the corner of Rue Bichat and Alibert, 14 died on the terrace of a restaurant. Rue de Charonne, 19 people were killed. 300 people are injured. Witnesses describe the events as war scenes.
The attacks struck at the heart of joyful, popular, entertaining Paris. Struck at the heart of entertainment and music. Messages of solidarity have come in from heads of State all over the world.
As people walked out of the Stade de France, the Marseillaise was sung.
It is often remarked that the Marseillaise is the bloodiest of national anthems, and that it belongs to the past. Yesterday as crowds finally left the Stade de France singing the French anthem which finishes with “qu’un sang impure abreuve nos sillons”…May an impure blood water our land, the lyrics sounded very relevant.
ISIS claimed the attacks, and communicated on their details in the following terms: 8 brothers wearing suicide bomb belts and carrying rifles targeted specific locations at the heart of Paris. The attacks were well prepared and pre-meditated. Crusader talk. This attack is the beginning and only is a warning they claimed.
President Hollande declared the state of Emergency – last declared during the Algerian war. The state of Emergency can last 12 days after which the parliament needs to confer. The next level is state of war. “I think we’ll live this all our lives, and that there is no way to stop it” said a morose Parisian this morning.
It is war, some witnesses said–a war that we’ve grown used to in ravaged lands, in faraway lands like Iraq and Syria. Yet that war looks very different when it hits the heart of Paris. But it’s the same war: a war that represses joy, togetherness and freedom, that imposes hatred and violence in the garb of radical religion.
On Thursday, there were bombs in Beirut – also claimed by ISIS – that killed more than 40 people and injured over 240. But that is the Middle East. Yet, we live in a global world and ISIS de facto is a proto state that administrates and imposes its rule over 7 million people. The only thing it lacks to be a proper state is recognition.
Hollande stated that France would triumph over barbarism. In the case of France I wonder if it begins at home. During Hollande’s last official visit to Morocco, in Tangiers, France and Morocco came to an agreement that Morocco would train French imams to its moderate francophone version of Islam. For too long France’s secularism has made it turn a blind eye to the rampant radicalization of its marginal youth taking place in its mosques.
The manager of the Casablanca restaurant had said he’d worked in an all night restaurant for 15 years in Paris. Getting hold of weapons never was a problem, over the years he had seen many from all the trafficking suburbs surrounding Paris. What makes this horrifying is the coordinated orchestration of the attacks leading to psychosis and prostration at the very heart of joie de vivre.
Photo by sam valadi, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license