Following The Attack In Istanbul, Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth Reminds Us That We Are In This Together

39 people died during a Jan. 1 attack in Istanbul.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, a gunman opened fire on the young, cosmopolitan party-goers at a popular Istanbul nightclub, killing 39. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack, and although the militant group's claim has yet to be verified by news organizations, the tragedy on the banks of the Bosphorus bookends a year marked by rising tensions and a growing frequency of mass violence. The New York Times reported that 15 major incidents of violence took place in Turkish cities in 2016, some attributed to Kurdish militants and their decades-long struggle against the Turkish government, and some to ISIS.


Turkish policemen stand in a cordon off street after a suicide bomb attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. deepspace /

In the aftermath of ISIS' deadly June, 2016 attack on Istanbul's Ataturk airport, A Plus reported on a series of tweets by author and Arab Spring activist Iyad El-Baghdadi that emphasized that although in an increasingly Islamophobic west, Muslims are often cast as the perpetrators of terrorism, they are far more likely to be the victims. And, El-Baghdadi wrote, it isn't just charitable to open our hearts to people in crisis, it's smart.

"You give extremists an automatic and big win when you accept their claim that they represent tradition and that the tradition equals Islam," El-Baghdadi wrote. 

That "automatic and big win," in which rampant distrust divides Muslims and non-Muslims from each other, is seemingly long sought after by ISIS. As reported by The Daily Beast, ISIS' online magazine Dabiq published a 12-page editorial in 2015 describing its new global strategy, a strategy in which the violent actions of a few would sow discord among the many: "Now, the time had come for another event to… bring division to the world and destroy the gray zone everywhere." 

Western Islamophobia, experts argue, helps terrorists by deepening that distrust and discord, by making it seem as though only some people are targeted.

But, as Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted Jan. 2, regardless of what city name is trending, "terrorism is an attack on us all."

Roth's message is sure to resonate with many.

In a speech this weekend made necessary by the Dec. 19 Berlin Christmas market attack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed fears that welcoming refugees fleeing violence might lead to further acts of violence, speaking of a "firm determination to counter the terrorists' hate with our humanity and our solidarity."

"As we pursue our lives and our work, we tell the terrorists: They are murderers full of hatred, but it's not they who determine how we live and want to live," Merkel said, according to Bloomberg. "We are free, humane, open. Together, we are stronger."

Cover image via Shutterstock /  badahos.


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