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Where is the solidarity for Ankara victims?

Flag of Turkey painted onto two hands. Source: The Huffington Post
Flag of Turkey painted onto two hands. Source: The Huffington Post
Flag of Turkey painted onto two hands. Source: The Huffington Post

The Turkish capital, Ankara, came under attack last Sunday, the second attack in recent months, after a car bomb exploded killing over 30 people and leaving more than 100 wounded. Last month, another bomb attack in the capital killed 28 people.

According to Hurriyet Daily News, The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The terror group is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist organisation that advocates autonomy for Kurds within Turkey.

Unfortunately, terrorist attacks are not uncommon in Turkey’s capital. Last October, just a month before the November 2015 Paris Attacks, more than 100 civilians were killed and over 400 injured in a deadly suicide-bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara. Although the attacks in Paris and Ankara took place within a month of each other, there is a big difference in the amount of media coverage they received.

In solidarity for the Paris attacks, Facebook introduced a temporary profile picture filter of the French flag and across the world famous landmarks and monuments were lit up to symbolise the Tricolour. The same however, cannot be said for the attacks in Turkey. Across Western media and social media, coverage for the attacks in Ankara has been minimal in comparison. The Independent reported that Facebook will not allow its users to use a temporary profile picture in support of the Ankara victims, however after criticism from users the site has now introduced a Safety Check feature where users can check on friends or relatives who may be in the area. Facebook is still yet to introduce this same feature for an attack that took place in Ivory Coast just hours before the Ankara bombings on Sunday, which left 16 people dead, including two soldiers.

One Facebook user, James Taylor, who currently resides in Ankara wrote a very powerful post encouraging users to have empathy for the victims of Sunday’s attacks. The viral post, that currently has over 100,000 shares, questioned why social media users are not giving the same amount of attention to the Ankara victims as they did to those in Paris. Taylor wrote, “It is very easy to look at terror attacks that happen in London, in New York, in Paris and feel pain and sadness for those victims, so why is it not the same for Ankara?”

Like Taylor, we can question whether the attention would be different had the victims of the bombings been English. Taylor wrote, “Imagine they were English, and this attack was in England. If these people were instead the people you see every day on your way to work […]. Families, policemen, students, artists, couples. Your friends maybe. These people are no different. They just happen to be Turkish.”

One of Taylor’s powerful Facebook posts. Source: James Taylor’s Facebook

One of the most heartbreaking things about Sunday’s attacks is that many of the victims were young students who, like many of us in England, were enjoying their first year of university and had a bright future ahead of them. The Daily Sabah reported a story on six of the victims of Sunday’s attacks. Of the six, two were only 16 years old, Destina Peri Parlak and Mehmet Emre Çakar. Parlak was a successful high school student who was waiting for a bus home when the explosion happened and Çakar was soon expected to go into surgery to treat his liver disease. The remaining reported victims were all in their early twenties. Berkay Baş and Ozancan Akkuş were both first year students at Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ). Nusrettin Can Çalkınsın, a 20 year old first year student at Gazi University Faculty of Law was waiting for the bus with his girlfriend Zeynep Başak Gülsoy when the attack took place.

It is evident that the same level of sadness and sympathy that the world experienced for Paris has not been replicated for Ankara. It is not necessarily a fault of the public, but instead of the mainstream media system who are responsible for choosing which global tragedies deserve coverage. Ankara is just one example of a number of injustices around the world that are often left unreported by Western media.

Where you live in the world should not determine how much attention and coverage your tragedies receive. Ankara deserves its ‘Je suis’ moment just like the innocent victims in France did, and just as many other unreported victims around the world do too. It is time for mainstream media to stop giving unequal treatment for devastations that happen outside of Western Europe, and to realise that all victims of terrorist attacks, wherever in the world, deserve the same level of solidarity.

Concluding with Taylor’s heartfelt words, “We are Paris, we are Ankara, we are Syria, we are Ivory Coast. But above all, we are Human.”