Campus contemplates effects of Paris attacks


KAREEM OSMAN / PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Students gathered to express their solidarity with victims of attacks in Lebanon and Paris.

News & Features Editor

The recent terror attacks in Paris have spurred political and personal responses to Daesh, also known as the Islamic State or ISIS. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks Nov. 13 that killed 129 and injured about 350.

Several attacks occurred, including one at the Bataclan, a concert hall where an American metal band was performing, that killed 89 concertgoers and another at the Stade de France, during a soccer match.

At least seven terrorists attacked Paris for several hours, sending fear and uncertainty through the French capital.

No Hopkins students studying abroad in France were injured. The University contacted students, faculty and other Hopkins affiliates in Paris to confirm that they were not hurt.

On Saturday, following the strikes, freshman Tamara Villalon organized a moment of solidarity in front of Gilman Hall. Around 50 students gathered and took a picture, many holding flags of countries affected by terror, notably Lebanon, where attacks had taken place the same day. Villalon has family who live in France and through her connection, felt she had to honor the victims.

“I was shocked how quickly one evening could turn into such a horrific moment for the entire world,” Villalon said. “People were saying this is awful, but physically we are so far away from them.”
Villalon feels that such events provide opportunities for people to unite, and she wanted to help coordinate that effort.

“I think it’s really important that as college students, we participate in events going on in the world, and we show that we won’t just stand idly by and continue with our lives as freedoms are taken away from other people,” she said.

Villalon had spoken to one of her cousins in France. She explained that her cousins were told to remain indoors throughout the night, and to be cautious Saturday.

Students studying abroad in France had to react quickly to the terror. Josh Hong is currently participating in a BA/MA program at Sciences Po, and expects to graduate with the Class of 2016. He noted a particular change in atmosphere in the city.

“I’m living right now in the Latin Quarter in the Fifth Arrondissement, fortunately not too close, but not too far, from where the attacks happened,” Hong wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “You could tell there was something wrong with the city the day after the attacks.”

Hong mentioned that storefronts were closed.

“All the shops were closed. Even the boulangerie [bakery] in my neighborhood was closed. The boulangerie never closes,” Hong wrote.

“You could tell people were scared.”

Director of Study Abroad Lori Citti was in Paris when the attacks occurred and was accessible to students who needed her, junior Victoria Michaels explained. She studied at Sciences Po this fall and returned home two weeks early after Hopkins gave that option to all students studying abroad.

“Hopkins offered it as an option and we all took it,” Michaels wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

She learned about the attacks from a fellow classmate studying abroad in Paris who messaged her on Facebook on Friday night asking if she was safe. Michaels then turned on the news to learn more about the attacks.

“I was shocked, yes, but the gravity of the attacks didn’t hit me then,” Michaels wrote. “I ran to my host mother, who was talking to a friend in the living room and told her there were attacks unfolding in the city. We watched the news for a while as we tried to locate my host sister, who was being held at a bar near Chatlet (the bar ordered everyone inside and shut all the windows). She returned home safely later in the night.”

Within a few hours, Michaels had received several messages enquiring about her safety. She also mentioned that American media reported around 150 deaths at the Bataclan, whereas French media had reported 82 deaths.

“My initial reaction was mostly just confusion,” Michaels wrote. “No one knew what was going on, who was perpetrating the attacks or where the next one was going to be.”

Michaels saw a post on Facebook the next day showing someone’s bloody shirt after having been at the Bataclan the night before.

“That’s when I realized these attacks were 15 minutes away from my bedroom, and that it could have been literally anyone,” Michaels wrote.
Facebook and other social networks helped spread the news of the attacks. Villalon discussed the role of Facebook after the attacks, mentioning that there was greater support for the moment of solidarity on Facebook than at the event.

“There are several people around me who were talking to me afterwards and there was a lot more support, for example, on Facebook, and I think there is a disconnect between changing a profile picture to the colors of the flag and liking something,” Villalon said. “I think it’s about the actions you do in person that really count.”

The terror attacks in Paris will have profound geopolitical consequences and will change the tactics that nations use to combat global terrorism.
Professor Steven David discussed how perceptions of Daesh have changed and will continue to change globally and in the Middle East. He says he prefers to use the Arabic acronym “Daesh” because using “ISIS” or “Islamic State” gives credibility to the terrorist organization. “Daesh” sounds similar to an Arabic word meaning “a group of bigots who impose their will on others” and can also mean to “trample down and crush.”
David spoke to The News-Letter about recent strife in the Middle East propagated by Daesh.

“Daesh was just a regional threat — a threat to Iraq and Syria, maybe some of the neighboring states — but really, unlike al-Qaeda, didn’t have ambitions to attack the West,” David said. “But especially with these attacks in Paris, but also with the attacks in Beirut, the downing of the Russian airliner, it’s clear that Daesh has ambitions that go well beyond the immediate Middle East and is a threat that has to be reckoned with.”
David also discussed the scale of the attacks. He mentioned that the Paris attacks were less sophisticated than the 9/11 attacks, which involved training pilots and other complex planning.

“[The Paris attacks] involved seven or eight people, many of whom were already French nationals, with automatic weapons shooting up popular places,” David said. “It was horribly tragic but very scarily, seemingly easy to do.”

One of the suicide bombers was discovered to have been carrying a fake Syrian passport, which can be bought for as little as $250, according to The Guardian. The holder of the passport was admitted to Europe via Greece as part of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to Europe this year. David commented on how this incident might affect the acceptance of refugees in European countries

“The Europeans are putting the brakes on bringing in Syrian refugees, and I think just about every Republican governor, including our own [Larry Hogan], has said they don’t want to take Syrian refugees or it should be put on hold, and I think that’s really sad,” David said. “I have no problems with opening our gates to Syrian refugees.”

Moreover, David believes there should be a vetting process for accepting refugees.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent [acceptance],” David said. “But, overwhelmingly, the people who are Syrian refugees are fleeing war and destruction. We’re talking about lots of kids. Maybe we can start with taking kids and older people and vetting families. I don’t want to close our doors on these people. I would like to think that’s not who we are.”
Senior Nadine Abdullat, a practicing Muslim, said that according to her interpretation of Islam, the members of Daesh are perverting Islam.

“We have to recognize that these people are not Muslims,” she said. “They are fundamentalists that claim Islam as their motivation, but when they claim Islam as their motivation it’s important to also look at the fact that they go against everything the Qu’ran says.”

Abdullat said that Daesh’s actions are contrary to the core value of Islam.

“There’s a quote in the Qu’ran… which says anyone who kills an innocent, it’s as though he’s killed all of mankind,” she said. “That goes against anything that ISIS, or whatever they want to call themselves, stands for because I promise you no one in the Paris attacks, or in the attacks in Syria, or in the bombings in Beirut [was] guilty.”

Freshman Kush Mansuria attended the moment of solidarity Saturday. He discussed his reaction to the attacks and the implications they will have.

“I was angry that we have people that are willing to take the lives of other innocents just to promote a personal agenda,” Mansuria said.

He believes that this event might be a wake-up call for people around the world, including Hopkins students.

“We should really use this to reflect on what we’ve done so far and how we can continue to create a world where terrorism isn’t really a word,” he said.

Villalon discussed France on the night of the attacks, highlighting how Parisians supported each other in a desperate time.

“There were cab drivers who turned off their meters and picked up random strangers on the streets to take them home for free,” she said.

“There were people who took in random strangers into their house when all the panic was going on in order to provide a safe space. I think it shows the strength of the spirit of a human being.”

Around the world Friday night, monuments were lit up in the French “Bleu, Blanc, Rouge,” in remembrance of those who were murdered in the attacks.

“When the light in France went dark, the rest of the world turned it on,” Villalon said.


Courtesy of ABBY BIESMAN The Blue Jay Sculpture was painted in solidarity with France.

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