Horrible and too crazy for words. I can not find any other words to explain the shock after the terrorist attacks that shook Paris last Friday. The suicide attacks targeted "people like you and me" enjoying dinner, a drink, a concert or simply spent some good time with friends and family in the center of Paris. A coordinated attack of 8 terrorists at different places in the city left 127 people dead and more than 300 injured.
The news of the attacks reached us while we were cozily enjoying the football game of Belgium against Italy (which we won with 3-1). We followed the news until after midnight and then went to bed in a state of disbelief for what had just happened. Now, 48h after the attacks a lot is still unknown of what exactly happened, but it is clear that IS (the Islamic State) is behind the attacks and that at least some of the terrorists were Belgians (living in Brussels).
Islamic State has over the past years gained lots of power in the Middle-East and some North-African countries and is known for being very aggressive. But until now their area of operation remained out of Europe. A couple of months ago they already did an attack in Paris targeting the Charlie Hebdo newspaper (since the newspaper used some cartoons mocking Mohamed). This time their attack was much broader and wilder without a clear trigger like with the mocking of Mohamed. Now it was simply intended to create fear and I obviously hope this is not the start of more attacks in Europe. To be honest I find it surprising that so few attacks take place in Europe in fact. It is very easy to move around between countries and it just takes a couple of crazy people and some guns to really perform attacks. But luckily it does not happen very often. I guess there is a lot of security happening "behind the scenes" and not too many people are actually crazy enough to give their live for the cause they fight. I hope they find all aggressors quickly and also that the governments of Russia, the US and Europe now coordinate their actions to stop the progress of IS.
Europe is currently also in the middle of a refugee crisis. This crisis is also largely triggered by Islamic State. The wars and terror they cause (and also some other regimes in the area) in many countries in the Middle-East and North-Africa are making people run away in search for peace and a better future for themselves and their children. Many hundreds of thousands of refugees are trying to cross the border with Europe (and many hundreds of thousands more are expected in the months to come). To understand why so many civilians are running away from Syria it is sufficient to look at the map below.
Many groups are fighting for control over different regions of the country. And the group in charge in one city can be fully opposed to those in a neighboring city. So simply depending on where you happen to live you can end up on the "wrong" side. Furthermore, the situation (and controlling groups) is constantly changing, so the situation is very unstable and worrying for many people. With such a background it is not surprising that someone looks for a better (and safer) place to live and raise one's children.
The refugee crisis is somewhat testing the concepts behind the unified Europe where Europe should define one policy and work together over the different countries on a controlled and human solution for the refugees (controlling who is really a refugee, keeping families together and distributing the refugees over the whole of Europe). The refugees are mainly entering Europe through its southern and eastern borders, but typically want to get to Germany or the UK (because they expect life to be better in these richer countries). So countries like Hungary, Slovakia and Greece are asked to spend lots of money to strictly control the European borders from people that have no intention to stay in those countries. Once you are inside the European Union you are free to travel from one country to the other. So controlling the inflow of refugees and the distribution of the refugees over all the countries of the European Union requires a coordinated approach over the different countries. With different political parties in power in different countries and different political agenda's and cultures all over Europe getting to this coordinated approach is not easy at all.
And if it then becomes clear that IS is starting to perform attacks in Europe people get very nervous about refugees getting in easily (and separating the real refugees from the terrorists). This is likely to generate even more discussion and tension over the weeks and months to come. But one thing is clear. Resolving this and bringing safety and stability in Europe will require a unified and coordinated approach. I hope Europe will show it can handle this.
We decided not to talk about the recent events with the kids unless they would hear about it. Up to now we managed to keep the news away from them and I hope to be able to keep it that way. They are too young to let themselves get worried about this. In any case, the best thing to "fight" this craziness is to simply continue with our lives. And that is exactly what we did this weekend with Alex' circus class, a visit to the Museum of Natural Sciences (the one with the dinosaurs), some time at the swimming pool and many hours of Playmobil and Lego play at home. On Saturday I also went to the pool on my own for some 1km swimming. Now that I need to rest for my Achilles Tendon I need to find other means of keeping my condition, and swimming is a good means for this.
On Wednesday we had a day off (November 11th, to commemorate the end of World War 1) and spent it with my parents in the forest. it was a very nice family day.
You can find the pictures of this week here.
To end let me share with you a French song by Gilbert Bécaud called Et maintenant (and now) that is a love song but which I heard on the radio today and which fit well I think with the current situation in France
Et maintenant que vais-je faire - And now what am i going to do
De tout ce temps que sera ma vie - with the rest of my life
De tous ces gens qui m’indiffèrent - with all the people that didn't care.
Maintenant que tu es partie - Now, that you are gone.
Toutes ces nuits, pourquoi pour qui - All the nights..for what, for who
Et ce matin qui revient pour rien - and this morning returns for nothing
Ce cœur qui bat, pour qui, pourquoi - This heart who beats, for who, for what
Qui bat trop fort, trop fort - Who beats too strong, too strong
Et maintenant que vais-je faire - And now, what am i going to do
Vers quel néant glissera ma vie - around this nothing will slip my life.
Tu m’as laissé la terre entière - You left me the entire world
Mais la terre sans toi c’est petit - But the world without you is small
Vous, mes amis, soyez gentils - You my friends, are nice
Vous savez bien que l’on n’y peut rien - You know well that nothing can be done.
Même Paris crève d’ennui - Even Paris, dying of boredom
Toutes ses rues me tuent - all its streets are killing me.
Et maintenant que vais-je faire - An now, what am i going to do
Je vais en rire pour ne plus pleurer - I will laugh, cry no more.
Je vais brûler des nuits entières - I'm going to burn all these nights
Au matin je te haïrai - In the morning, I will hate you.
Et puis un soir dans mon miroir - And then one evening in my mirror
Je verrai bien la fin du chemin - I will see the end of the road,
Pas une fleur et pas de pleurs - not flowers and not tears.
Au moment de l’adieu - the moment to say farewell.
Je n’ai vraiment plus rien à faire - I really have nothing to do
Je n’ai vraiment plus rien … - I really have nothing