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Opinion

Why are Asian lives not so important?

When terrorism hits Asia, fewer tears seem to be shed than when Europe or the U.S. is targeted.

This past week, a gang of terrorists massacred 41 people and injured 239 at Turkey’s Ataturk International Airport, one of Europe’s business airports.

It was the second terrorist attack -- ninth since last summer -- to hit the country within a month. The three fully armed terrorists could have killed more but for the brave actions of police.

Nevertheless, the scars are deep and it will take some time for Turkey as a society to come to terms with the bloody incident.

Last January, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed more than a dozen tourists at the Sultan Ahmet Square, a popular spot among foreign and local visitors in Istanbul.

The attack in January hit the country’s tourism industry hard. It is likely to suffer even more after the trauma at the airport Tuesday. While it is still not certain if IS was behind the airport attack, the end result is likely to be the same, as Turkey’s main economic lifeline takes a beating.

Indeed, the pain and suffering goes beyond the damage and loss of lives at the airport. What’s even more shocking is that Turkey appears to have been left to mourn alone, as the media bandwagon left once they had their footage.

Unlike the recent attack in Orlando or the bloody assault on the streets of Paris last November, terrorism in Turkey doesn’t seem to be interesting enough for international news outlets to invest more than just a few days to look into the incident.

The same could be said about the reaction from the international community. The Belgian flag was hoisted above 10 Downing Street after attacks earlier this year, but don’t expect Prime Minister David Cameron to give Turkey the same treatment.

Even soccer’s top governing body in Europe, UEFA, had difficulty agreeing to a moment of silence to commemorate the Istanbul victims.

At first, UEFA said the attack was not related to soccer directly and added that a moment of silence could be observed if the host country or one of the participating teams were hit with a tragedy.

But following uproar on social media, as well as intervention from Turkey’s soccer association, UEFA took a step back and permitted a minute’s silence during the Poland-Portugal Europe 2016 match on Thursday evening.

For a country that could be on the verge of becoming a member of the European Union, why does Turkey have to work so hard to be treated as an equal? After all, the UEFA expressed its solidarity with France following the terrorist attack last year and permitted a minute of silence for the Paris victims.

The fact that 19 of the 41 victims were foreign nationals was not enough to keep interest alive longer than a few days. Most of the people killed were Muslims.

Sadly, when terror strikes places like Beirut, Baghdad or African cities, the news has a short shelf life. The bias is glaring: When Westerners are killed in terrorist attacks it becomes a tragedy. But when Arabs, Turks or Asians are killed in terrorist attacks, it’s an unfortunate norm, because the region is at war anyway.

To put things in perspective, according to Iraq Body Count, 1,087 Iraqis were killed by suicide bombings in the month of June. It was just a number. No one flinched because of the lazy and hideous assumption that violence will always be part of life in this region. Let us not forget who helped destabilize the region in the first place.

Perhaps there is the feeling that Turks and Arabs are inferior people and therefore do not deserve the same level of solidarity as the victims in Orlando or Paris.

And as long as the world continues to be indifferent and unsympathetic, we can forget about defeating violent extremism.

(Asia News Network/The Nation)
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