Boston Bombings: The West’s Selective Grieving

Three dead as bombs rip through a crowd at the Boston marathon. The coming days and weeks will unpick what took place and who is responsible. My fellow journalists will seek to give a face and voice to the dead and injured. Their families and work colleagues will be interviewed, a picture of their lives will be painted for us and broadcast on our TV screens.

On the same day as the Boston bombings at least 33 were killed and 160 wounded in a string of bomb attacks across Iraq. Attacks which did not take place before the US led invasion of the country. The same media coverage was not afforded to the dead in Iraq, nor did Obama seek to comment on the issue.

Looking down the news feed of news organisations, it is obvious what news takes priority. It is, of course, the three deaths in Boston. All life is precious, sacred and equal, but as far as our media and politicians are concerned, some is more precious, sacred and equal than others.

There will be no interviews with families, work colleagues or pictures for the victims of the 315 drone strikes carried out by Obama in Pakistan. People in Pakistan have been subjected to drone strikes, not knowing when or where they will strike, not knowing who they will strike, the distant hum of the drone could be the last thing they hear. Where are the media and politicians to show their condolences for these victims? To ask for prayers? To share their thoughts? To voice their disgust and indignation?

We can share the images of Boston, the moment the first bomb hit. The newscasters show their deep concern, they show their emotion, their so-called impartiality goes out the window, “These are people’s lives were talking about!”

The bombs in Boston have killed three. The US missiles kill many more. We hear talk of tracking down those that committed the crimes in Boston, but who will track down those that murdered via drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The thing with Boston is that we do not know who is responsible yet, but we do know who is responsible for the deaths in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan – there seems to be no justice there.

America has, like it did on 9/11, felt what many in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere feel every day. Some will take comfort in that thought. They shouldn’t. Life is sacred, and just because Western politicians and media organisations do not see it that way, does not mean we should stoop to their level and have selective grieving for Westerners only.

The effect is the same. All the victims bleed. All the mothers feel the grief, the cries sound the same, and it all hurts. The differences are in language, skin colour, nationality, religion and of course, access to healthcare. Victims of drone strikes can only dream of a response like that we have seen in Boston. Emergency medical staff, ambulances, and police.

TV minutes and column inches make one thing clear, one American or Western life is worth much more than a Middle Eastern, Pakistani or African life. My prayers and thoughts are with all victims, not just the Western ones.

Eye witness accounts of Meiktila massacre; Beaten, burnt and stabbed

Reports of what actually took place in the Central Myanmar town of Meiktila are still emerging. IDPs are beginning to speak out and tell the world of what they witnessed with their own eyes.

“They beat them in front of me. I was watching. I can still see it.” Noor Bi, is crying as she describes the moment when she saw her husband and brother murdered in front of her eyes as she fled Meiktila.

The mob out numbered the police and they were unable to protect the Muslim minority of the town. The 26-year-old is now a widow with a three-year-old son. As she told her story and what she witnessed, the people around her in the make shift IDP camp now set up in the grounds of a Muslim school in Yindaw, began to cry. Grown men sobbed at hearing her ordeal.

“They beat them and beat them, they were still alive when they threw my husband and brother in the fire. They were burnt alive.” Tears stream down her face as she continues to relay her account.
“Once they had finished, they told us to bow down to them. We bowed down towards Mecca, but they started to beat us.” Noor pauses and then seems reluctant to tell the next part of her ordeal.
“The police asked the monks and the mob to stop beating us and that they would ensure that we would bow down to the monks.” The faces of the other people listening clearly show their disgust at what she described.
“They made us worship them. That is why we lived on that day,” she looks to the ground, not wanting to make eye contact with me or anyone else. No one blames her; Muslims only bow down in prayer to God, but this was life or death, the IDPs around her, men and women, young and old, all of them Muslim, understand this more than anyone.
The monks that asked to be worshipped were young. Noor Bi was even beaten whilst she was holding her three-year-old son causing her to drop him. Her son was saved by a Buddhist woman who sheltered him and took him to safety.
The fifteen women were put on a police truck and taken to a police station. The police asked them to stay quiet, as they needed to go back and rescue others.
Noor Bi’s account is not isolated. Sixteen-year-old Muhammed (name changed for his safety) saw his friends killed in front of his eyes.
The violence started on the 20th March after an apparent dispute at a gold shop led to mob attacks against the Muslim minority in Meiktila. Muhammed and his fellow students went into hiding when Buddhist monks burnt down their boarding school. It was 9:30am the following morning when the police arrived in three trucks to escort the students to safety.
Muhammed and the students were asked by the police to get on the police trucks. There was only one problem though; they had to get to the trucks and a mob stood between them and safety.
“I felt sick the last time I recalled this.” His eyes look tired, he tells me he is not sleeping well and had a nightmare only last night. “The Buddhists refused to let us walk through their area, even with the police escort. We had to try and walk around, there were not enough police to protect us.” His eyes are full of pain.
“We had to put out hands over our heads and bow our heads and pay homage to the monks as we walked,” Muhammed raises his hands above his head joining his palms together to illustrate what they were forced to do. “They began to attack us. I saw my friends murdered.”
“They dragged Abu Bakr away as he attempted to get on the truck, and began to beat him, he was still alive when they threw him in the fire. He stood back up, and then they stabbed him in the stomach with a sword, twisting it whilst it was in him.” He takes a deep breath, his hands tensed and grasping each other.
“I can still see and hear it.” His family stands around attempting to give him support, his uncle rubs his hand down his back, trying to ease the suffering this young boy has had to endure. Muhammed told me that there were a few new faces within the mob; he described them as having long red hair.
100 people began that walk to the police trucks. By the end of it 25 students and four teachers were murdered, beaten, stabbed and burnt alive. 71 survived but mentally scared for life. There are pictures that corroborate the accounts.

There are many other eyewitness accounts of the horror that took place in Meiktila, they are slowly reaching the world. We must ensure they are not lost.

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