Terrorism has become a popular agenda. Security alerts around the world were in their historic high after the Paris attack, in November, 2015. With last week's attack in Brussels, the mood of panic has furthered. For an Ethiopian, who is used to living in harmony with neighbours, witnessing terrorism has a different meaning.
Since the November 2015 Paris terrorist attack, major cities in Europe have been on high alert. Nobody knew what could come next, where and when.
Of late, the narrative quite often heard and suspected was the linkage factor with the Syrian war and the consequential mass migration to Europe. The ISIS terrorist group was not only waging war within Syria, but also sending out its missionaries throughout the Middle Eastern countries and even to Libya in Northern Africa.
Much as might not be expected, Brussels fell prey to the hands of terrorists on the morning of March 21, 2016. It became the next spot for the horror of terrorism, masterminded by the ISIS. In the attacks that happened at Zaventum Airport and Brussels Metro, 31 people died and scores of people were injured. Authorities are claiming that the death toll could increase as dozens of people are in critical condition.
That morning, I was picked up by my Moroccan driver a little earlier than usual and was connected to the “washing machine”, shall I say, or the dialysis machine. I was watching the English service of Deutsche Welle (DW) on the screen hanging from the ceiling. Suddenly, the normal programme being broadcast at the time was interrupted by the “Breaking News” telling the world that the second terrorist attack had just taken place around 8 o’clock that morning.
Nobody in the room noticed that report. All the nurses and doctors were busy with their professional duties. The other patients connected to the machine and watching their respective TV sets did not utter anything. I concluded that they were not aware of what was going on only five miles away in the southern direction.
Saint Luke General Medical Centre is one of the best hospitals in Europe, if not in the world. Some US Congress members often come to this medical centre, not to mention many heads of African countries.
A person standing at the balcony or sightseeing window can have a full view of landing airplanes or those cruising along the airstrip before taking off. One can imagine how close we were to the site of the terrorist attack.
After four hours of dialysis, as soon as I arrived home I began receiving long-distance calls. The first call I received was from my granddaughter, the German-born and bred Ludia Amen who is pursuing her undergraduate studies in Economics in Holland. In her near perfect English, she told me that she had been worried about us. I was really touched about her concern and was thinking about the old idiom “blood is thicker than water”.
Other calls came from as far as New York, Canada, Australia and South Africa. All this time, I was touched and could not help myself from breaking down as my emotions had got the better of me. I was in tears as I pondered what it is that really keeps us Ethiopians so close and tight?
When I composed myself, I began to contemplate what is really going on in the world at this point in time. Brussels is not only the seat of the European Union (EU), but also a city that impacts affairs that are very important for the rest of the world. For example, take the historical and political link between us and Europe: Our educational system and even our international language has to do with Europe. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was, for example, appealing to Europe, in general, that Ethiopia’s request for aid should not to be sidelined even if the Syrian problem has now preoccupied the wealthy nations.
We talk about football and the premier leagues. We talk about Oscar awards. We talk about best films or books or go back 400 years to dig the grave of William Shakespeare to appreciate his plays. Nowadays, our commercial advertisers seem to be caught up with Shakespeare’s (or rather Tsegaye Gabremedhin’s) style of diction and try to give their ads a Shakespearean sound to define what a country is all about.
They say a country is nothing other than a language and an abstraction too complicated to understand. They give you the name of a brand of newly introduced local beer which is not allowed to be sipped by minors.
Do they think the imitating laureates and irrelevant jargon will have any connection with beer?
As far as speculation about terrorism is concerned, any day is a new day. We never know what the future has up its sleeve.
For the moment, nothing bad has been encountered by any Ethiopian. But we never know what tomorrow holds for us. All we, in Brussels, are trying to do is to keep calm and live our normal lives. We do not want the enemy to feel that it is winning. Our resilience is stronger than ever.
But will the world be able to face whatever struggle comes on?
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