Adel Termos: An unsung hero of the Beirut bombings

ABC News Australia

As the world comes to grips with the tragic events in Paris, one man has emerged as a hero.

Adel Termos was walking with his young daughter when he spotted a suicide bomber preparing to detonate his vest.

Instantly, he tried to tackle the assailant, causing the bomb to go off. He was killed, but many say his heroic actions undoubtedly saved countless more lives.

But here’s the catch: Mr Termos was not in Paris.

He was not inside the Bataclan Theatre where three attackers in suicide vests coldly and calmly shot dead nearly 90 concert goers. Nor was he outside the Stade de France sports venue, where two suicide bombers blew themselves up on Friday night.

Mr Termos was in the Bourj al-Barajneh district of southern Beirut, where two suicide bombers killed more than 40 people and wounded more than 200 others.

It was the worst such attack since the end of Lebanon’s civil war in 1990.

The Beirut bombings happened on Thursday — the day before the attacks in Paris.

But as tragic and shocking as the Lebanese attacks were, within 36 hours they were forgotten — overshadowed by the wall-to-wall global media coverage of Paris.

US president Barack Obama condemned the Paris attacks as a “crime against humanity”.

Famous landmarks and monuments around the world were suddenly lit in the blue, white and red of the French tricolour flag — from the Sydney Opera House, to London’s Tower Bridge, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer Statue, Malaysia’s KL Tower, Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower and Toronto’s CN Tower.

Social media also turned blue, white and red. Profile photos were shaded in the tricolours. Cover photos of Paris were suddenly everywhere.

Facebook temporarily offered a “safety check” for Parisian residents to alert their friends they were safe.

Jean Jullien’s Peace for Paris symbol is now world famous. Even Google today has a logo commemorating the victims of the Paris attacks, while Google Trends illustrates the huge disparity in world interest in the Paris attacks versus the bombings in Beirut.

But the outpouring of world grief over Paris has in turn led to an outpouring of frustration among Lebanese, Arab and Muslim communities about the corresponding neglect of the dead in Beirut — who were equally victims of Islamic State just as their French counterparts were.

“One day before Paris there was a devastating terrorist attack you didn’t hear about,” one Facebook post read.

Another post, by Andreas Harsono, said: “Some blamed coverage for the perception that Beirut was still an active war zone.”

“They cited headlines … that refer to the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood where the bombing took place as a ‘stronghold’ of the militia and political party Hezbollah,” he said.

Lebanese Facebook users — and many others — were suddenly asking why residents of Beirut could not superimpose the Lebanese flag over their profile photos as they could with the French flag, and why Facebook had not offered them a “safety check” as they had to residents in Paris.

As for landmarks changing colour, how many of us even know the colours of the Lebanese flag?

How many green cedar trees drawn between two red lines have you seen on social media since Thursday?

‘It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world’

One Instagram user, Karuna Ezara Parikh, provoked controversy by posting a poem lamenting this imbalance in the world’s response to the attacks in Paris and Beirut.

“I understand Paris is a beloved and familiar space for a lot of people, but it troubled me that #Beirut, a city my father grew up in, had received so little attention after the horrific bombings two days earlier,” she said in the caption posted alongside the poem.

“It also troubled me that #Baghdad, a place I have absolutely no connection with, received even less attention after the senseless bombing that took place there last week.”

The poem itself read: “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings two days before Paris, is not covered in the press.”

“A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad and not one person’s status update says ‘Baghdad’, because not one white person died in that fire. Pray for the world that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.”

The poem has been shared on Facebook thousands of times. But not all reaction has been positive.

One post read: “Agreed we should pray for the world, but I don’t believe that racist crap that no-one posted support for Beirut because ‘not one white person died’. No-one posted support for Beirut because there was no mass media coverage … it disturbs me greatly that people once again want to use this for race baiting. We should all pray for each other!”

Another read: “Well KENYA got overlooked as well. But we all know why that happened … 147 murdered students not even a headline in a paper!”

Beirut attack to incite prejudice, not sympathy: Lebanese blogger

Lebanese blogger Elie Fares wrote a post in which he said he had come to terms with being one of those whose lives do not matter.

“When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people,” he said.

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

Rather than sympathy for the Lebanese, Mr Fares predicted the attacks in Beirut would merely incite another rise in Islamophobia around the world.

“ISIS plans for Islamophobic backlashes so it can use the backlash to point its hellish finger and tell any susceptible mind that listens: ‘Look, they hate you’,” he said.

In its defence, you could argue that Western media is simply catering to the interests of Western readers — who are far more likely to have visited Paris than Beirut — and that Lebanon has been a war zone for much of the past 40 years, so what difference is one more bombing?

After all, Beirut is barely 100 kilometres from the worst violence in Syria, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since 2011.

‘We call them martyrs to dehumanise them’: Lebanese blogger

It is all part of a conflict that disappeared off the newspaper front pages months, if not years, ago.

And yet Mr Fares says even the Lebanese themselves treat their victims as less important, less worthy, less individual than the victims in Paris.

“We call them martyrs, because it’s easier to lump them under one title, to pretend they’re all the same, to pretend that knowing their names is not important, to make it easier for us to comprehend,” he said.

“We call them martyrs to dehumanise them, even more than the dehumanisation that occurs with the politicisation of those victims that’s contingent upon the area targeted. But they are people. And they are somebody’s loved ones.”

And they have names. On Friday Mr Fares posted photos of many of those killed in the Beirut bombings — men, women, husbands, wives and children.

One was a nurse, one a teacher, another was a law student. Nearly all of them are shown with happy, smiling faces similar to those we have seen after the Paris attacks – just like Mr Termos.

In the past 24 hours there has been another, smaller, global outpouring of grief and tributes for the Lebanese father who tackled a suicide bomber, as Facebook users and mainstream media recognise he too deserves some air time after all.

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