WASHINGTON, July 12, 2016 — In Iraq, your religion can be a matter of life and death.
The Shia area of Karrada, Baghdad suffered from the deadliest terrorist attack in that city since 2003; 292 people died. The number was duly reported, then forgotten in Western media. This contrasts with the attacks in Paris and Brussels, which held the headlines with pictures and super-sized fonts.
The contrast gives the impression that some lives are valued more than others. It’s Black Lives Matter on an international scale; Iraqi lives matter, too, don’t they? Why is terrorism only an issue when it threatens western nations?
The Paris and Baghdad attacks were both planned and executed by ISIS. Is Eurocentric media coverage really the only reason for the differences in the way they were reported? Perhaps the attacks on Baghdad were less culturally significant to the West. Perhaps “whiteness” is what matters in how an event is covered.
And perhaps the normalization of terrorism in the Middle East has turned the deaths into statistics rather than tragedies. We are less dismayed by deaths to terrorism in countries at war than we are to deaths in the “developed Western nations.”
In similar fashion, deaths in decaying, predominantly black urban neighborhoods dismay us less than a murder in the suburbs. From 2010 to 2012, the homicide rate among non-Hispanic white Americans was 2.5 per 100,000, or one in 40,000; the rate among non-Hispanic black Americans was 19.4 per 100,000 persons, or one in 5,000 people per year.
President Obama spoke today at a memorial service for five murdered police officers. He was joined by former President George W. Bush, Senator John Cornyn, and others in a nationally broadcast ceremony. But as Obama reminded us, other lives mattered.
Attacks in Bangladesh and in Istanbul last week were more widely publicized than the attack in Baghdad, despite their death tolls being significantly lower. Is Iraq doomed to be dismissed as a desolate war zone, where deaths don’t matter?
From February through July, Iraq saw 70 deaths from a suicide bomb in Sadr, 33 dead in a car bombing in Samawa, 93 dead in another attack in Baghdad, and 32 dead in Iskandariya. There were other, smaller incidents; most of them targeted Shias.
More and more of those killed by Islamist terrorism are Muslims themselves, yet the West only shows concern for western lives. Extremist actions in the West like the Orlando night-club shooting further distance Americans from concern for innocent worshipers abroad. People need to keep in mind that terrorists are not only a western enemy, but are a threat to all life, regardless of creed or nationality.