As World Grapples With Terror Attacks, Activists Call for More Action on Illicit Arms Trade
By Kindred Motes
Recent extremist acts of violence in Beirut, Lebanon, Paris, France, and Bamako, Mali have rocked the global community, reigniting public discourses around terrorism and the role governments should play in both preventing and responding to it.
While news screens flashed devastating updates of chaos, fear, and tragic loss of life, a world in mourning responded with messages of support, hope, and peace.
But in the aftermath of these attacks, many criticised the resulting media coverage, claiming it focussed predominately on the West in spite of the fact that most acts of terror occur in the Middle East.
I spoke with two campaigners – working in France and Lebanon – about their reactions to the attacks, their work on issues of peace and disarmament, and how they believe states should respond to rising global instability.
Samah Hadid, an Arab humanitarian campaigner based in the Middle East, underscored the fact that most victims live in the region. ‘It’s often forgotten that citizens across the Middle East have suffered decades-long acts of terror and armed conflict in a region awash with illegal arms,’ she said.
The attacks in Beirut – like the attacks in Paris – primarily targeted civilians. Hadid, who works in Lebanon, noted that the Beirut bombings proved ‘that in the midst of armed conflict and political violence, it is civilians who pay the ultimate price – often with their lives.’
Rima Chemirik, a French campaigner, drew parallels between the recent attacks in France, Lebanon, and earlier attacks this year in Kenya, calling for a unified effort towards stopping terrorist groups from gaining access to weapons.
‘The atrocities committed in Beirut, Garissa and Paris require concerted global response,’ Chemirik said. ‘The international community must act on all fronts to prevent such tragedies from happening again. From halting the flow of weapons and terrorist financing to cooperating in information and justice, all relevant stakeholders must join forces to expect to live in a safer world.’
Chemirik also called for states expressing sympathy and support to do more to curb these deadly attacks.‘It is more necessary than ever that arms exporting countries immediately cease all irresponsible transfer of arms and fully assume the consequences of their actions,’ she said.
Many UN member states espouse vocal support for human rights, Chemirik says, just as their actions often contradict that message. She says that human rights-affirming states often ‘help to spread terror through the scandalous, unsustainable arms trade,’ fuelling arms sales that are out of touch with the human rights they purport to champion. ‘Too many innocent lives are at stake and far too many civilians in the North and South have already paid a heavy price,’ she notes.
Hadid agrees that too little is being done to address the roots of extremist violence and terrorist attacks that allow them to happen in the first place. States, she says, must do more.
‘As world leaders vow further armed violence in response to recent terror attacks, it will be civilians who will suffer the most,’ she explains. ‘We must now end this vicious cycle of violence [by] halting the transfer of arms. Civilians who have seen the horror of terrorism and armed conflict in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen deserve to see a future free of bullets, bombs, and bloodshed.’