I’ve never been a charlie. I never will be. We have nothing in common.
There is however a victim of so-called extremism who doesn’t even have a name nevermind a hashtag. It turns out that we share several things.
I was ten years old once, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s friend. There were things that I wanted to see and do and be. I had a favourite colour, a best friend, a favourite game. I have a name.
Just over a fortnight ago, world leaders gathered in La Place de La Republique and marched together arm in arm before crowds of thousands of people to show their solidarity in fighting terrorism or extremism or the Islamic State or whatever it was. Since then, the shock and pain has subsided somewhat and no one knows the names of the few insignificants who lay bleeding and lifeless on the floor of a kosher supermarket somewhere in Paris. They were just picking up groceries. They do not have a hashtag.
The same week as the attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, 2000 people were massacred by Boko Haram. It didn’t really make the news. Tribal arguments and a few uneducated extremists aren’t really worth bothering about after all. They don’t need a hashtag. They certainly don’t have one.
The deaths of the cartoonists were tragic and they were killed for something tasteless and frankly trivial but why do we only rally around these few? Already people are forgetting even them and their names and faces were printed everywhere in the wake of the tragedy. No one bothered with the names of the victims in the supermarket. Very few people are aware of Boko Haram in Nigeria massacring (at least) two thousand civilians that same week and sending a ten-year-old girl into a market place strapped to a bomb. As for what is going on in the Middle East, it’s old news.
Why do the politicians march only for France? Why are the hashtags given to a magazine that most people outside of France probably didn’t even know existed and certainly wouldn’t have read if it hadn’t been linked with tragedy? Why is nobody looking to Africa? To Syria? To Iraq? To Turkey, in time, and Saudi? Why is no one standing up and saying ‘enough’?
‘It has gone this far and will go no further.’
Why are the politicians not linking arms in the rubble of Mosul? Why is there no protest over the use of child bombers by the brave freedom fighters of Nigeria? Why is no one reading about the Kurds who are defending their homeland to the bitter end?
It has gone this far. May it go no further.
We will hashtag but we will not stand.
I love to cartoon. I like (tasteful) satire. I even offend people sometimes. But I am not Charlie.
I am a girl. I was once ten years old. I had a favourite colour. I had a favourite game. I had a best friend. I had my favourite song. I had hopes and dreams and fears. One day I wanted to be something.
By all means, grieve with France’s victims. By all means march the streets of Paris. By all means make hashtags about satirical magazines. But what does that change? It doesn’t change you. It doesn’t change the fact that these are dead and more will die. It doesn’t change anything outside of La Place de la Republique. It’s just a hashtag fashion to soothe our own consciences.
But I know that my prayers are with the forgotten. And that will change things. My prayers are with those whose lives are tragedy every day and for whom there is hardly a chance of a future, those who can’t pick up the pieces and whom no one cares for.
#JesuisCharlie would not be an honest thing for me to say. What do we really have in common?
I have never been a charlie. I never will be. But if I can identify with any of the victims, if #iamanything then I am the Daughter of Nigeria, the nameless child unwillingly caught up in it all and wishing it wasn’t happening.
It has gone this far. It must go no further.
And if you want a hashtag then go out and live this: #iwillstand