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Solidarity with Nigeria?

Stefanie Duckstein / sh
January 14, 2015

France, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria: all countries where people have been killed by extremists. But do we view all victims equally or see every attack as equally significant?

A man being carried on a stretcher
Image: Aminu Abubakar/AFP/Getty Images

Just a few weeks before the latest attacks by Islamist terror group Boko Haram, German politician Frank Heinrich, a member of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, travelled through Nigeria. He spoke with Christians and Muslims and met with politicians as well as with relatives of the kidnapped Chibok girls. His visit left a lasting impression, Heinrich said in an interview with DW, adding that he was shocked to see how people in Germany are generally aware of terror in Iraq but are poorly informed about the situation in Nigeria.

Heinrich is a member of the German parliament's Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid. On his trip to Nigeria he saw villages deserted after Boko Haram attacks. And although last week's massacre in the town of Baga is said to have been the worst in months, such atrocities are barely mentioned by German news outlets. One reason why Baga attracted so little interest is that it came so soon after the murders in Paris, Heinrich said. He finds it regrettable that Germany shows so little interest in Africa.

Double standards?

The attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris prompted numerous expressions of solidarity throughout the world. Protest marches brought millions of people on to the streets, public life in many cities came to a standstill for a minute of silence.

Less than two days after the Paris murders, as many as 2,000 people are believed to have been killed in an attack by Boko Haram in Nigeria - but there were no international reactions of shock and horror.

The Paris march of solidariry
Hundreds of thousands took part in a march of solidarity in ParisImage: Reuters/Platiau

'Unscrupulous attacks'

However, UN Human Rights Commissioner Prince Said Raad al-Hussein condemned the attacks in Nigeria, calling them "unscrupulous attacks against civilians" that violated international law. And in a speech commemorating the victims of the Charlie Hebdo killings, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, also made reference to Nigeria.

"We must fight together to ensure that we never become infected with the terrorists' hatred," Schulz said. The freedom of all, in Europe and the whole world, must be defended. "That is why we also commemorate the many victims of Boko Haram fanatics in Nigeria." In recent years, one could have seen that terror began with the collapse of Somalia, and spread with attacks in Kenya and then on to West Africa in the direction of Nigeria, Schulz said. He described terror as an international phenomenon that was increasingly also becoming an African problem.

Martin Schulz in front of the EU flag
Martin Schulz also spoke of Nigerian victims of terrorism during the Charlie Hebdo commemorationImage: AFP/Getty Images/P. Hertzog

The West does not see things clearly, says politician Frank Heinrich. "The public and often politicians act as if they are schizophrenic. We make so much of one incident – 20 people killed in Paris – but we do not view the deaths of 2,000 people in Nigeria with the same importance." Human lives obviously do not have the same value everywhere, Heinrich said, adding "I cannot say how angry this makes me."