I have to admit that I was pretty shocked with the news we all recently received from Tunisia, where almost 25 people were killed due to a terrorist attack on the museum. Most of those killed, or affected, were tourists. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility and Tunisia’s President urged all citizens to join the fight against terrorism. Most of you would say that nothing in particular happened – and you would be right. However, it is exactly the fact that this fight against terrorism has lasted, over a decade already, spanning many different countries, and so far has not brought us any significant changes, or results, that has been put in front of us more frequently than important questions. Particularly this one: Is the war against terrorism also a fight for democracy?
The reality is that it is not. Instead our democracies are becoming more and more extremist. Democracy as it should be is a guarantee to all people. A guarantee of the rights of freedom of speech and self expression, to assembly, to peaceful protest so views are not stifled and turn to violence.
Nowadays, within the discourse surrounding the war on terror, there is space left only for “correct” or “appropriate” self-expression. We seem more and more unwilling to accept existing alongside people with different opinions and views. We are not ready to give them a place and the space to tell us, or others, about their thoughts and fears, no matter how different they are from ours or how wrong we may consider them.
Hiding in darker corners of our society, without the right to speak up or even show it’s face to daylight a child, that fears changes and full of doubts, slowly grows into a hungry monster that after years hidden away violently takes it place in daylight, taking terrorism for it’s name. Because the monster is hungry for our attention, for that moment of expression, seconds of fame and glory that we refused to give for years. And there is only one person to be blamed: we are.
The fight for democracy should start with small steps of attention for ones who get it less than anybody else. The fight for democracy starts at the moment, when instead of telling the ‘correct’ things to everybody, we start learning the ability to listen to ‘wrong’ ones as well.
Alena Santalainen from Finland, but living in Austria, is IFLRY’s Gender Equality Programme Manager.