By Andrei Popoviciu. Andrei is a first year Romanian student reading BA International Relations at the War Studies Department of King’s College London, he’s the Social Media Editor for IRT and has always been passionate about foreign policy and current affairs. He got to discuss such topics during European Youth Parliament (EYP) sessions, a project he’s been involved in for the past 3 years.
It was a vibrant Friday night full of events, concerts and parties in the European capital of France. A friendly football match between France and Germany was going on in a packed stadium in Paris with people cheering and having a good time, the heavy metal band Eagles of Death Metal were performing at a popular venue in Paris called Bataclan for more than 1,000 fans, restaurant and pubs were packed, everyone was out having a good time. No one predicted such an unexpected turn of events and such a dreadful night.
Just before 10 pm the newsflashes began to report a “series of gunfire outbursts” in the French capital. It appeared to be a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in which dozens of people lost their lives and hundreds were wounded. By midnight it was confirmed that several hundred people at the Bataclan concert were being held hostage by an unknown number of armed and dangerous men. The band had been on the stage for an hour and the music was extremely loud, but not loud enough to drown the sound of gunfire. In this dystopian, almost impossible scenario, the French Special Forces launched an assault on the concert venue in an attempt to free the hostages and capture the gunmen. By 1 pm they succeeded in killing the three men who started the assault but it was too late for the 87 people that had died inside the club. The police, emergency services, military armoured vehicles, ambulances and helicopters were mobilised and people were using social media for updates of the incidents.
After the Bataclan attack, two gunmen marched down a popular street where the pubs, cafes and restaurants were located and opened fire with Kalashnikov-type rifles spreading terror. Another suicide bomber blew himself up on Boulevard Voltaire managing to kill one person and spread panic in the crowded street which was close to the Bataclan concert hall.
Moreover, there was a suicide attack near the national stadium where the France-Germany football match was taking place. Spectators were evacuated from the 80,000 seat venue after they were held there for some time due to what was happening outside. President François Hollande who was at the game left during the match because of the shootings in central Paris. The official death count at the stadium is yet to be released.
There were 6 zones targeted by 8 terrorists who are thought to have used Kalashnikovs, hand grenades and suicide vests, five in the 10th and 11th arrondissements and one close to the Stade de France. One of the gunmen at the Bataclan concert venue shouted: “It’s for Syria” and “Allahu Akbar”, making François Hollande hold ISIS responsible for the dreadful attacks.
The streets of Paris were smudged with blood and covered with bodies, the city had become a war zone. People were petrified of what was happening even if they weren’t in the affected zones. News stations, print media, the internet and many other media outlets covered the experiences of those who had witnessed the tragedies and shared them with the world.
“It was a bloodbath”
“They were not moving, they were just standing at the back of the concert room and shooting at us. Like if we were birds.”
“It was a scene from hell. The concert stopped and everybody lay on the ground and they continued to shoot at people.”
Media outlets all over the world are trying to settle the death count but no one has the final numbers yet. The following is believed to be the closest one to the true figures:
Bataclan theatre- 87 people killed
Stade de France- unknown number killed
Bouleverd de Charrone – 18 people killed
Boulevard Voltaire- one killed
Rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi- 5 people killed
Rue Alibert- 14 people killed
On Saturday morning, the President said: “I pay homage to the country’s defenders who fought the terrorists yesterday. Everyone has given their upmost and will be putting in their best efforts in the day to come.” He also called the attacks “cowardly” and said every measure would be taken to fight what he called the terrorist threat. “In this most serious and uncertain time, I call for unity and courage. Even if France is wounded, she will rise.” He assessed the death toll at 127. In a TV address to the nation, he also declared a state of emergency closing the country’s borders and promised the people he is taking the necessary measures in such a situation.
There was an immediate response from the world’s leaders like Barack Obama who called the incidents “an attack on all humanity and the universal values we share”, Angela Merkel who said she was “deeply shaken by the news and pictures that are reaching us from Paris” and even David Cameron who declared that he was shocked by the events and that “our thoughts and prayers are with the French people”. On top of the official responses key monuments have been lit up with the colours of the French flag in solidarity
But what could this mean? This not only shook France but the international system as well. As a result, states are taking measures to prevent this event from happening whether they live on the left part of the Atlantic or the right one. It is now said that this is the first attack from a series of premediated ones to come throughout the world. The Washington-Rome-London attacks are the ones who are supposedly thought to come next and this causes distress in the international system. Hence David Cameron’s speech where he declared that the UK is prepared for any terrorist attacks and that he is taking the right measures to avoid them. This also affects other countries throughout Europe and throughout the world. Due to these concerns states have become increasingly anxious about being part of the international scene.
It deeply affected the international society and its view on European and national security. There is fear roaming amongst people and questions about their security are still to be answered so people are yet to recover from this disturbing carnage irrespective of what part of the world they are living in. Their everyday lives have changed due to these worries, leading them to second guess even the most insignificant daily decisions. People are experiencing difficulties in carrying on with their usual routine because of such a current and ongoing event that is so emotionally unsettling.
What is disturbing is that the attacks come 10 months after 20 people died during the Islamist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, located close to the Baclatan theatre. One of the magazine’s artists, Joann Sfar, has weighed in on the disaster and responded with an emotional drawing.
Our hearts go to those who lost their lives and their families, the wounded and everyone affected by the horrific incident that happened in Paris last night.