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The #PrayForTurkey Hashtag Matters, So Use It

There’s no room for selective outrage

Image via Instagram user @monarxis

It’s time to address the tragedy in Turkey on your social media page. Even if you think it’s not your place, it actually is.


So far, last night’s attack on the Istanbul Ataturk airport has left 42 people dead and 239 more injured—an atrocity by any measure. Once again, the Islamic State is the prime suspect. But the support reflex for Turkey has been slower than what we saw for France or Belgium or Florida. (And I can personally attest to the fact that my Facebook feed has not been filled with images of the Turkish flag or other expressions of support.) Sure, the social media company activated its safety check-in feature, but there doesn’t seem to be an option to filter our profile pictures with the crescent and star.

The lack of support has left many in Turkey feeling isolated and forgotten, as reported in a story on Russia Today’s website called “No ‘Je Suis Istanbul’? Social media users flag muted response to Turkey attack.” Even as Turkey blocks access to Facebook and Twitter, Turkish citizens and their supporters are jumping on social media to lament the lack of condolences for those suffering in Istanbul.

Like it or not, this is the way the world grieves now, and how we let people know in lands afar that we recognize their pain, and that we will do our best to never forget. When 130 people were killed in the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, we said #PrayForParis. In Kanye West’s song “Ultralight Beam” he even sang “pray for Paris.” We’ve said #JeSuisCharlie, #JeSuisBruxelles, #TwoMenKissing, #PrayForOrlando, #LoveWins. People in the U.K. are currently using #SafetyPin to express support for immigrants experiencing #postrefracism at the hands of nationalists in favor of Brexit.

There are so many atrocities committed these days that it’s honestly (horribly) hard for the conscious social media user to keep up. And it’s easy to dismiss the motion as “armchair activism” or food for concern trolls. But that is the exact kind of cynicism that has no place in the aftermath of mass murder. You might say, “But that post doesn’t accomplish anything,” but unless you’re about to board a plane to Istanbul and physically help with trauma support, then really, what else were you going to do? You might say, “This is just for people to make themselves feel better from the comfort of their own homes. It’s not actually about the victims.” But ask yourself: What’s so wrong about making a small overture of support?

Statistically, terrorist attacks are incredibly rare (notably, you’re “11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane”). Still, they can happen to any of us at any time, and the only part we pedestrians can control is how we respond. How we choose to move forward. And if you can’t go stand in line to donate blood, as so many good Samaritans did in Orlando, then the least you can do is say you’re not numb to tragedy, put up a picture, and hop on board a hashtag. When we decide to boycott selective solidarity by boycotting solidarity altogether, that’s when we acquiesce to the common enemy.

At the end of March, USA Today ran blurb called “Terror attack. Sympathy hashtag. Shame. Repeat.” It was about the bombing in Brussels that killed 32 people, but if you take out the place names it could be any town on Earth:

“We do know that while we wait for answers, there is a lot of finger pointing about how we’ve reacted to the Islamic State's latest terrorist attack. It’s a cycle we’ve seen before, and it goes like this: On Twitter, we tack on the solidarity hashtags, #JeSuisCharlie #JeSuisBruxelles. On Facebook, we apply filters, the French flag, the Belgium flag, over our smiles, our babies, our polished poses. Then come accusations of moral hypocrisy. What about attacks in Turkey, Syria, the Ivory Coast? We battle to assign blame for selective sympathy. It’s the media. It’s the West. It’s Donald Trump. The truth, experts say, is we’re all culpable.

But it’s not just a dispassionate cycle. It has become a custom, “a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.” Pro-Brexiters can vote Leave. Donald Trump can spew words about blacklisting Muslims, but even he acknowledged on Twitter that something “so sad” happened in Turkey last night, because we are all connected and the term community now stretches across the entire world.

If Facebook can “turn the world into a rainbow” for marriage equality, so too can it turn the world into a support system for the people of Istanbul. So: #JeSuisTurkey, #PrayForTurkey, because it’s the right thing to do.

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