On the tragedies we face

, by Antonios Tashejian

On the tragedies we face

I often feel like I’m in constant mourning. Our tiny bodies were not meant to take in as much information as flows today through the internet and social media. And yet, we might feel, especially those of us who are politically active, as if we are missing out on some crucial information if we don’t catch up on time…

On December the 21st, a gunman went into Charles University’s Faculty of Arts and committed a shooting, killing 15 people and injuring around 30, as of writing. As a student at this university, I am grieving the loss of these 15 people and I pray for the recovery of the injured. A few weeks ago, in France, a history professor was killed by a terrorist actively looking for a history teacher to murder. This news came in almost at the same time as when two Swedish football fans were murdered in Brussels.

I got the news of the shooting in Prague through the many texts I received from friends asking if I’m safe. I had no idea what they were referring to. Did an attack take place in France? Is Lebanon at war? Is Armenia safe? — having multiple identities, my being relies heavily on different peoples and places I associate myself to. That being said, the safest city in Europe, Prague, was not up in my radar of places where evil could take place. I was having a much-needed afternoon nap and the many texts woke me up. I went straight to instagram and there it was; a video of a police car in front of the faculty of arts on Jan Palach namesti. A place I have taken my friends and family to on the tours I have offered them of Prague. I would tell them to stop in front of the faculty, turn their backs to it and look ahead. One could see Prague Castle in all its glory! I would then proceed to explain that I had a class where the professor would stand in front of one of the windows overlooking this majestic view. I would chuckle and exclaim how difficult it was to focus on the content of the class.

On August 4, 2020, I was also napping when the Beirut blast took place. I woke up to frantic friends asking if I were safe. I indeed was safe. I was living in London. I still have flashbacks of that moment when I saw the video of the blast through instagram. It still numbs me. The same fear I felt then, I experienced again with news of the 2020 Karabakh war. My heart ached for my people. And yes, I have many.

I experienced the Paris terror attacks of 2015. My friend Maher and I were in Bastille as police cars swiftly moved past us and people were calling loved ones frantically. We had no idea what was going on and yet we were consumed by fear. We took the last metro home, turned on the TV and watched as the pain unfolded and reality hit. It was two months after I had moved to France from Lebanon. Paris, my new home, a place I escaped to from my miserable life in Lebanon was struck with terror. At that moment, my heart was also filled with terror. It ached.

When I moved to France I wanted to focus on European intellectual history and yet one thing led to another and I ended up specializing in Middle Eastern history. Yet again, one thing led to another and I further focused on Jewish and Armenian history and then politics. How am I meant to write on the history of these peoples when history is being written before my eyes as the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh and the Massacre of October 7 in Israel? I must reconcile with the fact that history is the politicization of memory. I’m left with my individual memory, a collection of the experiences my tiny body has been through. Although the world has offered me lots of beautiful ones, today I mourn. I mourn the unnecessary loss of life in all places I hold dear to my heart. I ask myself: why does evil exist?

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