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Student reflects on recent attacks against her home in Paris

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Political science freshman Camille Malka is traveling to Paris this Christmas break but worries about what she’ll see when she returns home. | Greg Fails/The Cougar


It’s been one week since the terrorist attacks against France killed 129 people and injured another 350 civilians.

The days following the attack were a period of shock, mourning and unity for the people of France. For political science freshman Camille Malka, the tragedy was personal and one she had to endure while on the opposite side of the world here at UH.

Malka’s father, who was in Paris at the time of the attacks, called to break the news.

“It was really hard to sleep after what we saw. We stayed up all night texting friends and family to make sure they were okay,” Malka said. “A lot of people were posting pictures of people on social media asking if they were alive and safe.”

Malka, who lived the small suburbs of Levallois-Perret, remembers Paris as it was before the attack.

“I used to go to (the places the attack took place) with my friends. Now I’m thinking, when I go back for Christmas, will I be able to go without being afraid,” she said. “I’m not afraid, but I don’t want to let myself fall into hatred. I’m very analytical about this because it’s something I study but, at some point, I can’t just analyze it. I have to feel its events that touch people in my city and my country. We want answers. Why us? Why kill like that?”

Associate professor of political science Pablo Pinto saidthese attacks were meant to create insecurity among the French population, gain media attention and prompt a response from France. In the aftermath, France was given the power to suspend civil rights and liberties to gather information, detain individuals and raid buildings, Pinto said.

“The terrorist cells are usually embedded in communities that tend to be more sympathetic to their cause,” Pinto said.“The government’s response to the attacks (indiscriminate bombing in Raqqa and selective raids in neighborhood) exacerbates the grief and grievances allowing the terrorist group’s recruitment and fundraising.”

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Malka painted her nails to commemorate the tragedy back home. | Greg Fails/The Cougar

Malka said she feels that trying to retain positivity in spite of tragedy is necessary for her country.

“We have to continue life and show them that they can’t beat us.”

Following the attacks, French and American media have reported on the issues differently.

Beverly Barrett, clinical assistant professor at the UH Center for Public Policy, said most French media outlets such as Le Monde have provided more detailed coverage of the French national government and its security response, while American media has generally presented these issues with partisan political overtones.

Malka makes an effort to stay up to date with news of the attacks, but said she has found it sometimes overwhelming to do so.

“I’m going to have to face this kind of event every day, and I can’t have myself crying and being emotional all the time, but it’s Paris, so I don’t know where I stand (emotionally),” Malka said. “I do know that every time someone is sending me a text or email or coming to see me and asking if I’m okay and my family is okay, I feel the tears coming.”

Malka is traveling to Paris for Christmas and said she is anxious about returning home.

“I hope people won’t stop enjoying Paris during Christmas, it’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in the city,” she said. “I hope that won’t change even though people have what happened in mind.”

Malka feels that, similar to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the city will be repaired physically. It’s the memory of what happened that will stick with Paris for a long time.

“When you walk through the street, you probably won’t see much of a difference, but when you talk to people there, you (will) see how much it has touched them,” Malka said.

Malka said public gatherings have been a tentative topic due to fears of another attack in the city of Paris. Many have found a sense of unity online, however, as people from across the world show their support of France through social media sites like Facebook.

“I think there is no small gesture,” Malka said. “We just fight the way we can by putting the flag on our profile picture or wearing a pin. It’s about showing how much you care about people and what we’ve experienced.”

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