On May 11, 12 and 13, 2011, the Asociación 11M Afectados del Terrorismo [Association March 11 of those Affected by Terrorism] convened an international gathering in Madrid to explore the beliefs, work, and hopes of victims of terrorism concerning democratic justice and peace. Here are some of the student essays written in response to the presentations made during that conference.
It seems ironic that on May 11 we attended a talk on terrorism, which included the attack of 11 M.
The panel was composed by eight people, all very different yet equal. They came from different countries with different languages and cultures, but all, whether in one language or another, joined forces to give us the same message: never take the easy path, the path of revenge, and take that more difficult option. It costs a little more but the end is worthwhile, the way of the fight but not with guns but with the weapon of the word and will, by propagating a pacifist idea.
Silence filled the library of Manuel de Falla when Beatriz April began to tell her story, rather, the story of her brother Oscar. Sharing emotion while overcoming the pain was how Beatriz pierced us with her story, but those feelings carried a message of peace, a message to not choose revenge in these situations; how love for a loved one can eliminate hatred, and how taking the right side, the hard side, is always the most satisfactory.
It is amazing how as the minutes passed and every one of the people sitting there was telling us their own experiences, I was more aware that what they said was not always so important.
Emotional stories as they told us are what we need to get the message, because they get almost into your skin, you almost feel the pain. So I think their work is admirable, that the idea of replacing revenge with actions for peace and acts to combat terrorism is worth admiring. It takes time, but we will succeed.
Thanks Beatriz, Jesus, Burstein, Philip, Saad, Juan Gutierrez, Hadiya and Terry. And you too, Juan.
Laura Mediavilla Santos 1º A de bachillerato
Last Wednesday, May 11, coinciding with the initials of the March 11 attack that took place at various railway stations in Madrid, we went to see several people directly affected by this attack and to learn that despite the pain and the loss of their loved ones, we must fight for peace, namely the dialectic struggle.
This talk involved people from many parts of the world: Saad N. Jawal, an Iraqi man who was a professor at a university there and talked about how it looked from the Eastern view the attacks, and not only from Madrid, but also New York or London ones; there was also a young woman, Hadiya , who was involved in a radical Muslim group while she was studying in London; Sergio Burstein, hit by an attack in his native Argentina in the AMIA, where he lost his wife; Felipe Daza, journalist and adventurer who was going to Siria now, who belonged to the organization, Nova; Terry Rockefeller, who lost her sister in the attack on the twin towers in New York; and Beatriz and her father representing the memory of his brother and son, respectively, who was one of the victims of the attacks of 11-M. There was also a man who spoke a little about Guernica, Juan Gutiérrez, and what it represented for those people and for the world in general.
During these talks, which were followed by many questions asked after all the speeches, I reflected on the value of life and the ability to recover, and reflected on this great group of people who do not hold a grudge and do not want to respond to violence with violence.
The part I liked most was when Juan Gutiérrez started talking about Guernica in a very spontaneous way that proved to be close to our way of speaking, so we could understand him very well. Besides him, I also liked the participation of Beatriz for being the youngest and was very emotional when recalling his brother, bursting into tears.
This talk, therefore, served as an example for me to see the adversity and injustice suffered by these people, who lost a loved one in an attack. But what they taught us was that we must recover and fight without violence. I learned that violence only serves to hurt. These people, in my opinion, are an example of how we should behave in these situations, and it was an alternative way of thinking which has until now, because in our society as in antiquity, the violence has been a vital part in the growth rate of a country.
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to be able to attend this talk, which I think has been one of the most interesting I’ve had during my stay at the high school.
Marcos Ramiro Montero 1ºBACH A-1
“A weak man is just by accident. A strong but non-violent man is unjust by accident”–Mohandas Gandhi
First of all, I’d like to start this review pointing out that the following words are just a brief summary of the Spanish version “No en mi nombre”. I hope it has the essence of the original one, anyway.
As you may know, on May 11th, a group of people from different countries and cultures came to our high school to share with us their experiences with violence and their peaceful answer against it. Some of us had the opportunity to attend that conference and to learn more about the topic.
Personally, I really enjoyed Terry Rockefeller, Sergio Burstein and Beatriz Abril’s speeches, I think they were very inspiring. I liked Terry’s for being so crystal clear and approachable, even though a culture and an ocean separates us from her. I appreciated Sergio’s because he said some really important things about the memory and why we have to keep it and Beatriz’ because we all felt identified with her, since she attended our High School and lived in the same town as us.
Hadiya Masieh was asked the most questions and explained how she decided to join an extreme Islamic club and the reasons why she decided to leave it and never come back. I think her opinion was very important, because she knew another point of view.
Felipe Daza talked about the organization he belongs to, ONG NOVA, and what kind of things we can do to stop violence or to help other people. Then, Jesus Abril, Juan Gutiérrez and Saad N. Jawal made us meditate about the current situation of peace in the world and how things are changing.
Finally, peace may take years and years to be a reality, but if there are people who believe in it, if we keep on spreading the word, our effort will not be in vain.
Marina Pérez, 1BB
Last 11th of May Beatriz Abril, Hadiya Masieh, Terry Rockefeller, Juan Gutierrez and some others came to our high school.
Beatriz Abril lost her brother in the 11th March terrorist attacks in 2004. She thinks we should not take revenge on the other, but that the other must be condemned for their acts, and she is promoting this idea to everyone she can.
Terry Rockefeller lost her sister in the 11th September terrorist attack to the Twin Towers in New York.
Hadiya did not lose anyone at any terrorism attack, but she also feels affected by the terrorist attacks and she also is working against violence.
Juan Guitierrez is taking part in the 11-M affected and he wants peace in the world and he is promoting it by these acts.
I think this activity has been very good, because it is a way to see what happened in those terrorist attacks. The words that every one of them said were full of feeling. I think one of the most emotional moments was when Beatriz recalled her brother coming in the door of our school and started talking about it.
In conclusion, activities of this kind should be made more often to try and make people aware that vengeance does not work, you need justice and peace.
Marina Segura 1BH A1
Yes. I do remember perfectly the 11th of March. It was not different than any other day, my dad was taking me to school and we were listening to the radio as we used to do every day, but a shocking piece of news made us pay more attention to what the man on the radio was saying. Several bombs had exploded in some trains. But I thought it was not that serious, I thought it was not something so close to me.
We had physical education at first period. We went to the playground and just before we started to do some exercise, my teacher asked us to put ourselves in a circle and stay in silence for one minute to commemorate the victims. Even so, I was not still aware of the importance of that. When I came back from school, my mum was moved by the terrorist attacks: ‘That train went just by the side of your sister’s kindergarten, it could have exploded there’. And it was true, that train passed just by Charlie Rivel, a kindergarten in Coslada, but I still thought it was not important.
That took me years. As I was growing up, as I was watching how every year the anniversary of the attacks was celebrated, as I was maturing and getting to know new things about the world that surrounded me… that was the moment when I realized that it was something really serious.
How could anyone dare to make such an awful action?
It was not so long ago that I first went to the monument for the terrorist attacks victims in Atocha. I never stopped to see it, so I decided to enter and I was surprised by the quietness. It is a place full of peace and the messages left by thousands of people were written in different languages, so you could spend some time looking above you and reading them.
Getting to know people close to me who suffered these attacks made me understand how they feel. Our first thought about them is that there is just anger and hatred against the people who were guilty, but Beatriz, Terry and even Hadiya (who was not directly affected) taught us that that is not necessarily that way. It is worth highlighting how both of them, Beatriz and Terry, got over it and fought to prevent innocent people from suffering. They helped us understanding that if we control ourselves, our deep feelings, we can concentrate all that hate and make beneficial things instead. Citizens such as Felip Daza, who is not forced to do this kind of peaceful tasks, should be taken into account. They are all fighters that even risk their lives to reach the objective of ending with violence.
Another surprising point of view was from Saad N. Jawal. It was a big pleasure having him among us, mainly because we had never heard a Muslim opinion before. And everything he said touched me deeply: the big injustice for the Muslims, the fact that they are not allowed to judge European or American citizens who might attack them but this ones can judge Arabs, how everyone thinks about Muslim people as terrorists… and that ‘who is young and not extremist is stupid, but who is an adult and still extremist, is even more stupid’
Finally, we were working deeply in the cases of Óscar Abril and his relatives, Terry, Hadiya… but we did not have the chance to understand closely how all of that went with the help of something even more closer to us. Though we have been told before that he does not want to mix personal with professional life, I decided to do some research about his point of view. That is why I read in the INP one of the articles written by our teacher Juan Cordero ‘Lo Inesperado y la ética’, and I really enjoy it. But undoubtedly, one of the most impressive videos was one seen in class made by Beatriz Abril, where she explains how she felt when she lost her brother. I do not know… I felt something similar to what Sergio Burstein said: ‘We have all lost someone’.
Marta Sondesa 1º B de bachillerato
Last 11th May we had the opportunity of meeting some very interesting people. People whose lives were somehow affected by terrorism. People from different ages, religion and nationalities. But, after all, people with something in common. The wish of suppressing any form of violence. The eagerness of avoiding what affected them. Without claiming revenge. Simply, claiming peace.
Among those people, we met both victims of terrorism, people who were forced to exile due to their ideology and people who, after joining some “extremist” groups saw the peaceful way and decided to leave what was their family for a long time; not forgetting those people who, even if they hadn’t suffered from terrorism, have decided to spend their time supporting an active defense of peace.
This meeting was one of the few opportunities we are given to see a real “global” perspective of the current situation, showing us a wide variety of points of view. After the Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe, the West was prone to categorize all the Muslim culture as enemy of the free world. Here, we were shown that, arguing fighting against terrorism, all international laws could be broken. Nowadays, been accused of terrorism could be sometimes equivalent as to be accused in medieval times by the inquisition. Guantanamo is a great example of this. In name of antiterrorism, a number of Muslim countries in the Middle East were invaded. All for fighting against terrorists whose “main characteristic” is being “invisible.” As a consequence of these conflicts, thousands of people died and they continue losing their lives up to today. Civilians who, in some cases, were obliged to leave just because of being against radicalism; now, instead of sharing the West’s pain, they don’t see in the western civilisation a friend any more.
It’s curious that, from the other side (people who suffered because of the terrorist attacks), the ideals are similar. Although the perspective could not be the same, in my opinion it is significant that two people who seem to have nothing in common share the same ideals, fight actively for peace and refuse to ask for vengeance for those who destroyed part of their lives. Even more, all these people condemn the irregularities committed in name of peace, democracy and justice; irregularities whose only consequence is destroying what we try to build.
I think that the experience of how a young woman was initially attracted by the “peaceful” ideals of an Islamist group is also quite “impressive.” After years in this organization, this woman even considered the group as her family. However, after the terrorist attacks in London, this woman decided to leave the group. She left behind those people who had been her family for years. Since then, she has changed her activities completely, focusing now on an active defense of peace as a member of different organisations.
In addition, we should not forget those people who were affected by terrorist attacks, even if they didn’t affect us; and also for all of those who are fighting for the end of the violence and for not forgetting the tragic events.
I also found interesting learning what things we could do for fighting actively for peace. Being a member of an NGO is not the only way. Small daily actions and not being blind to day to day violence are a great step.
Finally, I would like to mention that, shortly before this conference, the USA army led a military operation against Bin Laden, which ended with his death. After seeing the wild happiness of people in the USA after knowing of Osama’s death, it’s really astonishing how people who lost their relatives in the terrorist attacks ordered by him, are the ones who show less satisfaction. It is admirable that, overcoming the natural frustration and feelings of anger, these people defend a fair treatment for the one who took their relatives out of life. It is admirable not only because of the psychological maturity shown, but because this actions are the real seed for a peaceful tomorrow.
Because of all these, I would like to say that the actions of these people, as well as the ones of many others, whether small contributions or great actions, are an incredible step towards peace. Peace is borne in forgiveness, and revenge kills it. The strong commitment of all these people in forgetting vengeance for fighting for peace seems to me to be something deserving to be admired, something that all of us should learn if we want a better world.
Miguel Páez Pérez, 1º A bach.
All along history religious confrontations have played the leading role in wars defending their beliefs, but now, in the 21st century, this war has led to terrorism, mainly Islamic. This new personal war about radicalized ideologies has brought face to face the Arabic and the Occidental world politically and socially.
The main difference with the ancient “holy” wars is that the common people are killed, persons that might not have any different politic or religious ideology from their assassins, they are no longer soldiers fighting for their leader. Whenever a new terrorist attack with mortal victims is shown on television, mostly everyone asks for revenge, but is vindictiveness the way society should act?
I remember the attacks, I was coming back from the beach when my mother turned on the television and, as she watched the 9/11 attacks for the first time thought it was a film; I was in the swimming-pool that seventh of July when my grandfather came and told me about the terrorist attack in London; and I was in class while the news about the 3/11 were spreading around the school. I remember the last one, not only because is the most recent one, but also because my cousins used to take that train to go to university, but a strike made my cousins sleep more than usual that day. While I was talking about this with my cousin he commented a friend of his died in those attacks, he was an only child, and his mother could not overcome the grief and committed suicide. The worst thing of all is that the terrorist attacks not only cause death, it also affects families and creates racism, hate and panic in the society and all that for nothing.
I support the pacifist associations which can make the pain a source of strength to understand, and I believe that’s honorable work, to fight against violence and racism without violence. But, I think, making the occidental population aware of terrorism is not the way to finish with it; I would like that being the way, but nowadays everything has a political background that makes the common population a mere toy. We’re different, and that’s the richest quality human race has.
Nerea Victoria Pazos Blanco
On May 11, 2011 eight people came to talk about terrorism and how some of these people are affected by terrorist attacks. These people didn’t expect their lives would be changed because of a terrorist attacks.
Terry, Beatriz and Hadiya are role models and an example for excellence because in spite of terrorism they went ahead and decided to fight for peace and not a world full of war.
After what happened in the bombings they didn’t feel revenge but just wanted to know why the terrorist did it.
I admire these people because they are attempting to transmit and get a message of peace, but at the same time, I feel unable to talk about my experience in the attacks as I interpret it as something that I wouldn’t count or share it with anyone publicly.
But to see these people, I realize we aren’t alone, and that someone will always support us and hear us. And if these people send a message of peace through talks, they will at least get people thinking about a world of nonviolence.
If we come and set our minds together, we can achieve a better world, someday it will be possible, because “peace is the way.” The path to peace is long, but it’s a road that’s worth taking.
Sandra Rodríguez Sánchez 1º Bach A1
From my point of view, has been a very educational and entertaining talk, for several reasons. The simple visit of these people in our high school has been a privilege and they have used their valuable time to raise awareness of how important that if you lose someone that you love. The fact that they are several people from different places fighting for the same reason, and above all from other religions, is amazing.
The talk took place in a poignant silence. In this silence Beatriz April, an old student of the high school, said, “I saw your faces imposed sitting there.” She was reflected in the seats where we were located, a few years ago. She and her father, Jesus, are struggling since the attacks of March 11, 2004, for the wrongful death of her brother and his son resultig by the senselessness of terrorism.
As they spoke could feel like your heart was getting smaller and your hair standing on end as you heard them talk more about justice than revenge. I sincerely believe that it was worthwhile to hear them share and raise their emotions so that these incidents don’t happen again.
On the panelwere also Masieh, Terry Rockefeller and Hadiya. Terry lost her sister in the attacks of September 11 in New York, and to address it joined victims’ organizations working for events such as those that occurred elsewhere in the world. Hadiya is not a woman affected by terrorism, but she is also identified by it, and fights against violence.
Juan Gutierrez, a member of the association 11-M Affected by Terrorism, has been committed to the peace movement since 1968. His words were essential to better understand the importance of peace in the world, and has had to deal with difficult situations throughout his life.
In conclusion, it was an activity where every word they said went deeper and made you feel more interested in the subject. As much as you can imagine the suffering and pain gone through these people you never get to feel it. I think perhaps many people, rather than continue fighting will think more deeply about it.
Wednesday 11th of March we had a meeting which we waited for. It was very exciting to have these guests in our high school and they stopped their busy lives to be with us. We feel lucky for having you here and also because you shared all your experiences, some of them quite terrible, making the meeting emotional. These people are part of a number of organizations dedicated to fighting for world peace and spreading awareness to the people of all countries that war and violence are not a solution, but that “violence generates more violence,” a statement that we heard over and over.
Also, they try to protect to the people of other poor countries that are not respected because they belong to an undeveloped country, and do not have their human rights that every people should have. So they go to this countries to protect to the people who need their help using their status as citizens of developed countries that are respected, like the United States.
The people who came to our meeting in our school were:
Beatriz Abril, she was a student of our high school and she lived in Coslada until very recently. Also, she was with her father, Jesús Abril, both lost a member of their family. Jesús lost his son and Beatriz to her brother, he was called Óscar Abril, who was a victim of the attack of the 11M. Jesús is the vice-president of the Association 11M victims of the terrorism. They try to transform their negative feelings and anger because of the loss of an innocent person that you love and fight for world peace.
Juan Gutiérrez is the founder of the International Network for peace.
Another woman that came to tell us her experience was Terry Rockefeller . She lost her sister in the terrorist attack of 9/11, and she joined “Peaceful Tomorrows”. She joined this group to prevent other people from having to go through what she went through, a pain she does not wish to anyone. That is why she fights every day for this not to happen again and because nobody innocent should again have to pay for what other people have done, even for reasons that we cannot understand.
Also, was with us Hadiya Masieh, she did not lose anybody in her family, but she realized that peace is very important to live calmly and happily, that violence is not necessary and that a person very close to us does not have to die before we realize this. She belonged to an Islamic group before being integrated in this cause. But the attacks of the 7 of July opens her eyes to what she actually believed and she questioned her own principles and decided to do what she really wanted. It was hard to leave this Islamic group but she now feels a sense of collaboration from working together with others for peace.
Sergio Burstein is Argentinian and he lost to his wife in the terrorist attack of Amia, his home country. They had a lot of problems finding who was guilty, and people wanted to blame somebody; just to know that someone was going to pay for that was enough. But thanks to the work of people like Sergio those innocent people who were blamed could come back to their homes and their families. They continue fighting for the justice and the peace, and for this not to happen again.
Felipe Daza belongs to an organization called Nova. He travels from time to time to the countries that are most in need of help to some people, sometimes risking his live, without caring apparently, just knowing that he is doing a good action to achieve peace, and leaving a better world to the next generations.
Saad N. Jawal is a teacher at a university in Iraq, and joined to this group of people fighting for peace, having been born in a country so conflicted.
The testimonies of these people who have lost to their relatives have been very emotional, because they expressed everything in first person and they could transmit us for a while what they have passed through and the reason why they are where they are right now, and all of this pain and everything that they suffered they use now to make people aware of the importance of peace in the world that we live.
Vanessa Tejeda 1º A de bachillerato