The recent conviction of Hashem Abedi, for his role in the May 2017 bombing attack at the Manchester Arena, brought back into focus the plight of the survivors of terrorism and their relatives, as the victims of the Manchester bombing spoke to the press about feeling "abandoned" by British authorities. Pictured: Emergency response vehicles parked at the scene of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena on May 23, 2017. (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)
In March, Hashem Abedi, the brother of Salman Abedi, who carried out the suicide bombing attack at the Manchester Arena in May 2017 was convicted for his role in the terrorist attack. Twenty-two men, women and children, aged eight to 51, were killed in the attack; 264 "were physically injured", and 670 have "reported psychological trauma as a result of these events", according to bbc.com.
The conviction brought back into focus the plight of the survivors of terrorism and their relatives, as the victims of the Manchester bombing spoke to the press about feeling "abandoned" by British authorities.
"After the bomb, the government said we would get all the help and support we need, but we've not had anything...When you're a victim of terror, you can't just be signposted to normal services. We need specialised trauma help... like soldiers and police officers," said Martin Hibbert, who was paralyzed in the Manchester Arena bombing.
"There is currently no specially allocated government funding for victims of terror," the Telegraph wrote. "While they can claim money through the government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), survivors of the Manchester terror attack say that they are forced to wait years for funds to come through..."
"There needs to be a separate funding pot for victims and relatives of terror attack because it's [terror is] becoming more and more the norm." said Charlotte Hodgson, the mother of a teenage girl who was killed at the concert. "We want to access support straight away and get financial support too. We can't work - We're highly medicated, just to get us up and out of bed".
Little about those complaints appears to be new. After the UK's first major Islamist terrorist attack, the July 2005 London bombings, survivors described how abandoned they felt by authorities. Survivor Danny Biddle, who lost both legs, in the terrorist attack, told the Financial Times in 2006:
"That day, the minute Khan [Mohammed Siddique Khan, one of the suicide bombers] stepped into that carriage [on the London underground] I entered a war-zone and I didn't know -- and I had no protection. You elect a government to protect the people it governs. This government failed badly, so surely the next stage is: 'We should have protected you but didn't, so we will take care of you.' And they're not even doing that.
"The CICA system [the government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority]... is designed for someone who gets knocked over in the street...There needs to be an alternative system for when something like the 7th of July happens..."
Travis Frain, who was injured in the 2017 Westminster Bridge attack, said that once he left the hospital in London and returned home, "I had to fight for every scrap of support". His physical injuries were treated but it took 10 weeks to access one half-hour telephone session of trauma counselling. Frain ended up paying for private therapy.
In March 2018, an independent review, the purpose of which was to examine the quality of the emergency response to the Manchester bombing, found that many respondents did not know where to turn for support after the attack. Some suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, trauma and anxiety causing them to lose jobs and drop out of the educational system.
It is paradoxical, to say the least, that in the era of "victimhood culture" -- in which a multitude of identity groups compete for the prize of most victimized -- where even subjectively perceived slights are registered by UK police as "non-criminal incidents" -- victims of terror, who have suffered severe physical and psychological life-disrupting injury as the result of actual manifested hatred, have to fight for their rights.
The paradox becomes especially striking when compared to the care taken by British authorities not to offend Muslim communities from where the various suicide bombers have emerged.
In 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report, "The impact of counter-terrorism measures on Muslim communities" which examined how Muslims felt about counter-terrorism measures in the UK. The report concluded that:
"Counter-terrorism laws are not experienced in isolation but contribute to a wider sense among Muslim participants of being treated as a 'suspect community'. While some Muslims are responding to this through greater engagement, in challenging the misperceptions about them, many more report feeling increasingly alienated and isolated. This research outlines some of the drivers for this and provides the basis for further analysis and action by policymakers".
In 2017, when the Manchester bombing was still being investigated, Britain's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill, recommended:
"...the Police should consider and reflect upon the community impact of a large-scale [terror] investigation, centering as it did on particular areas of Manchester with a large Muslim population... Good community policing, as well as good counter-terrorism policing, demands that real efforts are made to work within and with local communities, where many blameless residents will have been inconvenienced if not traumatised by the regular appearance of Police search and arrest teams on their street or in their home. I would like to see the outcome of Police reflections on this aspect..." [Emphasis added].
European authorities were so concerned about the potential impact of the Islamist July 2005 bombings on Muslim communities, not just in the UK, but in the EU as a whole, that the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, which has since been replaced by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency, rushed to write a report, "The Impact of 7 July 2005 London bomb attacks on Muslim communities in the EU," published in November 2005, a mere four months after the attacks.
The EU report only mentioned the actual terror victims in passing, stating that:
"The four bomb attacks in London on 7 July, which claimed the lives of over fifty people and injured a further seven hundred, rightly horrified the world...The first thought of all Europeans was a feeling of profound empathy for the victims. The universal condemnation of the event, and the strong solidarity shown by European leaders, showed European cohesion at its most effective".
However, the main concern of the EU was not the terror victims, but potential hate crimes against Muslim communities in Europe. The report found that:
"In the immediate period after the attacks there was a temporary and disturbing increase in faith related hate crimes across the UK. Understandably, this made minority groups – and particularly British Muslims - feel vulnerable and fear for their safety. But... the strong stand taken by political and community leaders both in condemning the attacks and defending the legitimate rights of Muslims saw a swift reduction in such incidents".
The report concluded:
"Members of government, police officials, politicians and other high profile opinion makers must show decisive political leadership... Positive public gestures regarding Islam, and opening a dialogue with Muslim community representatives – based on the respect for human rights - must not be seen to happen only in a time of heightened tension. This will also set the agenda for the media and help avoid negative stereotyping of Muslims... Police services must encourage reporting of racist incidents, respond immediately to indications of tensions by stepping up policing among targeted communities, and provide adequate support to victims of racist crime..."
There appears to be little in the way of a similar level of concern for the trauma, alienation and isolation that terror victims experience after losing their hearing, their sight or the use of their limbs in terrorist attacks motivated by extreme hatred of which they were unfortunate enough to become victims.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.