Terror in Paradise – Paris Day 3

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” – David Levithan

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The day started off like any other. Having advised you all to book ahead for the Eiffel Tower, I’m deeply ashamed to admit we didn’t follow my own advice for the Louvre. We arrived early, before it even opened, and yet there was already a half an hour queue to get inside. I can’t imagine the length of wait at peak times, thanks to the crackdown on security after the 2015 terror attacks .

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And once inside, the wait isn’t over. If you’re unfortunate enough to need to purchase a ticket, you face another queue at the cash desks, as well as the steep prices of 15 . Under 18s, EU students, and other people that qualify for free admission, can enter without a ticket as long as they have valid ID.

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Despite the early hours, popular exhibits such as the Mona Lisa were already crowded. It’s difficult to capture the quality of paintings with photographs so the souvenir shops sell postcards of most major paintings to take home with you.

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After exploring just a fraction of the museum, we left and began our journey to la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Navigating the metro is easy, and once you get off, you’ll find youself swept into a crowd leading you up the hill. Once again, it’s your choice whether to climb the multiple flights of stairs or use the ski lift, the Funiculaire de Montmartre. The ride costs a single metro ticket, 1,90 .

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Sacré-Coeur is a stunning monument, consecrated in 1919. It stands 130m above the city of Paris, offering a panoramic view from the top of the dome. Inside, the ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in France, in a lovely array of pattterns and colours. This attraction is a hub of bustling crowds, and you’ll find many souvenir shops lining the streets leading up to it. If you haven’t had the chance to pick up some memoirs for your trip to Paris, this is the place to do so.

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The evening was uneventful for us. We intended to dine at a restaurant on the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but at the last minute, cancelled the reservation and went round the corner of our hotel for dinner. We were lucky.

That night, the night of 20th April 2017, a gunman opened fire on a police car stopped at the red light on that very road. Just days before France’s presidential election, with tension already rising as the now defeated far-right leader Le Pen called for a crackdown on foreign extremists and closed borders, this attack was one of many that have occurred in France over the past few years.

After the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack in January 2015 which killed 12 people, along with the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 dead, and the Bastille Day truck crash in July 2016 in Nice killed over 80 and lead to many more injured, people all around the world have stood with Paris. I’ve spoken before about the hypocrisy comparing the reactions in Paris to attacks in other countries, but at the end of the day, we must all remain united in the face of terrorist threats.

Whether attacks occur on our own front lawn, near where we’re staying, like they did that night in Paris, or across the other side of the world, we are all in this together. Everyone must join the fight against terrorism for the fight to be successful.

“We need new partnerships in fighting terrorism and building peace.” – Anna Lindh

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The End of the British Monarchy?

It has become increasingly common amongst our generation to criticise the British Monarchy and its role in modern society. While some condemn the Royal Family as no more than leeches drawing from the taxpayers’ money, others recognize the importance of their symbolism and the benefit to the British tourism revenue.

The British monarchy can be traced back to its origins in 1066, when William the Conqueror was declared King of England, thus creating one English monarchy. However, although there were times before that when England was ruled over by one King, William the Conqueror was the first to become King in the way we know it today, permanently unifying the Kingdoms.

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Our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth the Second, ascended to the throne in 1952. She’s now 89, and has lived through 18 different Prime Ministers and 15 US Presidents. At some point, her reign will come to an end.

Britain will grind to a halt. Stock markets and banks will close. TV networks will be taken over. The words of the national anthem will be changed.

Deaths in the royal family, such as Princess Diana, have brought on waves of public mourning. But with the Queen being such an integral part of British society, this will be on a whole new level.

The vast majority of the British population have never known life without the Queen.

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And although many have questioned the possibility of the crown leapfrogging Prince Charles to Prince William, it is unlikely that this will happen as Prince William himself has denied it. Prince Charles will become the monarch from the moment of Queen Elizabeth’s passing.

There is never not a sovereign on the throne. The Royal Standard will never be flown at half-mast.

Prince Charles’ coronation will not be the end. Hundreds of changes will happen up and down the country: new currency, new postage stamps, a new insignia for the police.

Chances are Queen Elizabeth’s death will spell the end of the Commonwealth. Since many of the Commonwealth countries were part of the British Empire against their will, and declared independence a long time ago, this would be an opportunity for them to end their union with Britain once and for all.

While some of Britain’s population, 17% in fact, believe that they would be better off as a Republic, there’s no chance of this happening in the near future. The monarchy is still deeply entrenched in the people’s lives.

For now, the British monarchy is here to stay.

United We Stand; or do we?

Ankara: a city located at the heart of Turkey, packed to the brim with history, bustling nightlife, and traditional markets.

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On 10th October 2015 at 10:04 local time, two bombs were detonated outside the Ankara Central train station. The death toll exceeded 100 and a further 400 people were injured.

On 17th February 2016, another attack targeted a convoy of shuttles, carrying both civilian and military personnel. At least 30 people died and 60 were injured in the bombing.

Only a few weeks ago, terrorists struck again. On 13th March 2016 at 18:35 local time, a car laden with explosives was used to target buses carrying civilians. 35 people were killed, while over 140 more people were injured in the bombing.

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According to the media, no words could be found to describe these appalling attacks. While the terror strike on Paris invoked worldwide unity, the bombings in Ankara barely left a mark on the Western world.

And Turkey are not alone in facing this discrimination.

Recent bombings of a Russian Airliner over the Sinai Peninsula killed 200 people, and  in Beirut, Lebanon, where 40 people were killed, were both overshadowed by the tragic events in Paris.

Yesterday’s bombings in Brussels were the final straw. Across Europe, as had been done for Paris, monuments were illuminated in the colours of the Belgian flag.

Why did no country raise the Turkish flag after the atrocities in Ankara?

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It’s time that the Western world faced up to this hypocritical trend. We need to stand united, and offer sympathy to all victims.

Je suis Paris. Je suis Bruxelles. Ben Ankarayım.

I stand with the victims of all terrorist attacks, regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

And so should you.

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World Aids Day: Fight the Prejudice

Eighteen million people around the world live with HIV but do not know they are infected, while over thirty six million people are currently receiving treatment for this terrible disease.

HIV/AIDs remains one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low and middle income countries. But right now, the biggest obstacle to tackling HIV isn’t the drugs, it’s the prejudice.

HIV-related stigma and discrimination refers to prejudice, negative attitudes and abuse directed at people living with HIV and AIDS.

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The consequences of these are disastrous. People are often shunned by family, friends, and their communities, while others suffer from neglect by the governments and public healthcare systems. Their access to HIV testing, treatment, and other medical services is severely limited, because their governments prefer to ignore the issue, rather than face the facts.

There is a treatment for AIDS – it’s not incurable. And as a result of recent advances in medicine, the therapy (ART) is widely available. HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives, and it has been confirmed that the treatments prevents transmission of HIV. People undergoing the treatment are not even contagious anymore. So why is there so much stigma surrounding the disease?

It’s important to remember that HIV isn’t just found in LEDCs – it’s everywhere. And that means that the prejudice is everywhere too. One third of people living with HIV in the UK have experienced discrimination, and half of these instances involved healthcare workers. Doctors and nurses, the very people who we should feel safe with, are involved in the prejudice against HIV. And the cause of it all is lack of knowledge.

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Significantly fewer people were able to identify the ways in which HIV is transmitted in a survey in 2007 compared with a survey in 2000, and these figures only keep getting worse.

Furthermore, this inaccurate information feeds the stigma surrounding HIV, which puts people at risk of further discrimination. Lots of people believe that HIV is associated with behaviours that people disapprove of (like homosexuality, drug use, sex work, or infidelity) and through this that HIV infection is the result of personal irresponsibility.

More education is needed to tackle the root causes of prejudice. We all have a duty to educate ourselves, the people around us, and especially the younger generation. Prejudice only thrives for as long as we try to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s time we come together to face the problems that we’ve caused.

December 1st is World Aids Day. Wear a red ribbon and show your support for those infected with HIV. Take this opportunity to raise awareness.

Help us fight the prejudice.