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Life at Level 4 – Brussels on Lockdown

The Belgian Government raised the threat level in Brussels to 4 after information was received of an imminent terrorist attack in the Belgian Capital. Even though plans were cancelled and it ended up being an unexpected weekend inside, this situation provided me with better clarity on the wider terrorism situation in Europe.

Boulevard Anspach

The scene at Boulevard Anspach this morning. (Photo Credit: E. Baltatzi/Facebook)

Living at level 4 in Brussels was a peculiar situation: metro services were suspended, shopping streets and centres were shut down, armed soldiers patrolled the street and catering establishments were advised to close after 6pm.

The tension in Brussels was palpable, and those souls that decided to ‘risk their lives’ and venture out into the city faced a dismal choice in Saturday night entertainment. Some bars remained open into the early hours of Sunday morning, yet the streets were eerily empty. Even smokers decided to skip an ‘in-between beers’ cigarette outside the bar, most of which were being watched over by sentinel Belgian army.

There is no indication of when this lockdown will be reversed, as Beligan interior minister Jambon iterated that  the “terror threat in Belgium would not be over once Salah Abdeslam is out of harm’s way”.

I was initially very irritated at the idea of having my entire weekend dictated by the Belgian Government’s decision and by the encapsulating feeling of terror. But then I stopped for a second and thought of how stupid I was being: people in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and other Arab states have been feeling like this for months on end.

It takes a certain of stupid and western privilege to feel annoyed in such a situation, and I have to admit that I too feel prey to these sentiments. In retrospect, I think it is refreshing that Europeans get a taste of what terror is, and how it can uproot what may seemingly be mundane weekend plans.

The whole Brussels lockdown will blow over in a couple of days, but the situation in Syria will not. And then xenophobes and racists have the cheek to whinge when these people flee their country for a life that is free of turmoil and continuous terror.

People in Europe have been gripped with terror since the Paris attacks, which is precisely Islamic State’s end game. Even though I have been vigilant this weekend, I still went shopping for my routine Saturday morning Viennoiseries, and I still went out for my Sunday afternoon coffee. I even walked it all the way home, which was a very brave decision indeed (I’m obviously being sarcastic here).

So this article is merely a thank you to those terrorists that would like me and the rest of the residents of Brussels to cower in fear. Thank you for making me understand the reason behind why we should be helping refugees seek a better life. Thank you for giving me a fleeting taste of the atrocities you are causing in these countries, and thank you for consolidating my notion that Europe is doing the right thing in rising up against you.

The metro will be shut on Monday, and so will most shopping centres and universities. Yet life goes on, and I refuse to let these people dictate how I should live my life in Brussels.

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