Is France Safe To Travel Right Now?
When usually “France” came up in a conversation before, people thought about the City of Love, delicious food, grumpy people and a beautiful language. Unfortunately, since 2015, ‘terrorism’ is a word that has been added to the list of preconceived ideas foreigners have of France.
The balance of the terrorist attacks led by Jihadist organizations in France since Charlie Hebdo in 2015 has left 238 dead people and hundreds of people wounded. This is a lot more than France’s European neighbors.
As a French student abroad in Italy, I’ve heard comments such as, “It’s because your anti-terrorist police aren’t doing a good enough job.” However, as the Prime Minister said at the end of 2016, “Seventeen terrorist attacks have been avoided and 420 people linked to a terrorist network have been arrested during the year thanks to the intelligence services.” And since the attacks, France has adopted new anti-terrorist laws and made efforts to reinforce the security of its citizens and tourists. The State of Emergency has been extended.
So, the problem doesn’t seem to be only a police’s lack of efficiency, but more that France is a main target. You may ask, “why France?” Actually, there are several reasons why:
- France is the second-largest contributor of the international coalition’s air operations against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria (the first contributor being the USA). Three-thousand French soldiers are also facing Jihadist groups in Sahel, Africa.
- Islamists (Muslims advocating Islamic fundamentalism) think that the French secularism isn’t compatible with Islam. French secularism has existed since 1905 and is made to ensure religious freedom and equality before the law. It may be considered stricter than other countries, as it prohibits any religious symbols for government employees at work (teachers, politicians, social workers, etc.) and for students in public schools until the end of high school. It’s always a subject of debate for women who wear the veil.
- France holds the largest communities of Muslims and Jewish people in Europe. The Jewish community is threatened and has been openly targeted in some attacks.
- About 600 French people have joined ISIS and these people can easily come back to France to carry out their acts of terrorism.
“As a French girl, what do you think of it?”
Honestly, at first, it’s shocking and hard to understand why my country has to pay with our lives because of some fanatic ideologies.
I was born in 1999, at the end of one of the bloodiest century’s in the history of mankind. It reminds me that big wars aren’t that far back in time and that peace can almost never be acquired. I know that I’m lucky to have been born and raised in France, where I’m free and I can be myself without repercussion.
These persons who use religion to justify their deeds won’t stop me from living my life and doing what I want to do. A terrorist attack is made to terrorize, so if it works, they win.
Growing up, you have to choose how you want to live your life. I want to believe that only time is going to decide when I’m going to die. So, whether my life is destined to be long or short, I won’t stay home waiting for them to stop threatening us. After all, I have a higher chance of dying of cancer, in a car accident or falling down the stairs than dying in a terrorist attack.
Besides, crazy people are everywhere, so I don’t think I should be scared to live in France. I won’t stop going to Paris or other places because of it. I feel safe and I trust my gut.
I think it’s a mistake to say, “France is unsafe,” and to say “no” to a trip to France. There’s much more to France than Paris. If you are afraid of crowded places, there are many destinations with fewer tourists.
“Okay, but what if, unfortunately, it happens?”
When you arrive at a new place, make sure to check where the emergency exit green symbols are, just in case.
If a terrorist attack happens, the first thing to do is to analyze where the danger is coming from ’cause you shouldn’t run towards it. Escaping is the best thing you can do, if possible. We don’t all have the same reactions to danger and fear; some people will run, while others will freeze. So, if you’re one of those in the first category, yell at those who’ve frozen to move while running. Don’t expose yourself to danger, but help others if you can.
If escaping is impossible, then hide. Lock and barricade yourself up. Turn off the lights, mute devices and lie down on the ground. Ensure that when you lie down that you cover your head with your arms. If you can’t lock yourself up somewhere, hide behind a strong barrier (such as a wall or pillar). Your phone must be on silent mode.
Once the danger has been removed, call 17 or 112. When the police arrive, don’t run toward them and don’t make any sudden movements. Keep your hands up and open. Do what they tell you to do.