Photographer:Fotograaf: Niguel Discart Flickr (above) Ediz Rehberg
UM master student’s eyewitness story of the attack at the metrostation Maelbeek
German master student Ediz Rehberg, doing a Master’s degree in European Public Affairs at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was in Brussels last Tuesday. He slipped into the metro at 9:01 just before the doors closed. At Maelbeek station, he witnessed the explosion of the carriage in front of him, about 20-25 meters distance. In a Facebook message, written on Tuesday afternoon, he describes his horrible experience and sends a message to the world. “Do not turn away from those next to you. The Muslims, the Christians, the Jewish and all the other people around you.”
“I am fine, I was checked in the hospital, no injuries, just needed a little bit more air than usual for a while because of the heavy smoke. I am safe and at my apartment in Brussels now.
“A few words about what happened: I was planning to go to the central station this morning to take the train to Maastricht. Initially I planned to do that yesterday, but I stayed a night longer.
I received notice of the attacks at Brussels airport, hesitated shortly and tried to reach a friend who was there at the time. Nevertheless, I made the decision to go and slipped into the metro right before the doors closed, as I thought there was nothing I could do for my friend at this point. This was at 9:01AM. I scanned the news on my phone, and around 9:12AM the metro (it was a shorter one) stopped at Maelbeek.
“I cannot remember if it was before the doors opened or after the doors closed again, but suddenly there was an explosion about 20-25 meters away from us. It happened one carriage further (the train had three carriages, I was in the last one, the explosion happened in the middle one). If you have seen the pictures, you know that I would not be writing this if I had boarded the train earlier and thus probably a carriage further down. After the explosion, there were screams everywhere, but one more senior guy kept calm, told us to lie on the floor (to see if there were more explosions or gunmen). Another guy kicked the window out. I then talked to the senior guy whether we should stay or all leave the train. We decided to do the latter. Everything was full of heavy smoke, you could barely see further than three meters. We jumped out of the window and then made our way up the stairs and out onto the street. That was probably 50-60 seconds after the explosion.
“I immediately called my parents and wandered around confused. I walked in a random direction for 5-10 minutes until I found a cab that drove me to the hospital. I stayed there for roughly two hours, I lost track of time. I was brought home by a cab.
“A few words to Europe and the world:
In the next few days, lots of things will be said in the media. People calling for more checks, re-introducing border controls et cetera. I am studying European politics and I see myself as a European, and I believe in the values Europe has been building since WWII. I was there when it happened, but nevertheless, let us not forget who we are, let us not forget what we stand for. The European project is about more than the Eurozone or the Single Market. I still believe that we need to stick to the four core principles of the European Union: freedom of goods, services, capital and most importantly PEOPLE. Giving up on these principles is what those people want us to do! Europe is already facing many crises, now is not the time to dissolve the Union but to stand closer together. Drawing up national borders and going back to ‘everybody for himself’ was what brought us into the whole mess the last few hundred years. So do not let yourself be blinded by populists who will now try to capitalize on our fears, on our anger.
“Also, and most importantly: do not turn away from those next to you. Muslims, Christians, Jewish and all the other people around you. Do not listen to politicians who will try to capitalize on the situation by raising fear against your Muslim neighbours. Instead, get to know them, let them be part of your life. This is how we can prevent extremism: by staying close, not drifting apart. The cab driver who took me home, as well as one of the doctors who treated me, were Arabic. They are two of the many million Muslims who peacefully live with and among us. Do not blame those attacks on them, or you will just reinforce the problems of our society, thus leading to more extremism. Find love in your heart for those around you, no matter what colour their skin is, how different their religion or their language may be.
“I end this post with a wise quote from Kendrick Lamar:
“Now I don't give a fuck if you
Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, goddammit
That don't mean shit to me
Fuck your ethnicity (...)”