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Decision not to light up Brandenburg Gate for Russia terror victims stirs up debate

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Decision not to light up Brandenburg Gate for Russia terror victims stirs up debate
The Brandenburg Gate on Monday. Photo: DPA.
10:54 CEST+02:00
After an explosion in St. Petersburg killed 14 people and injured dozens of others, the German capital made a controversial decision not to light up its famous icon as it has in the past for terror victims. Many are still questioning why.

Authorities are still investigating the bomb that went off on Monday afternoon in a train in Russia’s second-largest city, killing 11 people and wounding at least 50 others. Russian officials have called the explosion an act of terror.

Berlin has in recent years often made sure to light up its iconic Brandenburg Gate in honour of terror victims, such as after the November 2015 Paris attacks, the March 2016 Brussels bombings, and most recently after the car and stabbing attack outside the British Parliament in London.

But on Monday night, no Russian colours were projected onto the Gate as many expected.

A spokesperson for the Berlin Senate explained that the city had decided to only light up the famous structure for terrorist victims in “partner cities” of Berlin, or in exceptional cases.

SEE ALSO: Should Paris and the Eiffel Tower have paid homage to the St Petersburg victims?

But some have pointed out that Berlin still lit up its icon for non-partner cities, like Orlando and Jerusalem, when each of them experienced terrorist attacks within the past year. After a man rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in January, killing four, the Brandenburg Gate was lit up with the Israeli flag.

The Brandenburg Gate lit up after attacks in recent years. Photos: DPA.

When a man who swore allegiance to Isis shot and killed 49 people in a gay Orlando nightclub last year, the Brandenburg Gate was awash in a rainbow flag.

Berlin did not, however, display a Canadian flag after a white nationalist terrorist killed six people at a Quebec mosque in January, prompting questions at the time as well. City authorities said of the Quebec attack as well that only partner cities are to receive the gesture of lighting up the landmark.

The Gate also was not lit up after the Isis-linked truck attack last year on Bastille Day that killed 86 people in the French city of Nice.

“The ruling mayor made the decision that the Brandenburg Gate will only be illuminated because of terror acts in partner cities,” a city spokesperson told local broadcaster rbb last week.

For Orlando and Jerusalem, the city said it made exceptions to the partner city rule because they were “places with which Berlin has a special relationship”.

And ultimately the city makes a decision on a case-by-case basis.

“It is like this each time that we must explain what the criteria are. We understand this, but the criteria are chosen after careful consideration,” the spokesperson told rbb.

The city spokesperson also said that the fact that several days went by before Berlin decided to display the rainbow flag for Orlando was not because of pressure from the city’s many LGBT organizations, but rather due to the city’s inability to obtain a projector in time.

After the St. Petersburg attack, many took to Twitter to complain about Berlin's decision. On Tuesday morning, the monument's German name, Brandenburger Tor, was one of the top ten trends in Germany.

The publisher of major German magazines like Stern and Capital, Andreas Petzold, said that Berlin's leadership were "small-minded".

A British Green party supporter in Berlin called what happened "inevitable".

Rbb’s March report further noted that since the 2015 Paris attacks, many other cities have decided to stop lighting up their monument after every terror act.

Some on Twitter suggested this would be a better policy for Berlin.

 

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