One week on: Nice fearful but defiant after truck rampage

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Oliver Gee - [email protected]
One week on: Nice fearful but defiant after truck rampage
Floral tributes, notes and candles for the victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack. All photos: AFP

One week on from the atrocity on the Promenade des Anglais, Nice is still trying to heal but the scars run deep including among the city's Muslim fearful community, writes Oliver Gee.


On the evening of July 14th  Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel managed to drive a 19-tonne truck through police barricades in the southern city of Nice, crashing through Bastille Day revellers, killing 84 people, ten of whom were children.  
One week on and locals are once again walking along the famous Promenade des Anglais, the scene of the attack, which now doubles as a vigil to the victims. 
But residents remain shaken. 
Jenny Paul, a 43-year-old British writer who has called Nice home for almost two decades, said locals seem "heavy-hearted but defiant". 
"They've all become a lot kinder and are making an effort to help strangers and smile more," she told The Local. 
"It seems very much a case of people being determined not to give in to terror by being afraid. That said, people are very hurt emotionally by the attacks."
She said that she knew of people who live outside the town but who still have sought out therapists to talk through their own trauma. 
"I was there and have felt this immense physical exhaustion all week - I think that the fear and nervous energy of trying to get home and to safety must have really taken it out of me," she said. 
"I would say that Nice is heavy-hearted, sad, tired but defiant - we have all been changed but maybe if we are all kinder and gentler as a result then that's a positive thing to focus on as we move forward in the coming months."
Like the Parisians after the terror attacks of January and November last year, the locals in Nice have been quick to show their solidarity and resilience. 
On the Monday after the attacks, thousands gathered along the promenade to pay tribute to the victims, among them Norbert Riksman, a Dutch management consultant who has lived in Nice for two years.
He said he felt it was important not to give in to "a heartless and near-meaningless act of violence".
"If we give it meaning, if we sit back and let fear get a grip, then we lose to the people who should not deserve a say in how we live our lives," he told The Local. 
Many other residents, however, are still confused about how to respond. 
Jane Strachan, who lives just a few hundred metres from where the truck driver was shot dead, says residents have been "talking non-stop" about what to do next. 
"Almost without exception, even those who had exceedingly near misses and are naturally traumatised by what they saw, we want to keep on loving our city and living as normal," she told The Local.
"A group of us met up to discuss what drew us to Nice in the first place, and the things that keep us here, and not one of us wished we lived elsewhere. None of this is to negate the horror and we're all still aware that people around us have suffered great loss."
Unfortunately, the reaction hasn't only been one of solidarity. Strachan noted that she'd seen a change in some locals' reaction to what would normally be everyday occurrences. 
"Sadly, there's an element of suspicion of others that's not healthy for a community, as it simply creates a cycle of resentment, hostility and tension. What is that rented truck doing there, does that person belong in this place, what's in that backpack? Hopefully that will change," she said.
Indeed, some in Nice have gone beyond just having their suspicions, with one video going viral of a woman being harassed in the street after the minute of silence for the victims on Monday.
In the clip, embedded below, people tell the woman to go back to the country where she was born.
"No sir, I was born in France... where shall I go?!" the woman responds, as others chime in against her. 
The woman added "This is disgusting (...) You are a bunch of racists" before police stepped in to disperse the crowd. 
Racist and Islamophobic responses have become par for the course in the wake of terror attacks, as the country has witnessed twice already since last year. 
Following the radical Islamist attacks in Paris in January and November of 2015, there were clear hikes in Islamophobic incidents across the whole country. 
The Muslim community of Nice has distanced themselves from the Bastille Day attacker, who the government say underwent a rapid conversion to jihadism.
Slimi Mabrouki, the Imam at the new En-Nour mosque in Nice, said the Tunisian attacker wasn't a member of the community at all. 
"The man who did this is truly not a Muslim. He didn't pray, he didn't observe Ramadan, he ate pork... I don't see why anyone is calling him a Muslim," he told The Local. 
"Almost 30 Muslims died in the attack, we have members in our association who are directly affected. One family in our group lost three people."
Indeed, an elderly Muslim woman is understood to have been among the first victims of the indiscriminate attacks, which saw people from 29 countries killed or injured.
Mabrouki added that members of his association have provided around-the-clock care and aid for victims of the attack - both Muslims and non-Muslims. 
He is also a member of the Council of Imams in Alpes Maritimes, which has been active in encouraging people to donate blood for the injured and money for the children orphaned by the attacks. 
The group said in a statement that the it "condemns in the strongest terms this act that could only have been carried out by a monster that does not belong to humanity". 
The Imam said that he can only hope France is able to turn things around.
"What's happening in France right now is very serious, there's been a massive outbreak of violence and racism going in all directions," he told The Local. 
"Tensions are palpable and extremism of all kinds is booming. Tensions between all components of French society are increasing and Islamophobia, as well as political and religious extremism, are becoming all the more observable in people's actions and words," he added. 
"It is so difficult to live like this, how many more lives do we need to lose?" 


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