My tweet about refugees went viral after the Paris attacks. I never expected such strong reactions

While many have been supportive, I've also had harassment and abuse. People have tracked my Facebook page down and told me that I'm "the reason terrorists attack us"

Dan Holloway
Tuesday 17 November 2015 10:15
A woman pays tribute to the victims of the Paris attack
A woman pays tribute to the victims of the Paris attack

The attacks in Paris on Friday were incredibly shocking, not only because they were so violent and without mercy, but because they were so unexpected. It is not often an attack happens this close to home, and the public reaction, in some cases, has been very disturbing. After reading tweets about the Paris attacks live on social media, I was disgusted. I read countless tweets along the lines that the refugees from Syria were to blame, and that we should stop them coming into Europe for our own safety.

I felt the need to address what these people are saying, although of course I didn’t expect it to get the attention that it did. I was staggered when it gained almost 80,000 retweets from across the world.

My motivation in summarising these feelings in 140 short characters was to put across that refugees are not to blame for terror – in fact, they are trying to escape terror themselves. The terror they’re fleeing from is very similar to what we saw in the Paris attacks, except it’s not rare – it happens on a daily basis.

It took mere minutes for my message to be retweeted thousands of times. I had only written two sentences, but suddenly I was being told (by people from every corner of the globe) that I had perfectly encapsulated what they wanted to say in reply to all of the undeserved knee-jerk hatred towards refugees. People couldn’t believe that I’m just a 19 year old student – but then to me, it seems like a straightforward truth.

While the majority of people have singled out my message for praise, there were few that used the publicity it garnered to respond to me with remarks ranging from the reasonably critical to the downright nasty. These included messages that it would best to be safe and not sorry and to not let any refugees into Europe, to people telling me I was ignorant, naïve and “the reason the terrorists are attacking us”. It’s hard to get my head around messages like that.

The most surprising thing of all was that people had gone out of their way to find me on Facebook as well, either to thank me for my support or, in most cases, to harass me. It is of course possible that Isis has taken advantage of the mass migration of refugees from warzones in the Middle East by having terrorists pose as refugees to gain easy entry into Europe. However, even in this worst case scenario, those would be a very small minority - so why should the hordes of innocent people trying to get a safer and better life for their families take any of the blame? They are no more to blame for that situation than you or I.

The tweet of support to the refugees has now been viewed over 7 million times. News companies from around the world have asking me for interviews over Skype and for my response to the message that has gone viral. I had no idea at the time that a single tweet from a teenager would have such a huge impact in so many countries around the world, but sometimes it is the most simple of things that can unite so many people.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments