Dear Neighbors to the North, The maximum terror level in Brussels most likely did not escape anyone in the Netherlands. Just as many other foreign tourists, the Dutch have delayed their end-of-year trip to Brussels indefinitely. Terror fright, it is called.
Admittedly, the week that had terror level 4 enforced, was an unforgettable week. Almost a ghost town, with ample police and army forces on the street to give the public a false sense of security, even when the level dropped to 3. That is still a serious threat, although I presume that no one can tempt fate. Therefore, I continue to visit the center and streets of Brussels. If I have to die during an attack, so be it.
During the heightened terror alert period, one article in a French language newspaper was striking. According to this newspaper and some witnesses, one of the Belgian terrorists the police are still looking for, Salah Abdeslam, had been noticed end October in the gay and cruising bars in Brussels. The report ended up on Facebook, where it not surprisingly was eagerly shared within the gay community.
A manager of a gay bar in Brussels was not pleased, and abused the journalist on Facebook, wondering about the witnesses in the article. As manager, he was primarily concerned with a potential drop in clientele as a result of this witch hunt. The tone of his response on Facebook clearly pointed to this. The funny thing about the commotion is that in none of the articles his bar was mentioned or visited, indicating that he was questioned by the police or was fully aware of the fact that Salah Abdeslam had been sighted in the bar he works for. The manager also strongly disapproved of the truly unfavorable wording of the journalist, describing what goes on in cruise bars. But sometimes the truth hurts. Things do happen in cruise bars that do not take place on Brussels’ Grote Markt.
It will not please the manager, but the police investigation into Salah Abdeslam’s visits of gay bars in Brussels has not ended, meaning that these witnesses are taken seriously. Perhaps Abdeslam was not looking for a target for an attack, since in that period a large number of thefts took place in several gay bars and dark rooms. An easy theft of an identity card and money always comes in handy for someone with bad intentions.
It is quite likely that Salah Abdeslam was only looking for easy prey for their money and identity cards or passports, although it cannot be denied that the gay scene would not have a heartening effect on Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists. The few who secretly hoped Abdeslam was gay because of these reports, will most likely have to give up their fantasy for good.
After the attacks in Paris, both the Parisians and the people of Brussels look at what happens on the streets, on the train or in concert halls differently. The fact remains that all of us should be much more alert, that the owners of gay and cruising bars to a certain extent have to make sure that rabble does not enter their establishments, and that large-scale gay events need serious security. The presence of “rabble” and thieves in some gay bars in Brussels is a serious problem. Perhaps elsewhere as well, but maybe now is the time to have another look at their customer base. Afterwards, some of those clients may come back, who at the moment do not want to return or are afraid to go because of some riff-raff. Then, owners and managers can stop complaining that “no one frequents their bar anymore.”