Twelve years after Islamists bombed commuter trains in Madrid, Spain’s four victim associations united for the first time in the capital on Friday for a joint tribute to the 193 victims of Europe’s bloodiest terrorist attack.
“Myriam would ask you today to take a step forward against terrorism,” said Ángeles Pedraza, president of the Terrorism Victim Association (AVT), in reference to her own daughter, who died in the attacks.
Speaking at an act in the Forest of Remembrance, a memorial garden inside Retiro Park, Pedraza also alluded to the recent release from prison of Arnaldo Otegi, a veteran political leader in Basque radical pro-ETA circles.
We have never demanded revenge, but we will never give up on justice
Marimar Blanco, president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation
“We need societies that reject those who receive murderers like heroes,” she said, warning against “those who are trying to launder the past.”
Earlier in the day, a string quartet played Mozart’s Requiem in Sol Square in front of numerous tourists and passersby.
At 9am, with all the city’s church bells ringing in memory of the dead, regional premier Cristina Cifuentes and city Mayor Manuela Carmena laid down a wreath at the foot of the building that houses the regional government.
An unpolitical handshake
At another event in Atocha, the site of the bombings, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez and Podemos head Pablo Iglesias greeted one another and shook hands.
Socialist sources hurried to explain that the moment was “a mere greeting by polite people, a matter of protocol with no political overtones.”
Sánchez and Iglesias are currently at odds over the best solution out of the gridlock that is keeping Spain from getting a new prime minister following an inconclusive election on December 20.
“Any one of us could have been on those trains, and that day we became aware that we are all potential victims, and that it may be anybody’s turn to cry,” said Pilar Manjón, head of the 11-M Association.
Standing next to her were Marimar Blanco, president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation, Ángeles Domínguez, of the Association to Help Victims of 11-M, and Ángeles Pedraza, of the Victims of Terrorism Association.
Pedraza said it was a “legend” that the various associations have a bad working relationship, and focused instead on their unity.
“What brings us together is the same thing: the pain over relatives who were taken from us,” said Pedraza.
Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday that Spain will continue to defend the lives, the rights and the freedoms of all citizens in the face of terrorism, and said it is “very comforting” that practically all parties are together on this issue.
In the Basque city of San Sebastián, regional premier Iñigo Urkullu, of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), presided a silent gathering to pay tribute to the victims of terrorism. In Barcelona, a minute of silence was observed at Sant Jaume square.
The European Commission on Friday issued a statement condemning “all forms of terrorism in the world; we remember the victims with respect and honor.”
Monarchs preside concert
On Thursday, the Spanish king and queen presided the 14th edition of the In Memoriam concert at Madrid’s National Music Auditorium, where this tribute to victims of terrorism in Spain is held each year.
Also at the concert was Marimar Blanco, president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation and sister to Miguel Ángel Blanco, a young councilor who was kidnapped and shot by Basque terrorist group ETA in July 1997.
Blanco thanked the monarchs for their support, saying that it is “especially important at times like these, when some people feel they have the right to trivialize terrorism.”
“We have never demanded revenge, but we will never give up on justice,” she added. “All the innocent blood spilled by injustice can be neither forgotten nor forgiven.”
This is the second time that King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia have attended the concert as a show of support for the victims of terrorism.
English version by Susana Urra.