‘France will shout its love for lib­erty and tol­er­ance. Come in num­bers’

One mil­lion ex­pected in Paris as a coun­try unites in grief and de­fi­ance

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Up to a mil­lion peo­ple – in­clud­ing dozens of world lead­ers – will con­verge on Paris on Sun­day in a show of de­fi­ance and unity after ter­ror­ist at­tacks that left 17 peo­ple dead last week in the French cap­i­tal.

In what will be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant and emo­tional pub­lic gath­er­ings in post­war French his­tory, Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande will be joined by David Cameron, An­gela Merkel and the Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter, Mat­teo Renzi, in an un­prece­dented sol­i­dar­ity march through the cen­tre of the city.

The French cap­i­tal has been in shock since the mas­sacre of 12 peo­ple at the of­fices of the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Charlie Hebdo by two French-born brothers who claimed to be aveng­ing the prophet Muham­mad. The hor­ror and fear were am­pli­fied when another at­tacker gunned down a traf­fic po­lice­woman on Thurs­day and re­turned to shoot four shop­pers at a Jewish su­per­mar­ket on Fri­day. All three at­tack­ers were killed in shootouts on Fri­day. The French Prime Min­is­ter, Manuel Valls, said Sun­day’s demon­stra­tion would be “a cry for free­dom” and a re­asser­tion of “the val­ues of 1789 … It will be an un­usual demon­stra­tion that will no doubt go down in his­tory. It will show the strength and dig­nity of the French peo­ple, who will shout their love for lib­erty and tol­er­ance. Come in num­bers.”

Amid a swirl of hos­tile rhetoric, in­clud­ing from me­dia mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch who said on Twit­ter that all Mus­lims should be held re­spon­si­ble for the Paris at­tacks, the fam­ily of the Mus­lim po­lice­man gunned down out­side the Charlie Hebdo of­fice spoke out for the first time. Ahmed Mer­abet was proud of his job and of the coun­try he died de­fend­ing, they said. “I ad­dress this to all the racists, the Is­lam­o­phobes and the an­tisemites: you mustn’t mix up ex­trem­ism with Mus­lims,” said Ahmed’s brother, Ma­lik Mer­abet. “The mad­men have no colour nor re­li­gion. Is­lam is a re­li­gion of peace, of love … my brother was a Mus­lim and he was killed by two ter­ror­ists, by false Mus­lims.”

Six of the su­per­mar­ket hostages, in­clud­ing a tod­dler and his fa­ther, were saved by a Mus­lim store em­ployee, Las­sana Bathily, who hid them and then risked his life to con­ceal their pres­ence.

“When they came run­ning down [into the base­ment] I opened the door of the fridge,” he told French chan­nel BFM TV. “Sev­eral came in with me. I turned off the light and the fridge. I closed the door and I said ‘You stay quiet there – I’m go­ing back out’.” The four hostages killed in the at­tack on the Jewish su­per­mar­ket were named as Yoav Hat­tab, Philippe Bra­ham, Yo­han Co­hen and François Michel Saada. The Con­seil Représen­tatif des In­sti­tu­tions Juives de France, the main French Jewish um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion, con­demned the an­ti­semitic na­ture of the at­tack, say­ing: “Th­ese French fel­low cit­i­zens were slaugh­tered coldly and piti­lessly, be­cause they were Jewish.”

Travel on pub­lic trans­port in and around Paris will be free on Sun­day to al­low hun­dreds of thou­sands to get to and from the demon­stra­tion, and at least one train op­er­a­tor has cut prices for peo­ple com­ing from other ci­ties. Around 250,000 peo­ple had al­ready joined marches in other French ci­ties on Satur­day.

The gov­ern­ment has promised a mas­sive se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion to keep marchers safe amid fear of another at­tack. Po­lice are hunt­ing Hayat Boumed­di­ene, the 26-year-old part­ner of su­per­mar­ket killer Am­edy Coulibaly, who they say may have been an ac­com­plice in Thurs­day’s shoot­ing. On the run now, she was close to ex­trem­ist friends of her hus­band, and could be armed and dan­ger­ous. But there were re­ports that Boumed­di­ene had flown to Turkey on 2 Jan­uary and was in Syria by the end of last week.

“There will be a pub­lic or­der plan of ex­cep­tional mag­ni­tude to make sure the rally goes well and to guar­an­tee max­i­mum se­cu­rity,” said French in­te­rior min­is­ter Bernard Cazeneuve. “The ter­ror alert will be main­tained at its high­est level in the Ile-de-France.”

At least 500 ex­tra mil­i­tary per­son­nel will be on duty in the greater Paris re­gion. Thou­sands of uni­formed and plain-clothes po­lice sta­tioned in and around the march will be look­ing out for po­ten­tial at­tack­ers try­ing to drive into marchers, or tak­ing up po­si­tions on rooftops or bal­conies, a po­lice source told the AFP news agency.

Cameron will fly out to Paris on Sun­day to at­tend the march, and London land­marks in­clud­ing Tower Bridge and Trafal­gar Square will show the colours of the French flag from 4pm. The at­tacks in France will be high on the agenda when Cameron vis­its Wash­ing­ton for talks with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Thurs­day and Fri­day.

A “sur­vivors’ is­sue” of Charlie Hebdo will be pub­lished on Wed­nes­day and will be sold out­side France be­cause of the huge global at­ten­tion – mark­ing a turn­around for a pub­li­ca­tion that just a week ago seemed on the brink of fold­ing. One mil­lion copies will be printed in­stead of the usual 60,000.

The French gov­ern­ment, news­pa­pers and com­pa­nies around the world have pitched in cash, trans­porta­tion and other help to en­sure the is­sue reaches an un­prece­dented au­di­ence. All money from the sales will go to the fam­i­lies of the 12 peo­ple mur­dered in the at­tack on Wed­nes­day.

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