Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Journalists murdered by fundamentalists in France

Article originally published in the California Tech on January 12 2015

Journalists murdered by fundamentalists in France

Casey Handmer

On Wednesday, Jan. 7, the offices of Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were stormed by three heavily armed attackers, killing 12 and injuring 11. This article is not a rehashing of the poorly informed and highly opinionated clickbait that tries to cash in on this sort of tragedy. This article is a condensed record of statements by the victims and survivors closest to the tragedy. Where needed, translations to English have been provided.

The dead

  • Frédéric Boisseau, 42, a building maintenance worker for Sodexo and Krav Maga enthusiast. He was killed in the lobby.

  • Franck Brinsolaro, 49, a police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Stéphane Charbonnier.

  • Ahmed Merabet, 42, a police officer on patrol in the area. Wounded in the crossfire, a witness's video shows him approached by one of the attackers, who asked, "Did you want to kill me?" Merabet replied "No, it's OK, boss." He was then shot at point blank range.

  • Mustapha Ourrad, 56, copy editor. "Two men have a dispute, they will then consult a Sufi sage to decide between them. The first puts his case; the wise man said, 'I understand you, you're right.' The second then presents his vision; 'Yes, I understand you,' said the wise, 'you're right.' A witness at the scene exclaims to the wise man in wonder, 'How can you tell both that they are right? It is not possible!' 'You're right,' replied the sage."

  • Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist. "Let [economists] put on a pointed cap, a red nose, let them wag with their ears and tickle the armpits. What were economists for, one will ask a hundred years from now? To make people laugh."

  • Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier, 47, Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief. Under guard since 2011, he stated on numerous occasions, "I am not afraid of reprisals, I have no children, no wife, no car, no debt. It might sound a bit pompous, but I'd prefer to die on my feet rather than living on my knees."

"Muhammed isn't sacred to me. I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don't live under Koranic law."

  • Jean "Cabu" Cabut, 76, Charlie Hebdo cofounder and cartoonist. "Sometimes laughter can hurt, but it is our only weapon, humor, derision…"

  • Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and humor/advice columnist. "The knowledge of the unconscious shows us something of the difficult-to-realize, the autonomous, and the power of life in us. The existence of a thought which transcends us, which arises from a singular mind, but also steps beyond and exists in the universality of the mind."

  • Michel Renaud, 69, travel writer and founder of the Rendez-vous du Carnet de Voyage art festival, and a guest at the meeting.

  • Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist. "Humor is the shortest road from one person to another."

"Luckily the world is evil. I could not bear to go wrong in a world that is well!"

  • Bernard "Tignous" Verlhac, 57, cartoonist. "A caricature … is the hardest thing to get right. You have to put everything into a single image."

"My work never seems to be done."

The injured

  • Philippe Lançon, 51, journalist, shot in the face and in critical condition

  • Fabrice Nicolino, 59, journalist, shot in the leg

  • Laurent "Riss" Sourisseau, 48, cartoonist, shot in the shoulder

  • Simon Fieschi, 31, webmaster, shot in the shoulder

  • Several police officers and a nearby driver whose car was struck as the attackers fled

The perpetrators

The attacks were carried out by three French nationals, identified as Hamyd Mourad, 18, who surrendered to police, and brothers Said Kouachi, 32, and Cherif Kouachi, 34. Cherif was convicted in 2008 of helping to recruit soldiers to fight for the Iraqi insurgency and served 18 months in prison. Both brothers had allegedly trained in Yemen and seen action in Syria. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has since taken responsibility for the attacks. On the street, following the attack, one of the attackers was heard to have said, "God is great. We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!"

The survivors

Corinne "CoCo" Rey, a cartoonist, had picked up her daughter from daycare. Approached by the armed and hooded men speaking perfect French, they threatened her daughter's life. "They said they wanted to go up to the offices, so I tapped in the code. They shot Wolinski and Cabu. It lasted five minutes. I had taken refuge under a desk."

Sigolène Vinson, a journalist, was spared at gunpoint. "I'm not killing you because you are a woman and we don't kill women, but you have to convert to Islam, read the Quran and wear a veil."

Two other people present at the meeting, Laurent Léger and Renaud's guest Gérard Gaillard, were not harmed. Another Sodexo employee accompanying Boisseau in the lobby was not harmed.

In a radio interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Caroline Fourest, a former writer with Charlie Hebdo, spoke about the attack and ensuring the magazine's work will continue.

"All the time when we met, we tried to make fun and joke about the crazy stupid people who were violent enough to be afraid of a simple cartoon. They can continue to be afraid, because there will be more cartoons.

"We have all decided, the journalists who survived and their ex-colleagues, that we are going to have a meeting tomorrow to publish the next Charlie Hebdo, because there is no way, even if they killed 10 of us, that the newspaper won't be out next week.

"[Fear and self-censorship] is what the jihadis want. They know that this is the way. You just have to kill a few people in every country, which is the easiest thing to do in the world. To have an automatic weapon and kill people is really easy. You don't need any talent to do that. You need talent to be a cartoonist. You need talent to be a journalist.

"Those people without any talent killed many talented people today just to create this emotion, this shock, this reaction of panic and hatred.

"Many of my friends who died today were very sweet people, very funny people, and very brave people, because they knew that they had to continue to smile and make others smile while defending freedom of the press. Many of my colleagues were under police protection for many years. Their lives changed completely after the [2005 Mohammed] Cartoon Affair. They were just dealing with that. There is no choice when you are a journalist and you want to be free and you refuse to be silenced just because a violent, stupid guy wants you to be silent. You continue to do what you do, what you know how to do, which is to be free."

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