A terrorist attack, said to be the worst to hit France in 50 years, has left 12 dead and 20 injured in central Paris on Wednesday. Masked gunmen entered the office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that had recently caricatured the prophet Mohammed, at around 11.30 am.
Shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ translated as ‘God is great’ as they unleashed gunshots, the attackers, said to be linked to Al-Qaida, sought out by name, in an almost ‘roll-call’ fashion, writers and cartoonists whom worked for the magazine. One of which being the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Stephane Charbonnier – widely recognised by his pen name Charb. His police bodyguard was also killed, before the attackers moved onto other staff members. One other police officer was also killed in the attack.
Charlie Hebdo has been threatened numerous times for its caricatures and sketches, and a price had originally been placed upon the head of Charbonnier. The offices had also been subject to a fire bomb attack in 2011. Just minutes before the attack unravelled, the newspaper had tweeted a cartoon of the Islamic leader extending his New Year’s Wishes. This come’s alongside a similar cartoon, published in this week’s issue of the newspaper, titled ‘Still No Attacks in France’ next to a caricature of a jihadi fighter, claiming;
‘Just wait – we have until the end of January to extend our New Year’s Wishes.’
Stephane Charbonnier himself was the artist. A chilling coincidence or a calculated retaliation?
President Francois Hollande, moments after the shootings, described it to be; ‘an attack on the ideals of the French republic – liberty, free expression and democracy’ and further a ‘terrorist act of exceptional barbarism.’ France has raised both its security and Terror Threat Level to high. Other countries such as Spain have also raised their Terror Threat Level from 2 to 3, as a precautionary measure. The UK terror threat still remains at ‘severe’ as it has done since it was elevated in August 2014.
President Barack Obama has offered the aid of the United States, alongside Russian President Vladamir Putin, who has pledged his aid in fighting terrorism.
Described as ‘the darkest day of the history of the French press’, by Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders. Many have seen this as an Islamic attack on the right to freedom of speech. Author Salman Rushdie, who spent numerous years in hiding after receiving death threats and a fatwa following the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses, said today of the attack;
Religion[…]when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences […] today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo […] to defend the art of satire. […] / Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.
An assault on Paris, but more pertinently an assault on the incontestable right to freedom of expression. Millions gathered yesterday evening in Paris’ Place de la Republique as a defiant stance against the attackers, and to pay tribute to those killed in the attack. France knows better than any other country the price which must be paid in the struggle for democracy. Hollande has claimed himself that this act will not do much to hamper France’s freedom of thought.
A luminous sign stating ‘NOT AFRAID’ can be seen amongst the masses; a representation of France’s unfaltering strength as a nation in the face of terrorism. As a British student currently living in the South of France, I have been amongst and experienced, the disgust and sorrow as the events have unfolded. Not only in Paris has there been support amongst the masses, but also in towns such as Toulouse, Reims, Bordeaux and the town in which I live- Aix-en-Provence. Throughout social media there have been organised events in numerous towns to encourage younger and older generations alike to gather together to stand as one in the fight against this repression. In Aix-en-Provence, many have lit candles in doorways, and erected posters across the city, stating the phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie’. Last night, saw an event organised by a university student in the Place de la Mairie; the town square, to bring together students to stand together as one. To stand as Charlie. A minute of silence was also held yesterday at 12pm, to remember the lives lost on the 7th January.
The art world, in true Charlie Hebdo spirit and gumption, have also taken it upon themselves to express their sorrow upon the loss of some of the modern worlds most celebrated caricaturists. Amongst them, one of the most heart-breaking tributes from artist Loïc Sécheresse,
Millions across the world have also pledged their support by gathering together in various cities, and through the trending hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
Today, and tomorrow, we all stand together as Charlie. ‘Nous sommes tous Charlie.’