Saturday 1 October 2016

They have the cult of death but we have our love of life

Elouise Carbanne in Paris

Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30

French President Francois Hollande stands in front of members of the French government, officials and guests during a ceremony to pay a national homage to the victims of the Paris attacks at Les Invalides monument in Paris,.
French President Francois Hollande stands in front of members of the French government, officials and guests during a ceremony to pay a national homage to the victims of the Paris attacks at Les Invalides monument in Paris,.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.

UNDER a cold, iron-clad sky they came with warmth in their hearts to remember their beloved.

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They were remembering the 130 people killed in the Paris terrorist attacks at a memorial ceremony in the capital led by President François Hollande.

In a 16-minute address, Mr Hollande said: "On that day which we will never forget, France was dealt a cowardly blow. In an act of war, a horde of murderers killed 130 of our people and injured hundreds in the name of an insane cause and a betrayed religion."

'What do the terrorists want? To divide us, to turn us against each other. They have the cult of death, but we have love of life,' Mr Hollande said.

He promised that France would "do everything to destroy the army of fanatics" of Isil but "will not cede to fear or hatred". The attackers, he said, were part of a "death cult".

"Freedom does not seek to be avenged but to be served," he said, urging the nation to channel its anger into restoring peace and safeguarding "hope and tolerance".

Solemn

Hundreds of relatives, friends, the entire French government and leading members of the opposition stood in silence alongside wheelchair-bound survivors as a roll call of the dead was solemnly read out, with their names and ages, as their faces were beamed onto a giant screen.

A minute's silence followed, and a solo cellist played the melancholic strains of Bach's Sarabande.

The president arrived to a rendition of the national anthem, the Marseillaise, and the ceremony proceeded with two popular songs, chosen to try to echo the spirit of the young victims, 89 of whom were killed at the Bataclan concert hall when it was attacked on November 13.

Three well-known female singers performed "Quand on n'a que l'amour" ("When All You Have is Love"), by the Belgian singer Jacques Brel, followed by "Perlimpinpin", one of the most famous songs composed by the French singer Barbara.

Many Parisians hung the tricolour flag from their windows on Friday morning at the urging of the president. It was an unusual act for a people not accustomed to displaying the national flag at home.

Others have attended the scenes of the attacks with the flag draped around their shoulders, reflecting growing patriotism in the aftermath of the November attacks, with a surge in applications to join the armed forces and the police.

Often associated with the French far-Right, the tricolour has been firmly reclaimed in everyday life as a national, rather than a nationalist, symbol.

The head of the centre-Right Republican party, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, attended the ceremony, as did the far-Right leader, Marine Le Pen.

Mr Hollande had refused to invite her to march alongside French and world leaders after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. On this occasion, there was no controversy.

However, few members of the public gathered near the ceremony and some relatives of the dead refused to attend.

The father of the youngest of those killed, 17-year-old schoolgirl Lola Ouzounian, stayed away in protest against the "disastrous policy" of France and its "interference" in the Middle East and its role in toppling the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Eric Ouzounian, a journalist and documentary-maker, said France and its recent leaders "bear a heavy responsibility for what has happened".

In an article published on the Huffington Post, Mr Ouzounian wrote: "France is incapable of offering its young people a future. Europe is incapable of lifting itself out of the liberalism in which it is bogged down. Our leaders are incapable of offering a political vision.

Devastated

"Our intellectuals, with a few exceptions, are incapable of getting away from their lucrative condition as media clowns. I am appalled by my country and I am devastated by the death of my daughter."

Tatiana Correia, whose sister Precillia was killed, said Mr Hollande should offer "explanations" as "nothing was done after Charlie Hebdo and even today nothing is being done."

The parents of British victim Nick Alexander, who were attending the ceremony, said in a statement: "Words cannot express the sadness we feel at the loss of our precious Nick.

This is just the beginning of a long road where we will have to get used to the absence of his physical presence around us - a presence that we loved so much. The outpouring of love from around the world has been a great comfort to us and makes us even more proud to have had Nick as our son.

"We extend our love and condolences to all those who have been affected by this indiscriminate act, and are proud to stand with them in unity at the memorial service on Friday."

French people also used social media to pay their respects online, tweeting on the hashtag #HommageNational, and displaying the Tricolore flag with the hashtag #FiersdelaFrance, meaning proud of France.

Irish Independent

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