In my recent visit to the local writer’s group, one of my fellow writers: Nathalie, a French national, read out the following tribute to ‘Charb’, the editor of Charlie Ebdo and the one of the victims of the recent attack. Nathalie translated the original for us and then read this out. As a cartoonist myself, but hardly in the same league as those of Charlie Ebdo I have been thinking of a suitable item to put on my blog, this is it.
Religion gives reason for life, not for killing people. Today I watched Janet Bougrab on the French news. She was the companion of the Editor of Charlie Ebdo, who signed his cartoons with his nickname Charb. Her testimony was very moving, she spoke open heartedly of her sorrow.
‘You are well known to the French people for your actions against discrimination and for equality. You are a former Secretary of State in Francois Fillon’s government, you were the partner of Charb.’
‘Yes Stephan Charbone.’
‘What did you call him in private life?’
‘I called him Mon Amour, Just mon Amour. I have lost the man of my life. I am not here as a former government minister. I am here as a woman who has lost her man because he was assassinated by barbarians.’
‘Please tell me, he knew for a long time that he was threatened and he laughed at it?’
‘Oh no, he did not laugh. This is not true, he was engaged in a combat for freedom, he was a Republican he was an admirer of Voltaire and he honoured his spirit. He was a militant, he wanted to stand up for his ideas. But on the other hand he had given up on many things in his private life. He feared that one day he would be assassinated. We talked about it together, he lived very much like a Teil Van Gough, the Dutch journalist who was murdered in the Netherlands, he lived with this sword of Damocles over his head. I don’t want people to think he took the threats lightly, please don’t think that, he paid for freedom of speech with his life. He has been executed. He knew what he was fighting for and he would not retreat.’
‘So you say he had the conviction that he was going to be murdered?’
She answered with over flowing emotion.
‘Yes, when you receive anonymous messages of hatred, when you are accused of being Islamophobic. He was stigmatised, pointed out as if it was he who was racist. The Republic should feel guilty. Is guilty for failing to protect him and his colleagues. We should have prevented this massacre.’
‘Excuse me for asking this personal question: Did you ask him to be less provocative, less abrasive in his cartoons?’
‘Never. Never! I admired him because he had the courage to stand for his ideas, to defend an ideal. I admired him before I loved him. On the contrary I encouraged him, one must remain conscious of their sacrifice. He and his colleagues died for their ideals. They were Resistants’, they deserve to rest in the Pantheon, they died for their country.’
‘He was writing a book wasn’t he?’
‘Yes, putting together a book in reply to his critics, which he was in the process of editing.
‘Are you going to continue his fight for freedom?’
‘No, we should have left France, because I knew our security was not guaranteed. But now I have no choice. I must stay in France, He would have liked for me to stay here. I would rather be in his place today, so he could continue his work.’