Malian Hero Given French Citizenship

By Catherine Touhill,
International News Writer

This past week in Paris has been far from the idyllic image usually associated with the city.

Seventeen people were killed between Wednesday, January 7 and Friday, January 9 due to a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital.

While much of the media has concentrated on the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, four civilians were shot and killed at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

However, the death toll could have been much higher were it not for one employee: Lassana Bathily.

According to the BBC, Bathily, a 24-year-old Malian immigrant who had worked at the supermarket for the past four years, was present on January 9 when gunman Amedy Coulibaly entered the store.

Coulibaly had killed a policewoman and injured a man in the south of Paris the day before and took several people within the supermarket hostage, unaware that Bathily was in the stockroom at the rear of the store. Bathily ushered terrified shoppers into a cold store room to wait out the attack.

Without regard for his own safety, Bathily turned off the freezer and fled the store to go for help. Upon leaving the supermarket, Bathily was handcuffed by police who thought that he was involved in the attack.

After being interrogated for an hour and a half, Bathily convinced the officers that he was a store employee and described the layout of the store to aid in their raid, which resulted in the death of Coulibaly.

In honor of his bravery and courage, Bathily was fast tracked to become a citizen of France, something that he had been trying to attain after living in France for nine years, according to NBC News.

The naturalization ceremony took place on Tuesday, January 20 and was attended by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who thanked him for his heroism and noted that his actions were “the highest gesture of Islam and peace.”

Bathily, a practicing Muslim, stood with his head bowed throughout the ceremony and responded by saying that, “Yes, I helped Jews get out. We’re brothers…It’s not that we’re Jewish or Christian or Muslims, we’re all in the same boat.”

As reported by France24, the new French citizen received a standing ovation when he ended his remarks by saying, “Long live freedom, long live solidarity, long live France.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 27th print edition.

Contact Catherine at
catherine.touhill@student.shu.edu

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