France honors Charlie Hebdo attack victims as Iran rages over new cartoons

PARIS, France – French politicians paid tribute Saturday to Charlie Hebdo staff and other victims of the January 2015 Islamist attacks, days after the satirical weekly’s latest edition sparked outrage in Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted the names of all 17 victims of a spate of attacks eight years ago in and around Paris, including the 12 people killed at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo.

They were killed on January 7, 2015, by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who said they were acting on behalf of Al-Qaeda to avenge the paper’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly killed a 27-year-old police officer during a traffic check outside Paris, before killing four Jewish men during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher supermarket on January 9, claiming to act in the name of the Islamic State terrorist group.

All three were killed by police, and in December 2020 a French court convicted 14 people of helping to carry out the attacks.

“We will never forget you,” Macron tweeted on Saturday, with a cartoon by the well-known French cartoonist Plantu below.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also marked the anniversary of the attacks, which also involved a deadly siege at a kosher supermarket, where four Jewish victims were killed.

“In the face of Islamist terrorism, the Republic remains standing,” she tweeted. “For their families, for our values, for our freedom: we do not forget.”

And Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak tweeted: “Satire, irreverence, the republican tradition of press cartoons are intrinsic to our democracy. We continue to defend them.”

A police officer stands guard near a drawing depicting eleven of the victims ahead of a ceremony marking the eighth anniversary of the jihadist attack of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people in Paris, on January 7, 2023. (Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP)

The tributes came days after Tehran reacted furiously to cartoons mocking Iran’s leadership in the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, which appeared on Wednesday.

The magazine had invited cartoonists to depict Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the context of ongoing demonstrations against his theocratic regime, by women in particular.

The graphic front cover sought to highlight the fight for women’s rights, while others were sexually explicit and insulting towards Khamenei and fellow clerics.

Many cartoons pointed to the authorities’ use of capital punishment as a tactic to quell the protests.

Tehran’s anger

In response, Iran summoned France’s ambassador and called on the government to hold “the authors of such hatred” to account.

On Thursday, it said it was closing the Tehran-based French Institute for Research (IFRI).

“France has no right to insult the sanctities of other Muslim countries and nations under the pretext of freedom of expression,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.

In Paris on Saturday, Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin and the city’s mayor Anne Hidalgo were among the politicians who attended a ceremony at the former offices of Charlie Hebdo, in the city’s 11th arrondissement.

It was there that two gunmen killed staff at the magazine, including some of its best-known cartoonists.

Armed gunmen face police officers near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, during an attack on the offices of the newspaper which left 12 dead, including two police officers. (Photo credit: AFP/ ANNE GELBARD)

A few meters further down the same street, police lieutenant Ahmed Merabet was gunned down by the killers as he tried to stop their escape.

The gunmen, who claimed to represent Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said they were taking revenge for previous satirical cartoons in the magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. They were killed after two days on the run.

Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017. (Christophe Archambault/AFP)

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, another Islamist gunman killed a police officer in Montrouge, just outside Paris – and a day later he killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket in east Paris.

He was shot dead as the police stormed the premises and freed the remaining hostages.

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