For Journalism student NOUR ABIDA, the killing of several staff of the magazine Charlie Hebdo felt personal. Before coming to study in Coventry she had worked with its editor, the cartoonist Charb, on a children’s newspaper at home in France. Here, she reflects on the tragedy.
I was really young when I knew Charb. We were skyping to each other, every week. I would tell him the news and afterwards we would discuss the drawing he wanted to make about the news.
I liked Charb. He was one of the best caricaturists of Paris. What he was trying in his drawings was to fight the people who don’t give anything to society.
When he was killed, it was a part of my childhood taken away.
I saw a press report about the killings on my iPad. Then I saw the video of the police officer who was shot. You could clearly see the policeman asking the gunman to leave him alone, doing a peace sign. But the gunman just came and shot him in the head.
I would like to be a foreign correspondent and I’m used to pictures of war, but this really shocked me.
For the rest of the day I couldn’t think about anything else. I stared at the screen all day long. I could only focus on that. The fact I was in Coventry, not France, didn’t change anything. I took it really personally. Even though I wasn’t there I felt the same pain as the people.
I was offended by the killings because I am French. From my education I have been brought up according to the three pillars of France – liberty, equality and freedom – and suddenly this confronted my beliefs.
I felt offended as a journalist. The people who were killed could have been any journalist in any country. It could have been Private Eye here.
I felt offended as a Muslim, because after that event, the people are going to lump together Muslims and Islamists. In France people are thinking that the acts of all those terrorists are part of Islam. But Islam prefers peace.
I bought Charlie Hebdo sometimes. In France it was not really popular and was about to go bankrupt and they were looking at re-launching it.
I’m fine about it publishing challenging cartoons because it’s freedom of expression and everyone should be allowed to express themselves. Charlie Hebdo was mocking Islam but also mocking Jews – anyone.
After the killings they had a big protest in France, with more than 3.7 million people on the street: the biggest protest in France since the Second World War.
I couldn’t go to Paris so I went to London where a gathering was organised by the French embassy. I think about 5,000 people gathered. It felt like I was in France because everyone was French and I met people who felt the same as me. It was a good experience. It felt like being in France.
What the French people showed this day was that it does not matter who you are – if you are a communist, catholic, Muslim – all the sexual and race boundaries were blurred, everyone mixed up to create unity.
We could see a lot of people wearing Je Suis Charlie signs to pay tribute to the victims. The sign doesn’t only mean you are supporting the journalists who died, it also means that you are supporting freedom of expression.
That’s what the caricaturists were doing: promoting democracy all around the world, and highlighting dictatorships.
Nour Abida is a second-year student on Coventry University’s BA Journalism and Media course. She is a co-founder of Coventry’s journalism club, and led its inaugural session with a debate about the Charlie Hebdo killings. Read her blog here