Terror in Europe

For The French, Why It’s Different This Time

Paris has been brutally attacked by Islamist terrorists two times in the past 10 months. Will Friday's attack wind up changing the way the French live their lives?

Mourners near Paris' Bataclan concert venue on Nov. 15
Mourners near Paris' Bataclan concert venue on Nov. 15
Cynthia Martens

PARIS â€" France, land of pens. At least, it seemed that way when I came back home from my first day of French elementary school and presented my parents with a very precise list of the supplies I was expected to have each day in class. One stylo plume (fountain pen), with blue (and only blue!) ink cartridges. Four ballpoint pens: one red, one green, one black, and one blue â€" certainly not one of those clicking multi-color pens.

So France loves pens. This of course is a country where the written word (not to mention, colorful bande dessinée) is treasured, as the most direct and diffused forms of freedom of expression. When terrorists attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices in January, it was an assault on individual cartoonists, but also on cherished national beliefs that are passed on from the first day of school.

Still, as traumatizing as that attack was, it felt more remote to the average citizen than the horrific events of Friday, when armed gunmen and suicide bombers killed at least 129 people who were sitting at cafés, listening to a concert and watching a football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France.

“Well,” people could console themselves after January's tragic events. “I’m not drawing offensive cartoons, I don't shop at a kosher supermarket. It couldn’t happen to me.” It didn’t feel all that convincing, but it was enough to help regain a sense of normalcy rather quickly.

But as news of Friday’s attacks unfolded, and friends and relatives began frantically calling and texting one another, people in Paris (and across France) quickly realized that this time around, the stakes were even higher than in January. When anyone could have been a victim, everyone feels like one. That realization of your own vulnerability is a quietly devastating sensation.

The testimony of those who survived offered the most immediate, and chilling, proof of the nature of these attacks. “There were at least five dead people around me, others in the street, blood everywhere," Mathieu, 35, told Agence France Presse after surviving the shooting in front of a pizzeria in rue de la Fontaine au Roi. "I was very lucky."

Thomas, a young man who escaped unharmed from the Bataclan concert venue, told the French Metro newspaper: “You think this only happens to other people."

Marching in solidarity for the targets chosen 10 months ago was a way to stand up for the ideals of the French Republic. In the cross hairs this time were simply French people, in an operation to kill as many of them as possible.

In a series of cartoons published on his Instagram account, a friend and colleague of some of the Charlie Hebdo victims, Joann Sfar celebrated the famous French joie de vivre and illustrated the Parisian city motto, fluctuat nec mergitur, Latin for: “it is tossed by the waves but does not sink.” (The Independent has translated the series into English). Sfar declared that terrorists' cult of death is bound to be defeated by the French faith in the salvation of joy, music, drunkeness and kissing for the whole world to see.

"Instead of dividing us, you have reminded us how precious this all is, our way of life"

France is a country that has staunchly defended its homegrown cinema, while lining up for Hollywood blockbusters. It’s admired worldwide for its devotion to culture and the arts; for its wine and cheese; for its sense of style. But also for its never-above-bawdy jokes and slapstick humor. France is imperfect, and full of contradictions: eager to defend its identity and yet able to blend in a medley of international influences, creating a national spirit that is both unique and lasting.

The victims in Friday’s attacks were a cross-section of the capital: men and women, French and foreign, of various ages and religious leanings. One of them was Asta Diakite, cousin of Lassana Diarra, a French soccer player of Malian origins. The grieving athlete posted a tribute to her on his Twitter account, which spoke for all the good people of France.

“In this climate of terror, it is important for all of us, as representatives of our country and its diversity, to speak up and stay united in the face of a horror that knows no color, no religion,” he wrote.

I hope that France will continue to fight for both its diversity and its singular way of life, stylo plume and all.

*Cynthia Martens is an American journalist who recently moved back to Paris, where she lived many years as a child.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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