France marks anniversary of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ massacre

Ceremonies, including unveiling of a plaque, show depth of feeling in era of uncertainty

The latest edition of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the coverline: “One year on,  assassin still on the run.” Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

The latest edition of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo with the coverline: “One year on, assassin still on the run.” Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters


The intensity with which France commemorates the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre this week shows that the country sees the events of January 7th-9th 2015, in which 17 people were murdered by jihadists, as a major historical turning point.

The attacks of November 13th, which claimed the lives of another 130 people, confirmed that France is no longer a society at peace, in which only the elderly remembered such violence. A new era of uncertainty has opened.

“I owe you the truth. We haven’t finished with terrorism,” President François Hollande said in his New Year’s Eve wishes. “What happened has changed us.”

Hollande will participate in five commemorations, starting today and culminating next Sunday.

The city of Paris has organised this morning’s ceremonies. Hollande and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo will unveil plaques outside the former offices of the satirical magazine, on the nearby pavement where Said and Cherif Kouachi, the fleeing assassins, gunned down a Muslim policeman, and in front of the Hyper Cacher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes, where Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish people.

Freedom symbol

Charlie Hebdo

Millions of people in France and around the world adopted the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”. A “survivors’ issue”, published one week later sold 7.5 million copies worldwide.

The special edition of “Charlie” to be published tomorrow features a cartoon of a bearded God wearing blood-stained robes, with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. “One Year Later, the Killer is Still at Large,” says the vehemently secular magazine, blaming religion for the bloodshed. 

The editorial by Riss, a cartoonist who missed the fateful meeting because he overslept, expresses nostalgia for the days when “France was seen as a secular island where you could joke, draw and have fun without worrying about dogma and crazies.”

Riss settles scores with fanatics of all religions, and with those who refused to support the magazine when it published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006. “The convictions of atheists and secularists can move more mountains than the faith of believers,” he concludes.

On January 11th, 2015, at least 3.7 million people expressed their abhorrence of the killings by marching in French cities, up to 1.6 million of them in Paris. But a political “union sacrée” of left and right quickly disintegrated.

Revoke citizenship

Code Civil

On Thursday, Hollande will speak at Paris police headquarters. On Saturday, he will unveil a plaque to the memory of the policewoman from Martinique who was murdered by Coulibaly, and attend a second ceremony at the Hyper Cacher, organised by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France.

The final ceremony, considered the high point of the commemorations, will honour victims of both the January and November attacks on the Place de la République on Sunday, January 10th. About 1,000 people, including those wounded and the families of victims, will be invited.

Hollande will unveil a plaque at the foot of a 10m (33ft) high “tree of memory” planted for the occasion.

The pop singer Johnny Hallyday will sing Un Dimanche de Janvier, recalling the marches of one year ago, and the French army choir will conclude the ceremony with La Marseillaise.