Bastille Day attack in Nice: A message of hope from a victim’s daughter
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One year after a truck plowed through a crowd of people celebrating the July 14 holiday, Hanane Charrihi pays homage to her mother, one of the 86 people killed that night, by creating an organisation to fight radicalisation.
When she opens the door of her sunny apartment in Aulnay-sous-Bois, 27-year-old Hanane Charrihi gives a welcoming smile while her two sons run by yelling at the top of their voices. But, with the first anniversary of the Nice attack just a few hours away, she feels apprehensive at the idea of reliving the nightmare of that night.
During the evening of July 14, 2016, Charrihi’s mother, 55-year-old Fatima, strolled along the Promenade des Anglais with her grandson to watch the traditional fireworks display when a 19-tonne truck plowed over her and continued through the crowd. Charriri was informed of the tragedy by phone. “That night, they cut one of my legs off. They knocked me down,” she said. “But one year later, I am getting back up.”
The young woman partly dealt with her grief through the therapeutic process of writing her book, “My Motherland,” published six months after the terrorist attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. She poured all of her sadness into the work, in which she writes about the life of her extraordinary mother and, at the same time, laments the stereotyping that, as Muslims, she and her family have had to endure these past months.
I act like mum is still here
The mourning is far from over. “It’s hard for my father,” Charriri said. “I called him on June 16 because he forgot to celebrate my birthday. When I asked him what day it was, he said, ‘It is the 16th. That makes 11 months and 2 days since your mother left us…’” But she admits that she’s not doing much better. “I act like mum is still here, and I am trying to protect her.”
The commemoration day will be difficult. “The anniversary will rub salt in the wounds,” and will bring more “sadness, melancholy, and also anger", she admits in a quavering voice. Charrihi will take part in an inter-religious gathering in the morning, then will go to the official ceremony presided over by President Emmanuel Macron, at about 4pm.
Charriri, who lives in the suburbs of Paris, will travel to Nice, where her father and the rest of her family live. “It’s important because we shouldn’t forget, but I also want to help deliver a message of tolerance and peace,” she said. “I hope the president will also deliver a unifying speech.”
Fight the barbarity that killed my mother
Driven by this spirit of reconciliation, Charrihi recognises that, for her, the anniversary will be “a big day".
“No mourning, but rebuilding,” states the young woman who, along with her brother and sisters, founded an organisation bearing the same name as her book. The objective is twofold: to support the families of the victims of terrorism, but also to fight radicalisation in schools and prisons.
The organisation aims primarily to speak out against the barbarity that killed her mother, she explains, but also to debate and engage with young people to better understand the appeal of Islamism for them. “It’s a recent phenomenon that no one really understands,” she said. “I want to understand what leads them to becoming radicalised.”
Charrihi also plans to raise awareness through travel. “These won’t be educational or cultural trips, but humanitarian,” she said. “These young people or those who have dropped out of society should recognise everything that France gives them: free school, one of the best healthcare systems in the world, subsidised transportation.”
The young woman seeks to combat the IS group's ideology. “We have to open young people's eyes to all the opportunities that the French government gives them,” she said, proud of being French and Muslim.
It’s a war that's far from being over.