Five Years After Act of Heroism During Kosher Market Attack, French TV Pays Tribute to Muslim Rescuer Lassana Bathily
Five years after an Islamist terrorist murdered four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris during a week that also witnessed a bloodbath at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, French television has broadcast a documentary about the Malian immigrant worker who helped other shoppers in the store escape to safety.
“Lassana Bathily: A Hero Despite Himself” was broadcast on Tuesday night on France’s Channel 2 as the country commemorated the fifth anniversary of the four shooting attacks in the Paris area from Jan. 7-9 2015, which took the lives of 17 people.
Bathily, the subject of the documentary, worked as an assistant at the Hyper Cacher market in eastern Paris that was attacked by Islamist gunman Amedy Coulibaly on Jan. 9.
Bathily, who is a Muslim, bravely ushered terrified customers into a basement storeroom, telling them to remain calm and keep silent. He then made contact with the police outside by sneaking out of the building through a fire escape. Thinking that he was an accomplice of Coulibaly, Bathily was seized by the police, who placed him in handcuffs for the next 90 minutes before he convinced them that he was trying to assist the hostages. Thanks to the information about the store’s layout which Bathily provided, police were able to end the siege without further endangering the hostages.
Bathily later reflected, “We are brothers. It’s not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims. We’re all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.”
In Tuesday’s documentary, Bathily reflected on the fact that both he and Coulibaly were of Malian origin.
“I came to France at the age of 15 to join my father and go to work,” Bathily said. “Between Amedy Coulibaly and me, the only difference is that he was born in France, whereas I was born in Mali. We speak the same languages, except that he benefited from a French education and me from an African education.”
In one part of the film, Bathily visited his relatives in Mali.
“The fact that we were able to go with him to his village in Africa was very important, because we understood how much he had been influenced by his education,” Pierre-Olivier François, one of the producers of the documentary, told broadcaster Europe 1. “He has a family and parents who gave him strong values. He says that his religion helped him make the right choices when it was necessary.”
Naturalized as a French citizen eleven days after his act of heroism, Bathily presently works in the Paris City Hall’s Sports Department.