Untiring public campaign for hostages’ release
PARIS, June 12 (AFP) - From hot-air balloons and sailboats, at concerts and rallies, and with giant-size posters and special tee-shirts, the French public kept the images of Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanun in the world's gaze during their more than five-month captivity in Iraq.
The untiring campaign to free French journalist Aubenas and her Iraqi guide Hanun won praise Sunday from family, friends and politicians alike as France celebrated their release more than five months after being taken hostage in Baghdad.
French President Jacques Chirac paid tribute “to the extraordinary mobilisation in France and overseas.”
And Aubenas’s mother, Jacqueline, hailed “all those who roused solidarity in France and in the world.”
The public rallied around Aubenas and her Iraqi colleague out of humanitarian concern and respect for the 44-year-old correspondent for the French daily Liberation, who people describe as “an incredible person,” said her friend and fellow journalist Dominique Simonnet.
The effort to win the release of Aubenas and Hanun, who were abducted by an unknown group in Baghdad on January 5, began in the press.
The editors of French newspapers put aside their rivalry and met several times during the hostage crisis at the headquarters of Liberation in Paris.
Actors, sports stars and other celebrities also helped to draw media attention to the hostages. Several TV stations kept a daily count of the number of days the two were held captive.
A support group quickly emerged to work for the hostages’ freedom, creating a website on January 24 that attracted from 6,000 to 10,000 visitors daily.
Reaching out to the wider public, concerts were organized in Paris and other French cities so “the music of freedom could be heard as far as Baghdad,” the group proclaimed.
And millions in the French capital walked past the billboard-size portraits of Aubenas and Hanun in the Place de la Republique, the square in central Paris dominated by a statue honouring the freedom of the French republic.
Their faces were on display not only in Paris, but in world capitals from Nouakchott in Africa to Taipei in Asia.
At the 100-day mark of their captivity, organizers released 100 balloons in 100 cities. Other organizations took up the cause. On May 1, French labor unions remembered the hostages at their rallies on the workers’ holiday.
At football matches, the players sported tee-shirts with images of Aubenas and Hanun, and their portraits were on display at Monaco’s Grand Prix auto race.
Even the winners of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, dedicated their prize to the two now at last free.
Subject: French News