France Remembers Victims of Terrorist Attacks

France Remembers Victims of Terrorist AttacksFrance Remembers Victims of Terrorist Attacks

As France commemorates its deadliest terror attack in recent history on Sunday, many remain traumatized. And there is widespread fear that more could come.

Emmanuel Domenach thought he was on the road to recovery. But on the eve of the Paris attacks anniversary, painful memories are flooding back.

“I feel the distress, the fatigue,” says Domenach, a survivor of last November’s rampage at the Bataclan concert hall that killed 90 people. “Psychologically, I’m reliving many things and it’s not easy to deal with,” Deutsche Welle reported.

French President Francois Hollande on Sunday marked the first anniversary of “Islamic State”-claimed attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds more injured. He unveiled a plaque commemorating a man killed by suicide bombers outside the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris.

When France commemorates its deadliest terror attack in recent history, old wounds will reopen, even as more tangible traces remain of the string of shootings and bombings that killed 130 people and wounded more than 400.

Nearly two dozen victims are still hospitalized; hundreds are receiving psychological counseling. French tourism has plummeted and tens of thousands of soldiers, police and gendarmes are still deployed across the country.

Rights groups warn of eroding civil liberties under the ongoing state of emergency and of an increasingly stigmatized Muslim community. Equally troubling is the sense that last year’s attacks by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group were not a bookend to a bitter past, but opened a more fearful page in the nation’s history. There have been several others since, including the July truck rampage in Nice that killed 86 people. With authorities saying they are foiling terror plots daily, many here expect more to come.

“It’s a national trauma because we’ve had a number of terrorist attacks in different situations,” says Dominique Szepielak, a psychologist with the French Association of Terrorism Victims, who has treated a number of November 13 survivors. “When you get prepared for one sort of terrorism, it can then take another form. It’s very, very complicated.”

On the surface, the city has returned to normal. On Saturday night, the Bataclan reopened after a makeover and with a Sting concert that sold out in a matter of minutes.

Other cafes targeted by the militants are also back in business, blasted windows replaced and fresh coats of paint covering bullet-pocked walls.

“The past is always with us, but we all need to get on with life,” says Audrey Bily, manager of Cafe Bonne Biere, where gunmen shot dead five people.

The first establishment to reopen last December, the cafe is again packed with diners, its refurbished interior cheerful and welcoming on a chilly evening. None of the staff were killed, but many are still traumatized.

A new report by the International Federation for Human Rights slams France’s state of emergency for rolling back civil liberties and cites police searches and other measures that unfairly single out the country’s Muslim community.

FIDH lawyer, Clemence Bectarte, points to other measures adopted into law a few months ago that strengthen the hand of police and prosecutors and weaken that of the courts.

“It’s an alarming landscape,” Bectarte says. “These measures were inconceivable a few years ago.”

Many hope to set aside these divisions on Sunday, as commemorations for the November 13 victims take place around the capital. 

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