Following the terror attacks in Paris last month, the Consul Generals of France and the United Kingdom spoke about their countries’ to students in a roundtable discussion at the Dooley Memorial classroom building.
Philippe Létrilliart, the Consul General of the Republic of France in Miami, condemned the atrocities that happened and spoke about how his country dealt with the atrocities that happened in the capital city.
“We had a state of emergency. This is a very special measure. The Prime Minister called a restriction of freedoms to protect our freedom,” Létrilliart said. “We had more than 2,000 houses searched at night and many people brought in for questioning. And because of that, we seized up to 334 weapons.”
Paris was hit by simultaneous coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers on the evening of Nov. 13. The terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was behind the attacks that caused the loss of many lives.
“I walked into the university and saw that it was a nice, free place, students studying, visiting their friends, normal society. That was the case on Friday, November 13, a normal day,” Létrilliart said. “Young people were with friends, went to the concert, a normal life. And on that day, it ended up with 130 people dead with 352 people injured. Some of them are still fighting for their lives in hospitals.”
There were three days of national mourning in France, and French President François Hollande increased the country’s military attacks on ISIL.
“We intensified our activities in Syria, tripling our attacks,” said Létrilliart. “Our President met President Obama and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to secure an international coalition to combat terrorism. Hollande said that we will combat terrorism with no mercy, in and out of France.”
Opération Chammal was the bombing campaign conducted by the French Air Force that dropped 20 bombs on the city of Raqqa, where ISIL is based, notably destroying a command center and a training camp. The French Army also had an average of 1,500 applications to join per day, a large increase from 2014, when the army only saw around 100 to 150 per day, according to the New York Times.
France did something that no European country had ever done before by invoking article 42.7 of the European Union Lisbon Treaty, triggering the other 27 member states to assist France in its defense.
David Prodger, the Consul General of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Miami, told the students that his country refers to ISIL as “Daesh,” a name that the terrorist organization despises.
“As in many European member states, this is very much of a continuum of activity. We in the UK are using ‘Daesh,’ close to a derogatory term,” Prodger said. “They use the name Islamic State yet they have no religious foundation whatsoever.”
The United Kingdom was targeted by ISIL as well. On Saturday, a suspected ISIL man stabbed three people with a knife in the London Tube train station.
The British Security Services will recruit 1,900 additional intelligence and security staff to counter violent extremism following the attacks, as well as continuing their military actions against ISIL in the Middle East.
“We had a parliamentary vote to extend our bombing campaign in Syria to counter Daesh and their violent extremism,” said Prodger. “The vote has passed and we were already active in Iraq. Now it extends over to Syria as well. We are responsible for 60 percent of reconnaissance in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria. We do know that military campaign alone cannot fight terrorism. We have to use diplomatic means too. It’s about stabilizing and reconstructing Syria and reintegrating them as a sovereign country.”
For Paris, this was not the first time it had been under attack. On Jan 7,the city was hit in a series of five terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda, and the lives of 17 victims were claimed. Most of the deaths occurred at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, prompting the social media hashtag “#JeSuisCharlie”, which social media users defiantly used to condemn the acts of terrorism designed to suppress free speech.
“Famous journalists and cartoonists were killed, so we had a very strong reaction to it, that we lost members of our community,” Létrilliart said.
Despite the rising tensions against Muslims, Hollande reaffirmed his commitment to accept over 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.
“Some attitudes are changed of the people towards refugees, but not the government. The vast majority of the five million Muslims who were born and raised in France, it is very difficult for them,” said Létrilliart. “We should not find a scapegoat or pit others against others. We all have the same problems. Very few were radicalized and committed to killing. We cannot have discrimination.”
Prodger agreed, saying that the ideals of ISIL should not be generalized across all Muslims.
“During the attack on the tube station, there was a reaction caught on video by an East London Muslim condemning the attacker, saying: ‘you ain’t no Muslim, bruv,’” Prodger said.
Despite the friendly rivalry and notable history of France and the United Kingdom, the outpouring of support from the latter did not go unnoticed toward its neighbors, evidenced during the friendly international soccer match between the two held at Wembley stadium in London. The host displayed the lyrics of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” on the big screens in front of 90,000 fans as many of them sang proudly in unison.
The University of Miami also showed an outpouring of support and held a candlelight vigil five days after the attacks.
The roundtable discussion was facilitated by professor Joaquín Roy, the director of the University of Miami European Union Center.