French media said that some 700,000 people attended the Paris march. AFP photo.
PARIS, France – Kurdish officials stood with European and other world leaders in Paris on Sunday, where some 700,000 people gathered to honor the victims of terrorist attacks that killed 17 people and plunged France into a state of shock.
“The terrorist attacks in France are proving once more that terrorists are aiming at the free world, freedom of expression, pluralism and the democratic values,” said Khaman Zirar Asaad, the Kurdistan Regional Government representative in France, who attended the march with the head of the KRG’s foreign relations department, Falah Mustafa.
“It is for the defence of these same values that the Kurdish forces on the ground are battling the jihadists and their obscurantist ideas,” she told Rudaw. “The fight of the Kurds is obviously the one of the free world,” she added, noting that Kurds from around France were taking part in the “unity rally.”
The Paris march gathered leaders from around the world, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also were present.
France has been on high alert since the first attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, and some 2,300 police officers, paramilitary forces and special units were on hand to protect the foreign dignitaries.
French President Francois Hollande said in a statement before the demonstration: "Paris is today the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up and show its best side." Overnight, an illuminated sign on the Arc de Triomphe read: "Paris est Charlie" ("Paris is Charlie").
The website of the KRG in France had also picked up the motto, a phrase that has been repeatedly used in solidarity against the killing of 12 people at the offices of the magazine, which had published cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
The magazine killings, perpetrated by brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were French citizens of Algerian origin, were followed by a hostage taking attack against a Jewish kosher market on Friday which left four people dead.
Friday’s assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, is believed to have killed a policewoman the day before. All the assailants died in gunbattles with security forces.
A video of Coulibaly has surfaced on the Internet, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), which since last summer has taken control of swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey acknowledged Sunday that Hayat Boumeddiene, wanted in connection with the Paris terror attacks and the partner of Coulibaly, travelled to Syria through Turkey.
French media and police have announced that Boumeddiene, 26, had left France on January 2 and entered Syria from Turkey six days later, a fact that Turkey acknowledged on Sunday.
Shortly after the attack on the magazine, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani said that the Kurdish people stood with France on “this sad day.”