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Marco Werman: One longtime Charlie Hebdo reader is the father of our friend and colleague, Marine Olivesi. Marine reports for The World from the Middle East and North Africa but she happens to be in Boston today, so she stopped by our studio.
Marine Olivesi: Well, my dad has been buying and reading the magazine for years, for as far as I can remember. So, it was always somewhere in the house. I never bought it myself. But yeah, sometimes I flip through the pages. What’s interesting is when I started specifically going to the Middle East to report there, some of the cartoons kind of began being a little more difficult for me to accept, some of the very in-your-face style that they had. I remember having very heated arguments with my dad a few times over the values of having such provocative cartoons out. I guess my reflection about that shaped my work on a daily basis in the Middle East and in North Africa, where usually I’m just trying to be as low profile as possible, and respectful, and not trying to make myself noticed too much, and I’m not trying to hurt or offend anyone for security reasons but also because that’s the best way to get people to trust you and to get stories, to get a chance to tell their stories. But I was quite impressed by the reaction after the attacks by some of these people that I’ve encountered during these three or four years of reporting, especially in Libya
Werman: What were they telling you?
Olivesi: Well, some of them, right after the attacks, were just sending me Facebook messages saying that they were very, very sorry. I was surprised by how fast they reacted to the news and thought of me as having been possibly hurt by those attacks on a magazine from my country. I found that quite interesting because it was the same people who sometimes I had conversations with about French laws, about laÃ¯citÃ©, about the ban on the hijab.
Werman: LaÃ¯citÃ©--that’s really more kind of focused on the secular life of France.
Olivesi: Yeah, exactly. And with some of them, I had conversations about why they were sometimes criticizing France--even Libyans who loved France because of their support of France during the revolution but had misgivings about how France had been setting up all these laws, and they saw some of these laws as anti-Muslim. So, the same people who might not like some of these cartoons yet were coming to me right after the attacks to tell me how sorry they were.
Werman:The issue of radicalization is not something that only the French and US governments are grappling with. I hear the biggest numbers of foreign fighters going to Syria is from Tunisia, where the Arab Spring all started. How are some of those governments in North Africa and the Middle East grappling with this problem of young jihadists?
Olivesi: That’s been a big problem for them. Especially countries like Libya who also has a fair amount of its youth going to Syria. But there is no number because there is just no government at this point that is really able to keep tabs on that and they have so many other problems that it’s really not so much of a concern. It will be the concern of the families or the individuals, but not of the state or authorities. In Tunisia on the other hand, it’s an issue that’s very much on the forefront of public life and the election campaigns that took place in the fall. Before that, you had a government that was mostly made up of moderate Islamists and they were accused of closing their eyes on all of these young Tunisians going to Syria and for being too soft on them. At one point, there were talks of having some kind of amnesty to allow them to come back to Tunisia and help them to instead of going to Syria and being radicalized, bring them back. But for that to happen, they would have to have some guarantees that they wouldn’t be thrown in jail. So, the government at some point was toying with the idea of an amnesty if they could prove that they hadn’t killed anyone in Syria, which, of course, is impossible to establish. But what’s interesting in Tunisia is that now that it’s a country that’s becoming a democracy, the big struggle is how to deal with that radicalization and keep tabs on these people. The human rights groups and the whole Arab Spring ideas in Tunisia have really taken root, so they have to work that line. That is the same line that most European countries have to work to find a solution for.
Werman: The basic underpinning of any democracy open door policy: people should be able to come and go freely as they please, and that obviously is a struggle. My colleague and friend of ours here at The World, Marine Olivesi in Boston for the day. Thank you so much for stopping by and speaking with us.
Olivesi: My pleasure.