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Many in France are, of course, thankful to those who were willing to risk their own lives to protect those of others around them from the Islamic State group-inspired attack, but the author of this petition, 20-year-old Amine Elbahi, has a far more personal motivation. Nearly two years ago, his sister ran off to join the Islamic State (IS) group.
While the rest of the nation reeled in horror upon hearing about the truck that mowed down crowds of revelers, Elbahi had only one question in his mind. “Who was in [the truck]? I was afraid it was my sister,” he told television channel France 3 Nord Pas-de-Calais.
As we all know now, it wasn’t, but Elbahi said even if it had been, he believes she should be held accountable for her actions. And equally, he said, the three men who risked their lives to stop the rampage, Frank, Gwenael and Alexandre, should be rewarded for their bravery.
To help make that happen, Elbahi launched a petition on change.org asking French President François Holland to award the three men with the Legion of Honor. So far, the petition has received more than 7,600 signatures. Elba is hoping to get 10,000.
“They are three heroes, at the same time heroes and victims. I want them to feel our support,” Elbahi told AFP.
Elbahi’s bid is supported by National Assembly member Eric Ciotti, who represents the Alpes-Maritimes department and who also wrote to the president asking that the men be given France’s highest award, AFP reported.
Elbahi, who is about to start his second year of law school at the University of Lille, believes that in this time of crisis, it’s essential that the country be united.
“What touched me this time was that the national unity only lasted one night. The left and the right are blaming each other,” Elbahi told AFP. “It’s exactly what Daesh [another name for the IS group] is looking for. When I hear my sister talk, they really want to divide us, and we have fallen into the trap.”
The petition isn’t Elbahi’s first foray into the public arena. He has long been politically active in his community and currently serves on the citizens committee in his town of Roubaix. He is an active member of the centre-right Young Republicans (Les Jeunes Républicains).
Since the departure of his sister, who last he heard had married an Islamic State group fighter and had a baby, Elbahi has been working to raise awareness about the process of radicalism in France.
He has been in touch with both Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, urging them to listen to the families of those who have been radicalized and joined the IS group.