Ahmed Merabet is being remembered as a hero of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, a Muslim police officer executed on the streets of Paris while defending laws that allowed satirists to mock his religion.
Merabet was shot by terrorists outside the Paris headquarters of the satirical magazine. Video captured Merabet’s final moments as he lay wounded on the street and one of the masked gunman walked up calmly and executed him as he begged for his life.
After the attack, as many across the world remembered the cartoonists killed in the attack, others focused on Merabet and his sacrifice. While the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie became the most popular in Twitter’s history, others adopted one known as #JeSuisAhmed to remember the Muslim officer.
I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed
— Dyab Abou Jahjah (@Aboujahjah) January 8, 2015
Fellow officers remembered Ahmed Merabet as a hero who raced to the scene and tried to stop the heavily armed terrorists.
“He was on foot, and came nose to nose with the terrorists. He pulled out his weapon. It was his job, it was his duty,” said Rocco Contento, a union representative for Paris’s 11th arrondissement.
Just moments before Merabet’s execution, the brothers believed responsible for the attack had shot and killed another officer, 48-year-old Franck Brinsolaro. But it was Merabet’s slaying, caught on graphic video that circulated within hours of the terrorist attack, that resonated with many.
Nicolas Comte, the deputy secretary general of Merabet’s union, told the UK’s Guardian that officers had been “deeply affected by the video” and the assassination of the policeman “who was slaughtered like a dog.”
Others who knew Merabet had a difficult time seeing the video.
Aziz Mezine, an employee at the Bazar Egyptien that Merabet often visited, said he knew from the final gesture that it was his friend on the gruesome video.
“I didn’t want to see the video, but then I watched it. It is even worse. It is a barbaric act, killing someone like that. They didn’t think of him as a person,” he said.
“He was straightforward, modest, super kind,” he said. “He was adorable… Everyone liked him. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.”
Ahmed Merabet was a police officer for eight years, and had just qualified to become a detective.