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Entertainment Sophie Pétronin: "I accepted what was happening to me"

11:20  09 october  2020
11:20  09 october  2020 Source:   rfi.fr

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Now that I 'm having all these problems with my breathing and suffering from a sense of loss and regret over my lifestyle during that relatively short time, I 'm seriously questioning who that person was who created this situation.

L'ex-otage française Sophie Pétronin au palais présidentiel de Bamako après sa libération le 8 octobre 2020. © Malian Presidency / AP The former French hostage Sophie Pétronin at the presidential palace in Bamako after her release on October 8, 2020.

La French Sophie Pétronin was released Thursday, October 8 after four years in the hands of the jihadists of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), in northern Mali. The 75-year-old humanitarian aid worker, who appeared tired on arrival at Bamako airport, gave an interview to RFI.

How is your health?

Sophie Pétronin: My health is going very well. I am in good shape. No problem… We have just done a quick check-up with the doctor who accompanied me and everything is fine, everything is in order. No problem.

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Was four years long?

A little, but I turned detention, so to speak, into a spiritual retreat. That way, it goes better, I was in accepting what was happening to me, I did not resist. And then there I was.

You were in an open-air prison. How was a day for you?

With sunrise in the east, sunset in the west and perpendicular to noon, it was going well. The air was healthy, good. The prison was not ... I would say it was ... How do you say that? We can say, no it was going well. It went. In the open, why in the open?

Because it's vast ... RFI was broadcasting messages. Did you hear them, the Friday messages?

Yes. Of course. Every Friday I got the messages. One of your staff said, "If she hears this message, I hope he will comfort her." So tell him yes, he comforted me. RFI, I was listening to RFI ... Serge Daniel, I heard a lot about it (laughs).

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Your son fought for you ...

My son is a fighter. But in the family, we are all fighters. And that was perhaps the hardest part for me to deal with, knowing that I had put him in a problem that was going to really shake him up and ask him to overdrive his energy. But I was sure and certain deep down that he would succeed. He told me in a video that was transmitted to me, "Hold on. Hang on ”. I'm only told, if he tells me like that, I have to do it. I held on, I held on. And I prayed a lot because I had a lot of time. Here. Otherwise, I went for a walk, I ate well, I drank well. Fresh water, I haven't had anything else to drink. So there.

A word about your jailers ...

About my jailers?

Yes, on your captors ...

Call them whatever you want. I would say that they are armed opposition groups to the regime. There was that of 1990. In 1996, they signed peace agreements. If we really want peace in Mali, everyone must respect their commitment.

Aren't they jihadists, your kidnappers?

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Why do you call them jihadists, because they do jihad? You know what that means in French: "jihad" is "war".

They claimed, they demanded the release of jihadists in prisoners before freeing you ...

Of their soldiers?

Yes.

But, what did the transitional government do? He called for the release of their soldiers. Some have been released, I couldn't say how many. But immediately they were released. So if you have a group of soldiers, and some get caught, you will do everything to get them released whether you are the French army, the Congolese army or the Malian army or the American army, you will do everything to get them released. Which makes sense. "Jihad" is "war" in French and it is a war between groups of armed opposition to the regime, they will find the way to peace. I wish them in any case very much.

In Gao, you are very well known. At the time, I met you there already about ten years ago. When you moved, it was "Tanti, tanti", "Mum, Mum" ... Do you have a word for the people of Gao today?

The people of Gao, I love them and they love me. We share daily life together. Why are people in Gao very attached to me? Maybe it's because I adapted to them, ate like them, lived like them. They accepted me and I am part of the Gaoise family, because we say Gaois, Gaoises. I am one of them. I am happy that my son could confirm to me that my anti-malnutrition programs continue because my assistant was able to take over. That is what reassures me, that the reception center for children who cannot remain in the family fabric is fine, it has been verified. And if my assistant continues, that means that Echo [the European humanitarian aid operation, Editor's note] paid the money and that there are around 26,000 children who have been taken care of for 2017.

You do you want to go back there?

Of course I will go back there. Thank you to RFI for the support, thank you very much.

►Also read: Release of Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé: what has happened in recent days ?

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