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Nous Sommes Charlie: Mustapha Ourrad

Mustapha Ourrad - Hero
Mustapha Ourrad – Hero

By Robert Horne

As a copy editor, Mustapha Ourrad lived his life behind the scenes; cleaning up the work of his colleagues to make sure they put their best work out for readers.

Copy editors know their lot in life is making others look good, and we do it with a great sense of pride. Copy editors don’t get the pats on the back or the awards, but without good copy editors, neither would those whose name appears on the plaque. I know because I once worked as a copy editor at local newspapers in the Southern United States.

Ourrad was shot dead in the Jan. 7 attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly newspaper. As a copy editor, there were no long obituaries or news articles devoted solely to him. In fact, I could find very little on this hero that I relate most directly with.

So, I wanted to let more people know Ourrad, a champion of free thought who put his life on the line to edit the work of others. I know that sometimes the editing process can get intense, but it should never cost anyone his or her life.

Ourrad was a French citizen of Algerian origin. (source) He was orphaned at an early age and had a difficult childhood. He described himself as an atheist Sufi. (source)

He always identified with Algeria’s Kabylia region, Le Monde writes. He arrived in France in 1978 at age 20, and he long worked for Viva magazine. A self-taught man, he nonetheless impressed colleagues with his learning and knowledge of philosophy, particularly Nietzsche. Friends say they were devastated by the loss of a “well-loved man.” (source) He had a wife and two children. (source)

I’m proud to share a kinship with Ourrad, and I offer my condolences to his wife, children, and co-workers. There is nothing good to take from a cowardly act of terrorism, but we can all take some comfort in knowing he died for something he believed in.

Je Suis Mustapha, Je Suis Charlie.

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