ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Roms. Anne-Marie Gouvet « Je ne peux pas cautionner cette politique »
by Marie Barbier
Translated Sunday 19 September 2010, by Gene Zbikowskiand reviewed by
Anne-Marie Gouvet, an anesthesiologist in Pau in southwestern France, has written to Nicolas Sarkozy to refuse her Legion of Honor medal, which she was to receive next January. She hopes this will “influence public opinion.”
Following in the traces of Father Arthur who, on Aug. 22, sent back his Merit medal to the Ministry of the Interior, Anne-Marie Gouvet, an anesthesiologist at the Navarre private general hospital, announced on August 24 her decision to refuse her Legion of Honor medal to protest against the policy conducted by the French government with regard to the Roma.
Gouvet, who is in her sixties, has been committed to humanitarian causes for the past thirty years. She has written to the President of France to refuse his honors.
Why have you decided to refuse the Legion of Honor medal which was to be awarded to you in January?
Anne-Marie-Gouvet: It was my son who initiated the proceedings for me to receive it; he didn’t consult me beforehand. The medal was awarded to me for my humanitarian actions. Over the past thirty years, I have traveled around the world, where there are wars, earthquakes, refugee camps, to Rwanda, Afghanistan, etc.
At first, I thought that it was too great an honor for me, but I felt that my son’s initiative was touching, so I said OK to him.
And then there were the deportations of Afghans (by charter flight, in September 2009 – editor’s note) and this whole policy of marginalizing the undocumented immigrants, the refugees, etc.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I saw a reportage last week on the clearing of a Roma camp. A father was sitting in the mud with a baby in his arms, next to kids in rags. I had a flashback of myself in a refugee camp in Kosovo or in Rwanda, and I said to myself that it was not possible, that in France, which boasts of being the homeland of the rights of man, that things like that should happen.
To the degree that this medal was to be awarded to me for my humanitarian convictions, I could not imagine leaving in a few weeks for Afghanistan, or elsewhere, with the Legion of Honor medal, it’s completely outside of my principles. So I wrote to [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy to tell him that I did not want it, because I didn’t want to give my support to this policy.
Do you think that your decision may have an effect on public opinion?
Anne-Marie-Gouvet: I think that, as concerns the government, this will not change anything at all. But refusing the Legion of Honor medal is a very rare act, very few people do it, instead, people are fighting to get one... I hope that my decision will have some small effect on public opinion.