Pinar Selek, Honorary Citizen of the City of Lyon and... firefly

Pinar Selek, Honorary Citizen of the City of Lyon and... firefly

Wed, 10/01/2024


Speech by Pinar Selek at the ceremony.

Congratulations to Pinar Selek, made an honorary citizen of the City of Lyon as a human rights activist on December 9, 2023. We are proud to count her among our Honoris Causa Doctors since 2013 and support her struggles. On this day after the Fête des lumières, Pinar was kind enough to talk about the "fireflies" of ENS de Lyon who had welcomed her during her study stay at the School. Pinar, you too are a firefly, one of those fireflies that never stop lighting up the world's freedom.

On Thursday January 18, 2024, Pinar Selek will be the guest at the Villa Gillet, where she will open the international season.
The conversation will be moderated by Christine Détrez, sociologist at the Max Weber Center and Vice-President for Research at ENS de Lyon.

Here is the speech she gave at the ceremony.

Dear Mayor of Lyon, dear Grégory Doucet,
My dear friends,

It is with great emotion that I am here with you today. Despite the sadness of our world and the barbarism rendered trivial, despite the spread of fascism that is pushing our planet towards collective suicide and the horror that surrounds us, I want to weep with joy. Joy is the expression of life: the message of "We are here". My Kurdish friends in prison taught me to dance and sing in the face of violence. I saw that this joy disturbed the powers that be, for all powers need sadness to rule over others, and joy is the sign of life that resists. Today, I'm full of emotion and joy, ready to fight against barbarity in its many forms.

In 2014, when I moved from Strasbourg to Lyon, just before getting on the train, I stumbled across an old Victor Hugo book entitled ”Exile”. It was waiting for me next to the garbage cans at the station. I immediately picked it up and started reading as the train made its way to Lyon. It was incredible: the book began with a letter written by the author to the people of Lyon. Really! He thanked them and spoke about the resistant and libertarian history of this city. It was like being in a dream. 

I kept Victor Hugo’s words in my thoughts during my year-long stay in Lyon as a guest researcher at ENS de Lyon, which awarded me an Honoris Causa doctorate. Thanks to their support, I was able to continue thinking, investigating, problem solving, analyzing and writing, as freely as possible. I worked on the establishment and transformation of the Armenian diaspora. In addition to my research, I discovered traces of history in the streets of Lyon, such as the Canuts and the Ovalistes, tragic but inspiring which surely inspired the resistance fighters during the Occupation. And starting at the corner of rue Victor Hugo and Sala, continuing onto rue Bouteille, then all over the city, I touched the marks on the walls that told me about the experience of the resistance fighters who passed through the secret passages known as the traboules, printing newspapers and clandestine leaflets, replacing the journal Nouvellistes collaborateur with the Nouvellistes résistantes by changing its content, printing false tracts, thousands of copies, responding point by point to Vichy propaganda.

As capital of the French Resistance, Lyon was the birthplace of the French National Resistance Council and played a very special role in the organization of this battle. In this way, I came to embrace the heritage of the heroic handiwork of men and women who transgressed the very strict established order and showed that it is possible to do something about tyranny. I have reconstructed these historical changes that inspire present-day situations, and quickly became involved in social, feminist, ecologist movements and anti-authoritarian and LGBTIQ+ movements, as well as with the Armenian communities. In a short space of time, I met people who transformed me, forged deep, solid bonds and helped me grow my roots. One example of this is the Silence newspaper, of which I'm still a member. After moving to Nice in 2015, I became an honorary citizen of the 1st district of Lyon, whose Mayor Nathalie Perrin-Gilbert is now part of your great team. She has supported me since my arrival in Lyon and is still doing so today. So really, I didn't ever leave Lyon. My Exile was over however: I'm now a Nomad, coming and going between places. And this nomad has just learned that you wish to promote her to the rank of Honorary Citizen of the City of Lyon. What an honor! I feel like a sparkle of fireflies.

It's a difficult time. But let's not forget that crises bring people together. Events that are overcome collectively bring citizens closer together, such as Manouchian, who will soon be in the Pantheon. Our effectiveness comes from our inner strength, from sincerity and from the strength of consistency. You know the feminist slogan: "We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn't burn". And today, I'm the granddaughter of the Canuts that the Tièristes couldn't kill... I'm the granddaughter of Jean Moulin, Georges Coton, Marc Bloch, Simone Weil, the Mont Luc prisoners, the victims of the Gênas shootings, the Jews of Ste-Catherine street, the Resistance fighters whom the Pétainists were unable to kill...

As your new citizen, I'm going to keep the light burning all the way.
I'll work like an ant to build a world in which we'll have the honor of living in. For now, I have the honor of being part of this development along with fireflies like you.

Pinar Selek, Lyon December 9, 2023