By Mick Krever, CNN
For France, “ISIS” is the wrong name for the Sunni militants who control large portions of Iraq and Syria.
“In French they want to be called État Islamique, Islamic State, but it’s a double mistake,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Tuesday. “A, they are not a state; they would like to be a state but they are not. And they are not representative of Muslims.”
“We call them Daesh, by the Arab word.”
“Daesh” is a term reportedly despised by the militants, because it sounds like another Arabic word that means “to trample on” or “crush.”
“You have to name things correctly,” Fabius said. “These guys are murderers; they are throat cutters.”
“I have seen many people that have been chased by them, and all of them say when they come some place they say either you join us, or we kill you, we rape you, we crucify you.”
“And it’s not only Iraq and Syria and the region, it’s all of us, all of us – the U.S., France, Europe, and we have to defend ourselves.”
Amanpour spoke with Fabius just hours before America and its Arab allies began a bombing campaign against ISIS and other militants in Syria. France did not participate in the attacks, but has bombed targets in Iraq.
“We cannot do everything,” he said. “And since the beginning we have said that we have to support the moderate opposition because we have to fight against Daesh and against Bashar Assad as well. But our own task is to support the opposition.”
“We cannot say to this country you have only the choice between either dictatorship or terrorists. And therefore we shall [work] with other partners in order to foster this opposition, which has been strong, which has become weak, but which can become again strong.”
France, like many Western countries, is struggling with how to address the flow of many of its citizens to fight alongside the extremists in Iraq and Syria. By the French government’s own estimates, some thousand people have done so.
The country has instituted some measures in an effort to stem the tide.
“We decided that the government, the administration, would be able to suspend not only passport but also ID for people whose intention is to go to Syria.”
It is also critical, Fabius said, for families that are concerned about their loved ones’ intentions to be able to alert the government.
“We have to be very, very strict,” he said.
“Especially for the young girls, thirteen and fourteen years old … maybe some of them think that it will be a new life. In fact they are prostitutes, they are sexual slaves. And for the young people, they are utilized and many of them are killed.”
“And therefore it’s, you know, a very difficult work but a necessary work – not only for France, not only for Belgium, Italy, Germany, and so on – but for all of us.”
The international community’s action against ISIS, of course, was largely sparked by the brutal and very public executions of Western journalists and aid workers.
France, however, has come under criticism for allegedly paying ransom money to terrorist groups to release hostages – tens of millions of dollars in total, according to an investigation by The New York Times.
Amanpour put those allegations to Fabius.
“France doesn’t pay ransoms.”
Amanpour pressed him on the point several times, asking whether perhaps other people pay on behalf of the government, but he stuck with the contention.