User:KatieBALMER/Sophie Pétronin

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KatieBALMER/Sophie Pétronin
BornSophie Pétronin
7 July 1945
Bordeaux, France
NationalityFrench, Swiss
OrganizationAssociation D'Aide à Gao
ChildrenSébastian Chadaud-Pétronin

Sophie Pétronin [born 7 July 1945[1]] is a humanitarian worker of both French and Swiss nationality. She is the founder of the ONG ‘Association D’Aide à Gao’, working to help the most deprived and disadvantaged children in the north of Mali[2].

On the 24 December 2016, Pétronin was kidnapped in Gao by a jihadist group associated with Al-Qaida. After nearly 4 years in captivity, she was released on 8 October 2020 as the last French hostage in the world.


Sophie Pétronin is originally from Bordeaux, France.[3] After having trained as a laboratory assistant, she continued a medical training to specialise in malnutrition and tropical medicine[4].

Having initially discovered Gao in 1996, it became her permanent residence in 2001[5]. In 2004, she launched her NGO 'Association D'Aide à Goa' with ambitions of helping the local children suffering from malnutrition[6].

Attempted kidnapping in 2012[edit]

In 2012, members from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) used the opportunity of the rebellion against the President Amadou Toumani Touré to strategically attack the towns in Mali, Gao included in which Sophie Pétronin was residing. Having initially taking refuge at the Algerian Embassy, she was soon forced to escape through a back door after the Algerian diplomats were captured by Tuareg rebels. Pétronin managed to escape the country through the desert with the help of a local family who provided her with a disguise[7]. She returned safely to France to raise awareness of events to the French press.

The experience did not however discourage her from continuing her work in Gao. Pétronin herself showed awareness of the risks in her AAG report: ‘The risk of attack and kidnapping of Westerners is still very high throughout Mali. We must take extra precautions’. Despite her understanding of the potential danger, she returned to Mali the following year to pursue her humanitarian mission.

Kidnapping in 2016[edit]

On 24 December 2016, Sophie Pétronin was kidnapped in Gao, Mali[8]. An investigation was opened by the prosecutor’s office in Paris and assigned to the General Directorate of Internal Security[9].

In July 2017, the first news of her whereabouts since the date of her kidnapping was received in the form of a video diffused through a jihadist association. Pétronin appears in the video alongside 5 other hostages that were kidnapped between 2011 and 2017 from Mali and Burkina Faso. Her detention is claimed by Nusrat al-Islam (officially: Jama’at Nasr al-Islam Wal Muslimin), an association linked to Al-Qaida[10]. The other detainees are diverse in nationality: Arthur Kenneth Elliott (Australia), Stephen McGown (South Africa, Iulian Ghergut (Romania), the missionary Béatric Stockly (Switzerland) and the religious Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoti (Colombia)[11].

After the diffusion of a second video in March 2018, in which she does not speak[12], Sophie Pétronin appears again in a new recording released in July 2018. In this video, she directly addresses her son, the French government and the French president, Emmanuel Macron[13].

In November 2018, a new video addressed to her family is released. Pétronin does not appear directly in the video but is visible in a photo. Immediately afterwards, her son became increasingly worried about her state of health[14][15].

In November 2018, Sébastian Chadaud-Pétronin, the son of Sophie Pétronin, traveled to Mali in attempt to hasten the release of his mother. He calls upon Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, to ‘clarify his position’. He states that he will stay in Mali until further progress of his mother’s release has been made[16].

On 14 November 2018, Emmanuel Macron responds to M. Chadaud-Pétronin, stating that the State will continue to act in order to bring back their citizen but such action demands 'professionalism and discretion'[17]. The son of Pétronin is supported in his fight par Ingrid Betancourt, a former hostage kidnapped in Colombia between 2002 and 2008. In Paris, 14 December 2018, she appears next to his side at press conference to highlight the role the ex-President of the Republic Nicolas Sarkozy played whilst she was kept captive by the FARC : ‘I discovered later that he called [Columbia] every day to add pressure'. Sébastian Chadaud-Pétronin later stated that M. Macron was demonstrating ‘the same contempt that he showed for the Gilet Jaunes’. He expressed an equal disappointment that the Minister of Foreign Affaires did not follow up on the kidnappers’ proposal to release his mother in November 2018[18]. During the same press briefing, he revealed that, according to recent information that he had received his mother was apparently doing ‘a little better’ but his added that the reliability of this information was weak[19].

On 26 December 2018, Sébastian Chadaud-Pétronin announced on RTL, a French radio station, that the kidnappers ‘do not want to keep her’ due to her deteriorating state of health and that Emmanuel Macron was henceforth ‘the only one with the power over the life or death of my mother’[20]. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs again asked for more ‘professionalism and discretion’ to carry out the negotiations. Jean Pierre Pétronin, the husband of the hostage, admitted that his son ‘was not competent’ to lead the negotiations alone, claiming ‘to go further, we may have to rely on the government but it must be done very quickly’[21].

On the 14 May 2019, during the ceremony of national tribute in Paris for two soldiers killed during a rescue mission of hostages in Burkina Faso, the President of the Republic stated: ‘I think of Sophie Pétronin in the hands of her captors. We do not forget’ and ensured that ‘never will this Nation forget its children’[22]. Sébastian Chadaud-Pétronin ‘sincerely thanked’ the President for his remarks whilst calling upon the liberation of his mother[23].


After being held captive for nearly 4 years, Sophie Pétronin was finally liberated on the 8 October 2020. Her release coincided with that of several other captives, including the ex-Malian opposition leader Soumaïlia Cissé and two Italian hostages[24][25]. The conditions of their release are speculated to include the release of 200 prisoners, most of which were convicted or suspected jihadists[26][27].

On the day of her release, Sophie Pétronin stated her conversion to Islam and change of name to 'Miriam' that took place during captivity. She also expressed her desire to return to Gao to continue her humanitarian work[28].


  1. ^ "Sophie Pétronin, de longues années au service des enfants du Mali". (in French). 2020-10-08. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  2. ^ "AAG Association D'Aide A Gao". Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  3. ^ "Mali: qui est Sophie Pétronin l'humanitaire française enlevée à Gao?". (in French). 2016-12-26. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  4. ^ "Qui est Sophie Pétronin, l'otage française au Mali ?". Le (in French). 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  5. ^ "Qui est Sophie Pétronin, l'humanitaire française enlevée au Mali ?". LCI (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  6. ^ "Mali: qui est Sophie Pétronin l'humanitaire française enlevée à Gao?". (in French). 2016-12-26. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  7. ^ "Sophie Pétronin: Hopes rise for release of French hostage in Mali". BBC News. 2020-10-06. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  8. ^ "Mali hostages: Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé freed in prisoner swap". BBC News. 2020-10-09. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  9. ^ "Une humanitaire franco-suisse enlevée au Mali". Le (in French). 2016-12-25. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  10. ^ "Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin", Wikipedia, 2020-10-02, retrieved 2020-10-19
  11. ^ "Al-Qaïda au Mali publie une vidéo de six otages, dont la Française Sophie Pétronin". (in French). 2017-07-02. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  12. ^ "Sophie Pétronin", Wikipédia (in French), 2020-10-17, retrieved 2020-10-19
  13. ^ "L'otage française Sophie Pétronin dans une vidéo". (in French). 2018-06-14. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  14. ^ "VIDEO. Le fils de Sophie Pétronin dit craindre pour la vie de sa mère". (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  15. ^ "Sophie Pétronin: Hopes rise for release of French hostage in Mali". BBC News. 2020-10-06. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  16. ^ "Le fils de Sophie Pétronin, otage au Mali : "Ma mère est en train de mourir, et nous l'abandonnons"". (in French). 2018-11-25. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  17. ^ Vazquez, Coline (2018-12-14). "Emmanuel Macron répond au cri d'alarme du fils de Sophie Pétronin, otage au Mali". Le (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  18. ^ "Le fils de l'otage française Sophie Pétronin devant la presse". RFI (in French). 2018-12-15. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  19. ^ "Mali : le fils de l'otage Sophie Pétronin en appelle à Emmanuel Macron". Le (in French). 2018-12-14. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  20. ^ ""Macron a un pouvoir de vie ou de mort", lance le fils de Sophie Pétronin". (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  21. ^ "Le fils de Sophie Pétronin implore Macron "qui a un pouvoir de vie ou de mort sur ma mère"". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  22. ^ ""On a le sentiment qu'il y a une volonté de Paris de ne pas laisser cette affaire dans l'état où elle est", explique le fils de Sophie Pétronin". Franceinfo (in French). 2019-05-14. Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  23. ^ France, rédaction internationale de Radio; le 01/04/2020 | 06:33, édité par Olivier ChauveFranck Mathevon-Radio France Mis à jour le 01/04/2020 | 06:33 – publié (2020-04-01). "Sophie Pétronin est toujours en vie, révèle le fils de l'otage française enlevée au Mali". Franceinfo (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  24. ^ "Mali : l'otage française Sophie Pétronin libérée après près de quatre ans de captivité". (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  25. ^ "Libération de Sophie Pétronin: les retrouvailles émouvantes avec son fils à son arrivée à Bamako". BFMTV (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  26. ^ "Ce que l'on sait de la libération de Sophie Pétronin". (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  27. ^ AFP, Le Figaro avec (2020-10-05). "Mali: des djihadistes relâchés contre la libération de deux otages, dont peut-être Sophie Pétronin". Le (in French). Retrieved 2020-10-19.
  28. ^ "Sophie Pétronin", Wikipédia (in French), 2020-10-17, retrieved 2020-10-19

[[Category:Mali War]] [[Category:Hostages]] [[Category:Humanitarians]] [[Category:WikiProject Europe articles]] [[Category:WikiProject France articles]] [[Category:WikiProject Mali articles]] [[Category:WikiProject Africa articles]]