Lassana Bathily, 24, saved at least six people during the Jan. 9 attack on the kosher market where he worked in Paris. For his bravery, the Malian immigrant will be granted with French citizenship -- nine years after arriving in the country.
French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve made the announcement on Thursday after a Change.org petition garnered more than 300,000 signatures and the international community widely celebrated Bathily as a "hero."
"Lassana Bathily, a young Malian Muslim man, has lightened a week that otherwise would have been completely darkened," Thiaba Bruni, spokesman for Council of Black People’s Associations of France, said on the petition's landing page. "The story of Lassana is also a great lesson on the benefits of mutual aid and brotherhood, which is the deeper meaning of all true religion."
Gunman Amedy Coulibaly laid siege on Hyper Casher market on Friday in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, killing four and taking others hostage. Bathily, who worked as a shop assistant, helped several customers to safety in a downstairs freezer and eventually snuck out through a back door to offer information about the store's layout to police.
“When [the gunman] entered the store, people came rushing down saying there was an armed madman,” Bathily told FRANCE 24. “I thought the only option was to hide in the freezer, so I switched it off and got everyone inside.”
Cazeneuve applauded Bathily's "act of bravery" and said the young man's citizenship ceremony would take place on Jan. 20.
The Change.org petition, as well as a Facebook page created in Bathily's support, also call for French President François Hollande to award Bathily the Legion of Honor, though no such announcement has been made as of yet. Hollande called him on Sunday, however, to offer his gratitude before joining dozens of world leaders in a unity march that drew thousands to the streets in solidarity, FRANCE 24 reports.
Bathily , who moved to France in 2006 at the age of 16, appeared on BFMTV Saturday night to talk about his experience and offered a powerful reflection that challenged the divisive nature of last week's attacks:
"We are brothers. It's not a question of Jews, of Christians or of Muslims. We're all in the same boat, we have to help each other to get out of this crisis."