Copenhagen attacks: Amateur video shows café shooting aftermath

To be honest, I had imagined something like the Copenhagen attack could happen. I had experience of this before, and in some way I was prepared for the attack which took place at the Krudttonden café while I was speaking.

The shots began while I was on stage with Swedish artist Lars Vilks, giving a speech, somewhat appropriately, on the illusion of freedom of speech. In fact I had just finished saying that "people will always say 'we are in favour of freedom of speech but...'" when I heard the shots. I immediately dived to the floor. But those in the audience didn't know what had happened at first. Then everyone just started to run, they were falling over each other.

I personally heard around 50 shots, but later a policeman told me there were 200 in total. It all happened behind the main door, so we couldn't see it. But the journalist who was killed had been in the audience; just before the attack began he had gone outside to make a phone call. That was why he was killed.

One of the organisers opened the back door of the room, and people started to run out into the street. We were evacuated by police, and taken to a station where we spent 10 hours.

The police interrogated us, and we met psychologists. They gave us blankets, and phones to call who we need to call. We were told not to speak to each other about the attack until we'd given our statements to the authorities.

At this point I'd like to say how thankful I am to the police for the way they handled the situation. I'm not a big fan of police as everyone knows, but they saved the lives of those people. The reason I'm still talking to you is because of the security measures taken before the event. The fact that the auditorium had no doors or windows, and the gunman couldn't enter, saved us all.

Eventually the police let us go around midnight, but I later went back to the place where everything happened. It was all sealed off, but I was allowed back in to collect my passport and other essential items. It was horrible. I could see the chairs broken in the stampede for the exits, and the door from which we had fled.

Still shaken

Two days on from the attack, I'm still shaken; I don't think you can be alright after hearing the sound of Kalashnikovs behind the door. And naturally I've thought about whether my presence at the event precipitated the attack, given that I was close to the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and Femen publicly rejects the views espoused by these Islamist barbarians.

Controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks has published drawings depicting the Prophet Mohammad as a dog which sparked threats from Islamist militant groups.
Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who has depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, may also have been a targetReuters

When I was invited to the event, the organisers said they thought something might happen, because of my presence, but also because of the size of the event, and because of the topic we were discussing. Right now nobody can say who was the 'attraction' for the terrorists. The police certainly don't know themselves. Vilks has told me he feels like he was a target as well.

Ultimately it's not a question of who, but of why – why everyone there was a target. And the reason was that those people in the auditorium were standing up for free speech, for free expression, and had the courage to oppose the repressive tactics adopted by the terrorists.

Yet, despite this courage, I am still having to adjust to the idea of being a target. Of people wanting to hurt me. I have posted online an e-mail I received, saying "people like you deserve their heads cut off". I was receiving them before Charlie Hebdo. In fact I have been receiving them for three years, since Femen started its campaign in Tunisia.

I'm also receiving threats from the extreme right, from Russia, Ukraine and France, but we now have to accept new conditions for freedom of speech, and we have even accepted the possibility that we might be killed.

I won't pretend to be a hero

I don't want to accept the idea of being killed; I won't pretend to be a big hero. Of course the fear is there, but what is important is we must not let fear influence our activity and our struggle.

We are in the middle of an ideological fight. It's either them or us, and I dream that it will be us, the liberals, the ones who don't rely on guns, the ones who show strength by drawing cartoons, writing on our breasts – those are our weapons. I really wish that all liberals would have the same level of bravery.

Of course you try not to walk in the streets, of course you have a different reaction to every stranger passing through, of course you're scared to stay at home, because our location is publicly known. But I have also started giving all e-mails and messages to police. That's the first time I've done that; it took the loss of 12 friends in Paris to convince me that was necessary.

I live in Femen HQ where the main activists, the organisers of the team, all live. The police are taking care of the security; sometimes they pass in the car during the day but after what happened in Copenhagen it makes sense to ask for more serious, 24-hour protection from them. Will I scale back my activity? Possibly. Will Femen stop? Never.

At this harrowing time I can turn to a terrible experience I had in Belarus four years ago, when I was one of a number of Femen activists taken by the KGB and tortured in the forest. They were cutting our hair, putting oil on us and coming close to us with fire, coming close with a knife.

When that sort of thing happens you really start to understand how powerful your words and actions can be. You understand how important it is to continue.

You know the attacks will continue, and you have to find a way to be stronger than them. Of course it is hard to understand - how can peaceful protests and bare breasts mean people can kill me?

But what I don't want is to become an easy target for these people. We have to stay true to what we believe. Our voices must be louder than their Kalashnikovs.