News

A Look Behind the Riots that Swept France

Weeks of rioting in France have damaged that country's self image as a land of equality and tolerance. The violence started on October 27th when young people took to the streets after the accidental deaths by electrocution of two ethnic immigrant youths who were apparently hiding from police. The rioting seems to now be abating, but as VOA's Brian Padden reports, solving the problems of racial integration and unemployment will take longer.

On the surface the riots in France seem to be self destructive, even mindless acts of defiance.  The thousands of cars burned belong to the working poor in the immigrant neighborhoods.  The businesses destroyed, such as a car dealership in Aulnay-Sous-Bois just north of Paris, employed the working poor.  And the young people who are rioting, teenagers like Youness and his friends, second- and third-generation immigrants from North and West Africa, seem to be acting out of boredom as much as out of anger. 

Youness expresses his fustrations, "Other people have lots of things but we don't have anything."

But the riots have focused the country's and the world's attention on the plight of the immigrant population here, segregated for the most part in rundown neighborhoods. Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, with the Center for International Studies and Research in Paris, says it is hard for the French to face the fact that the ideal of equality for all does n ot match reality.

"Very often France is blind to discrimination which takes place, and in which these young people are the victims. The fact of having been born in these suburbs poor and alienated, your school, your housing and your chances for a job are determined by where you live, and that is a very strong social determinism and a flagrant inequality."

The heart of the problem is entrenched unemployment, which runs as high as 30 percent in the immigrant community.  Dominique Sopo, president of the minority rights organization SOS Racisme, says it has destroyed the family structure and created an angry, alienated generation. 

"Obviously a father who is unemployed is a father who is broken.  He lacks authority with his children.  And the children feel that their parents have been humiliated."

Outside the immigrant neighborhoods the public disapproves of the violence and is concerned for its safety.

One French woman says, "...a lot of fear.  A lot of anxiety.  The fear that it will continue and that it will end badly in civil war." A French man countered, "I don't approve of these immigrants.  The people who are not happy here should go back home."

Inside the immigrant neighborhoods the sense of alienation runs deep. 

Even one French citizen identifies with the way he says immigrant feel and are treated. "Someone like myself is not considered a French citizen even though I was born in France. And I am a French citizen.  But the French don't think so."

Many elected leaders, like deputy mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, Frank Cannarozzo, are fed up with lenient laws that allow juveniles offenders to repeatedly break the law.

"If they cross the line it is over.  In the case of delinquents who have been dragged 15 times before a judge and who have been arrested again for violence, we need a different solution.  These individuals should be thrown out of the town or thrown out of France."

While authorities do not believe there is a link between the rioters and Islamic terrorist organizations, there is concern that if France does not assimilate these young people, some other group will. 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs