Rokhaya Diallo

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On April 24, the day of the final round of France’s presidential election, many woke up to a chilling development: Majorities in the overseas departments (or territories) of Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana — who cast their vote a day early due to time difference — voted for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen over President Emmanuel Macron.

Though Macron ultimately won the election, Le Pen won 41 percent of the total vote, the far-right’s best-ever performance in a French presidential election. More than 60 percent of voters in each of the three departments, along with majorities in the Indian Ocean departments of Mayotte and Réunion, contributed to that.…  Seguir leyendo »

Campaign posters of French President Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon are displayed at France Affichage Plus dispatch hub in Mitry-Mory, outside Paris, on March 22. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In 2017, France was lauded for sending an important message to the world: that there was no place for a far-right head of state. At age 39, Emmanuel Macron became the youngest president in French history, defeating far-right candidate Marine Le Pen with 66 percent of the vote. He appeared as the champion of the “Revolution”, which was also the title of his book announcing his ambitious program.

Claiming to belong to neither the left nor the right, Macron and his En Marche party shook up the political landscape. He scooped up so many voters that the socialist party went from being the presidential party in 2012 to ending up with only 6 percent of the vote in 2017.…  Seguir leyendo »

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Jan. 11. (Ludovic Marin/AP)

Never before has the far right appeared as strong in a French presidential campaign as it does now. That should concern everyone who cares about the future of rights and equity in France — but shouldn’t obscure the ways in which government policies are already intrusively targeting Islam.

According to recent polling, far-right candidates are poised to receive about 30 percent of votes in the election’s first round. For the first time, two figures from the far right seem almost equally likely to access the second round of the April election.

One of them in particular has garnered much attention. Éric Zemmour, a controversial pundit who officially declared his candidacy at the end of November, has managed to find a place for himself among the contest’s leaders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Josephine Baker poses at the Bois de Boulogne waterfall, near Paris, in June 1949. (AFP/Getty Images)

Josephine Baker, one of the most fascinating figures of French 20th-century history, is finally being interred at the Panthéon, after an announcement by President Emmanuel Macron in August. She is the first woman of color and first artist to be interred at the mausoleum, which houses the remains of the most distinguished French citizens. There is no doubt she deserves the honor — but France should not use this moment to congratulate itself on its treatment of people of color.

Baker is a national hero in many ways. The granddaughter of enslaved people, born in 1906 in St. Louis, she later fled to France to escape segregation, succeeding in a career she could never have had in the United States, where, even as an international star, she was not allowed to stay in luxury hotels.…  Seguir leyendo »

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer leaves Elysee Palace after attending the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris on Oct. 20. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Months after having identified “Islamo-leftism” — a so-called trend that nobody was able to precisely define — as wreaking havoc in universities, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has found a new opponent: “wokeism” and “cancel culture.”

Despite the fact that schools have not recovered from the major challenges caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Blanquer decided to focus his attention on the creation of a think tank, the Republic Laboratory, meant to reflect on the values of the French republic “at odds with wokeism”. According to him, young people should be prevented from “approaching their social life entering a resentment contest” and be protected from a “doctrine” that “fragments and divides,” “has conquered certain political, media and academic circles” and had brought Donald Trump to power in the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

Christiane Taubira speaks to journalists in January 2016 in Paris. (Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images)

Almost a decade after the election of socialist president François Hollande, no one could have predicted how bad the state of the French left would be. Since the debacle in the 2017 election, when the socialist candidate scored a historically low result of 6.3 percent, the Socialist Party has imploded. And despite the larger support for Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise, a party situated on the left, the French left seems to be seeking a credible leader.

One possible figure comes to mind, though she has already been upfront about her current lack of interest. Christiane Taubira has been questioned for years about her possible candidacy in the 2022 French presidential election, and her answer sounds quite clear this month.…  Seguir leyendo »

A French soldier checks a woman's temperature as people wait in a reunion and evacuation center at the French military air base 104 of Al Dhafra, near Abu Dhabi, on Aug. 23, after being evacuated from Kabul. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

“We must plan and protect ourselves against large irregular migratory flows that endanger those who are part of them and fuel trafficking of every kind,” said French President Emmanuel Macron in a speech last week after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. His comments sparked outrage in France. To many, especially on the left, this framing — which criminalizes refugees facing atrocities and presents their entry as a potential threat — suggested a “shocking” lack of empathy. The hashtag #EmmanuelLePen, in reference to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, trended on Twitter.

A lot has been said, and will continue to be said, about this response to the crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Visitors look at the Rosetta Stone next to social distancing markers on the floor at the British Museum in August 2020 in London. (Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

In June, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet offered a reminder that “systemic racism needs a systemic response.” She called for the immediate dismantling of the systemic racism that Black people face around the world and set out a four-point agenda for this transformation.

Just over a year after the killing of George Floyd, the report was widely discussed. But a key aspect was not as visible in public discourse as it should have been. Among other points, the report recommends the necessity of reparations for colonial injustices.

This poses a significant question for European countries, which have benefited greatly from wealth stolen in the colonial era.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers demonstrate outside Parliament in Paris on May 19. They gathered over growing concerns for their safety amid a series of recent attacks against French police officers. (Kiran Radley/Getty Images)

Until last month, Sara Zemmahi was a relatively unknown figure. A candidate based in Montpellier from President Emmanuel Macron’s République En Marche party standing for a regional election, and who happens to wear a hijab, she could not have anticipated how her appearance would create division at the national level.

After Jordan Bardella, a member of the European Parliament from the far-right National Rally, discovered her picture on a campaign poster titled “Different but united for you”, he tweeted: “Is this fighting against separatism?” And he tagged Marlène Schiappa, a prominent member of the government who is one of the leading figures fighting what the government has labeled “separatism”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women hold signs reading "Don't touch my headscarf" as they demonstrate Oct. 19, 2019, on the Place de la Republique in Paris. (DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

“France, the world is watching”, Muslim American Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) posted on Instagram recently, with a video of herself wearing her religious head covering along with the viral hashtag #handsoffmyhijab. The hashtag, created by American Muslim women to support their French counterparts, spawned millions of videos on TikTok after France’s senate voted to ban children under the age of 18 and mothers who accompanied them on school trips from wearing the hijab, and to ban burkinis at swimming pools.

This global movement came in stark contrast to the silence of prominent French voices, who have said little about the new provisions that are part of a law designed to fight the “separatism” that is supposedly threatening France.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters hold a UNEF students' union banner during a demonstration in Paris on March 16. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Mélanie Luce is the first woman of color to lead the UNEF, a progressive student union founded in 1907 in France. When she joined a news show to speak about the precarious social conditions of students, she could not guess that she would soon be the center of national attention. Luce admitted that the union sometimes organized safe spaces to support students of color, and the interviewer labeled the initiative as “closed to White people”.

The outrage quickly spread across the political landscape. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer called the meetings “racist”, “deeply outrageous” and potentially “leading to things that look like fascism”.…  Seguir leyendo »

A farmer walks a cow on the square facing the city hall of Lyon on Feb. 22 during a demonstration to protest the city majority's decision to keep meat off city schools' menu. (Olivier Chassignole/AFP/Getty Images)

In France today, when a mayor decides to take meat out of the school menus in his city, it becomes a matter of national debate across the political landscape.

Last month, Lyon Mayor Grégory Doucet announced the city would stop serving meat in school cafeterias. Meant to be temporary, the official goal of the policy is to reduce food options to more easily adhere to social distancing rules. In fact, animal proteins will not even be totally banned since cheese, fish and eggs will still be served.

But it was enough to spark national furor. First farmers protested, driving their heavy vehicles and livestock in front of the of the city hall.…  Seguir leyendo »

France’s local elected officials are having a hard time. As the state acquired doses of the covid-19 vaccine, many mayors allocated significant resources to mobilizing the vaccination drive. Yet it soon became apparent that the central government would not deliver the expected number of doses on target. Local officials of all political affiliations voiced concerns about the lack of transparency; some even expressed doubts about the numbers of doses acquired by the government.

And there were already reasons to doubt. Since the pandemic hit, the government has failed multiple times at handling the crisis and building public confidence. Early on, the shortage of masks was purposely hidden, as state representatives lied about masks’ usefulness to justify the fact that they were not able to provide a sufficient number to protect the population.…  Seguir leyendo »

University of Nantes lecturer Olivier Ertzscheid speaks in a square outside a church in La Roche-sur-Yon, western France, on Dec. 15. (Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, a tweet by Julien Aubert, a member of the French National Assembly, shocked France’s academic circles. “We request [that] the president of the National Assembly create a fact-finding mission about the intellectual ideological abuses within the university community”, Aubert wrote. The tweet seemed to put forth the idea of using legislative power to control the work of scholars, thereby infringing on academic freedom. It is part of a larger pattern taking place in France.

The statement attached to Aubert’s tweet, co-signed by National Assembly member Damien Abad, criticized “the importing from the United States of a ‘cancel culture’ that aims to silence everyone who speaks or behaves in a way that is considered ‘offensive.’”…  Seguir leyendo »

Protestors demonstrate against the global security law bill at Place du Trocadéro on Nov. 21 in Paris. (Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)

On Saturday afternoon, a crowd chanted the country’s famous motto “Liberté!” on the symbolic human rights forecourt that faces the Eiffel Tower.

That was the second protest gathering thousands of people that week, despite the country’s health crisis and lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic. The demonstrations related to a new bill accused of obstructing civil liberties. As critics have argued, the “global security bill”, which received a first-reading adoption by the National Assembly on Nov. 24, jeopardizes the freedom of the press and could herald the introduction of a ubiquitous surveillance system.

The bill enacts unprecedented constraints on freedom of expression.…  Seguir leyendo »

People outside the Basilica of Notre-Dame de L’Assomption in Nice, France, pay their respects on Friday to those killed during a knife attack at the church a day earlier. (Daniel Cole/AP)

Once more, France has been struck by tragedy. A knife attack on Thursday at a church in Nice — by a man who later reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” at police — killed at least three people. Less than two weeks earlier, the horrific murder of a teacher had spread rage and emotion across the country. The alleged killer, a Muslim teenager who was offended by the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that Samuel Paty shared in his classroom, beheaded the teacher near a school in a Paris suburb on Oct. 16.

It is the responsibility of any government to address such atrocities and the context that allowed them to happen.…  Seguir leyendo »

In France, long regarded by foreigners as a country that is comfortable with bodies and sexuality, a debate about dress codes has revealed a deeper reality. Women’s bodies are still policed and sexualized — a trend that comes as no surprise to minority, and particularly Muslim, women in the country.

Last month, the hashtag #lundi14septembre (Monday, Sept. 14) spread on social media to protest strict dress codes and sexist comments targeting female students. Some young women complained about being humiliated by members of teaching staffs; one parent shared the story of a math teacher who told a teenager wearing a tank top that her “neckline was too conspicuous” and called her outfit “vulgar”.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Are we allowed to say ‘monkey’? … Maybe we’re allowed to say ‘monkey’ without insulting anyone?” asked former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a television show earlier this month.

The comments from a man who was once the highest authority in France drew much criticism, for good reason. Sarkozy was invited to the show to speak about his memoirs, which were just published, and to comment on French political life. While using the symbols of the three wise monkeys — who see, hear and speak no evil — to describe the political elite, he suddenly mentioned another controversy involving the use of the n-word — and, in doing so, made a shocking connection between monkeys and Black people.…  Seguir leyendo »

French police officers speak with a pedestrian in Saint-Ouen, near Paris, on April 2. (Ludovic Marin/Afp Via Getty Images)

As France approaches its eighth week under lockdown, the covid-19 pandemic has thrown the nation’s divisions and inequalities into stark relief. One of the most palpable is the stigma directed toward residents of the poorest neighborhoods and suburbs, where many minorities live.

“Lockdown in the suburbs challenged by violence and trafficking,” read one sensationalist headline. There are “young men with hoodies with a menacing look, who seem to use masks for the sole purpose of protecting their anonymity rather protecting themselves from an infection,” the piece complained. Another piece about Seine Saint-Denis — the poorest department, or regional division, in France’s mainland — was titled “Coronavirus in Seine Saint-Denis: record number of fines, police and justice get tougher.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman leaves a convenience store at the Elias Motsoaledi informal settlement in South Africa on Tuesday. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Last week on French television, two doctors sparked anger with their comments. While speaking about finding a cure against the novel coronavirus, Jean-Paul Mira, the head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, asked, “If I could be provocative, should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s done, by the way, for certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?” He was addressing the research director of France’s national health institute, Camille Locht, who promptly agreed.

Although they were speaking about putting human lives at risk, the two doctors sounded totally casual.…  Seguir leyendo »