‘Unprofessional, dirty and wild’: French parliament takes up hair discrimination bill

Those sporting Afro-styled hair, blonde or ginger hair, dreads, braids or even balding heads could gain new protections in France, where a lawmaker from the French Caribbean has introduced a bill that would make discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style illegal. While some argue the law is unnecessary, others say it will fill a gap in existing legislation tackling discrimination. 

After years of hearing all sorts of derogatory comments from schoolmates about her Afro-styled kinky hair, Kenza Bel Kenadil was met with the same contempt when she entered the job market. At the tender age of 17, she was told at work that her hair was “unprofessional, dirty and wild”.

When she eventually took a job as a hostess at a hotel in southern France, she was shouted at by management. “Either you go home and change hairstyles”, her boss roared, “or don’t come in to work”.

Discrimination based on hair texture, length, colour or style is at the heart of a bill tabled by Olivier Serva, an MP from the LIOT group (Liberties, Independents, Overseas and Territories) from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. His aim is to ensure that hair discrimination becomes punishable by law. First introduced in September 2023, the bill will be debated in the National Assembly this Thursday, March 28.

A ‘historic’ bill

While Serva leads the political battle to end hair discrimination, Bel Kenadil has been waging her own combat online for years. Now 26, she posts videos on social media – some of which have garnered millions of views – to shed light on the issue.

When her boss at the hotel threatened her years ago, she ended up going home “in tears” and tied her hair up in a bun. “I didn’t understand why my hair would have an impact on my professionalism or employability,” she says.

To prevent that such situations continue into the future, Serva is proposing to add the specific mention of hair to the list of discriminations based on physical appearance.

“It is historic,” Serva said on March 18, after the bill was approved for debate by the French Law Commission, whose role it is to prepare all legislative debates in the National Assembly. “[France] is the first country in the world to recognise hair discrimination at a national level.”

Read moreRacist attacks on pop star Aya Nakamura test France’s ability to shine at Paris Olympics

This is almost true. The US is the only other country to have introduced legislation on hair discrimination. A bill known as the Crown Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) was passed by the House of Representatives in March 2022. It states that any race-based hair discrimination at work, in public accommodations and against those participating in federally assisted programmes such as housing programmes, is strictly prohibited by law.

The bill, which especially strengthened school and workplace protections for Black women who are disproportionately affected by hair discrimination, was passed in 24 states including New York, California, Arizona and Texas. But to date, federal legislation has been unsuccessful, as Senate Republicans blocked the act from passing in December 2022. 

In the UK, the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued a directive in October 2022 on preventing hair discrimination in schools. Aimed at helping “school leaders foster an inclusive environment,” the guidance refers to sections of the Equality Act to ensure institutions are not unlawfully discriminatory in their policies. Though applied to all forms of hair discrimination, there is a focus on race because “research and court cases indicate discrimination … disproportionally affects pupils with Afro-textured hair or hairstyles”.

A legal framework exists – but is it enough?

Back in France, the introductory text for Serva’s hair discrimination bill states that “people who suffer discrimination based on their hair texture, colour or style lack a specific legal framework”.

But not all MPs share his sentiment on the issue, arguing there is already ample legislative recourse to combat discrimination based on physical appearance in France.

“This is a typical example of a bad idea. There is no legal gap,” labour law specialist Eric Rocheblave told French news agency AFP. Under French labour law, “discrimination based on physical appearance is already prohibited” even if there is no “explicit [clause] on hair discrimination”, he said.

If there was a case of discrimination “based on hair, lack of hair, colour, length or appearance, I could link it to existing legislation,” Rocheblave insisted.

Article 225-1 of the national criminal code lists 25 instances that would constitute discrimination prohibited by law, such as sexual orientation or political beliefs. But for advocates of a French law on hair discrimination, the list does not go far enough.

“If it did, we wouldn’t be turned away from jobs because of our hair. We wouldn’t be subjected to [derogatory] comments from colleagues. And the Air France steward wouldn’t have had to take his case to France’s highest appeals court,” Bel Kenadil counters, referring to Aboubakar Traoré, who sued Air France in 2012 for discrimination after he was barred from flights for wearing braids tied back in a bun.

The company said his hairstyle did not conform to the rules in the flight manual for staff, which allowed women but not men to have braided hair in the cabin.

Ten years later, France’s highest appeals court ruled in favour of Traoré. But the decision issued by the court stated that the company policy amounted to gender discrimination, not hair discrimination.

Hair style, colour, length or texture

Even though Article 225-1 states that “distinctions made based on a person’s origins, sex, family status, pregnancy, physical appearance … constitute discrimination”, Serva is set on providing a “necessary legal clarification” by including “haircut, colour, length, or texture”. This precision would then have to be included in clauses of the French Labour Law and Civil Service Code that deal with discrimination.

Because France does not collect data based on race, ethnicity or religion, there are no national studies on the extent of hair discrimination against Black people in France.

But according to a 2023 US study carried out by Dove and LinkedIn, Black women’s hair is “2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional”. And a UK study from 2009 cited in the introductory text to Serva’s bill found that one blonde woman in three dyed their hair brown to increase their chances of being recruited and to be perceived as “more intelligent” in professional settings.

Serva also said hair discrimination affected balding men in an interview with French radio station France info in April last year, claiming researchers had proven that balding men were “30 percent less likely to be able to climb the ladder in their company”.

A public health issue

MPs from the conservative Les Républicains and far-right National Rally parties have criticised the bill, calling it an “importation of ‘victim logic’ into French law”.

Bel Kenadil says she understands how “one can question the existence of something when one hasn’t been a victim of it”. On the other hand, she adds, “for me, when even one single person is discriminated against, no matter how, that person must be protected”.

In a video posted on her Instagram account, the influencer sports a variety of hairstyles and assures everyone she is “professional”, while the caption reads: “My appearance doesn’t have anything to do with my skills.”

Countless testimonials of people who have been discriminated against because of their hair flood the comments section. “When I was a young student nurse, I had braids put in, and then I was asked if they were clean,” one follower writes. “I was told to straighten my hair for job interviews,” another laments. Other stories beyond the comments section of her Instagram profile have shocked Bel Kenadil. “A person with blonde hair was turned down for a job because her hair colour wasn’t ‘serious enough’,” she says. “A receptionist recorded an exchange in which her employer berated her, saying, ‘In your interview, you were told loose hair or hair tied up, but nicely styled. What is this? It looks like a lion’s mane.’”

The explanatory text accompanying Serva’s hair discrimination bill mentions the importance of self-esteem and personal confidence, but also touches on a significant health factor when it comes to Afro-textured frizzy or kinky hair.

“A person who is unable to wear their hair naturally in a professional or educational setting will either be forced to hide their hair or change it using chemical products,” the text reads. “This is far from harmless. Tight hairstyles can eventually lead to traction alopecia (hair loss from hairstyles that pull on roots), and products used to chemically straighten hair can cause scalp burns.”

2022 study by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) found that women who used chemical hair straightening products were at higher risk of developing uterine cancer than women who did not.

“This is proof that this topic needs to be taken seriously,” Bel Kenadil insists. “I don’t mind hearing that there are more serious issues. But if that is our starting point, we will never make progress on anything.”

This article is a translation of the original version in French. 

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Racist attacks on pop star Aya Nakamura test France’s ability to shine at Paris Olympics

Rumours that French pop star Aya Nakamara may sing at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics have triggered a flurry of attacks from the French far right, questioning the host country’s ability to appreciate the globally acclaimed talent emerging from its neglected suburbs with large immigrant populations.

With the Paris Olympics still months away, the host country has already won gold in a category it truly owns: divisive racial controversy with “made in France” flair.  

That’s how public broadcaster France Inter summed up a row over unconfirmed rumours that Aya Nakamura would perform an Édith Piaf song during the Games’ opening ceremony in front of a crowd of 300,000 gathered along the River Seine

Nakamura, 28, has become a global superstar for hits like “Djadja”, which has close to a billion streams on YouTube alone. On the international stage, she is the most popular French female singer since Piaf sang “La vie en rose”, a rare case of a French artist whose songs reach well beyond the Francophone world.  

She is also the proud face of the neglected banlieues (suburbs) of Paris, which have produced many of France’s best-known icons of music and sport – and which will soon host the Olympic Village. 

On paper, tapping her for the curtain-raiser of “the biggest show on earth” is a no-brainer. 

But the mere suggestion triggered a vitriolic response from members of France’s ascendant far right, for whom Nakamura is unfit to represent France. Their sometimes racist arguments have in turn prompted outrage and bafflement, leading government ministers to wade into a debate that has had precious little to do with music. 

“If this were about music, we wouldn’t even have a debate – Nakamura is France’s biggest pop star, full stop,” said Olivier Cachin, a prominent music journalist who was among the first to speak out on social media in defence of the singer.  

“But it’s not about music. It’s about the colour of her skin,” he added. “It’s racism, pure and simple.”  

‘You can be racist but not deaf’ 

The controversy follows media reports that Nakamura discussed performing a song by Piaf during a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace last month – though neither party has confirmed the rumour.  

On Saturday, a small extremist group known as the “Natives” hung a banner on the banks of the Seine that read: “No way, Aya. This is Paris, not the Bamako market” – a reference to Nakamura’s birth in Mali‘s capital. 

The next day, the singer’s name was booed at a campaign rally for the far-right Reconquête party of Eric Zemmour, the former pundit and presidential candidate who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. In a bizarre rant, Zemmour claimed “future babies (…) don’t vote for rap, nor for lambada, nor for Aya Nakamura: they vote for Mozart!” 

Right-wing pundits posing as music critics appeared on news programmes and chat shows to mock the singer’s unorthodox spelling and slang-infused lyrics, stripped of her distinctive rhythm and vibe, while the Senate’s conservative head Gérard Larcher took offence at her use of the sexually explicit slang term “catchana” (“doggy style”) – in the land of Serge Gainsbourg, of all places. 

Nakamura has responded to the vitriol, writing on social media: “You can be racist but not deaf… That’s what hurts you! I’m becoming a number 1 state subject in debates… but what do I really owe you? Nada.” 

The singer was backed by the Olympics’ organising committee, which said it was “shocked by the racist attacks” levelled at “the most listened-to French artist in the world”.        

Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra also expressed her support on social media, telling Nakamura she had the people’s backing, while Culture Minister Rachida Dati raised the matter in the French National Assembly, warning that “attacking someone purely on racist grounds (…) is unacceptable; it’s an offence”. 

On Friday, Paris prosecutors said they were investigating allegations of racist attacks against the pop star following a complaint filed by the anti-racism advocacy group Licra.

For Whites only 

For Karim Hammou and Marie Sonnette-Manouguian, co-authors of a book charting 40 years of hip-hop music in France, Nakamura’s elevation to a “state subject” is part of a concerted strategy of exploiting cultural events to serve the far right’s reactionary, identity politics. 

“The pattern is always the same: far-right leaders voice outrage on social media, until the controversy is picked up by a larger audience in the media and the mainstream right,” they said in written remarks to FRANCE 24. 

Rappers and R&B singers are routinely used as scapegoats in debates that go well beyond them,” they added. “The real question being raised here is that of the participation of people of immigrant background (…) in French culture and in enriching its language and modes of expression.” 

If Nakamura were White, there would be no such debate, added Bettina Ghio, who has written several books on the language of French rap, the country’s most popular musical genre – but one that has long been frowned upon by politicians and the musical establishment.  

“The far right cannot bear the idea that non-white people of immigrant descent can represent France on the international stage – let alone sing from the repertoire of White artists,” she explained. 

Ghio cited the case of Youssoupha, a French rapper of Congolese descent, who suffered similar attacks when his song “Ecris mon nom en bleu” (“Write my name in blue”) was chosen as the unofficial anthem of the French national team at the men’s Euro 2021 football tournament. 

“The Nakamura controversy should not be isolated from past incidents in which the far right has taken aim at artists and athletes based on the colour of their skin,” she said, pointing to the frequent slurs levelled at the racially diverse French squads that won the football World Cups in 1998 and 2018.  

Lilian Thuram, the Caribbean-born former international who was part of the Black, Blanc, Beur (Black, White, Arab) squad of 1998, spoke in defence of Nakamura in an interview with France Info radio on Tuesday. 

“When people say she’s not fit to represent France, I know exactly what criteria they have in mind because the same arguments were used against me,” said the retired player, an outspoken campaigner against racism in France. He said the question of whether Nakamura should perform at the Olympics was being presented the wrong way. 

“If you ask people whether the most popular French artist in the world should perform at the Olympics, a majority would say ‘yes’,” he added. “Like it or not, she’s the best. And that’s why she should represent France.” 

A cosmopolitan mix 

Thuram noted that Nakamura was often mistakenly labelled a rapper, a habit he attributed to racial and class-based prejudice. 

“Why do people think she’s a rapper? Because she’s Black,” he said. “It’s as if we were discussing some random artist from the suburbs and not France’s biggest star. It’s insulting.” 

Nakamura’s music mixes R&B with the highly danceable rhythms of Afrobeat and Carribean Zouk. But right-wing criticism of her work sometimes echoes the prejudice aimed at France’s thriving rap scene, a driver of vociferous social criticism for the past three decades. 

“The far right cannot stand the criticism of France’s colonial history voiced by rappers,” said Ghio. “Zemmour has made hateful comments on television about rap, describing it as a subculture for illiterates … that wrecks the French language.” 

Zemmour’s deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of rival far-right leader Marine Le Pen, made similar comments on Tuesday, stating on BFMTV that, “Aya Nakamura does not sing in French. She does not represent French culture and elegance.” 

Such claims are “preposterous”, said Cachin, for whom the pop star “simply speaks today’s French, rich in slang and expressions, and does so very well.” He added: “Other more mainstream artists do this as well, without attracting the same kind of scrutiny.” 

Nakamura, whose real last name is Danioko, sings in French, but her lyrics borrow heavily from argot, the French slang, as well as English, Arabic and Bambara, the Malian language spoken by her parents. Her cosmopolitan mix is inspired by her upbringing in a family of griots, Malian poets steeped in music. 

The term “Djadja”, from her breakthrough hit, refers to a liar who boasts about sleeping with her. It has become a rallying cry for female campaigners against sexism and sexist violence. “Pookie”, the title of another hugely popular song, comes from the French slang term poucave, meaning a snitch. 

“Her songs bring vitality to the French language, because there’s a lot of research into sounds and rhythms, and adopting new terms that are popular with youths, particularly in the suburbs,” said Ghio. She drew a parallel with prominent rappers PNL, who experiment with accents, placing them elsewhere in words to generate new sounds. 

“To ignore their work is to consider French as a dead language that hasn’t changed one bit over the past 40 years,” Ghio said, adding that she looked forward to hearing Nakamura experiment with Piaf’s repertoire. 

Piaf in the banlieue 

The scion of poverty-stricken street performers, Piaf was also once derided for her unorthodox style and frequent use of slang terms that postwar elites frowned upon. 

“Popular music has always been attacked by bourgeois commentators and self-styled guardians of proper French language,” said Hammou and Sonnette-Manouguian. “In her day, Piaf was frequently criticised for her performances, her physique and her morals,” they added, denouncing attempts to create a “false opposition” between the legendary 20th century singer and Nakamura. 

Piaf has long been revered in the urban music scene of the Paris suburbs, sung by rapper JoeyStarr and remixed in Matthieu Kassovitz’s seminal film “La Haine”. Associating her with Nakamura would be a chance to link the past and present of French popular music, said Ghio, “from the working-class, bohemian Paris of Piaf to today’s post-colonial banlieues with their African diaspora”. 

Echoing that theme, the left-leaning daily Libération spoke of “building bridges between generations” and a chance to demonstrate “France’s gratitude towards artists that contribute to its global clout, be they from Montmartre or Aulnay-sous-Bois (a poorer suburb north of Paris)”. 

Aya Nakamura at Paris Fashion Week on February 29, 2024. © Miguel Médina, AFP

Nakamura’s position as a target of racist, sexist and class-based attacks has made her the unwitting champion of causes she never claimed to carry. 

The pop star, whose playful songs touch on relationships, flirting and female friendships, has consistently steered clear of politics. She has previously declined to describe herself as feminist, suggesting such a label would sound “fake”.  

But she has also proved her mettle in facing down a torrent of abuse throughout her still-burgeoning career. 

“When you’re a non-White woman in a patriarchal society shaped by its colonial past, you need to find the words to defend yourself,” said Binetou Sylla, producer and owner of Syllart Records, pointing at Nakamura’s social media post this week. 

“It’s possibly the first time she uses the word ‘racist’ in a tweet,” Sylla observed. “But she had no choice.”  

The music producer stressed Nakamura’s bold personality, adding: “She’s unapologetic, with a loudmouth, provocative side that is also very French – and which further winds up her racist critics.” The racist campaign against Nakamura has now made it imperative that she performs at the opening ceremony, Sylla said.  

“If Aya steps aside, if she doesn’t open the Games, it will be France’s loss. That much is certain,” Libération argued, describing Nakamura as a rare “element of French soft power in a pop culture dominated by English and Spanish.” 

A curtain-raiser without Nakamura would also mean handing a victory to the far right, added Cachin. 

“Of course she has to perform now,” he said. “Whether she sings from her own repertoire or from Piaf’s or (Charles) Aznavour’s or all of them at once, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, she’ll be in her right.” 

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Procedural glitch clears French suspects in plot to attack Morocco World Cup fans

A court in Paris has dismissed a high-profile case against seven suspected far-right activists, including a prominent figure in the French “ultra-right”, citing procedural errors in the investigation. The suspects were accused of planning to carry out a racist attack on fans of Morocco during the recent football World Cup, in the latest evidence of rising far-right militancy in France. 

Shortly after 10pm on December 14, moments after France defeated Morocco en route to the World Cup final in Qatar, a flood of football fans hit the streets of Paris, converging on the Champs-Elysées, the French capital’s traditional rallying point for jubilant supporters. 

Most were draped in the French tricolour, though a sizeable contingent – including many French citizens of Moroccan descent – waved the red-and-green flag of the Lions of the Atlas. Both were in celebratory mode, with Morocco’s fans determined to pay tribute to an extraordinary World Cup run.  

One group’s attire, however, pointed to other plans. 

Outside a bar in the capital’s swanky 17th arrondissement, about a mile away from the Champs-Elysées, police officers acting on intelligence detained several dozen individuals suspected of planning to carry out a racist rampage.  

Body searches revealed an arsenal of weapons that included batons, tear gas canisters, shin guards and tactical gloves. One was held in possession of stickers with the three letters GUD, standing for “Groupe Union Défense”, a far-right student group notorious for its violence, which became dormant at the start of the century but has recently made a comeback. 

Ten months later, seven of them were brought before the Paris Criminal Court on Friday on charges of “carrying prohibited weapons” and “forming a group with a view to committing violence and damage”, offences punishable with up to 10 years in jail. 

In a startling twist, however, the entire case was thrown out on procedural grounds just hours into the trial, with the presiding judge arguing that police had exceeded their mandate in carrying out the arrests – and ordering the seven suspects to walk free. 

Ultra-right pedigree 

Among the 38 people detained on December 14, about half were known to have belonged to a variety of far-right groups, most of them now outlawed. A dozen were labelled “fiché S”, indicating a potential threat to national security. The majority were from the Paris region, though a handful had travelled from as far as Brittany. 

The seven men in the dock on Friday included Marc de Cacqueray-Valménier, a central figure in the French ultra-droite (ultra-right) – a term used to refer to extreme-right groups with neo-Nazi sympathies. He is believed to have led the militant group Zouaves Paris – a GUD offshoot that was banned last year.

At just 24 years of age, the scion of a family of ultra-Catholic aristocrats has already had multiple run-ins with the law, including a suspended jail sentence for his involvement in violent clashes on the sidelines of a Yellow Vest protest at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in December 2018. 

In January 2022, Cacqueray-Valménier was sentenced to a year in prison for attacking the Saint-Sauveur bar in Paris, a popular anti-fascist hideout, though he has appealed the conviction. He is also under investigation for a violent attack on anti-racism activists who disrupted a campaign rally in support of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour

Far-right protesters wave a flag of the GUD at a rally in Paris on May 26, 2013. © Thomas Samson, AFP

Police investigating the alleged plot to attack Moroccan fans believe Cacqueray-Valménier summoned his acolytes via a Telegram message that called for a “general mobilisation to defend the flag from the Moroccan hordes”, French daily Libération reported on Thursday, citing transcripts of police interrogations. 

He is also believed to have instructed participants to delete all messages, a tactic that hindered investigators’ efforts to gather evidence – and partly explained the small number of defendants in the dock, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to delete the messaging app before investigators seized it. 

During his interrogation, Cacqueray-Valménier denied any role in the alleged plot, claiming he was “no longer a militant” and that he “identified with no ideology”. Hailing the court’s decision to quash the case on Friday, his lawyer Clément Diakonoff accused politicians of “creating a myth around” Cacqueray-Valménier and “designating him as a target”.

‘Clash of civilisations’ 

Police’s decision to carry out preventive arrests, before any violence had been committed, ultimately undermined the case against the seven suspects. While it may have helped avert disturbances in Paris, racist attacks involving far-right activists were reported elsewhere in France, despite the deployment of 10,000 police officers across the country.

In Lyon, a hotbed of far-right militancy, several dozen men wearing balaclavas attacked fans in a central square to cries of “bleu, blanc, rouge, France for the French”. One officer spoke of a “volatile mix of ultra-right activists and football hooligans”. 

Racist assaults were also reported in Nantes, Montpellier and Nice, where masked men chased after Moroccan supporters shouting “Out with the Arabs”, while hooligans marched through central Strasbourg waving neo-Nazi symbols.  

While the incidents involved only a few hundred people across the country, they reflect the growing visibility and assertiveness of France’s militant far right, with small groups jostling for influence and notoriety in a fragmented landscape. 

In a July interview with Le Monde, Nicolas Lerner, the head of France’s internal intelligence agency, the DGSI, spoke of a “highly alarming rise in violent actions or intimidations by a segment of the ultra-right”, whose targets include immigrants, rights activists and elected officials

Anti-racism advocates and politicians on the left have accused the political far right of spreading inflammatory rhetoric in the run-up to the World Cup match, stoking hostility towards populations of immigrant descent with ties to former French colonies, such as Morocco.  

Damien Rieu, a close ally of Zemmour, described the historic semi-final as a “clash of civilisations”, while Zemmour himself reiterated his complaint that the French squad featured too many players with “foreign-sounding names”. 

When French citizens “have a heart that beats for another country (…) it raises questions about their assimilation” into French society, argued Sébastien Chenu, a lawmaker in Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally and a deputy head of the French National Assembly, speaking on France 2 television. 

“In the week leading up to the France-Morocco game, parts of the far right and some in the media shaped public perceptions by repeatedly warning that incidents were bound to occur,” left-wing lawmaker Thomas Portes, the head of the National Observatory of the Far Right, told FRANCE 24 earlier this year. “When you fan the flames of hatred and blow on embers that are already burning, unacceptable things happen.” 

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Fatal stabbing of Gabonese student highlights ‘daily’ racism faced by Africans in Russia

François Ndzhelassili, a doctoral student from Gabon at the Ural Federal University in Yekaterinburg, Russia, was killed on August 18 by a group of Russian men after they harassed him and called him racial slurs. The murder is just the latest case of discrimination and violence against Black people living in Russia despite ongoing initiatives meant to encourage Africans to study in the country.

Issued on:

5 min

François Ndzhelassili was a 32-year-old doctoral student at the Ural Federal University. He arrived in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2014 from Gabon to study economics. He was active in the student community of his university, and in 2019 was named the university’s “Foreign Student of the Year”.

On the morning of August 18, he was killed in the city centre of Yekaterinburg by a group of Russian men who harassed him and called him racial slurs. One of his friends, who received death threats after speaking out about the crime, contacted the FRANCE 24 Observers team to bring awareness to the everyday racism he says Africans face in Russia. 

Ndzhelassili was an active member of the student community in Yekaterinburg. He served as the president of the Association of African Students, gave French and economics lessons, and participated in activities such as dancing, boxing and football. © The Observers

‘They were questioning him like often happens to us Africans’

Antoine (not his real name) is a friend of Ndzhelassili’s who also originates from West Africa. He told us that the young student was a great source of support for him when he started studying in Yekaterinburg.

When I left my country, my brother put me in touch with François. He had been in Russia since 2014. When I came here, I didn’t speak the language at all, and he helped me a lot.

We used to play soccer together. He used to dance. He danced a lot. He even taught French and economics because he was studying economics.

At one point, he was the president of the African students association at UFU (Ural Federal University). But he saw that African students were being ignored – we weren’t integrated into the university’s activities – so he resigned.

Antoine says that he spent the evening of August 16 with Ndzhelassili playing video games at his place. The next night, Ndzhelassili went out with other friends. Early on the morning of August 18, Ndzhelassili was ordering food at a Burger King in the city centre with another Russian friend. He was waiting to receive his food when two other Russians started to pick on Ndzhelassili for being Black. His Russian friend, who was there, recorded the incident and told Antoine how the conflict unfolded.

They were questioning him like often happens to us Africans. But François tried to engage in a conversation with them, to reason with them. They started threatening him, telling him to settle things outside. François told them he was waiting for his food.

He ended up eating inside, and as soon as he went out, the two Russians pounced on him. Since François had boxing experience, he resisted. However, there was a third person who had been outside the whole time, and he stabbed him between the ribs. He shouted, ‘We’re going to crucify the n****r.

Screenshot from a video sent by our Observer in Yekaterinburg. Taken by Ndzhelassili’s Russian friend, it shows the moment he was loaded onto an ambulance Aug. 18 after being fatally stabbed.
Screenshot from a video sent by our Observer in Yekaterinburg. Taken by Ndzhelassili’s Russian friend, it shows the moment he was loaded onto an ambulance Aug. 18 after being fatally stabbed. © The Observers

Antoine learned about the stabbing around 8 am, and says he spent the whole day trying to learn about Ndzhelassili’s condition. Hospital authorities finally informed him that his friend had died of his injuries.

‘I started receiving racist messages and threats’

Since Ndzhelassili’s death, Antoine dedicated his time to publicising what happened to his friend in order to shed light on the reality faced by many African students in Russia.

I went to see the administration [of Ural Federal University], to talk to them about what happened, and they told me to keep it to myself, not to talk to anyone. I had already contacted François’ sister.

When I returned to the dormitory, I started receiving racist messages and threats. I decided to create a WhatsApp group for African students to communicate among ourselves. The students are truly afraid.

I left the dormitory, and now I’m staying at a Guinean friend’s place. I’m afraid for my safety. I’ll see how I can obtain my degree, and I want to leave Russia.

Antoine sent us one of the insulting messages he received. It read: “We will hang n*****s…. Russia is for Russians.” 

A Telegram channel dedicated to uncovering neo-Nazi activities within Russia has disclosed that the principal suspect in Ndzhelassili’s murder case is a 23-year-old Russian man. Moreover, a neo-Nazi-oriented Telegram channel has initiated a fundraising effort aimed at securing legal representation for the young man.

The Telegram channel Antifa.ru posted screenshots of messages on the anti-migrant Telegram channel “Rural Club Hands up!
The Telegram channel Antifa.ru posted screenshots of messages on the anti-migrant Telegram channel “Rural Club Hands up!” asking for funds to provide legal advice to the suspected killer of Ndzhelassili. © The Observers

Antoine does not believe that the murder was premeditated, but he thinks that it is representative of the discrimination Black students experience in Russia.

A dangerous university environment for African students 

On August 20, the Ural Federal University declared on their Telegram channel that Ndzhelassili “tragically” died, without mentioning any details about his murder or any form of commentary addressing the matter of racism, which disappointed Antoine. 

I spoke with François’ sister. She told me: Let it go, it’s for your safety. I will fight to bring his body back to Gabon, that’s all.

But it’s not just François. All Africans are in danger. Even me at the university. It’s a daily occurrence. They promote Russian education in Africa, urging students to come study in Russia. They make money off us, and then we are not safe.

I am very worried for the African community in Russia. Today it’s François. Tomorrow it could be me. Russia needs the support of Africans now. But it’s important to make people who raise the flag of Russia in their countries understand that Russia is not our partner.

International students studying in Russian universities have repeatedly raised concerns about facing discrimination, including insults, physical assaults, and persistent harassment. Africans living in Russia report frequently encountering acts of discrimination such as being denied service at restaurants, facing refusals from taxi drivers and experiencing difficulties securing housing due to landlords’ biases.

There are currently 34,000 African students in Russia, out of which 6,000 receive state-sponsored scholarships, according to a declaration made by the Russian Foreign Ministry in July 2023. The spokesperson announced 5,000 more scholarships for African students in the 2023-24 university year. 

Concerns about African students being recruited by the Russian army and mercenary groups to fight in Ukraine emerged in November 2022 after a 23-year-old Zambian was killed in the war. He studied nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI), but was imprisoned on drug charges. Although Yevgeny Prigozhin declared at the time on the Russian social media platform VKontakte that the young man had freely enrolled with the Wagner mercenary group, his family believes that he was coerced.

Read moreRussians give bananas to Black foreign students and call them ‘monkeys’ in video

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Police violence: How can France tackle racial profiling without first addressing race?

Young men in France perceived to be Black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped by police than the rest of the population, according to the country’s human rights ombudsman. Racial profiling runs deep in the French police force, but unlike in the US and Canada, very little action is being taken to combat this form of discrimination. 

The warning signs are there. Non-profit organisations, anti-racism activists and experts in France have been sounding the alarm for decades – long before the police killing of Nahel, a 17-year-old French boy of Moroccan and Algerian descent, triggered several days of rioting across the country. 

The video of the unthreatened police officer fatally shooting the unarmed teenager during a traffic stop reignited calls among left-wing politicians  and the UN  for French police to acknowledge its racial profiling problem.

Young men who are perceived to be Black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped for identity checks than the rest of the population.

However, French authorities deny the existence of systemic racism. While some efforts have been made to tackle racial profiling, like police training on potential discriminatory behaviours, no concrete policies or laws targeting the issue have been implemented.

Faced with a similar discrepancy between theoretical colourblind policing and unfair targeting of minorities, the US and Canada have tried to curb such racial profiling – with little success so far.

Court rulings not enough to modify ‘broader culture of police’

In 1996, New Jersey became the first state to affirm the existence of racial profiling after its court ruled that troopers were unfairly targeting and arresting minorities on the New Jersey Turnpike. A few years later, the Justice Department demanded the state police department track racial disparities in turnpike enforcement and put 2,500 troopers under a federal consent decree to ensure they adhere to regulations.

But allegations of racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike persisted. Thirty years after the initial ruling, an audit found that Black drivers were still being subjected more often to searches, arrests and uses of force during police traffic stops. An ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) report found that in 2018, Black people in New Jersey were still 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents, despite similar usage rates.

“[The ruling] didn’t change the broader culture of police,” says Jean Beaman, Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Santa Barbara who has researched state violence in France and the US.

“Just look at the legislation passed in New York [to reform] stop and frisk,” says Beaman. 

Read moreWhy deadly police shootings are on the rise on France’s roads

Body cameras and accountability

A few miles up north in New York City, former mayor Bill de Blasio promised to combat racial profiling. And he did, to a certain extent. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that New York’s stop and frisk practice was racially biased. The practice had previously allowed police officers to stop, interrogate and search residents on the sole basis of “reasonable suspicion”.

The New York Police Department was ordered to make sweeping reforms in policies, trainings and practices to end racial discrimination in stop and frisk cases. Officers were required to wear body cameras and monitoring was put in place for accountability.

“It was a huge victory,” says Beaman. According to the New York Times, de Blasio managed to reduce the total number of arrests, criminal summons and pedestrian stops by 82%. Crime rates fell, too.

But it wasn’t enough. A 2020 report by Data Collaborative for Justice found that Black neighbourhoods continued to be policed at a higher rate than white ones. Racial disparities persisted, with Black and Hispanic people still much more likely to be stopped and arrested than white people.

While Beaman acknowledges the positive outcomes of the ban, she says “it didn’t change the overall practices of racial profiling by police, in the sense of who they’re more likely to harass or think may be suspicious of criminal activity”.

“You can change the practices but the policing logic … which sees certain individuals as criminals or suspects, not regular citizens … is not going to change,” she explains.

‘Remove the tool that incites racial profiling’

French sociologist Anaïk Purenne, who works on youth-police relations with a focus on discrimination and police profiling, agrees that the larger “policing logic” Jean Beaman refers to is one possible explanation for the shortcomings of the reform. “We have to think about the bias that certain public policy priorities can generate,” says Purenne. If “the fight against crime” is a priority for a police force, she says, then it is important to look at what biases that instils in police officers.

But there is another case Purenne was deeply intrigued by. In a book titled “Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship”, researchers observed police behaviour during traffic stops in Kansas City and surveyed 2,300 drivers over a number of years. They found that there was little to no racial profiling by police in stops made after a driver had committed a traffic violation. During investigatory police stops however, which similarly to former stop and frisk practices are based on “reasonable suspicion”, racial profiling was stark.

“[The authors] concluded that the tool itself, investigatory police stops, had to be broken … that the police instrument had to be abolished altogether,” says Purenne. “I find that a really interesting idea. Removing the tool that incites racial profiling could be very beneficial.”

And this approach is being tested in some parts of the world like Canada, the sociologist explains. In Nova Scotia, police have not been allowed to conduct random street ID checks since 2019. “It’s too recent for us to be able to really measure the effects,” says Purenne, “but it is something to monitor.”

First step: Acknowledging the problem

There are myriad ways to reform policing in order to put an end to racial profiling. Examples from the US may be imperfect, but they are a start.

When it comes to reforms that could be made in France’s police to curb racial profiling, both Beaman and Purenne are pessimistic. The two sociologists agree that a crucial first step would be for French authorities to acknowledge that there is a problem.

“It’s very simple,” says Purenne, “we start by acknowledging there is a problem and naming it”. 

She adds that “being open to the notion that there could be structural causes driving this behaviour” within the police force is also essential.

For Beaman, both France and the US “need a full-scale accountability mechanism for police officers”.

“Part of that is recognising how systematic [racism or discrimination] actually is, which even in the United States we’ve pretty much avoided dealing with, but that’s the first step,” she says.

However, Beaman knows that it can be challenging to achieve accountability in France. It is illegal to compile racial statistics in France, for example. “Without an infrastructure to talk about race, you can’t talk about racial profiling,” she says.

Read moreFrance sees itself as colourblind – so how do the French talk about race?

Lack of statistics

What’s more, police in France are not obliged to keep a record of pedestrian stops they make. “Police only fill in a stop form if they deem the information they gathered relevant or interesting [for another case],” says Purenne. “We need more transparency.”

NGOs and anti-racist activists have made countless suggestions to combat police violence and racial profiling in France. In low-income neighbourhoods like the one young Nahel was from, for example, there is talk of “proximity police”. French sociologist Julien Talpin told FRANCE 24 in a TV interview that “residents are asking for ‘proximity police’, officers who are in the neighbourhoods on a daily basis and who can actually build trust with residents”.

In July 2021, six NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch filed a class action suit with France’s highest administrative court to finally put an end to racial profiling, given authorities’ inaction on the issue. They alleged that French police target minorities when choosing who to stop and check, saying the practice is rooted in a culture of systemic discrimination.

The case is still pending.

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Riots in France: differences between urban violence of 2023 and 2005

France’s national turmoil following the death of young Nahel, killed by a police officer while allegedly resisting arrest, is reminiscent of the 2005 riots that left their mark on the entire country. Two sociologists offer their analysis.

What parallels can be drawn between these two events? While the origin of the riots – the deaths of suburban youths during police checks – is similar, the social context is different. 

And communication channels have greatly evolved, allowing the unfiltered and instantaneous dissemination of information.

The riots of 2023 were more intense than in 2005

In autumn 2005, France experienced three weeks of rioting, initially concentrated in the so-called “sensitive” suburbs of the Paris region, before spreading to other parts of the country.

The anger was sparked by the deaths of two teenagers on 27 October near Clichy-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis) – Zyed and Bouna – who were electrocuted in an EDF transformer substation where they had taken refuge to escape arrest.

Their deaths echoed those of two other minors a few months earlier and led to urban violence. More than 10,000 cars were set on fire, numerous buildings were damaged, dozens of police officers, gendarmes and demonstrators were injured and more than 6,000 people were arrested. The riots also left three people dead, two of them in fires.

On 27 June 2023, history repeated itself with the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old French-Algerian who was shot dead by a police officer when he allegedly refused to cooperate with the authorities.

According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of the Interior, the eight days of urban violence that followed caused as much damage and mobilised more security forces than the 2005 riots, which lasted three weeks.

Repeated scenarios

The riots of 2023 and 2005 are not the only uprisings to have taken place in France’s recent history.

Sociologist François Dubet, who has counted some forty riots since the early 1980s, said he was struck by the repetition of the same scenario: “Every time, there has been a police blunder, every time, there has been violence against public facilities, police stations, schools, town halls. Every time, it ends in looting. Each time, the elected representatives and neighbourhood associations are not listened to, and the political responses are repeated.”

Sociologist Fabien Truong agreed: “The same problems recur, i.e. very regular arrests, giving the impression that things are going to get out of hand, which happens quite regularly because it’s all chronic. Unfortunately, deaths in working-class neighbourhoods as a result of encounters with the police happen every year. This reflects a very vertical relationship with a logic of suspicion, with the police often intervening blindly.

Young people who feel “neglected

In 2005, much like in 2023, many 16 and 17-year-olds took to the streets to express their anger and resentment.

“It’s a minority of young people in the inner suburbs who, rightly or wrongly, feel they’ve reached an impasse, they’ve been let down and, deep down, they feel they have nothing left to lose.These are young people who don’t have enough adult presence around them”, explained Fabien Truong.

The problems are profound: the ghettoisation of neighbourhoods, precariousness, unemployment, the failure of the national education system, racism, discrimination and delinquency are among the symptoms most often cited.

François Dubet also stressed the emptiness surrounding young people involved in urban violence: “Behind the rioters, there is no organisation, no party, no trade union, no mosque, there is nothing. What is characteristic is the political vacuum. The mayor, who did everything he could for the social centre and the youth centre, can still talk, but he talks to a vacuum. Nobody hears him.

In 2023, social networks played an accelerated role

Social networks, which did not exist in 2005, have also played a catalytic role, as François Dubet explained: “Nahel’s murder was filmed. Every citizen was therefore able to see a policeman brandishing a revolver at the head of a boy driving a car. In 2005, nobody saw anything, everything was interpreted and discussed.

The scenes of destruction and looting broadcast on social networks create a buzz and have a snowball effect: “We can see that there are staged effects (…) What’s more, the networks have changed the way we perceive the relationship between the police and the public today”, Fabien Truong points out.

A more explosive social context in 2023

This year the social context seems more explosive than in 2005. France has just experienced several weeks of strikes and demonstrations linked to pension reforms.

The country is still marked by the Gilets Jaunesmovement against job insecurity and social injustice, two years of health restrictions linked to the COVID-19 crisis and soaringinflation, linked to the war in Ukraine, which is weighing on purchasing power.

The impact of other events abroad has also spread to the European Continent, such as the death of the African-American George Floyd, a symbol of the police violence and discrimination suffered by the black community in the United States.

In 2005, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, used some controversial phrases to inflame the public. ” We’re going to clean up the housing estates with a Karcher”, the future president declared during a visit to La Courneuve, a suburb in the Paris region. On 25 October, shortly before the riots, Sarkozy did it again, this time addressing residents of the Argenteuil district: “You’ve had enough of this gang of scum? Then we’ll get rid of them.

Outside France, there’s an impression of widespread chaos

Like in 2005, images of the recent riots were widely broadcast around the world, giving an impression of chaos in France, where the suburbs are perceived by some foreign observers as lawless areas where crime reigns.

The people who live in these areas are not drug dealers. Even though there is massive unemployment, most of them work, and they may be less wealthy, but they live normal lives”, said sociologist François Dubet, who also noted a form of ambivalence within this population: “The residents condemn the violence because it destroys their neighbourhood, but they also denounce police racism while demanding more police because it is no longer liveable”.

Fabien Truong also believes that urban violence in France distorts the reality of working-class neighbourhoods: “When you look at the population flow figures, you see that there is a lot of social mobility.

“And so if the neighbourhoods are becoming poorer, it’s also because families who are successful or who improve their living conditions leave these neighbourhoods”, stressed the sociologist, who also pointed out the many successes of young people.

 “There is a fringe of young people who have really found their place in French society. You only have to look at who works for the SNCF, who works for companies, who are in the French national team, who are the favourite personalities of the French, and what is the most listened to music, rap. But the other side of the coin is the impoverishment of the neighbourhoods themselves”.

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Florida Schools Now Protecting Kids From Smut Like Sexy, Sexy ‘Paradise Lost’

In exactly the sort of development you’d expect in the midst of a moral panic and censorship campaign, we learn this week that one Florida school district isn’t limiting itself to removing modern-day smut like sex ed or books about gay penguins. The Orlando Sentinel reports that, thanks to a new state law that requires the removal of any school materials for review as soon as someone files a complaint, books like A Room With A View, Madame Bovary, and even John Milton’s 1667 biblical fanfiction epic Paradise Lost have been pulled from Orange County Public Schools, at least until media specialists can check to make sure they’re not porn. Hell, even Ayn Rand has been censored, instead of allowing high schoolers to find out for themselves what a terrible writer and human she was.

The story notes that several works that have regularly been used in classes are on the rejected list, like The Color Purple,Catch-22,Brave New World, and The Kite Runner. Naturally, the district has also removed both The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison, who can’t seem to help herself terrifying white parents with books that are entirely too much about Black women how dare she.


Virginia Mom Begs Voters Not To Let Toni Morrison Kill More White Children With Words

100 Year Old Lady At Florida School Board Better Patriot Than All Book Banners Put Together

Ask The Gay Penguins How ‘Limited’ Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Is. YOU CAN’T THEY’RE BANNED

The district hasn’t yet finalized its lists of what books will be permanently banned or restricted to certain grade levels, and which will be allowed back into classrooms; the district’s “media specialists” are spending the whole summer reviewing every single book in classroom libraries to make sure children aren’t corrupted by mentions of sex, gay people, or Black people who don’t smile obligingly enough, we assume.

The Sentinel explains,

Some books rejected earlier this summer, among them “The Scarlet Letter” and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” have since been approved, according to the lists shared with the Orlando Sentinel by a district teacher and by an advocacy group that obtained a rejection list through a public records request. Other books have been approved but only for certain grades.

Four plays by William Shakespeare, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” are currently listed as approved for grades 10 through 12 only, as is Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” the lists show.

Fans of The Simpsons will recall that Streetcar! is a musical spectacular featuring the sexy, muscular Ned Flanders and the cheery closing number, “You Can Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers (A Stranger’s Just a Friend you Haven’t Met).”

Many books are being rejected — temporarily or permanently — because for some reason there’s mention of sex, which Great Literature never mentions but smut like Othello does. The explanation listed for many titles on the rejected list is simply “Depicts or describes sexual conduct (not allowed per HB 1069-2023,” which Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed as part of his presidential campaign. Pretty cruel to have a censorship law with 69 in it, if you ask us.

The new law makes book challenges easier and, if the concern is sexual content, requires the books to be removed from the shelves within five days and remain inaccessible to students while being reviewed. Republican lawmakers said they passed it to make sure pornography and books that depict sexual activity are kept from children.

Mind you, there’s really not any porn in schools, and the law includes an apparently useless clause noting that even works with nudity or boinking can only be considered pornographic if they lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Of course, once there’s a complaint, that has to be determined by the school media specialists.

The Sentinel spoke to a teacher who said, “The last thing I would have expected to be rejected is Milton,” what with Paradise Lost being a “cornerstone of Western Literature” and all that. Yr Wonkette hasn’t looked at it since comparative lit in grad school (Dante and Chaucer are way more fun), but yeah, there are indeed sex scenes in Paradise Lost, including Adam and Eve Doing It before the Fall (and unmarried at that, because there’s no sin in the Garden) and after. Hope you’re ready for some hot fuck action:

Handed they went; and eased the putting off
Those troublesome disguises which we wear,
Straight side by side were laid; nor turned, I ween,
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites
Mysterious of connubial love refused

They was NAKED. Then after the Fall they screw again, only lustfully. Yeah, yeah, we know, you’ll be in your bower.

The ninth grade teacher said he believes the new laws imply that “I have horrible intentions for my students,” when he simply wants to get kids excited about reading and understanding literature, and isn’t that always the excuse they give when they’re peddling smut like Kurt Vonnegut and Alice Walker and Edgar Allen Poe?

“We are in this because we really care about the stuff that we teach and really care about the content we get to introduce our students to,” he said.

If the rejected list doesn’t change, he said, he will have to remove novels like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream” from his classroom bookshelves as they are rejected for all grades, as well as “Crime and Punishment” and “In Cold Blood,” which are now rejected for 9th grade, which he teaches.

Yeah, that Dostoevsky, what a creep. Another teacher said she was “gobsmacked” to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream rejected, even temporarily, and was downright angry at the rejection of works she had used in advanced placement classes, like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, which like virtually all the books mentioned here has yet to be adapted into a porno.

She selects novels “to engage my students, to offer them literature that makes them think,” and some books meant to describe “the adolescent experience” contain sexual content. But they are not pornographic or inappropriate and it upset her to see them on the rejected list.

“It’s just so frustrating and disheartening,” she said.

You know, it’s almost as if writers think sex is an important aspect of human life and motivation, an essential part of literature, even. That’s what kids have to be protected from, for sure. Fahrenheit 451 had it right: Books just make people unhappy, so best we get rid of them.

[Orlando Sentinel / Image generated using DreamStudio AI and Photoshop]

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Footage shows sub-Saharan African migrants being attacked and expelled over 48 hours in Tunisia

During the night of July 3, Tunisians attacked the homes of sub-Saharan migrants in Sfax, the country’s second-largest city. The violence was sparked by the death of a Tunisian, blamed on three sub-Saharan Africans. Footage filmed by the assailants and residents shows the outbreak of violence. The police then picked up many of the migrants and abandoned them in the desert.

Tarak Mahdi, a Tunisian Member of Parliament, live-streamed and published the aftermath of an altercation between a Tunisian man and three others, who he said were sub-Saharan migrants in the city of Sfax. 

“Some Africans stabbed a man this evening,” he said to the camera. He then shows the body of a man lying on the pavement, blood running down the road. A woman comes from the end of the street and cries, “My son!” 

Mahdi explained that the man is in a critical condition, calling on the police to intervene immediately

“The Africans who stabbed him have escaped, so everyone needs to get involved.” 

Screenshot of the video posted live on Facebook by Tarak Mahdi on July 3 at 11:54pm. © Tarak Mahdi

The FRANCE 24 Observers team was able to verify around about a dozen videos filmed and shared online on this shocking night

Another video filmed at the same location shows uniformed National Guard officers and civilians questioning several Black men, who are then loaded into official vehicles. There is another crowd of young men there, some armed with rods. 

Later that evening, police vans were on patrol in Tunisia’s second largest city Sfax, where the incident took place. Videos filmed by local residents show police raids in various parts of the city, with crowds of Tunisians watching on. 

The footage below shows crowds of young men watching the police raid on a road linking the district of Sakiet Ezzit to Sakiet Eddaier (in the northeast of Sfax). Some had even climbed onto the roofs and walls of nearby houses. In the street, several official vans were parked, flashing lights, including one belonging to the special intervention brigade.

The crowd starts singing a verse of the national anthem, and applauds and encourages the gendarmes who maintain a security cordon between the crowd and the migrants being arrested. “There are over 200 people here”, says the person filming the video. 

Another video filmed on the notorious night in the al-Habib district of Sfax shows crowds applauding an arrest operation carried out by Tunisian police in the homes of sub-Saharan migrants.

The person filming exclaims, “Long live Tunisia! Sfax is not a colony. Get out, get out! Go home!” 

The crowd repeats a chant often used by football fans in defiance of the police: “We don’t f*ck with the police, we’re only afraid of God.” The chant their way of supporting those taking justice into their own hands.

‘All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beaten up’

On July 4, Guillaume (not his real name), a migrant from a sub-Saharan African country, reached out to the FRANCE 24 Observers team. He lives in Gremda. He lives in Gremda and states that on July 3 homes in his neighbourhood were attacked by groups of Tunisian men. 

He managed to escape and says he’s now in a safe place. He recounted what happened in shaky voice messages.

I can’t even raise my voice where I am talking to you at the moment. I’m very scared, many of my loved ones have been taken away by the National Guard in Sfax. 

On July 3, in Gremda, Tunisians came armed with rods and machetes [Editor’s note: several eyewitness accounts mention the use of knives, though the FRANCE 24 Observers team has been unable to verify this with visual evidence], during the night at the Café des Chinois [known to be a gathering place for sub-Saharans in Sfax]. All the Black people who passed by this area were stopped or beat up. They wounded several people with knives too.

Another of our sub-Saharan Observers in Sfax sent us this video filmed on the night of July 4, 2023. It shows a migrant’s flat being ransacked by a group of Tunisians who throw their belongings to the ground.

We couldn’t film the attack on July 4th because we were too scared. The assailants threw stones at our heads. They broke into our neighbour’s house, smashed her furniture and windows, searched the house and smashed the TV. They also set fire to the house. When the sub-Saharan neighbours called the police, they turned up but took away the sub-Saharan people who were outside, without checking their papers or letting them collect their passports. 

Luckily, I was able to escape into the night, I ran, I passed a car leaving the city and the driver let me in. I still can’t believe I’m alive.

A video filmed on the evening of July 3, 2023 by our Ivorian Observer Samuel (not his real name) in the Ghroubi district of Sfax shows a flat where several migrants were living completely ransacked. He claims that locals armed with knives broke into the flat.

‘They dropped us off in the mountains, then the police and the buses turned back’

An unknown number of sub-Saharan Africans were loaded onto buses. On the morning of July 5, our Observer Alpha (not his real name), from Guinea, sent us messages from “the desert” where he was dropped off. He had travelled all night in a bus accompanied by two other vehicles belonging to the Sfax regional urban transport company SORETRAS, also carrying sub-Saharan Africans.

Our Guinean Observer sent us this video on the morning of July 5 around 8:30am. After having travelled by bus all night, the police left them near the Algerian border. We have not heard from them since that morning.

They put us on a bus at around 10:30pm, then we took the road out of Sfax. At 11:45pm, the bus stopped 10km from the centre of Sfax, and we stopped on the road to pick up even more people. The bus was packed, and a second bus joined the convoy. They checked people in the street, and as soon as they saw a black person they made him get on the bus. They didn’t ask for any papers or residence permits making them get on. 

I said to the policeman before I got on the bus: “We’ve heard that you’re sending us to the Libyan desert or to Algeria”. The policeman told me no, that they were going to send us to a safe place. But this morning we were dropped off on what looks more like the Algerian border. We were dropped off in the mountains, and then the police vehicles and buses turned back. We’re walking towards the border, hoping to run into Algerian border guards or to enter Algerian territory.

Read moreThe growing xenophobic violence against sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia

‘If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert’

Those who escaped the police are now in hiding at home, like Paul (not his real name), a Cameroonian resident of the Ennasria district in the centre of Sfax.

This morning [July 5], at the post office in Ennasria, in the centre of Sfax, people who had come to withdraw their money via Western Union were taken away: the police came and rounded everyone up.  

But as I live in the city centre, I’m a little relieved: at least here, it’s not as easy for the Tunisian residents to make a lot of noise as in the outlying areas.

You have to stay in your house; outside you can be stopped by the police at any time. If you make the mistake of hanging around near the police station, they’ll send you into the desert.

The police do nothing to look for the attackers, absolutely nothing.

This video filmed by our Observer Paul on the morning of July 4 shows three police vehicles parked outside the post office in Sfax. Uniformed and plainclothes men stop a group of sub-Saharans before making them get into one of the vehicles.

According to the spokesperson for the Sfax justice ministry, 34 migrants were arrested the night of July 3 following altercations with residents in the Gremda district, where the initial murder took place. 

Also, four Tunisians were taken into custody for having given shelter to illegal migrants in Sfax. To date, none of the Tunisians involved in the violence have been arrested or questioned.

Read moreXenophobia grows amidst raids and repeated attacks on sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia

On July 5, the public prosecutor’s office issued a warrant for the detention of a further 33 illegal sub-Saharan migrants at the Sfax court. 

These raids followed two shocking waves of xenophobic violence and deportations of sub-Saharan migrants. In February 2023, a speech by Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed prompted accusations of racism and xenophobia targeting sub-Saharan Africans in particular.

Read more‘They spit on us’: What’s really going on in the El Ouardia migrant centre in Tunis

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Teen’s killing raises a French policing issue that dare not be named

The killing of 17-year-old Nahel M. during a police traffic stop this week was a depressingly familiar addition to France’s list of police brutality cases. But when the UN called on the government to address racial discrimination in its police force, the official reaction was just as familiar and depressing for France’s minorities.

On Friday, just a few days after a French police officer shot dead a teenager during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb, the UN Human Rights Office urged France to tackle racial discrimination.

“We are concerned by the killing of a 17-year-old of North African descent by police in France,” UN human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a press briefing in Geneva.

“This is a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement,” she added.

Shamdasani’s comments echoed innumerable statements released over the past few years by international rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, calling on the French state to address “systematic discrimination” particularly “the use of ethnic profiling” during identity checks.

If the UN human rights office believed the police killing of the teenager of Algerian descent, named Nahel M., could be the “moment” for an official French reckoning, it proved to be mistaken.

Shortly after the press conference in Geneva, the French foreign ministry released a statement rejecting the UN’s accusation of racism among its police. “Any accusation of racism or systemic discrimination in the police force in France is totally unfounded,” the foreign ministry said.

Race is a thorny issue in France, a nation that has become multi-ethnic since World War II and the subsequent decolonisation of several African and Asian countries.

The atrocities committed during World War II – including the complicity of the Vichy regime in deporting French Jews to Nazi concentration camps – continue to haunt the issue of ethnic and racial identity in France. The post-war state that emerged from the ashes of World War II is officially colour blind, grants equality to all its citizens, and tends to address social inequalities using class or geographic criteria.

But in the geographic neighbourhoods that experience the worst of police brutality and discrimination, that argument fails to persuade ethnically diverse residents.

Many cases, same message on policing

Nahel’s killing in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre was the latest in a string of cases of police violence in France’s deprived, multi-ethnic banlieues, or suburbs. These include high-profile cases, such as the 2005 deaths of two young men in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb, and the 2016 death of Adama Traoré in Val d’Oise, a banlieue further north. The victims were all non-white young males.

At a demonstration in Nanterre two days after Nahel’s death, protesters told journalists they were there to voice their horror over the killing of a teen they never knew, but who was “like” them. “Nahel could have been my brother,’’ a young woman of North African origin told the New York Times. “He was a nonwhite person in this country … Nonwhite people are targeted by the police.”

It’s an allegation that has been frequently repeated at anti-police brutality protests across France over the past few years.

Back in 2020, when the death of George Floyd sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the US, similar demonstrations erupted in France.

Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis evoked comparisons with the case of 24-year-old Traoré, whose death while in police custody in July 2016 sparked days of clashes in the suburbs. Two autopsies and four separate medical examinations have offered conflicting reasons for Traoré’s death, with his family maintaining that he suffocated under the weight of the three officers who used a controversial technique to restrain him.

“Of course France and America are very different countries, but they have a common enemy: racism,” a demonstrator told FRANCE 24 at a June 2020 “Justice for Adama Traoré” protest. “Nothing will ever change until people are educated about racism. Starting with the police.”

One bad apple, not the orchard

The message on the streets is frequently criticised by French government officials, security experts and police union representatives.

No evidence has emerged so far that Nahel was singled out by the police because of his race. The police officer, who was recorded in a video clip shooting into the yellow Mercedes at point blank range, has been charged on two counts: voluntary homicide and “lying” in his initial account that the car had tried to run down the police officers.

Speaking to reporters after Nahel’s killing, French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti chastised protesters and activists calling for systemic changes in law enforcement agencies.

The case is against a police officer, not the police in general. This lumping of them all together is intolerable,” said Dupond-Moretti.

Several French officials and security experts conceded that the video footage appeared to show the policeman acting in breach of procedures. But they insist it’s a case of one bad apple, not a rot in the orchard.

“I understand the anger, losing a 17-year-old is tragic. But I think the way the procedure is going, it’s going in the right direction. I think we’re facing a policeman who acted badly, who’s not representative of the whole police force,” André Rakoto, a defence and security analyst at Paris 8 university, told FRANCE 24’s The Debate show.

His fellow panelist, Inès Seddiki, a French-Moroccan activist and founder of GHETT’UP, an NGO working in Paris’s deprived banlieues, disagreed.

“I don’t agree with the justice minister that this officer is on trial, it’s not the whole police. I disagree. I think it’s the whole police,” said Seddiki. “I think it’s a structural problem that we should try to address.”

At war with rioting ‘vermin’

The official position that the police force does not have a discrimination problem because racism has no place in a republic proclaiming equality exasperates academics and activists working in the field.

Reacting to the foreign ministry’s statement that the UN call on France to address police was “unfounded”, Fraser McQueen, a French studies lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, did not mince his words.

“First of all, the denial that there isn’t any systemic racism in the institution of the police is really unconscionable in my view,” said McQueen.

“It’s been consistently picked up on by bodies like France’s ombudsman and by non-governmental organisations like the Open Society, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In last year’s presidential election, certain figures calculated that as many as 68% of French police officers voted for far-right candidates. So, this idea that there is no systemic racism is just incorrect, it’s false,” he noted.


Studies have consistently shown a rise in the far-right vote among France’s security establishment.

A July 2019 study by the left-leaning Fondation JeanJaurès found that more than 50% of French military and law enforcement personnel said they voted for far-right politician Marine Le Pen’s party in recent elections.

In the first round of the 2022 presidential election, 39% of police and military personnel voted for Le Pen while 25% voted for another far-right candidate, Éric Zemmour, according to polling institute Cluster17.

Police unions have come under particular scrutiny following Nahel’s killing. Following consecutive nights of unrest last week, unions representing half of France’s police on Friday said they were at war with “vermin” rioting in many cities.

“Today police officers are at the front line because we are at war,” the Alliance Police Nationale and UNSA Police unions said in a statement echoing a far-right discourse. “Faced with these savage hordes, it’s no longer enough to call for calm, it must be imposed,” they added.

Friday’s police union statement sounded emollient compared to a tweet posted by France Police, a far-right union, shortly after Nahel’s death hit the headlines in France.

“Congratulations to the colleagues who opened fire on a young 17-year-old criminal. By neutralising his vehicle, they protected their lives and those of other drivers. The only ones responsible for this thug’s death are his parents, who were incapable of educating their son,” it read.

The tweet has since been deleted, and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said he will seek the dissolution of the small far-right union.

People are scared of the police’

Law enforcement officials and their representatives frequently cite the increasing dangers of their job amid rising levels of anti-police animosity particularly in the banlieues.

“Look at the context. In the last ten years, we’ve had twice more refusals to comply than in the previous period. Things are getting difficult to handle for the police forces,” said Rakoto.   

A 2017 law allowing French police to fire on people failing to make a traffic stop if they posed a future danger has come under severe criticism over the past week.

The law, which was passed following a spate of terror attacks in France, has been slammed as a “licence to shoot” legislation. In 2022 alone, 13 people were shot and killed by police in cases of non-compliance. While French authorities have not released the racial or ethnic identities of the victims, sociologist Sebastien Roche told a local French daily that there was an “overrepresentation of ethnic minorities among those killed during refusals to obey” police traffic stops. 

When confronted with statistics of increasing cases of people in cars refusing to stop when asked to by the police, Seddiki said it was indicative of a lack of public trust in the police.

“I think what this means is that people are scared of the police more and more. People don’t think the police will be able to have a fair judgment in some situations. So they prefer to flee or face fines or be prosecuted instead of complying with a stop-and-frisk, for example, or with a traffic control. That’s something we should take into consideration because the police is meant to protect people and not scare people,” she said.

Days after Nahel’s killing shocked the nation, a law-and-order discourse has dominated the headlines following consecutive nights of rioting. It has swiftly superseded the initial expressions of outrage over the teenager’s killing. Many fear the real lessons of the tragic loss of a young life will not be learned as the numbers of police officers on duty and arrests mount – until the figures decrease and the news cycle moves on.

“What we’ve seen over the past few days is a lot of discourse about law and order, about restoring order, about how awful this violence is,” said Ariane Basthard-Bogain, a lecturer in French and politics at Northumbria University. “What we haven’t heard is a discussion of the structural causes of all of this and a long-term solution from it by the authorities. So, it’s very much framed as a violent uprising. But what we really need to focus on is why it was created in the first place.

That is a question the French establishment has been reluctant to address since a world war, a genocide and anti-colonial struggles shook the country in the previous century, locking the nation in an official equality that overlooks the experiences of many minorities today.

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Supreme Court Upholds Tribal Adoption Rights, What Horror Is This Leading Up To?

The US Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the law that gives Native American tribes preference in adoption and foster care cases involving Native children, rejecting the argument that it’s racist against white people. In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court let stand the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which Congress wrote to address concerns that Native kids were being taken away from their families, a legacy of the US government’s attempts to wipe out Native American tribes through forced assimilation. The ’70s were a crazy time, with the disco and the occasional congressional efforts to provide at least some justice for past discrimination.


Will Supreme Court ‘Increase Domestic Supply Of Infants’ By Stealing Native American Babies?

You Guys, The Fifth Circuit Ruled *For* The Welfare Of Indian Children

What The Hell Is It With Republicans Crapping On Native Americans?

Under the ICWA, as Vox explainered, if a child is a member of a Native American tribe or even is eligible for membership, then any adoption or foster placement needs to give first preference to the child’s extended family, and then to another Native American family, ideally in their own tribe or if necessary another tribe.

The law aims to keep Native children within Native communities, after over a century of US attempts at genociding Native Americans and, for most of the 20th century, actively attempting to alienate people from their tribal identities — first by taking Native kids from their families to Indian schools that aimed to assimilate them into the dominant Anglo culture, and later by encouraging adoptions of Native kids by white parents.

(A quick note on language here: Federal law and court cases use the term “Indian,” which has very specific meanings in law, so at times we will too, even if in the wider culture it’s no longer the preferred nomenclature, Dude.)

The case, Haaland v. Brackeen, has been making its way through the federal courts for years. It involves a white Texas couple, Jennifer and Chad Brackeen, who in 2016 were appointed as foster parents of a 10-month-old boy whose birth parents were Navajo and Cherokee. God told the Brackeens they needed to adopt the boy, but they found themselves in a legal fight with the Navajo Nation. Eventually they did adopt the boy, but they also wanted to adopt his half-sister, and here we are at the Supreme Court, with the Brackeens and the state of Texas (and a few other plaintiffs) arguing that the 1978 law was unconstitutional because it was an illegal racial preference and discriminated against non-Indian parents, and that by superseding state family law courts, Congress had overreached.

Ultimately, though, the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, rejected that claim, as the New York Times explains:

The tribes have said that they are political entities, not racial groups. Doing away with that distinction, which underpins tribal rights, they argued, could imperil nearly every aspect of Indian law and policy, including measures that govern access to land, water and gambling.

The majority dismissed the equal protection argument, saying that no party in the case had legal standing. Instead, the justices focused on Congress’s longstanding authority to make laws about tribes. […]

“Our cases leave little doubt that Congress’s power in this field is muscular, superseding both tribal and state authority,” Justice Barrett wrote, adding that its authority touched on subjects as varied as criminal defense, domestic violence, property law, employment and trade. She added, “The Constitution does not erect a firewall around family law.”

The two dissenting justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, each wrote their own dissents. Alito griped that the law focused too much on the tribes’ rights and not the right of the child to have the best family, which we presume was shorthand for a white family, because we’re just that mean. Thomas was his usual “government overreach, boo, hiss!” self, contending that the law wasn’t fair because some of the Native kids involved in adoptions regulated by the ICWA “may never have even set foot on Indian lands.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who’s been consistently friendly to Tribal interests in federal law, wrote a concurring opinion in which he said the majority opinion “safeguards the ability of tribal members to raise their children free from interference by state authorities and other outside parties.” Gorsuch explained that he agrees completely with the majority, but also wanted to provide “some historical context” with an overview of “how our founding document mediates between competing federal, state, and tribal claims of sovereignty.”

Here’s his introduction, which genuinely makes me want to read the rest this weekend.

The Indian Child Welfare Act did not emerge from a vacuum. It came as a direct response to the mass removal of Indian children from their families during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s by state officials and private parties. That practice, in turn, was only the latest iteration of a much older policy of removing Indian children from their families—one initially spearheaded by federal officials with the aid of their state counterparts nearly 150 years ago. In all its many forms, the dissolution of the Indian family has had devastating effects on children and parents alike. It has also presented an existential threat to the continued vitality of Tribes—something many federal and state officials over the years saw as a feature, not as a flaw. This is the story of ICWA.

Well yeah, that’s all impressively true, which led to a very reasonable question from “Southpaw” on Twitter: How the hell is it that Gorsuch is

so attuned to—and frankly eloquent at exposing—structural racism in Indian affairs, but so seemingly indifferent to it in other aspects of American life?

New Republic legal writer Matt Ford suggested that it comes down to Gorsuch’s weird originalism, pointing out that in his concurrence, Gorsuch writes,

Our Constitution reserves for the Tribes a place—an enduring place—in the structure of American life. It promises them sovereignty for as long as they wish to keep it. And it secures that promise by divesting States of authority over Indian affairs and by giving the federal government certain significant (but limited and enumerated) powers aimed at building a lasting peace.

Bummer for anyone else who’s faced systemic discrimination, though. You people should have found a way to get yourselves into the Constitution, and don’t you go saying “the 14th Amendment” because that’s not specific enough. He’s an odd one.

In a statement, President Joe Biden celebrated the Court’s decision, pointing out that he had supported the ICWA when he was in the Senate, he’s so old. Biden also did his own Critical Race Theory, noting that

Our Nation’s painful history looms large over today’s decision. In the not-so-distant past, Native children were stolen from the arms of the people who loved them. They were sent to boarding schools or to be raised by non-Indian families—all with the aim of erasing who they are as Native people and tribal citizens. These were acts of unspeakable cruelty that affected generations of Native children and threatened the very survival of Tribal Nations. The Indian Child Welfare Act was our Nation’s promise: never again.

So now all we have to do is worry what this pretty reasonable decision, combined with one that didn’t strike down the Voting Rights Act in its entirety last week, means for the next bunch of decisions coming from the Court, not that we’re cynical that way. Maybe it’ll decide not only to strike down Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, but also to eliminate student aid going forward because George Washington never got a student loan, now did he?

[AP / NYT / Vox / Haaland v. Brackeen / Photo: Jarek Tuszyński, Creative Commons License 3.0]

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