France’s No-Go Zones: The Riots Return

by Guy Millière

A few months ago, a police officer, Noam Anouar, who infiltrated Islamist circles, published a book, France Must Know. No-go zones in France, he wrote, are now foreign enclaves on French territory. “The gangs operating there,” he noted, “have formed a parallel economy based on drug trafficking.”

“They consider themselves at war with France and with Western civilization. They act in cooperation with Islamist organizations, and define acts of predation and rampage as raids against infidels”.

Anouar concluded that reclaiming these areas today would be complicated, costly, and involve calling in the army.

For years, successive French governments have chosen a policy of “willful blindness”: they simply behave as if they do not see what is going on. They do not even try to find solutions.

The jihadist attacks of 2015 seemed to be a wake-up call, indicating that maybe an emergency response could be required. A massacre at the headquarters of the satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015 was a huge shock. The incident led to a demonstration of more than a million people in Paris. Ten months later, on November 13, a mass shooting at the Bataclan Theater , where 89 people were murdered and dozens injured — and 86 people murdered by a truck-ramming in Nice on July 14, 2016 — were equally huge shocks, but did not lead to any responses. Soldiers were simply dispatched to patrol the streets and stand guard in front of public buildings, churches and synagogues.

Since then, there seems to have been a choice by the government to define terrorist attacks as “inexplicable” and committed by people who were “depressed”. The no-go zones were treated as time bombs that would eventually explode, but with the explosion delayed a few years.

Currently, exempting the no-go zones from a lockdown appears to be one way the government implicitly admits that they are no longer a part of French territory, but tries to maintain a precarious coexistence with them.

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