By Sofiane Ennaim
By Sofiane Ennaim
Los Angeles – I remember waking up late on that sunny Friday, November 13, 2015, after an intense, exhausting and stressful night I spent studying for my midterms. It was around eleven o’clock when I woke up in Los Angeles where I have studied for now almost three months. A few minutes after showering, I looked at the time on my phone, waiting for the daily text my parents usually send me to make sure I am doing alright, as it has been tough for them to see their younger son leave home to settle more than 9,000 km away. Surprisingly, this text didn’t appear on my phone’s screen.
However, I got one from a close friend of mine informing me that several attacks are ongoing in my home city. I rapidly called my relatives and made sure that they all were alright. They were, and I start praying to God for this nightmare to end. I quickly found a way to watch French television channels from my laptop, so I can follow the events as they happened. Following such tragic events makes you feel even more helpless when you live such a far distance from home. The day I had planned to dedicate to preparing for my exams turned into a never-ending day I spent glued to the screen observing the number of casualties continuing to grow.
A few hours after these events occurred, the investigations led by French security forces started communicating the identities of the perpetrators of these horrible acts of cowardice. One common characteristic of these terrorists is their nationalities and origins: they all were either French or Belgians of North African decent. They were born and raised in Europe. They were radicalized in Europe, in their home countries. The question of identity has always been a difficult topic in France, where a significant proportion of the population of foreign origin claims to be discriminated against.
Ethnic studies, which help assess the situation of the different communities living in a country, are strictly forbidden in France, so only a little data is available concerning the conditions of life of French citizens of foreign descent, also referred to as binationals. In such difficult times, fostering national unity becomes more crucial than ever, but it seems that the opposite is currently happening. Shortly after establishing the state of emergency that allows for police forces to carry out house searches without the authorization they would usually need, many associations have condemned the existence of excessive discriminatory actions targeting French Muslims suffering from abuses.
The threat of the growing popularity of Marine Le Pen’s National Front, a French far right party, shows how helpless the government has become. The socialist government already suffers from unpopularity due to its inability to cope with rising unemployment, and appears to be more divided than ever today because of a certain proposition. As part of the project of constitutional revision that is supposed to be submitted to Parliament during the first quarter of 2016, the ability to withdraw French citizenship to bi-national terrorists may be included. Several socialist politicians condemned such a project, calling it representative of an ideology that isn’t theirs, but the one defended by right-leaning parties or even far right parties, such as the National Front.
A measure that responds to political ambitions is always counterproductive. And that’s what the withdrawal of nationality for binational terrorists is. As Marine Le Pen’s National Front saw unprecedented success during the first round of December’s regional elections, the socialist government is trying to regain electors 16 months before the presidential elections. Including measures that right-leaning political parties have been advocating would help avoid the government’s constitution revision project’s rejection by the Parliament, a failure the socialist party should avoid.
Withdrawing the nationality to binational terrorists will have no consequence on the issue of radicalization concerning hundreds of young people from different backgrounds taking up arms against their own country. Such a measure is particularly discriminatory, as it would make the punitive system unequal by treating French people differently according to their nationality and origins. ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’ says the famous French motto. I believe in these values. France is a country rich in history, a glorious history during which it has always defended human rights and their application throughout the world.
However, the solution to the phenomenon of radicalization isn’t about being able to withdraw the citizenship of the perpetrators of such attacks when they hold two nationalities. This makes of bi-nationals second class citizens, while the French citizenship code makes it clear that French citizenship can either be acquired jus sanguinis (right of blood) or jus soli (right of the soil), with no distinction between French citizens. Such a constitutional revision project should include measures to help foster national unity, rather than dividing it. Francois Hollande himself had declared in 2010 while a Member of Parliament that the intention of former President Sarkozy to withdraw French nationality to bi-nationals convicted of criminal acts towards French officers was not the best way to protect French citizens, and was even intrusive to the French ‘republican tradition’.
Apart from showing the inability of the government to propose concrete solutions to the problem of radicalization, this measure also demonstrates the desire of disempowerment of the French government from that phenomenon. Withdrawing French citizenship to bi-national terrorists is denying their belonging to the French nation where they were born, where they grew up, and where they sympathized with extremist ideas. France just can’t get rid of part its terrorists by sending them to another country, in no way responsible for who these people became.
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