France's far-right RN party to choose Le Pen's successor

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Left-to-right: Jordan Bardella, Marine Le Pen and Louis Aliot. © Photo illustration Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart avec AFP Left-to-right: Jordan Bardella, Marine Le Pen and Louis Aliot. © Photo illustration Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart avec AFP

France’s far-right Rassemblement National party, the former Front National, is to choose its next president in November, replacing Marine Le Pen who is standing down after 11 years at the helm of the party founded by her father. The two candidates for her succession are her former partner and mayor of Perpignan, Louis Aliot, 52, and the caretaker party president, Jordan Bardella, 27, who officialised his bid this week. Both have been keen to reassure the party of their loyalty to Le Pen and, as Christophe Gueugneau reports, whichever one the party chooses, it will remain firmly under her grip.

Imam disappears after France's Council of State validates his expulsion

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Hassan Iquioussen, pictured at his home in Lourches, north-east France, in 2019. © Photo Pierre Rouanet / La Voix du Nord / PhotoPQR via MaxPPP Hassan Iquioussen, pictured at his home in Lourches, north-east France, in 2019. © Photo Pierre Rouanet / La Voix du Nord / PhotoPQR via MaxPPP

France’s Council of State has ruled against a lower court’s suspension of an expulsion order against imam Hassan Iquioussen for propagating anti-Semitism and misogyny and being an apologist for terrorism. Immediately after the ruling, which capped a month-long legal battle, police were sent to arrest Iquioussen at his home in north-east France but the 58-year-old imam had already disappeared. Camille Polloni reports.

When French interior minister dined with anti-Semitic imam he now wants to expel

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Gérald Darmanin (foreground) after his victory in municipal elections in Tourcoing, March 31st 2014. © Photo Franck Crusiaux / REA Gérald Darmanin (foreground) after his victory in municipal elections in Tourcoing, March 31st 2014. © Photo Franck Crusiaux / REA

In a legal battle that began in July, France’s Council of State is to rule early next week on the legality of interior minister Gérald Darmanin’s order for the expulsion to Morocco of imam Hassan Iquioussen, accused of promoting anti-Semitism and opposition to gender equality, and acting as an apologist for terrorism. Mediapart can reveal that the high-profile, hardline interior minister in fact once enjoyed cordial relations with the imam when he sought to woo Muslim voters while campaigning for election as mayor of the town of Tourcoing, and when Iquioussen’s anti-Semitic diatribes were already known. Lou Syrah reports.

Migrant trafficking: the trial of ‘Mr Average’ caught smuggling dinghy and life jackets to the French coast

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Migrants setting off to cross the Channel to England from northern France on October 16th 2021. © Photo Marc Sanye / AFP Migrants setting off to cross the Channel to England from northern France on October 16th 2021. © Photo Marc Sanye / AFP

On August 22nd, a total of 1,295 migrants landed on the shores of southern England from France, a record daily figure, bringing the number of people who have made the same perilous crossing of the Channel so far this year to more than 22,500. Migrant smuggling gangs typically demand 3,000 euros per person for a place on the flimsy dinghies and key to the logistics of these networks are ‘mules’ who transport the boats and equipment, often from Germany, to the French coast. Camille Polloni travelled to the northern French city of Lille to follow the trial last week of one of them, whose lawyer said he was a “Mister average who works every day”.

French 'fake news' firm was hired to report on Bulgarian anti-corruption journalist

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Journalist Atanas Chobanov investigates corruption in Bulgaria from his base in France. © Illustration Justine Vernier / Mediapart Journalist Atanas Chobanov investigates corruption in Bulgaria from his base in France. © Illustration Justine Vernier / Mediapart

France-based journalist Atanas Chobanov has been described as a 'bête noire' of Bulgaria’s oligarchs over his dogged investigations into high-level corruption in the Balkan country. French economic intelligence and cybersecurity firm Avisa Partners, whose clients include major corporations and dictatorial regimes and which is accused of manipulating online information, has confirmed to Mediapart it was commissioned by an agency it did not name to compile a report on the Bulgarian journalist. The firm insisted it later abandoned its enquiries and kept its “internal analysis report” in-house. Fabrice Arfi and Antton Rouget report.

French justice minister jumps on far-right bandwagon in row over prison 'game show'

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An exercise yard at Fresnes prison, June 27th 2022. © Photo Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart An exercise yard at Fresnes prison, June 27th 2022. © Photo Sébastien Calvet / Mediapart

A video showing prisoners go-karting and taking part in other competitions during an event imitating a popular reality TV show at France's second-biggest prison has caused a political row. On Saturday, justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti waded into the controversy by promising an “investigation” into the event held at Fresnes prison south of Paris in July.  It was organised by the prison's authorities and had been approved by senior managers in the prisons department, part of the Ministry of Justice, while officials insist it received no public funding. In this opinion article, Camille Polloni says it only took a few politicians on the far-right to express outrage over the event for the justice minister to overlook the facts and to dance to their political tune.

Silence of the sands: a beguiling novel set on the edge of desert in a remote part of Algeria

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Novelist Sarah Ghoula. © Photo Linda Rachdi Novelist Sarah Ghoula. © Photo Linda Rachdi

In her first novel 'Nos silences sont immenses' ('Our silences are immense') former French teacher Sarah Ghoula delves back into a time when Algeria was still a French colony. Set on the edge of the desert, it tells the story of a gifted young healer. One of the themes of the book is the handing down of knowledge and stories, and the author – who was educated in and taught in France but whose family comes from rural Algeria - uses myths and legends from oral storytelling as she describes the struggle to preserve those traditions. Faïza Zerouala reviews this poetic debut novel and speaks to the author.

How a German army designed not to fight now aims to be 'biggest NATO force in Europe'

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A German soldier returns after the Bundeswehr left  Afghanistan. © Hauke-Christian Dittrich / AFP A German soldier returns after the Bundeswehr left Afghanistan. © Hauke-Christian Dittrich / AFP

The German military or 'Bundeswehr' is under-equipped, used only for deployment in other parts of the world and is currently incapable of defending its own territory. In essence, the army in post-reunification Germany was designed for peace - not war. Now the conflict in Ukraine and the threat from Russia have changed all that and authorities in Berlin are planning to build the “biggest conventional European army within NATO”. Thomas Schnee reports from Berlin about Germany's shift away from pacifism.

'Even in death they reject us': plight of the LGBT+ community in Afghanistan

Najib in Kabul in January 2022. © Photo Rachida El Azzouzi / Mediapart Najib in Kabul in January 2022. © Photo Rachida El Azzouzi / Mediapart

It has been an economic and humanitarian disaster and human rights have come under sustained assault. A year after the Taliban retook control, Afghanistan continues to founder. For the LGBT+ community, too, the return to power of the Islamic fundamentalists has been a devastating blow. Earlier this year Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi and independent journalist Mortaza Behboudi travelled across Afghanistan to report on the situation there. At the time they spoke to 'Najib' – not his real name – to discover the reality of living as a gay man under Taliban rule and they have been in contact with him in recent days. Here is his story.

Migrants die, the world looks the other way

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Migrants saved by rescuers from SOS Méditerranée in February 2021. © Nejma Brahim / Mediapart. Migrants saved by rescuers from SOS Méditerranée in February 2021. © Nejma Brahim / Mediapart.

From the north of France to the Aegean Sea, from the Mediterranean to Mexico, the number of deaths at our borders is rising.  More than 24,000 people are officially known to have perished on the perilous Mediterranean sea route alone since 2014. Yet these recurring tragedies produce no reaction from our political leaders. In this opinion article Mediapart's Nejma Brahim says this casual acceptance of migrant deaths cannot continue.

How wealthy French elite avoid the consequences of the climate chaos they create

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Golfers at Rochefort-en-Yvelines, near Paris, August 5th 2022. © Photo Alain Jocard / AFP Golfers at Rochefort-en-Yvelines, near Paris, August 5th 2022. © Photo Alain Jocard / AFP

Thousands of French householders are having to be evacuated because of wildfires, others are being deprived of drinking water from their taps while some are even dying at work because of the heat. Yet meanwhile the ultra-rich are jetting around in private planes, benefiting from exemptions to be able to continue to play golf and racking up profits thanks to rocketing fossil fuel prices. In this opinion article Mediapart's Mickaël Correia argues that the French government is itself giving a stamp of approval to the rich elite's climate 'separatism' through its approach to environmental policy.

Echoes of French colonialism: the Harki weavers from Algeria sent to make carpets

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Former weavers Zohra Fournier and her sister Habiba Kechout © Photo Prisca Borrel pour Mediapart Former weavers Zohra Fournier and her sister Habiba Kechout © Photo Prisca Borrel pour Mediapart

In 1964 around 60 Harki families – the Algerians who had fought on France's side in the recently-ended Algerian War of Independence – were shunted off to a housing estate at Lodève in the south of France. The women from the families, all skilled weavers, were put to work in what was to become a small offshoot factory for the manufacture of high-quality rugs and carpets in Paris, and in a bid to revive the local textile industry. But as Prisca Borrel reports, the shadow of French colonial attitudes in Algeria was to loom over this initiative for years to come.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon's China stance causes tensions on French Left

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Beijing August 4th, 2022. © Photo Noel Celis/AFP Beijing August 4th, 2022. © Photo Noel Celis/AFP

The broad leftwing alliances NUPES became a major force in France's National Assembly following legislative elections in June. However, several leading figures in the alliance have voiced their strong disagreement with its main architect, the veteran radical left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon, over the latter's stance on China and Taiwan. As François Bougon and Mathieu Dejean argue here in this opinion article, Mélenchon's rehashing of Chinese state propaganda stems from deep-seated anti-Americanism.

Seeking answers to a summer of extremes

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Le Sou river in the Camarie gorges of Lagrasse, in south-west France, August 5th 2022. © Photo Idriss Bigou-Gilles / Hans Lucas via AFP Le Sou river in the Camarie gorges of Lagrasse, in south-west France, August 5th 2022. © Photo Idriss Bigou-Gilles / Hans Lucas via AFP

France is grappling with the consequences of a series of successive heatwaves this summer, aggravated by record drought conditions which began in winter, leading to massive wildfires, a fall in energy production, and tumbling crop yields. While weather predictions suggest this autumn will see notably violent storms, these are expected to have little effect on the refilling of phreatic zones. Mediapart turned to French hydrologist Emma Haziza to explore what must change to ensure the future supply and protection of water.

How Covid invited a rethink of the scientific publications business

 © Photo illustration Mediapart © Photo illustration Mediapart

Science journalists have for many years cited the difficulty of conciliating the (long) time required in scientific activity and the (rapid) time in which the media operate. The Covid-19 pandemic came perilously close to joining the two, when an avalanche of scientific papers about the virus were published with such haste that many had to be swiftly retracted. Science journalist and historian Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports on how the pandemic exposed the unvirtuous practices of the lucrative scientific publications business, now brought to a turning point and in need of reinvention.