Interviews

  • Former prison controller warns against 'Islamist quarters' plan in French jails

    By and
     © Reuters © Reuters

    In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks earlier this month, perpetrated in the name of Islam by three gunmen born and raised in France, there has been wide discussion in France about how hard-line Islamists succeed in enrolling a section of the country’s disenfranchised youths into their midst. Beyond the influence of extremist networks that operate in public places, notably a number of mosques, the role that prison plays in the recruitment of potential jihadists has been highlighted, notably by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Shortly after the attacks, he suggested that jailed radical Islamists may be grouped together in special quarters in prisons to limit their current opportunities of converting fellow prisoners to their cause. Mediapart’s Joseph Confavreux and Carine Fouteau sought out the opinion of Jean-Marie Delarue, who until July 2014 served for six years as France’s general inspector of prisons. In this interview he argues why he believes the proposition is misguided and potentially dangerous.

  • The 'culture of violence and resentment' that fuels French jihadists

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    The shooting attacks in Paris last week claimed the lives of a total of 17 victims and ended with the deaths of the three gunmen. The outrages, perpetrated by Islamic extremists and which began with the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine before the separate murders of two police officers and the executions of four hostages in a Jewish supermarket, have opened a vast societal debate in France. There have been comparisons made with the 9/11 attacks in the United States, questions raised about the true significance of the national unity displayed during last Sunday’s huge marches in defiance of terrorism, about the real extent of integration, and stigmatization, of the French Muslim population, and why the jihad increasingly lures some young French citizens. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux, Olivier Roy, a recognised expert in France and abroad on questions of Islam and religious fundamentalism, discusses these and related issues, and highlights the taboos that cloud an effective analysis of the events.

  • The gays attracted by France's far-right Front National

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     © Reuters © Reuters

    Florian Philippot, a vice-president of France’s far-right Front National (FN) party, goes to court on Monday to sue a gossip magazine after it published photos of him earlier this month that ‘outed’ him as gay. Just several days later, a founder of the French LGBT rights group GayLib, Sébastian Chenu, announced he had joined the FN as ‘cultural advisor’ to its president, Marine Le Pen, and would in the future stand as an election candidate for the party whose founder, Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen, once notoriously described homosexuality as "a biological and social anomaly". Yet despite the FN’s homophobic history, and its recent opposition to the same-sex marriage law,  Act Up Paris founder Didier Lestrade, author of a book entitled Why gays moved to the Right, says he believes a significant number of gays are increasingly attracted by the far-right. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux he explains why, argues that the FN leader is seeking “to try and enroll minority struggles in her fight against Islam”, and underlines that “people like Chenu and Philippot are not only symbols that can set an example, but also they arrive with networks”.

  • France's 35-hour working week 'most effective pro-employment measure since the 1970s'

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    Since its introduction by a socialist government in 2000, France’s 35-hour working week is the subject of political controversy at home and myth abroad. While it has long been the bugbear of the French Right, now the current socialist government’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron has called for its application to be eased, supposedly to increase business competitiveness. Outside of France, it is often misunderstood as the illustration of a laid-back workforce – but who, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data, in reality work more hours annually than their German counterparts. This month, a French parliamentary commission of enquiry into ‘the relative societal, economic and financial impact of the reduction in working hours’, prompted by centre-right MPs, published its findings. To the surprise of many, and the ire of some, it broadly concludes that the measure, arguably the last most significant socialist reform, has proved a positive one. In this report by Mathieu Magnaudeix, the parliamentary commission’s rapporteur Barbara Romagnan argues why the 35-hour week has been positive for employees and employers alike, and why introducing a further reduction in basic working hours should not be excluded.

  • 'A sacrificed generation': the grim daily life of Syria's rebel brigades

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    Moment de détente entre compagnons de guerre. Un enfant joue au Moudjahidine sous le regard de ses ainés. © Pierre Roth Moment de détente entre compagnons de guerre. Un enfant joue au Moudjahidine sous le regard de ses ainés. © Pierre Roth

    French sociologist Romain Huët has spent two years studying the lives of the fighters among the hundreds of small brigades that are part of the Syrian opposition movement fighting, against all odds, the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Huët has travelled four times to northern Syria where he shared the daily lives of the fighters, who are separate to the Islamic State or the al-Nusra Front but who are devout proponents of an Islamic republic. In this interview with Thomas Cantaloube, he offers a rare insight into the daily horrors of the three-year civil war and profiles these young rebels who, he says, have been transformed from revolutionaries into hardened warriors and who have largely lost the notion of both what was the past and the promise of the future.

  • Thomas Frank on why 'the problem with the US is plutocracy'

    By Thomas Haley
    Vidéos accessibles dans l'article. Vidéos accessibles dans l'article.

    “We have this tiny percentage of the population that collects all the gains of the economy, and these people now have enormous power over our politics as well,” says Thomas Frank, the acclaimed US political commentator and essayist in a video interview with Mediapart in which he sketches the state of American society today, charts a shift to political and economic extremes, argues how Barak Obama missed his golden chance and points to where the Republicans are taking America.

  • The haunting first novel of an 'Afropolitan' writer

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    Novelist Taiye Selasi comes from a diverse background. Born in London to a Nigerian mother and Ghanaian father and brought up in the United States, she writes in English but now lives in Italy. Her first novel, Ghana Must Go, which has recently been translated into French, is every bit as hard to classify as its author – other than the certainty that it is evidence of a new and distinctive voice on the literary landscape. Mediapart has conducted a lengthy and fascinating interview in English with Taiye Selasi, a video of which can be seen below. But first Christine Marcandier explains some of the main themes of this remarkable début novel.

  • 'Monarchical' France needs Sixth Republic says ex-minister

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    Three high-profile ministers left the government when it was reshuffled at the end of August, having signalled their disagreement with the economic policy being pursued by President François Hollande. Former minister for the economy Arnaud Montebourg and ex-education minister Benoît Hamon have both recently returned to the political fray, with more public criticism of the direction the administration is taking. Now, in an exclusive interview with Mediapart, the third minister, former culture boss Aurélie Filippetti, talks about how her “conscience” compelled her to leave government, the need for a fresh approach to the economy and her wish for a major reform of the French Constitution to make government “less monarchical”. She spoke to Lénaïg Bredoux.

  • How the French Communist Party lost its base

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    The French Communist Party (PCF) was once a major political force, but which has declined over recent decades into a marginal party with just seven Members of Parliament. It was arguably saved from collapse by the Front de Gauche alliance it formed five years ago with the radical-left Parti de Gauche.  But despite the deep difficulties of the socialist government, the PCF and its ally have been unable to establish a popular alternative on the Left, while the spectacular surge of the far-right Front National has included significant gains among the blue-collar electorate which was once the lifeblood of the PCF. Sociologist Julian Mischi is the author of a book published last month which studies the long divorce between the PCF and its working class base, and in this interview with Lénaïg Bredoux he explains how the party has become an organisation ‘dominated by teachers and regional public service managers’.

  • The 'unprecedented' danger of the IS, and why the key to its defeat may lie in Syria

    al-Baghdadi al-Baghdadi

    The Iraqi army, Shia militia and Kurdish Peshmerga this weekend launched a combined assault to free the town of Amerli in northern Iraq from a two-month siege by forces of the jihadist Islamic State (IS). But while the jihadists, who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria, have suffered recent setbacks in their military campaign, notably after the launching in mid-August of US air strikes against them, they remain a formidable threat in their ambition of establishing a vast caliphate in the region. “Over the quarter of a century that I have been working on this phenomenon, I have never seen this,” says French historian Jean-Pierre Filiu, an internationally-recognised authority on Arabic affairs, in this interview with Mediapart. “The degree of jihadist mobilisation, its coverage in space and time, is without precedent,” he adds, warning that the group’s war chest of more than a billion dollars “now has the resources to perpetrate the equivalent of a thousand 9/11 attacks.” But Filiu also argues that “the key to the jihadist defeat lies much more in Syria than in Iraq”, in the form of the non-Islamist opponents fighting the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.