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Quick Reads + Western Europe

Media archive · 1738 posts

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Latest stories from Quick Reads + Western Europe

France, the Czech Republic and Greece Under Scrutiny for Their Treatment of Roma Community

 
On International Romani Day (April 8) the French branch of Amnesty International wrote a statement entitled “Facing a spiral of violence, the Roma of Europe are demanding justice and protection”. The statement is especially critical of the treatment of the Roma community in France, the Czech Republic and Greece [fr]:
Les gouvernements, dans toute l’Europe, manquent à leur devoir envers les Roms de multiples façons. Les discriminations, les expulsions forcées et l'accès à une éducation de moindre qualité sont la norme dans de nombreux pays.

Governments across Europe are failing in their duties towards the Roma community in many ways. Discrimination, forced evictions and limited access to quality education are the norm in many countries. 

An exhibition called Dignity in Strasbourg [fr] can be found on Facebook that displays photos of the community that links dignity, human rights and poverty.

 

The Kidnapping Industry Takes Hold in Cameroon

The Matango Club blog reflects upon the kidnapping of two italian priests and a canadian nun [fr] on April 4, 2014 in Northern Cameroon:

 Pour l’histoire, les kidnappings de ce genre ne datent pas d’aujourd’hui. Rappelons que  dernièrement, le rapt du prêtre français Georges Vandenbeusch, 42 ans, a fait beaucoup de bruit. Il avait été kidnappé un 14 novembre 2013 dans son monastère, la paroisse de Nguetchewe, près de Koza, dans le nord du pays, à 700 kilomètres de la capitale Yaoundé, une zone considérée comme très dangereuse. Avant lui, le 19 février 2013, la famille Moulin-Fournier avait elle aussi été enlevée. Ces deux derniers kidnapping avaient connu un tapage médiatique international à tel point que les soupçons qui pesaient sur le groupe islamique Boko Haram ont fini par être confirmés par le chef Abubakar Shekau, leader du groupuscule depuis 2009.

Tout juste après la libération de la famille Moulin-Fournier, la presse camerounaise et beaucoup d’opinion diverses soupçonnaient le gouvernement camerounais d’avoir donné une rançon au groupe islamique Boko Haram pour la libération des français. Ces soupçons se sont encore renforcés lorsque la même France a encore eu maille à partir avec le kidnapping du prêtre Georges qui a été libéré quelque semaines après. Ces séries de rapts et de libérations à n’en plus finir font penser que c’est devenu un marché tant du côté du Nigeria que du  Cameroun.

 Kidnapping of this kind is not new in Cameroon. The abduction of French priest Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, made ​​a lot of noise recently. He was kidnapped on November 14, 2013 in his monastery, in the parish Nguetchewe near Koza, 700 kilometers north of the capital city Yaoundé, an area that is considered very dangerous. Before him, on February 19 2013, the Moulin-Fournier family were also kidnapped. These last two kidnappings were covered to a certain extent in the international media with suspicions aimed at the Islamic group Boko Haram. These suspicions were eventually confirmed by Boko Haram's leader since 2009 Abubakar Shekau.  Just after the release of Moulin- Fournier family, the Cameroonian press suspected that the Cameroonian government paid a ransom to Boko Haram for the release of the French hostages. These suspicions were further strengthened when France seems involved in the release of priest Georges Vandenbeusch some weeks later. These series of kidnappings and releases suggest that the kidnapping industry has become a booming sector in Nigeria and now in Cameroon as well.

Why Rwanda Accuses France of Aiding 1994 Genocide

As Rwanda pays tribute to the victims of the genocide 20 years after the tragedy, President Kagame states again that France must “face up to the difficult truth” of its role in the 1994 genocide [fr]. As a result of this statement, France has pulled out of the commemorative events and former Foreign Affairs Minister of France demands that president Hollande defends the Honor of France and its army.  Rémi Noyon at French site Rue 89 lists the reasons why Rwanda accuses again France of aiding the genocide [fr] :

 1) La France va « de facto » prendre le commandement de l’armée rwandaise face au rebelles du Front patriotique rwandais (FPR).

2) La France craint alors que l’offensive tutsi ne soit télécommandée via l’Ouganda par les Anglo-saxons, et ne vise à enfoncer un coin dans l’influence de la France sur la région

3) La France ne semble pas s’intéresser outre mesure aux négociations de paix.

4) Les soldats n’embarquent pas le personnel tutsi présent à l’ambassade de France (sauf une personne). Ils seront tous massacrés.

5) Quant à l’opération Turquoise, elle continue à diviser : elle a certainement permis de sauver des vies tutsi, mais l’armée est accusée d’être restée passive – et donc complice – face aux atrocités.

1) France commanded some branches of the Rwandan army against the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

2) France feared that the Tutsi offensive was remotely piloted via Uganda by anglophone countries and was intended to drive a wedge into the influence of France in the region. 

3) France did not seem overly interested in peace negotiations before the conflict.

4) The soldiers did not evacuate any  of the Tutsi staff present at the Embassy of France (except for one person). They ended all being killed.

5) As for Operation Turquoise, it continues to divide: it certainly saved Tutsi lives, but the army is accused of having remained passive – and therefore was accomplice – to the atrocities.

 

 

UNESCO Mapping World Press Freedom Day Events

Press Freedom Day events

Screen shot of UNESCO's crowd map of Press Freedom Day events

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day and UNESCO is marking the occasion with an event in Paris, France that is free and open to the public.

There are lots of resources on their site for anyone who wishes to learn more about press freedom or host an event.

Using an online crowdmapping tool UNESCO is logging World Press Freedom Day events around the world and invite you to submit your own.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Why Learning Italian Still Makes Sense

"L'Italiano...non serve a niente?", from Alma Edizioni's contest page.

“L'Italiano…non serve a niente?”, from Alma Edizioni's contest page.

As Italian publishing company Alma Edizioni was busy organizing an event about the Italian language in Rome, they received an unexpected letter [it] from someone who defined himself as a “disappointed student”:

Why? What's the point of studying Italian today? [...] No one wants to study a language that no longer has a place in the world, the language of a country that keeps getting worse day by day. [...] For years I've studied Italian which today, however, is neither a language of culture, nor of work opportunities.

In order to respond to such poignant questions, Alma Edizioni decided to let students from around the world give their opinion through a contest, which could be followed through the hashtag #litalianononserveaniente (the Italian language is useless).

Participants were invited to produce a one-minute video clip to explain why studying the language of the ‘boot of Europe’ in 2014 is still worth it. More than 80 groups of students took part in the contest, according to the company's YouTube channel.

The “Happy Voting” Project Encourages Young Europeans to Vote

Drawing on the Pharrell Williams worldwide hit “Happy” and the associated equally renown music video (over 143 million views on YouTube), the Brussels-based film company Full Tunes Production has recently launched on facebook an enthusiastic project  called “Happy Voting“ that strives to encourage voting for the next European elections.

The project can also be found on their website and on twitter (@HappyVoting).

Because of  the economic and financial crisis that undermines consumer confidence since 2007 in Europe and the political struggle that the European Union experiences to assert its political relevance on international issues such as the crises in Syria and in Crimea, many observers fear that voters’ participation will reach new low in the next European elections. Raphael Da Silva for Rue89 Strasbourg blog notes [fr] that in the 2009 European elections, 59.5% of French voters did not vote. The Happy Voting Project claims to be an independent initiative that only aims to promote voting, specifically amongst the european youth. Over 12.9 thousand people have already been invited to participate via facebook. The idea is to collaboratively produce a remake of the original “Happy” clip and help buzz the release of the video. Here is the teaser of the Happy Voting video: 

MENA: Hijab and Western Discrimination

Egyptian blogger Nadia El Awady wrote a blog post in which she questions if women wearing Hijab face discrimination in western countries or not. Nadia, as an Egyptian who grew up in the US and lived prolonged periods in Europe, adds from her personal experience in regards to reactions she received in both Eastern and Western countries when it comes to wearing the Hijab or even taking it off.

She writes:

During all those years, I have been without the hijab, with the hijab, wearing a very long hijab (called a khimar), wearing a face veil (called a niqab), back to wearing a shorter hijab and finally, now, no hijab at all. I’ve done it all. I’ve seen all the reactions. The way I have dressed over the years may have been accepted by some in my inner circles and criticized by others; this is true. How a woman dresses is a highly contentious subject no matter where you are in the world. When I donned the face veil, my own father was against it. When I took off my hijab, I lost at least one good friend and was tsk tsked by many others. These are normal reactions and they are to be expected. I do not categorize these reactions as discrimination. Friends and family have definite ideas of how they expect me to live my life. They believe they know what is best for me.

750 Million People Expected to Speak French by 2050

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa.

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Countering the assertion by John McWhorter at the New republic that learning French is pointless, Pascal Emmanuel Gobry  writes on his Forbes blog that French might just be the language of the future:

French isn’t mostly spoken by French people, and hasn’t been for a long time now. The language is growing fast, and growing in the fastest-growing areas of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The latest projection is that French will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050. A study by investment bank Natixis even suggests that by that time, French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.

Global Voices translators weighed in a month ago on the challenges and the benefits of learning French.   

 

Returning Human Remains is Not an Apology, Says Namibia to Germany

Human remains who were killed during the colonial war (early 20th century) were returned to Namibia by Germany in March. However, Namibians still demand a formal apology from the German government as Tendai Marima,  a post-doctoral researcher in African literature, wrote on the Think Africa Press website :

The skulls and skeletons that made their way home this month were seized by Germany back when Namibia − then ‘German South-West Africa’ − was one its colonies. Namibia was first occupied by the European power in 1884, and in 1904, the Herero and Nama peoples − dispossessed of their land and livestock − rose up together in an attempt to expel the Germans.

In an early revolt, over 100 German settlers and soldiers were killed, but the ensuing repression of the uprising was relentless and brutal. Over the three years it took to suppress the uprising, an estimated 65,000 Hereros and 10,000 Nama were killed, representing some 80% and 50% of those entire populations respectively. It is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

The Daily Lives of Sub-Saharan Immigrants in Prague

Chadian blogger Réndodjo Em-A Moundona [fr] writes about the daily lives of African immigrants in Prague [fr] : 

Une petite discussion avec ces Africains suffit pour se rendre à l´évidence que la communauté n´est ni menacée, ni totalement intégrée. Comme fille africaine, il est quasi impossible de trouver un travail conséquent [..] En général, les Tchèques sont un peuple renfermé, ils sont cependant gentils et tolérants. «Il n’y a absolument aucun problème à être noir à Prague, personne ne vous fera de remarque, ce serait un comble!» garantit un des matelots originaire de la Côte d´Ivoire. Mais cette tolérance n´est pas non plus le gage d´une acceptation totale.

A quick chat with Africans here is all you need to realize that the community here is not under any pressure but it is not  fully integrated either. As an African girl, it is almost impossible to find a real job.[..] In general, the Czechs are reserved but very tolerant. A sailor from from Côte d'Ivoire affirms that ”There is absolutely no issue with blacks in Prague, nobody will say anything untowards to you, to the contrary!”. Yet, this tolerance is in no way a guarantee that one will be fully integrated in the society. 

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