Why do we hate Sara Beltran Hernandez and Nasrin Haque?

Dr Nasrin Haque

Why does the United States of America hate Sara Beltran Hernandez? Why does Australia hate Nasrin Haque? Why does the State hate, and fear, non-native born women? Why does the State, built on the principles of white male supremacy, hate, and fear, non-native born women of color? What horrible crimes have these women committed that the State has chosen to persecute them?  For Sara Beltran Hernandez, it is the crime of being a Latina, of being a Central American, woman seeking refuge. For Nasrin Haque, it is the crime of being an Asian woman. The real crime is not in their bodies, but in our States and therefore in ourselves.

Sara Beltran Hernandez is very sick. Doctors say she may have a brain tumor and should have surgery quickly. Hernandez has been in immigration detention since 2015. Her family, in New York, say that she fled an abusive partner in El Salvador. They have been applying for asylum since her detention. This month, Sara Beltran Hernandez complained of headaches, nosebleeds, and memory loss. When she finally collapsed, she was taken to Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. While awaiting emergency surgery, Sara Beltran Hernandez was taken, by ICE agents, and removed to the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas. Already weak and confined to a wheelchair, she was tied by her hands and ankles. The family is desperate and terrified.

The family is desperate, and by all accounts Sara Beltran Hernandez is dying: “Sara is worse than we thought. Death may be imminent.”

Nasrin Haque’s story is different and yet connected. Dr. Nasrin Haque, originally from Bangladesh, has lived in Australia for eight years. Previously Dr. Haque lived in Hungary. Nasrin Haque’s sister, brother, and parents are all Australian citizens. But her sixteen-year-old daughter Sumaya is not a citizen. When Nasrin Haque applied for permanent residency, she was turned down because her daughter lives with autism: “Her application for permanent residency was rejected because Sumaya’s condition, which is described as a `moderate developmental delay’, was deemed a burden on Australian taxpayers.” When does someone become a burden to the State, and how is that not only determined but calibrated and weighed? Where are the scales of injustice, and who set them?

Nasrin Haque is a successful doctor in Sydney. With friends and supporters, she waged a campaign to keep Sumaya, and the rest of the family, in Australia: “Although she does attend a special school, she has not received any other support from the state during her eight years in Australia. Sumaya is an independent young girl with strong computer skills and manages all activities of daily living on her own. My full-time position as a GP allows me to financially support my family without assistance from the Australian state … If we are deported back to Hungary, we will not be able to function. Deportation would tear our family apart, and destroy my childrens’ chances of completing their education and becoming productive members of society.”

Nasrin Haque was given until February 24, today, to present herself and her daughter with airline tickets in hand, or else they would be deported. Today, it was reported that, at the eleventh hour, the deportation was stayed and Nasrin Haque and her daughter Sumaya would be given permanent residency.

While the story for Nasrin Haque and Sumaya ends more or less happily, or at least with tears of relief, it’s a shameful episode in an even more shameful ongoing tragedy. When a young Salvadoran woman awaiting emergency surgery is forcibly and violently seized and taken off; when a young girl living with disabilities and her loving mother are told to leave, forever, because the disabilities cost too much, we have arrived at the intersection of State and Hate. The State built, like a fortress, on hatred, always assaults women, first, last, most intensely and most violently. Why do we hate Sara Beltran Hernandez and Nasrin Haque?

Sara Beltran Hernandez

 

(Photo Credit 1: The Guardian / Dr. Nasrin Haque) (Photo Credit 2: NY Daily News / Melissa Zuniga)

No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!

Last Friday, during a National Public Radio show’s Friday News Roundup of domestic news, four panelists briefly discussed the Day Without Immigrants actions that had taken place across the country the day before. One prominent conservative correspondent noted, “There seemed to be a little conceptual confusion over immigrants and illegal immigrants.” There was no conceptual confusion among those who protested and their supporters. They chanted, “No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!” Not “legal”, not “illegal”. Immigrants. Immigrants, children of immigrants, grandchildren of immigrants have seen how ICE agents act. They know the raids are indiscriminate, and they know the actions, and many of the actors, are compelled by a xenophobia that is informed by white supremacist racism, the intersectional form of terror of the current regime.

The Muslim Ban, the anti-immigrant raids and sweeps, the language of intimidation and threat were never about the niceties of documentation. Muslims, including non-Muslims perceived to be Muslims, saw that, at certain airports, the ban meant anyone with “a certain name or look” was subject to particularly invasive and insulting attention. In every sense, those actions were unwarranted.

Over the last week, raids have targeted people at residences, churches, homeless shelters, and courts. In El Paso, a woman filing for a protective order from an abusive partner was picked up. In Alexandria, Virginia, two men leaving a homeless shelter were taken. Across the country, people without criminal records were taken away. ICE’s response? The reports are “false, dangerous and irresponsible” and those “falsely reporting such activities are doing a disservice to those they claim to support.” Those “false reporters” include U.S. Senators and Representatives, Governors, members of the clergy, attorneys, eyewitnesses, family members, neighbors, passersby, cameras, and the list goes on. In Virginia, where I live, Governor McAuliffe, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have written letters to Homeland Security and still await a response.

This past weekend, new directives “dramatically expand the scope of enforcement operations”.  These “sweeping new guidelines … empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport … inside the United States and at the border.” In the places where people of color live, dramatic expansion and more aggressive detention add up to a reign of terror. That terror threatens everyone. It threatens the undocumented, as it threatens tech workers, seasonal workers, students and others protected by a visa.

Immigrant of color communities know that, when it comes to people of color, those in charge don’t distinguish among the undocumented immigrant, documented immigrant, and citizen. Their response has been clear: “No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!” There is neither conceptual nor ethical nor existential confusion here: No hate, no fear, IMMIGRANTS are welcome here!

 

(Photo Credit: Twitter / Revolución Real Ya)

Wellesley Proud: An Art Museum Without Immigrants Cannot Stand

The labels read, “Made by an immigrant”

This is a frightening time for people who care about the essential elements of a democracy: a free press, respect for fellow citizens, civil engagement with each other despite differences, to name just a few. The demonization of the other is particularly disturbing. This is also a time, however, when people of conscience make themselves known and speak up against prejudice and injustice. Which is why I was so delighted to see my alma mater, Wellesley College, highlight the substantial contributions of immigrants to the art of this diverse country. This week I proudly shared the news that the college’s Davis Museum had removed, or covered with black fabric, every piece of art created by an immigrant to the US. Why do I feel that this symbolic gesture is so powerful and why does it mean so much to me?

To call me a proud Wellesley graduate says very little about me. I am also a South African cisgender woman of color, a warrior for social justice, a progressive feminist, a writer, and a legal permanent resident of the United States. I arrived at Wellesley a feminist activist and floundered for two years as I tried to find my feet in that predominantly white, upper middle-class, wealthy milieu. I was so different from my classmates: two years older because I had taken ‘A’ levels after high school in the hope of getting into a British university; the product of a highly-politicized society and a high school with a long history of political activism (when Soweto exploded in 1976, I was in 11th grade). But, eventually, I made a place for myself. How? Because my peers embraced this person with the weird accent who looked Asian and called herself ‘Black,’ who argued that newspapers sometimes lied and often concealed, who said one should defy morally illegitimate laws, who loved the music of Janis Ian and Frank Sinatra. They listened to me, I listened to them: we found a way to be friends. We’re still talking: 37 years later a group of Wellesley ‘84s in the DMV meets regularly for dinner.

It also helped that the college was an affirming place for women and that I met faculty and staff who shared my worldview. Those professors have remained my friends. At lunch last summer I told the faculty member who influenced me most profoundly that, in my first class with her, “I felt my brain explode.” The feeling of kinship—intellectual, political, personal—was instantaneous, deep, and endures to this day. Which is why Wellesley means so much to me. She has given me so much and I feel part of her. And then, to have her embrace being home to “a bunch of dykes,” turn it around and proclaim the achievements of that same “bunch of dykes” tells me that my alma mater is still the open and inclusive environment I graduated from all those years ago. Wellesley’s visible recognition of contributions immigrants have made to art says, “This is what we lose without them here.” That is a powerful message.

 

(Photo Credit: CNN)

A Day Without Immigrants tells me what democracy looks like

Tell me what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like!

Today, in Washington and across the United States and beyond, people honored A Day Without Immigrants in various ways, some publicly and loudly, some quietly and privately. In Washington, a boisterous crowd marched and chanted for much of the afternoon, going from La Casa, a community center in the heart of the historic Salvadoran and Latinx community; to 14th and U Streets, a historic intersection of Black Liberation and Power histories and struggles; to a local Whole Foods, to engage with workers’ struggles; to the Wilson Building, which houses Washington, DC, municipal offices; to the White House. The journey from La Casa to the White House is incredibly short and impossibly long. In a few brief hours, that multigenerational, multinational moving body of moving bodies passed through and united entire centuries as well neighborhoods, continents, and populations.

While a great deal of attention has been paid on the `hospitality industry’, and particularly restaurants, in Washington, the largest private employers are universities. In many cities, universities are the largest or among the largest private and public employers. While many of on the march work in hotels, households, transportation and restaurants, there were also engineers, writers, lawyers, doctors and teachers. We came from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Mali, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Portugal, Belgium, and the United States, to name only a few. Between chants, we shared stories of our various migrations and we shared stories of our “regular”, everyday lives.

In Washington, as elsewhere, a Day Without Immigrants would close every university and college, every hospital and clinic, as well as restaurants, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores, all forms of transportation, and much more. I hope that our universities, colleges, and hospitals are as direct and courageous as many restaurant owners have been in their opposition to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrants.

Many restaurant owners have made it clear that the dignity and safety of immigrants cannot be merely an economic argument. That our economic lives rely on immigrants is not and cannot be the point. The point is that, despite ever growing inequality, we live together, and that, living together, is what community looks like and what democracy looks like. When we join our voices, whether in the streets or in the classrooms or elsewhere, we create and we become one beautiful voice. Many languages, one beautiful voice. This is what democracy looks like.

#BlackLivesMatter, this time in France. #JusticePourTheo

Once more police violence makes the headlines. In France, Theo a 22-year-old young resident of Aulnay-sous-Bois, a northern Paris suburban city, was stop-searched by four special forces police officers few days ago. The search was aggressive verbally and physically; the telescopic (expandable) baton of one of the police officer was forced in the anus of the young man. Theo, who is black, was insulted with slang racial words including the N-word.

The police officers sprayed tear gas into Theo’s mouth, then dragged him, handcuffed, to their car. Theo was in excruciating pain covered with his own blood. Once in the police station, another police officer immediately called the SAMU (emergency medical unit). The doctors were appalled to see the damage on his body with a 10cm (3.5 inches) tear in the rectal region, with a perforated rectum; he was rushed to a hospital operating room. His injuries are serious with possible life damage. He has to keep a fecal diversion with colostomy probably for the next few months.

From Aulnay to the rest of France, the outcry was broad. Mothers of “the city of the 3000”, the neighborhood where Theo lives with his family, led demonstrations. Singing the Marseillaise to affirm that France was their nation, they also said that they were fed up with the police acting like “cowboys”. They expressed their immediate concern, demanding if their sons would be the next one to be raped by police. Some said “we are not here to be on television; here we have doctors, engineers, but we are suffocating.”

They want justice not only for Theo but for all the youth of “les quartiers,” these suburban neighborhoods that have been left out of urban policies. Meanwhile, Theo’s case is in the hand of a lawyer ready to address police violence with his case.

A former police union leader, in charge of security for the right wing political party “les Republicains” was recently elected mayor of Aulnay sous Bois. He based his campaign on law and order. Although he extolled the virtue of strong police presence, he condemned this police violence calling it unbearable and unacceptable. He understood that this time the usual argument that the victim because of his police record somehow deserved the treatment inflicted on him would not work as Theo and his entire family have had exemplary lives. In his surprise visit, even President Francois Hollande played the good guy argument in an attempt to calm down the boiling cities fed up with state and police violence.

The delinquent deserving police aggression is a political argument that has been used repeatedly in recent years to justify increasingly violent police intervention and ID checks based on profiling, including statistical profiling.

Theo’s case was referred to the Defender of the Rights, “an independent administrative authority that oversees the protection of rights and freedoms and promotes equality to ensure access to rights”. This authority had warned President Hollande about the unnecessary character and lack of supervision of ID checks, to no avail. In 2016 the Defender of Rights published a report stating that the youth that had the color of Africa, north and sub-Saharan, were 20 times more subject to ID checks. The report documents discrepancies in the treatment of populations, based on appearance, age and location of the control. The numbers show a degradation of the situation in the suburban areas with only 5% of these young pursuing legal actions against police abuse. The president of this authority declared that Theo’s affair was not a short news affair but a societal and political affair. He insisted on the importance to question these “random” ID checks poorly reported with no actual legal justification,” adding that the police of the republic should be the police for equality.

In 2009, the National Center for Scientific Research showed that in general the police control is determined by the clothes worn as well as the color of their skin, rather than something that done by the young people checked.

Part of the stigmatization or disqualification as full human being is in the language and attitude of the state authority. They are systematically addressed with “tu,” the informal you. According to the Defender of Rights, the informal “you” is used in 40% of the control of the young men of these neighborhoods compared to 16% for the general population. They are also insulted in 21% of the cases compared to 7% for the rest of the population.

The vast majority of the ID checks have no legal or investigative basis, but they are very effective in making feel the young person not belonging and always under scrutiny. Despite the recent riots, the inhabitants of these neighborhoods are committed to assert their proud presence against the constant humiliation and stigmatization encountered. People nationwide are supporting their call for dignity.

ACAT, an association dedicated to fight torture, produced a comprehensive review of the situation in France. Between 2005 and 2015, they counted 26 casualties caused by police, of whom 22 were people of color. Last summer, for example, Adama Traoré died in police custody after. The family is still demanding an explanation as to why he died.

Depoliticizing state violence is a way of justifying it. Many reports have demonstrated that something needs to change in the national policies that mistreat and racialize the youth in France. In this electoral period the stakes are high and the struggle to stop the disqualification of citizens calls for solidarity, as the mothers of Aulnay-sous-Bois demanded. It is part of the struggle for immigrants’, refugees’ and women’s rights. In this time of enmity when victims are made the culprits, people in France need to join the resistance.

 

(Photos Credit: Bondy Blog)

seven (deadly sins)

seven (deadly sins)

seven countries
restricted singled out

not for
pride avarice lust
anger gluttony envy
or sloth

but for
dark thoughts
about the homeland
beloved

but for
opinions
under that cloth
on the head

but for
the bearded facade
the flowing robes
of different ideas

but for
that exotic name
rhyming with
other nasties

be it not Noami
Noam Yoko Beyonce
Tiger Usain or Maria(h)

but please
feel free
to visit

as long as
your photo is
an accurate reflection
of the correct view
of life

don’t let us
have to force you
to be free
in our own image

A piece on the USA’s January 2004 (new) air travel restrictions aids and abets this one.

 

(Photo Credit 1: Elle) (Photo Credit 2: Pinterest)

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Esraa Tayseer Kudair

Hebh Jamal, in New York, is seventeen years old. Esraa Tayseer Kudair, in Amman, is also seventeen years old. Around the world, young women are organizing and leading demonstrations, protests, movements for autonomy, solidarity, respect, peace, power and justice. They have been warned. They have been given explanations. Nevertheless, they have persisted. They are the teachers of justice and power: Hebh Jamal, Esraa Tayseer Kudair, and so many others.

Last week, protesters gathered in front of the Parliament, in Amman, Jordan, to call for the repeal of Articles 340 and 98 of the Jordanian Penal Code. These two articles allow for “mitigation” of sentences in so-called honor killings. Article 98 reads: “Whoever commits a crime while in a state of rage which is the result of an unjustifiable and dangerous act committed by the victim, benefits from a mitigating excuse.” Article 340 reads: “Whoever surprises his wife or one of his female decedents or ancestors or sisters in the act of adultery or in illegitimate bed and murders her immediately or her lover or both of them or assaulted her or both of them and the assault resulted in death or injury or harm or permanent disfiguration, he/she shall benefit from a mitigation excuse.” That he/she is misleading. All the reported honor killing victims in Jordan have been women. By October of last year, 26 women had been killed in so-called honor killings, compared to 17 in all of 2015.

Esraa Tayseer Kudair, a high school student, decided enough is too much, and, with her organization, I Change, organized the protest: “There are women that are being killed without doing anything wrong, and people are using this law to justify the killing these women.” When asked about I Change, Kudair explained, “I Change is a group of people that are gathered for a reason: to protect women from honour crimes and to educate people on this matter.” Around the world, young women students are promoting critical education, teaching and learning, all as part of the heart of the organizing agenda.

This week, in New York, Hebh Jamal, a high school student, was the lead organizer of a New York City-wide student walkout, which took place yesterday, February 7. For the past two years, Hebh Jamal has been a leading anti-racist, anti-Islamophobia organizer in New York. When the Muslim ban was announced, Hebh Jamal intensified her organizing efforts. Last week, she mobilized hundreds of people who marched from Foley Square to federal immigration offices in lower Manhattan. Yesterday, several hundred students from all over New York City showed up at Foley Square, to protest the Muslim Ban, to protest the assault on education that is embodied by Betsy DeVos, and to demonstrate their presence, wisdom, and commitment.

Two years ago, fifteen-year-old Hebh Jamal said, “If a Muslim hasn’t been called a terrorist in middle school, lower school or high school, then they’re probably in a really great school — and I’m happy for them!” This week, two years later, Hebh Jamal added, “I just want to say for me personally that I have gotten interview requests for the past week and I know it’s an interesting story because of my age, but it’s a movement of thousands, and I want to emphasize it isn’t about one person. I wanted to mention that, although it’s really great that I’m able to have a platform that a lot of Muslim women are not able to have, I really want to use it to emphasize that it needs to be a movement.”

The struggle continues, thanks to the young women everywhere who are warning, explaining, and persisting in movement building and justice creating.

Hebh Jamal

 

(Photo Credit 1: Global Voices / Nora B) (Photo Credit 2: Seventeen)

What happened at Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran? The routine torture of the mentally ill

In the past week, two examples of systematic torture of adults living with mental illness have been revealed. In South Africa, a report revealed that at least 94 residents of Life Esidimeni facility died when they were dumped into various “dodgy NGOs”. This week, the Delhi Commission for Women, DCW, conducted a surprise inspection of the government-run Asha Kiran “home” for persons with mental disabilities. Along with disgusting and deplorable conditions and violations of human and women’s rights, they found that, in the past two months, eleven residents, more like prisoners, had died. Asha Kiran never reported the deaths. We live, and die, in an age of global abandonment, and the zone of abandonment is growing as it intensifies.

The stories of Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran are heartbreaking, first, and then howl-inducing bay-at-the-moon outrageous. The story of Life Esidimeni, or this latest chapter, began in 2015 when the Gauteng government decided to cut costs by cancelling its contract with Life Esidimeni and move close to 1400 residential patients into community care and ngos. According to report and to family members, the move was chaotic, at best, and the residents were treated “like you don’t treat a dog”. Most of the ngos had no certificates, but no matter. The State had decided on its priorities, and the most vulnerable were dumped into hellholes with pretty names, like Precious Angel. Within a matter of months, almost a third of the patients tossed into Precious Angel died. Their last days were slow and agonizing.

The story of Asha Kiran, or its latest chapter, is one of in-house cruelty. Overcrowded and filthy, the place is covered in urine, feces and menstrual blood. Women are forced to line up naked in order to bathe, and of course the corridor is monitored by CCTV. Children are forced to sleep on the cold floors, without sheet or mattress, for the offense of having wet the bed. Asha Kiran is designed for a maximum of 350. In 2015, it housed 900. Since 2001, over 600 deaths have been reported at Asha Kiran, but, as the last two months demonstrate, how many more go unreported remains unknown.

The unreported loss of almost 100 people in Johannesburg or 11 in Delhi is part of the expanding State policy and practice of abandonment: “Zones of abandonment … accelerate the death of the unwanted. In this bureaucratically and relationally sanctioned register of social death, the human, the mental and the chemical are complicit: their entanglement expresses a common sense that authorized the lives of some while disallowing the lives of others.”

As the events surrounding Life Esidimeni and Asha Kiran demonstrate, the abandonment is neither neglect nor forgetting. Rather the abandonment is a full on, brutal, vicious, totalizing assault on body and soul, in which our brothers and sisters, friends and strangers each and all, are slowly and swiftly tortured, and then tortured again.

Life Esidimeni means “place of dignity”. Asha Kiran means “ray of hope.” They are what happens to dignity and hope in the age of abandonment. We are at “the end-station on the road of poverty … the place where living beings go when they are no longer considered people.” Now, as the mortuaries fill up, there is outrage: this must NEVER happen again. Where was the outrage before, as the end-station was being built in plain sight?

 

(Image Credit: The Daily Vox)

First Trump Came for the Muslims

We dismissed his unbelievably brusque claims as campaign rhetoric, but Donald Trump is on the mission of implementing his rhetoric of fear and hate in US policies. He had expressed disdain for immigrants and people of colour, people with disabilities, and had called for a Muslim registry among others.

And on Friday he did it. Signing an executive order, President Trump suspended the entire US refugee admissions system. He issued a temporary ban on the entry of the citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Iran and Libya.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein has denounced Trump’s travel ban as “mean-spirited” and illegal under international human rights law, stating: “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law”.

This executive order has implications for the US compliance with international human rights treaties – particularly the Geneva Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and potentially the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.

According to Article 1 of the Geneva Convention and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who:

Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

With regard to refusing entry and sending people back, the law is also clear. Article 33 provides that:

No contracting state shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

The US who signed the protocol to the refugee convention in 1967 is obligated to apply it without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin. The US is clearly in violation of the convention barring people from entry on the grounds for posing security risk to the country, but not providing clarification and justification to an appropriate legal standard.

Many other refugee agencies have also expressed their concerns about the order stating that it violates international norms and refugee conventions.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), called on the US government to lift the refugee ban order calling it “an inhumane act against people fleeing war zones

Save the Children, said that women and children under 12 make up two-thirds of Syrian refugees in the US. “Now is not the time to turn our back on these families, or our core American values, by banning refugees,” she said. “We can protect our citizens without putting even more barriers in front of those who have lost everything and want to build a better future in America.”

Desperate people flee horrific and bloody civil wars, as well as countries plagued with violence and terrorism, oppression and unlawful persecution. They seek to take refuge in the land that was built on the premise of being acceptable of those fleeing persecution. This order has devastating impacts on people’s human rights, trapping them in war zones and endangering their lives.

 

(Image Credit: First They Came For)

 

The Women’s March: “Our march forward does not end here”

In this moment in which we see racism and State violence unleashed against some of us, the Muslim citizens of our world, let us return to an event that said NO to sexism and therefore racism. On January 21, the women’s march on Washington launched the day after the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. The march brought together a multitude of demonstrators in Washington DC as well as in every other major city in the US.  Additionally, sister marches in 100 other cities in the world were formed. According to the Women’s March organizers, about 5 million groups walked in unison that day.

In France, the march was preceded, on January 20th, by a “day of engagement with women” on France Culture, a public radio station, which called the event “the long march of women” and suggested that we are seeing a great leap behind. Each program addressed various sections of the struggle for women to be a full being, whether they had been revolutionary, colonized, proletarian, mothers, and the list went on.

While the march was not announced in many other media, the demonstration in Paris numbered in the tens of thousands. All the signs expressed the various feelings and worries about the struggles past and to come. For instance, one sign, held by an African American woman living in Paris, said “Impeach that creep” on one side and “vote out Le Pen” on the other.

Another sign, in French said, “Together against all the Trumps, visible or invisible, of France, the United States and of the world”.

 

The United States’ example reminded many that every right gained after long fights can always be threatened and dismantled by the patriarchal order like the right to sexual and reproductive health, including the right to have access to free abortion and contraception. For this reason, the French Movement for Family Planning was widely represented, knowing that although this right is part of the French constitution and actively enforced, the extreme right looms over it ready to use deceitful strategies to dismantle it.

We met with three young Americans, English teachers in Marseille, who came to Paris to demonstrate. They were from New York City; Richmond, Virginia; and Birmingham, Alabama. They talked about racism, inequality, and intersectionality. They sang, “We shall overcome.” We also met with Genevieve Fraisse, a renowned French philosopher and historian specializing in feminist thoughts. She reminded us of the importance of organizing and that she had been an active demonstrator before being a philosopher. She talked about disqualification rather than discrimination. Today with the official realization that refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim countries are banned, the notion of disqualification of some as not having the same quality as human beings as others resonates.

Here’s our interview with Genevieve Fraisse:

(Photos and interview by Brigitte Marti)