Léonarda Dibrani: Not Kosovar enough either!

Léonarda Dibrani and her father in their temporary residence in Kosovo.

On October 16th, Léonarda Dibrani and her family were attacked in the street in Mitrovica in Kosovo, a week after their deportation from France on October 9th. Agence France Presse said that the Dibranis were walking in the streets of Mitrovica with their children when they were attacked by strangers. Then the story changed, and “they” were not strangers but people involved in a private dispute. Either way, a policeman who remained anonymous said “it demonstrates that the Dibranis are not safe in Kosovo.”

Actually, the Kosovar authorities are quite embarrassed since none of the Dibranis are from Kosovo, except for the father. The mother and most of the children were born in Italy. The younger girl was born in France.

The father admitted to having lied because he thought that declaring Kosovar origins would give them documentation to remain in France more easily.

This story brings to light the question of documentation, proper or not, that allows life with less stress and anxiety. For Léonarda and her brothers and sisters, life was going to school in France. Ever since her arrest and deportation, her teachers have been mobilized to denounce this particular situation, the end of her life in France.

Léonarda’s story is symbolic of asylum rights, say the high school French union and Reseau Education Sans Frontiere (Education Without Borders Network). Their demonstration in Paris numbered 7000 people, students and teachers who demanded that the socialist government respect the people who are in France and stop deporting undocumented students. The `Léonarda affair’ shows how the Roma population has been stigmatized at a time when borders have different meanings, whether we are talking about financial profits, military armaments, or people.

The demonstrations in Paris were supported by many personalities from the same party as the Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls, who is accused of continuing the inhuman immigration policies of the previous President Sarkozy.

President Hollande promised to overturn some Sarkozy’s policies. He did extend the right to work in France after having completed studies in France. He stopped to stop prosecuting people who help undocumented immigrants. He also said that his government is working to stop the imprisonment of asylum seekers. It is time to change all the policies and to defend the humanistic values that the socialists claim to have.

This debate should not be only about France, or Europe. It has to occur everywhere as the neoliberal free-market order works to destabilize populations throughout the world. Léonarda Dibrani: not French enough, not Kosovar enough? Human enough?


(Photo Credit: Liberation / AFP)

Léonarda Dibrani: Not French enough?

Léonarda Dibrani

A couple weeks ago, Léonarda Dibrani, a fifteen-year-old girl, was with her class on a field trip. Léonarda lived with her Kosovar Roma family in eastern France, in Levier. The Dibranis had applied for asylum years earlier. In the meantime, Léonarda went to school, grew up, made friends, and integrated herself into the community. Basically, Léonarda became French.

But not French enough. While on the field trip, police stopped the school bus, asked the fifteen-year-old to get down, and then took her away. With her family, she was immediately deported to Kosovo, a place she doesn’t know, a place whose languages she doesn’t speak.

And so now, Léonarda sits in Mitrovica, in Kosovo, gives interviews and pushes to return to Levier, to France, to her school, to her friends, to her community.

Meanwhile, as the adults dither about whether Léonarda was taken `properly’, because apparently there are strict rules for State abductions of minors; about whether the Interior Minister is still `of the Left’; about whether the Left is still … the Left, the high school students have taken to the streets in protest.

Across France yesterday, thousands of high school students marched, shouted, demonstrated, closed schools and boulevards. Their message? “Documented or undocumented, they are like us. They are students!” “They” are Léonarda and Khatchik Kachatryan, a 19-year-old Paris student who, on Saturday, was deported to Armenia.

High school students said clearly, “These deportations touch people just like us.” They argued that education is a universal human right, not merely a civil right bestowed by any particular nation-State. They look at Léonarda and Khatchik and, rightly, see themselves.

The high school students of France are arguing, and demonstrating, for the sake of humanity. As the story develops, more details will emerge that will serve to complicate and obfuscate the simple truth of the students’ message: We are all humans, and no human being is illegal.

Like so many other children, Léonarda Dibrani was abducted by the State. No list of rules followed will alter that. Let’s hope the State hears and listens to its schoolchildren and returns Léonarda, Khatchik, and so many other children to France, to their homes and to their friends … now.