Paris’ suburban ghettos are once again at the center of police raids and violence as the hunt for the suspected mastermind of the recent attacks in Paris was believed to hiding out in the in the suburb of Saint-Denis, an epic center of 2005 riots in the city between police and the community’s Muslim youth.
The latest raid in Saint-Denis resulted in two deaths and seven arrests, but it was unclear whether the alleged mastermind was involved in the seven-hour police siege.
It did not come as a surprise to community members that the police search for the attackers lead them to the Paris’ suburban ghettos, where they said the ideology of the attacks have been manifested by years of high unemployment, isolation from the broader French society, and discrimination.
Leaders in the banlieues have often sounded the alarm that growing numbers of young Muslims in their communities are drifting towards radical groups who see the French state and its people as an enemy to be destroyed. “We have told the police so many times about the dangers here and they have done nothing. I want to know why,” Jaafar Rebaa, vice-president of the well-known Drancy Mosque, told Time in a recent interview.
Rebaa told time he and other Muslim community leaders have alerted local authorities to the presence of numerous “basement mosques” – that is, underground prayer rooms where radicals gather. Rebaa said the basement mosques are appeal to the disenfranchised youth by offering them such things as free meal vouchers but also a purpose, something many young people in the banlieues lack, he said. “If these people had jobs or studies, they wouldn’t get drawn in, they wouldn’t get brainwashed,” he says
Police conflict in Paris’ suburban ghettos is nothing new. In 2005, over the course of three weeks, several neighborhoods in the suburbs of Paris erupted in violence with riots after two teenagers were fatally electrocuted in a power station in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois while being chased by the police. (see past Human Nature coverage of Paris suburbs.)
The incident exacerbated the frustrations surrounding the social issue plaguing the suburb communities. It even led to France declare a state of emergency, which included curfews and a ban on public gatherings.
When asked by Time is much has changed since the riots, “Not much,” a Paris youth named Amedou, 20, told time. Amedou, who is unemployed and dropped out of high school, to Time “They fixed some of the buildings. But there are no jobs, no good schools, nothing to do.”
The article continues “His friends nod in agreement, describing the various barriers they face when applying for jobs. Studies have shown that having an ethnically Arab or African name, as well as a zip code signaling that you live in the banlieues, makes it much more difficult to get a job interview. One of the men adds: “There’s no hope here.”