Bombings against the North African Population

For almost thirty years, Corsican nationalists have been carrying out bomb attacks in an attempt to separate from France. But now, nationalist political violence turns against the mainly-Moroccan immigrants. By John Laurenson

For almost thirty years, Corsican nationalists have been carrying out bomb attacks in an attempt to separate from France. But now, nationalist political violence tunrs against the mainly-Moroccan immigrants. By John Laurenson

image: F. Schlachtschneider
Corsica's flag

​​"Now it's us who've had enough of you! We're going to form an anti-Moroccan committee!"

A hate message on the answering machine of the anti-racist pressure group Ava Basta. On the metal grill that protects the association's windows at night there's a graffitied bomb threat.

Where once you used to see "Francesi Fori" – "French Out" – spray-painted on the walls, now you see "Arabs Go Home".

Shadowy nationalist groups are threatening Corsica's 30,000 immigrants – one tenth of the population – with physical elimination, and many of them have had enough.

"We have no pride left"

"Every day we hear 'dirty Arab', 'Arabs out'... We've got no pride left, no dignity as human beings. I want to leave, and with a heavy heart. My three children were born here but we can't live here anymore."

"We thought we were well integrated. We thought our place was here. But, unfortunately we were wrong... it hurts."

The inhabitants of a peaceful, suburban neighbourhood of the northern city of Bastia repair the walls around their gardens. They were damaged when a huge blast destroyed the house next door.

The owner of what is now just a charred ruin of twisted metal and rubble is a Moroccan kitchen and bathroom tiler. He had almost finished building the villa of his dreams.

"Don't sell to North Africans"

Estate agents in Bastia have been warned: don't sell to North Africans or face the consequences.

Beneath one of the splendid Baroque churches of Bastia most of the stall-holders and most of the customers at this market are North Africans.

This seems a place where the cultures of the two sides of the Mediterranean can mingle under the shade of the plane trees.

But talk to people here and what you find is a community in trauma. Cars torched, a pizza parlour, a bank and shops bombed... in all 56 acts of violence against the island's North African community over the past year – as many
as in the whole of the rest of France put together.

Fight against the drugs trade as a pretence

Two underground nationalist groups called the Clandestini Corsi and the MCA that emerged this year have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, which, they say, are aimed against the drugs trade.

A claim the authorities dismiss. The public prosecutor for Northern Corsica, Jean-Jacques Fagni says drugs are just a pretext.

"It isn't true that only North Africans deal drugs. Some do... but so do French people whose origins are in Corsica or mainland France. This argument is just an attempt to justify acts which are essentially racist in character."

Anti-racist activism

The first public event organised to protest against the new, racist violence is being held in Corte, a town of special significance for nationalists because it was Corsica's capital during its brief period of independence in the 18th Century.

All the island's separatist leaders are present. A recent racist tract sent to a local television station signed off with the words "The Land for the Corsicans" – close to the old nationalist slogan "Corsica for the Corsicans".

But Jean-Guy Talamoni, Corsica's most prominent separatist leader, says their definition of what it means to be Corsican is an inclusive one.

"The Nationalists have, for thirty years, defined the Corsican people as a distinct community made up of native and adopted Corsicans. We even passed a motion in the Corsican Territorial Assembly in 1988 affirming precisely that. For us 'Corsican people' is not an ethnic term."

Moroccans freed Corsica from the Nazis

On the mountain road above Bastia there's a World War Two monument commemorating the soldiers who lost their lives liberating Corsica from the Nazis. Nearly all of them were Moroccan.

The inscription ends with the regret that they would never know how much they were loved by the people they liberated. For the North African community in Corsica today, such sentiments appear increasingly hollow.

John Laurenson