Villiers-le-Bel, where French immigrant youths have been rioting for two consecutive nights, and Survilliers-Louvres are two suburbs to the north of Paris. They are only 10 kms apart. Last Sunday evening, Anne-Lorraine Schmitt, a 23-year old journalism student, the eldest of five children from a devout Catholic family, was stabbed to death on the RER suburban metro train. The stabbing happened at Survilliers, between the RER stations of Louvres and Fosses. Anne-Lorraine’s body was discovered in the RER terminus at Creil, 25 kms to the north. A few minutes later the French police arrested 43-year old Thierry Dève-Oglou.
According to the French police, Mr. Dève-Oglou “decided to rape the woman when he noticed that the train carriage was empty.” When Anne-Lorraine resisted and tried to escape, he threw himself on her and stabbed her up to 30 times in the chest and face. When the brave young woman fought back, her attacker cut himself in the hand. Mr. Dève-Oglou left the train station at Survilliers-Louvres, but police officers noticed the bleeding man and took him to hospital, where he was arrested. In 1996, Mr. Dève-Oglou had been convicted to five years in jail for a similar sexual assault. That attack happened on the same metro line, but his victim survived.
Today, Le Parisien writes that the suburban metro line (RER) to the north of Paris is generally considered to be dangerous. The French authorities know this, but they fail to protect the citizens. “There are no guards and no surveillance cameras,” a metro employee acknowledges. “After Garges [the train station at Garges-les-Gonesses] there are hardly any passengers left on the train. It is then that the acts of aggression begin,” a regular RER passenger says. This, however, is a fact of life in contemporary France. People accept it. They do not arm themselves with shotguns, but sit on the train, while the state has abandoned them.
Barely three hours before Anne-Lorraine was stabbed, ten kilometres away, in Villiers-le-Bel, two joyriding immigrant youths of 15 and 16 years old, drove their stolen motorcycle at maximum speed into a passing police vehicle. They died on the spot.
According to the police the teenagers ignored traffic rules and crashed into the police vehicle. The motorbike they were riding was unregistered and thus not authorized for use on French roads. Neither of the boys were wearing a helmet as required by law. The relatives and friends of the youths, however, blame the two officers in the vehicle for the death of the boys. They claim the officers left the scene as fast as they could. The public prosecutor has opened an inquiry to probe whether the officers failed to help the teenagers and whether manslaughter charges should be filed. The officers had called rescue services to the scene, but policemen and medics who arrived at the scene where attacked by youths and fled.
Yesterday night, in a second consecutive night of violence, youths attacked police officers and firemen in Villiers-le-Bel and in nearby Sarcelles and Garges-les-Gonesses. In last night’s riots 77 officers got wounded, five of them seriously, including one officer whose shoulder was pierced by a bullet from a shotgun. In addition, 63 cars, a public library, two schools, a bank and a supermarket were torched.
The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on a state visit in China, has called for calm. Mr. Sarkozy had better stayed at home, however, because October-November is the season of the Annual Intifada Festival in Paris. This tradition began in November 2005, continued in October 2006, and has become a regular event on the French calendar.