It’s hard to tell if Marine Le Pen’s official campaign website is a political ad or a perfume commercial. We are on a beach, Marine in a marine scene—so to speak—her blonde hair and cape aflutter in the Norman breeze as she gazes from the rocky coast out to sea. What do you see out there, Marine? A chance, now that you and the British are being conveniently disentangled from one another, for another shot at old timey Anglo-French hostilities? A fellow woman in arms in Theresa May? Or do you see dinghies in the Mediterranean?
Laura Dean is a journalist reporting from the Middle East and Europe. Previously, she was the Senior Middle East Correspondent for GlobalPost, writing from Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Dean formerly worked as an election observer with with the Carter Center in Tunisia and Libya and served on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Slate.com, Foreign Policy, The London Review of Books blog and The Globe and Mail, among other publications. Dean grew up in Bahrain and graduated from the University of Chicago. She speaks French and Arabic.
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CALAIS, France—“This place is not called The Jungle; it’s The Forum,” Zimako Jones, corrects me without looking up from painting a piece of chipboard a bright inviting blue.
“They had thrown his corpse in the garbage. His genitals were cut off and a piece of his throat was ripped out…One of the tortures they used on him was a very strong glue to close his anus, after which he was given a laxative causing diarrhea that killed him.”
BEIRUT, Lebanon—Two forbidden passions, not a love triangle but a pentagon, murderous militias, acid poisoning, an indecent proposal—the stories of five gay and lesbian Iraqis’ escape from their home country sound like the stuff of tawdry melodrama. And yet it all happened.
* * *
PARIS, France—Barbès, La Chapelle, Marseille, are just a few of the places in France whose names have come to evoke images of their large populations of French people of Arab—mainly North African—descent. Given that large Franco-Arab communities have existed in France for decades, one might assume France would be a more hospitable environment for Syrian refugees than other parts of Europe. The answer, it seems, is more complicated.
BRUSSELS, Belgium—Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving perpetrator of the Paris attacks in November, and his brother Ibrahim, one of the suicide bombers that day, were no strangers to law enforcement. Long before November 13, 2015, the brothers had had dealings with the police force in their home neighborhood of Molenbeek, as had a number of the others involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks.
BRUSSELS, Belgium—As the escalator rises out of the Molenbeek subway station, the first sounds you hear are children laughing and calling out to one another. With entrances to the metro at either end of a row of townhouses, you are left with the unlikely impression of a village square. Here young children ride bicycles and teach each other to balance on hover boards. Older men play cricket, some in button-down shirts, some wearing South Asian salwar kameez. A younger boy practices bowling (that’s “pitching” in cricket) as he watches them.