Tuesday, January 20, 2004
French Corruption

Yesterday, I updated a post on the struggle to integrate Muslim populations into French society with a link to Prospect Magazine's article on corruption among the French elite. Now, thanks to James Taranto (Best Of The Web Today), I have an example:

[Syrian dissident Nizar] Nayouf was granted political asylum in France in July 2002 and fully expected his vocal opposition to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime to be welcomed by his new hosts. After all, it was former French prime minister Lionel Jospin who, in 2001, urged Assad to release Nayouf so he could receive proper medical attention in France.

Assad, eager to strengthen Syria's European ties, quickly consented. But after a promising start, Nayouf's French experience quickly turned sour.
Despite repeated requests by Nayouf during the last 18 months, the French government has refused to grant him access to official documents that would allow him to travel freely and continue his human rights work. Moreover, upon asking French authorities last month for the political refugee passport he was legally granted in 2002 (and is due to him by French law), Nayouf was denied yet again and told, much to his surprise, that he 'already had' a Syrian passport.

Agnes Vondermull, an official at the French Embassy in Washington, DC, said last month that Nayouf had been asked to turn his Syrian passport over to French authorities in 2002 but refused to do so. But Vondermull admitted that a refugee does not need such a passport to begin with, and that the two issues should not be connected.

In any case, Nayouf has an official document issued by French police stating that his Syrian passport has been missing since December 2002. It would appear, then, that there must be another reason behind Nayouf's bureaucratic nightmare.
Is this merely a case of bureaucratic bungling? Or is something more sinister at work here?
As a result, Nayouf remains confined to Paris, denied permission to attend Syrian human rights conferences, where he has often been invited as a featured speaker. Most recently he was unable to attend a November conference of Syrian democracy advocates in Washington, D.C. that spawned a fledgling Syrian Democratic Coalition led by the Syrian-born Farid Ghadry.

Nayouf says he was "advised" by French police not to attend the conference and speak out against the Ba'ath Party. According to Basheer Bakr, a journalist from the newspaper Al-Hayat, a senior French official confirmed that his government did not want Nayouf participating in the conference.


Nayouf's case, following the vociferous French opposition to the American operation in Iraq, raises concerns about France's close relations with Middle Eastern dictatorships. Vongermull assured us that France is unwavering in its support of freedom and will be the last country to stop Nayouf, or any other activist, from continuing their pro-democracy work. But until the French government shows an inclination to put Vongermull's words into practice, questions will remain.
I'm beginning to slip over to the side of thinkers like Steven den Beste, as regards France [this excerpt does not address the current story, but demonstrates Mr. den Beste's position]:
[T]here's no reason to assume that nations which had previously been seen as friends will remain friends, or that former enemies will remain enemies. Some will, some will not. Russia was an ally in WWII and an opponent in the Cold War, and is now an opponent. France was an ally in WWII, but was conquered before the US entered the war. The Free French were allies after that. Now France is an enemy, for all intents and purposes.
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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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