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Slotervaart ‘banlieue’ after all?

27 October 2007 - Youth torching cars in Slotervaart received massive media attention in the Netherlands, but remained largely unnoticed in the foreign media. Yesterday, le Monde called the district a ‘banlieue’.

On 14 October, a policewoman shot and killed a young Moroccan man who had wounded her and a colleague of hers with a knife. Since that day, neighbourhood youth have been setting cars on fire almost every night, including the car of a handicapped person on 23 October.

Police chief Bernard Welten said on TV that he considers the possibility of ‘Paris-like situations’ daily. He was referring to riots in the French banlieues in the autumn of 2005.

Foreign media are less impressed, which may have something to do with the scale of the events. In Slotervaart, a few dozen cars have been torched during the past two weeks. During France’s violences urbaines, hundreds of cars were torched every night, with a record of 1,408 on 7 November 2005.

Right-wing media routinely cite Slotervaart as yet another piece of evidence for the Islamisation of Europe. “Media outside the Netherlands [...] hardly mention the riots, which aim to drive the police from Slotervaart and turn the neighbourhood into a new no-go area – yet another pocket of Eurabia on Europe’s soil”, Paul Belien wrote in the Brussels Journal.

Yesterday, French newspaper le Monde published an article by Jean-Pierre Stroobants with a headline referring to ‘nights of violence’ in ‘Amsterdam’s banlieues’. However, the article also quotes Alderman Lodewijk Asscher, who said that the situation of Slotervaart youth is not nearly as hopeless as that of youth living in the French banlieues.

Last Tuesday, Libération’s Sabine Cessou quoted social worker Aïcha Azzough who said a comparison with France is ‘ridiculous’, but who nonetheless feared that the riots might attract “youth who want to demolish everything because they are fed up with being called ‘allochtonen’, or with being denied a job because they don’t speak Dutch well enough, even though they were born and raised here”.

Illustration: burnt car in French banlieue, 6 November 2005 (photo François Schnell / Wikipedia)


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