⪧ We left our life in New York City to make a new one in Provence ⪦

October 28, 2008

Öcalan and Les Grèves à Paris

We now live on rue du Faubourg St. Martin. That may not communicate much to you, but in fact, it turns out to be a central locale for les grèves (strikes) in Paris. I basically love these. We are especially lucky because from our little balcony we can see all the action, almost as if we lived on Fifth Avenue with all the parades below. We have been here just a short while, but have nonetheless witnessed several grèves. Xavier and Nicolas, above, show us just how it is done.

Striking is one thing the French are very good at. If you recall, during my 'civil training' I requested a special training session on just how to go about striking. And then the other night, Louise, my niece, said to her mom (my sister-in-law), "I won't take a bath. I will strike." Marie laughed and I did too - because I loved that a 9-year old would employ such an idea in her everyday speech.

Anyway, the French strike about many many different issues. Most commonly, public transportation. But also taxis, education, social security, Sarkozy. You name it. Usually I don't mind a bit. I ride a bike everywhere and bikes do not go on strike, (although I wouldn't be surprised if one day I woke up and they too were out of commission due to a grève). Xavier even told me that one day a couple of weeks ago when the economy really started its downturn (worldwide), there were people near his work striking against the economic situation.

Here we see people 'sans papiers' (without papers) in France, marching to the beat of drums and making their claim for legitimacy in France.

They were beautiful, wearing all sorts of bright colors - almost dancing in the street. This one really was like a parade - they even made a float - a blow-up tank. I suppose they wanted to emphasize the importance of peace at the same time.

The best part is that they are totally backed by the police. One hundred percent. The police close lanes of traffic, they drive behind or in front of them, clearing their path. I think all of this is part of a policeman's job description in France.

From what I've seen, most of the time these manifestations are totally ineffective. However, they do provide a public forum for airing grievances. Almost like a group counseling session where everyone vents. I am all for that sort of emotional ventilation.

Last weekend, I was particularly interested in a manifestation that passed by. I saw these signs:

"We condemn the barbaric attacks against our leader Öcalan"

And I felt a little sheepish because there were hundreds of people marching in the streets with their signs and flags and I didn't really know much at all about this guy Öcalan.

After some basic research...he is, as would be expected (with his face flying all over those raucous flags like that), on the terrorist list in the US and other countries. He was a rebellious Turkish leader. Apparently, he launched a war against Turkey with the aim of an independent Kurdish state. He also founded the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) = Marxist, which is the very thing that makes him 'terrifying' to people like Bush and others. (I really love how Bush has continued to employ the word 'terror' as a thing to combat. An emotion).

After all of that (pre-1980), he fled Turkey, because he didn't make that many friends and lived in exile in Syria. Interestingly, since he was captured, he was sentenced to death in 1999 but Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2002 (that's right Americanos - we are pretty lonely at this point with our death penalty stance). Thus, he won't die. He will spend his life in solitary confinement as the only prisoner on an Island in the Turkish Sea of Marmara! They removed all the other prisoners, but kept 1000 guards there for him.

The "barbaric attacks" reference relates to his treatment in prison. Some people got a hold of strands of his hair and claimed that heavy metal traces were found. The Turkish government has completely dismissed the claims. I don't know the reality behind all of this, but solitary confinement for your whole life seems quite barbaric - but then I don't really know what kind of barbarism he enacted to get himself in there...

What really counts is that people are striking in his honor in France.


Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

100 guards for one prisoner?? On an island in the sea of Marmara? It sounds like a fairy tale.

Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

that's 1000!

Emilie said...

Indeed. I suppose military personnel is the more fitting term, but it seems somewhat excessive...

Jill said...

Man, we could have some great les greves these days. I'm sure people are, just not under my balcony.

They're saying that Senator Obama is a Marxist and a terrorist. Sadly, there are many Americans who actually believe this and would like nothing more than to see him put on an island with 1000 guards on the watch. I personally would like to see him run the country and hopefully that will be the case starting in January. If not, maybe we should strike!

I like the idea of striking to air grievences like group therapy. It seems to work. My question is, why the street you live on? Is there government buildings around or...what?

Emilie said...

No, now that I think about it, our street is not even exceptional or special in Paris. It is just a main street and so we see strikes. It is the same on all main streets, which makes my point even better. Hee hee.

Brad said...

One of the most profound memories of my years in France were the strikes. "C'est le greve!" Many mornings we would wake to no electricity or the postal workers would go on strike. It is very much a part of the whole culture -- a little hard for me to relate to and part of why I would be very hesitant to set up a business in France.


Julie said...

I love that people care enough there to strike. That's not a fair statement I know, but I just got done teaching an undergraduate class where people seem to be soooo apathetic. I'd love for them to strike - even if it was my class!

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