MENA countries, personalities react to France unrest following the killing of teenager Nahel M. by French police

MENA countries, personalities react to France unrest following the killing of teenager Nahel M. by French police
The death of Nahel M., a 17-year-old delivery boy of Algerian descent, naturally provoked anger in his home country.
5 min read
02 July, 2023
The killing of Nahel M. has provoked extreme anger and unrest in France, where racial profiling and discrimination against those of North African descent in rampant [Getty]

Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region have weighed in on the ongoing unrest in France in the wake of the killing of a young boy of Algerian descent at the hands of French police earlier this week.

Demonstrations have erupted in the country in response to the death of 17-year-old Nahel M., a delivery boy and rugby league player, who was shot at point-blank by a police officer at a traffic stop in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.

Protests broke out in the cities of Paris, Lille, Bordeaux and Toulouse - among many others - where demonstrators have torched vehicles, damaged properties and clashed with police in an outpouring of rage and anger in reaction to the teenager’s killing.

French police have so far arrested close to 2,000 people since the protests broke out.

The Saudi, Kuwaiti and Jordanian foreign affairs ministries all cautioned their nationals in France not to participate in the demonstrations and to stay away from gatherings while adhering to instructions issued by French authorities.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, both Bahrain and the UAE issued statements showcasing "solidarity" with France, expressing support for measures to "maintain security, civil peace and public order", while calling for the need to "reduce further escalations, calm and respect" towards France’s laws.

Manama went on to affirm its confidence in "France's ability to overcome these events", and the French government's "keenness to apply justice to everyone in accordance with the approved laws.

Gulf countries mostly have good diplomatic relations with France.

Meanwhile, the Iranian foreign ministry cautioned its citizens against making "any unnecessary trips" to France and advised those who are already in the country to avoid "conflict areas", warning of the "insecure and unpredictable situation", according to AFP.

Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani further said: "The French government is expected to put an end to the violent treatment of its people by respecting principles based on human dignity, freedom of speech and the right of citizens to peaceful protests".

Relations between France and Iran can be described as sour, mostly due to disagreements over Iran’s nuclear programme and the detention of a number of French nationals in the Islamic Republic on spy charges.

Earlier this week, Algeria, which France brutally colonised for over 100 years up until independence in 1962, expressed "shock and horror" at the French-Algerian teenager’s death earlier on Thursday.

Its foreign ministry also voiced its condolences to Nahel’s family, assuring them that their "grief is shared widely in Algeria".

Live Story

The ministry expressed its "consternation" at the events, and called Nahel M. an Algerian "national" to whom France owed protection.

The Maghreb countries of Morocco and Tunisia - both of which neighbour Algeria and boast a significant diaspora in France - have yet to issue statements on the matter.

Prominent Algerian human rights activist and journalist, Khaled Drareni, also weighed in on the death of Nahel, sharing a tweet on an article on racism and law enforcement in France, accompanied by the hashtag #ThoughtforNahel.

Another journalist, Moroccan Aziza Nait Si Baha, said: "While waiting for justice to hold those responsible for the death of this poor boy, may he rest in peace and my his family find peace throughout this ordeal."

Additionally, Lebanese people, as well as the diaspora in France also spoke of their shock at the incident, likening it to the brutality experienced during anti-austerity protests in Lebanon, as well as the treatment of Syrian refugees in the Levantine country, reported the Lebanese L'Orient du Jour outlet.

Footballer Kylian Mbappe, who is half Algerian, also said he was shocked by the teenager’s "brutal" death and called the incident "tragic".

"We cannot remain silent and our civic conscience encourages us all to call for appeasement, awareness and accountability," he said, though he also called for calm in France, urging for more "peaceful and constructive ways" to express anger over the teenager's death, in the wake of the violence that has swept over major French cities.

Meanwhile, Mbappe’s Moroccan Paris Saint-Germain teammate, Achraf Hakimi, said: "We cannot tolerate situations like with what happened with Nahel yesterday. My condolences to his family and friends. Rest in peace, little one."

Nahel M.'s death - and the subsequent unrest - has brought back the spotlight grievances regarding racial profiling, marginalisation, police brutality and racism against those of North African and sub-Saharan African descent, which plague such communities.

France is home to millions of people of Maghrebi and sub-Saharan African heritage, whose ancestors migrated to France during and after colonisation, as well as the Second World War, in search of better economic opportunities.