On October 14, the mutilated body of a 12-year-old blonde girl named Lola was found folded in a plastic suitcase in the courtyard of her family’s housing estate in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. Lola’s official cause of death was asphyxiation, but investigators also found signs of torture, including cuts to her neck and face, and the numbers 1 and 0 scrawled, inexplicably, on the soles of her feet. She may have been sexually abused. This shocking and brutal crime dominated the news in France and reverberated on mainstream and right-wing social media far beyond Europe. The main suspect in the murder, identified only as Dahbia B., is a 24-year-old Algerian woman who has been in the country illegally since overstaying her student visa. She was unemployed, had no fixed address and had “waking dreams” during which she held “incoherent remarks”, according to her sister. And she had received an expulsion order no later than August 21, when she was stopped by customs officers at a Paris airport.
In many ways, the response to this atrocity has been predictable. “Once again, the suspect in this barbaric act should not have been in France,” said Marine Le Pen, vice-champion in the presidential election last June and leader of the right-wing National Rally party. told parliament on Tuesday. “What are you waiting for to act so that this uncontrollable illegal immigration is finally stopped?
Le Pen’s main rival, writer and media personality Éric Zemmour, whose Reconquête party overtook Le Pen on the right, capped off a week of activism and feverish tweets about the murder with a protest titled #ManifPourLola (” Demonstration for Lola”) in Paris on Thursday evening. Among the demonstrators were “the monarchists of Action Française, the hooded and masked young people of the violent Zouaves and the fundamentalist Christian group Civitas”, according to The world. Before heavy rain and lighting cut the rally short, they erupted into a rendition of the French national anthem as “cries of ‘Remigration!’ “Death to pedophiles!” and ‘This is our house!’ sounded briefly, a reminder of the protesters’ political affiliations.
Lola’s parents asked that the tragedy not be turned into a political weapon. Nevertheless, Zemmour, Le Pen and their supporters have insisted that it is out of respect for the murdered girl and her family that they refuse to let the media and the Macron administration escape responsibility for the crisis of the crisis. ‘illegal immigration. And to some extent they have a point that needs to be taken seriously. “More than 62,000 people identified by the authorities as being in France illegally were ordered to leave the territory in the first half of 2021”, The New York Times reported. “But less than 6% of them have done so, and since Mr. Macron’s election in 2017, this figure has never been higher than 15%.”
A country must be able to enforce the integrity of its own borders, and France fails to deport sufficient numbers of undocumented migrants who enter illegally or, like Dahbia B., overstay their visas. To assert this fact should be no more controversial than to insist that a particular can never prove a universal: immigrants, regardless of status, are a morally as diverse group as any other.
Where the discourse has turned sinister is in the not-at-all-subtle racial instigation. In recent years, the term femicide has been popularized through graffiti campaigns to raise awareness of the daily reality of gender-based violence that rarely makes headlines. Last September, Zemmour coined a derived neologism: “The beating, rape, murder, stabbing of a Frenchman or a French woman by an emigrant, this is not a news item” , he told a crowd at his party’s summer school in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. “No more a news item than the murder of a woman by her husband. It is a political fact that I will now call “Francocide”.
Since Lola’s death a week ago, this ethno term has grown in popularity, especially on social media, where it has become a popular hashtag, fueled by the underlying assumption that any aggression or crime perpetrated by a non-French migrant against a Frenchman is inherently racist and racially predatory. Not stated but clearly intended is the corresponding understanding of Frenchness as a synonym of whiteness and strangeness as equivalent to non-whiteness. Like the writer Raphaël Enthoven replied to Zemmour on Twitter, “The fight against ‘francocide’ would probably be less fierce if the victim was a black French Muslim and the culprit a white Polish Catholic.” While it’s impossible to prove a counterfactual, it’s certainly hard to imagine nationalists grabbing their umbrellas and massing in the pouring rain to protest this latest situation.
What is the Abysmal Murder of a 12-Year-Old – By All Indications in the hands of a seriously troubled person– thus revealed how reliance on abstract identity markers and crude identitarianism obscures rather than illuminates complex human realities.