TCS Daily

The Great Train Razzia

By Nidra Poller - January 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Paris 5 January 2006 -- French opinion makers are against the clash of civilizations the same way they are against the war in Iraq: fervently sure of their own moral superiority. But reality has a way of its own, and the Great Train Razzia that rang in the New Year on the Côte d'Azur is a smashing illustration of the clash of civilizations.

One hundred drunk and disorderly "youths" from the "sensitive neighborhoods" outside of Marseille were let loose in a train carrying revelers from Nice to Lyon via Marseille. They vandalized the train, terrorized the passengers, stole from them, sexually assaulted several young women, made convincing death threats and, when all these wicked deeds were done, pulled the emergency brake and jumped the train on the outskirts of Marseille.

It took several days for the story to break. Apparently management of the state-owned SNCF railway system and local police officials thought they could avoid bad publicity by keeping the information to themselves. Even more surprising: no local journalist scooped the story, no eyewitnesses came forward to reveal it, the media blissfully announced that New Year's Eve had been surprisingly calm -- only 425 cars torched and 13 gendarmes injured -- that the state of emergency was lifted.

The news broke on the 4th: 600 passengers returning at dawn from Nice to Lyon were terrorized for three hours by a gang of "youths." As the bare details filtered through several layers of protective screening, it became clear that a major clash of fact a head on crash of civilizations had taken place on the 1st day of the year 2006. Joyful partygoers on the star-studded Riviera were delivered into the hands of a hundred drunken marauders.

Every official involved in the incident behaved stupidly, no one communicated, no one took responsibility, and the result would be comical if it were not so ominous. The train was not hermetically sealed. The conductor's cabin was not occupied by terrorists armed with box cutters. There are all sorts of stations between Nice and Marseille. Though the hoodlums stole cell phones, several hundred remained in the hands of their owners. And the ordeal went on for hours.

Here, as far as one can gather without having been in the train, is what happened:

Police shoved a hundred drunken rowdies into regional train N° 17430 that was carrying 600 passengers home at dawn on the 1st of January. The SNCF had been running a promotional New Year's Eve fare of 1€20 since 2001. The idea was to save lives by discouraging people from driving after partying all night. Civilized idea, n'est-ce pas? For the rest of the voyage, imagine a 1950s French comedy on the Riviera combined with a slapstick version of a medieval jihad raid. Now think of the train chugging its way along a breathtakingly beautiful coastline, and crossing approximately 20 frontiers in the space of three hours. Yes, France without Borders is cross-hatched into a muddle of intersecting administrations governed by a bevy of chiefs, préfets, commanders, divisionary commissioners, and assorted petty officials whose indecisions outweigh their decisions.

The four SNCF security agents who boarded the train at 6:30, seeing nothing amiss, got off at St. Raphaël at 6:50. And the rambunctious young people immediately started roughing up passengers, stealing from them, threatening to kill them if they resisted or tattled. They took possession of a first class car, ripped up the curtains, bashed the seats, vomited and who knows what else. Cultural difference, if you see what I mean. For a civilized traveler, first class means greater comfort for a higher price. For the marauders it means épater la bourgeoise, or more precisely vomit on them.

At approximately 7:30 AM, the conductor decided that the train was no longer safe and stopped at les Arcs. Employees have the right to lay down their tools and walk off the job if their safety is endangered. According to some accounts the gendarmes were waiting on the platform, others claim it took them half an hour or more to arrive. One gendarme describes "prostrate passengers who didn't dare intervene." Little by little the gendarmes fanned out through the 10 cars of the train, "without confronting the troublemakers." The train was immobilized for an hour-and-a-half, the gendarmes tried to encourage passengers to file complaints, but for some reason didn't get much of a response. A few passengers fled the train. Including one young woman who had been sexually assaulted. When she resumed her voyage on a later train with a higher fare, the conductor made her pay the difference. Bonk! Clash of civilizations. A law-abiding young woman, victim of the traditional jihad treatment of conquered peoples, is expected to pay the correct fare. A horde of wild bandidos is allowed to run riot up and down the train. And when a handful, a tiny handful are caught, the judge sets most of them free.

Except for Aziz Ed Doubia of Moroccan origin and a repeat offender named Ashraf Bouzizoua; they are in prison awaiting trial. The train pulled out of Les Arcs, under a light guard of fifteen gendarmes, who got off in Toulon as three policemen got on but for some strange reason were not able to curtail the razzia. As the train reached the outskirts of Marseille, the junior jihadis pulled the emergency brake, jumped the train, turned around and bashed and stoned it, and then scattered to their just abodes, there to sleep off a most exciting New Year's Eve escapade.

It is easy to understand why the "youths" preferred to leave before the train pulled into the station, but who can understand why the passengers didn't flee while it was docked at Les Arcs? Were they too terrified to try to escape? Did they think the "youths" would catch them and slit their throats? They did promise to bleed (meaning in fact to slaughter) anyone who dared denounce them. Or were the passengers so dhimmified that they considered their punishment to be justified? Or normal?

It could have been worse. That's the buzzphrase here in France. The riots weren't all that bad, no one was killed. Well, in fact about eight people were killed, not counting the two kids whose accidental deaths were the provocative incident that set off the junior intifada...but who's counting?

Why did officials allow the train to pursue its course after the stop at Arcs-Draguignan? Procureur Christian Girard explains: "It seemed rather tricky to make all those youths leave the train because most of them had done nothing but minor vandalism and the other passengers were in a rush to get going again." An official at SNCF headquarters put it another way: if the train was allowed to run it means everything was under control. Logical, n'est-ce pas?

Interior Minister Sarkozy, who was not informed until three days after the fact, is promising stringent measures, an end to impunity, minors will be treated like majors when they commit major offenses, and the special railroad police force will be extended to the entire network. And, says the straightforward Minister, the troublemakers are not "youths" they are "voyous," hooligans.

Socialist party leader François Hollande, in a rare call for law and order, took the Minister to task for not controlling the situation with a firm hand and accused the government of covering up the real extent of New Year's Eve violence. For a party that has been actively cultivating the hooligan vote, this was an astonishing breakthrough.

But the prize for lucidity goes to a real youth, a 17 year-old from Draguignan named Habib. He was accosted by those hooligans on his way to Nice with some friends on the afternoon of the 31st. "They were Arabs. We tried to defend ourselves but they said they had 47 guys with them.... They said they were going to go on the rampage ('hala' in Arabic), they were going to make a massacre on New Year's Day.... They pushed around some guys, and then they went after the girls. They would rub their own sex and then smear the girl's face. They threatened us with teargas bombs....They said they had knives. The way it looked to me, they were organized.....The next day we waited until the afternoon train. We didn't want to meet up with them again."

Ah bon? So it didn't all start at the break of dawn?

In fact, the police first met up with the Barbary pirates when they sailed into Nice on New Year's Eve, already drunk and disorderly. The police patted them down, took mug shots, held the most dangerous ones under arrest for the night, and kept tabs on the others so they wouldn't get into trouble. Then, making sure the kids calmed down, they escorted them to train N° 17430.

And that's how the Arabs whose behavior shocked and frightened Habib turned into youths. And that's how the hooligans who wreaked havoc from one end to the other of a ten-car train calmed down and became youths whenever a railroad security guard or gendarme approached gingerly and ducked out in a flash. And that's how the vandals who made grown men tremble turn into youths when they walk into a courtroom, and get released.

And don't forget, there was nothing religious about this whole operation, because good Muslims don't drink. But just pick up a copy of The Legacy of Jihad,* open to any page, and you will find a vivid description of the razzia mentality that permeates these two-bit conquering hordes. One commentator remarked with surprise that the troublemakers swept down on their hapless victims from their bastion in Marseille, which stayed calm during the flaming uprising of November. The inside story is that drug dealers and other black marketers had given strict orders: no funny business. They didn't want the police invading their citadel.

So it's only normal that the kids break out for a little fun on New Year's Eve. In fact, it's a tradition. Every year the SNCF does its 1€20 promotion, and every year the budding barbarians tear up the train. Not to worry. Every year the fares go up. And the dhimmis pay the damages.

* Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus Books


1 Comment

The Great Train Razzia
This occurrence is not peculiar to France. Gangs of rowdy youths do this regularly on Indian Railways especially in the states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. In Maharashtra, they throw stones at passing trains for their sport. Of late the malaise has also extended to paramilitary and security personnel who intimidate passengers and unauthorisedly take over their reservations. The reason is obviously two-fold. One, social discontent of the poor and the deprived who find this an easy outlet for their frustrations. Secondly, the lax security on transport systems that carry a large number of people over long distances.

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