Early medieval Muslim graves discovery in France

Early medieval Muslim grave in Nimes, France


Early Medieval Muslim Graves in France: First Archaeological, Anthropological and Palaeogenomic Evidence

February 24, 2016


The rapid Arab-Islamic conquest during the early Middle Ages led to major political and cultural changes in the Mediterranean world. Although the early medieval Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula is now well documented, based in the evaluation of archeological and historical sources, the Muslim expansion in the area north of the Pyrenees has only been documented so far through textual sources or rare archaeological data.

Our study provides the first archaeo-anthropological testimony of the Muslim establishment in the South of France through the multidisciplinary analysis of three graves excavated at Nîmes. First, we argue in favor of burials that followed Islamic rites and then note the presence of a community practicing Muslim traditions in Nîmes.

Second, the radiometric dates obtained from all three human skeletons (between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD) echo historical sources documenting an early Muslim presence in southern Gaul (i.e., the first half of 8th century AD).

Finally, palaeogenomic analyses conducted on the human remains provide arguments in favor of a North African ancestry of the three individuals, at least considering the paternal lineages. Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nimes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa. Our discovery not only discusses the first anthropological and genetic data concerning the Muslim occupation of the Visigothic territory of Septimania but also highlights the complexity of the relationship between the two communities during this period.

The people in the graves had not been killed in battle, and had been buried carefully.

See also here.

Calais refugees threatened by French police, soldiers

Valentine’s Day ‘Love Not Razor Wire’ protest outside the French embassy in London against the treatment of refugees in Calais

This photo from England shows a Valentine’s Day ‘Love Not Razor Wire’ protest outside the French embassy in London against the treatment of refugees in Calais.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Monday, 22 February 2016


THOUSANDS of refugees living in the southern part of the camp in the French port of Calais known as the Jungle have been ordered to leave or face eviction.

They have until 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday to leave the southern part of the sprawling camp. Anyone remaining will be forcibly removed to allow for the makeshift structures there to be razed. The area has become a cultural hub for many of the migrants. It has shops, a school and religious structures.

The authorities said up to 1,000 people could be affected but volunteers on the ground estimated that at least twice that number lived in the area. Aid associations believe around 2,000 migrants live in the southern part of the camp.

Thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have congregated around Calais in the hope of crossing to the UK. On Friday Help Refugees’ Calais manager Philli Boyle said the amazing work done by the Women and Children’s Centre in the camp – one of several crucial services – will be lost when the eviction and bulldozing goes ahead.

Over 400 women and more than 500 children use the centres and facilities Help Refugees supports. ‘These are set to be bulldozed without replacement,’ Boyle said. Help Refugees has called on individuals to ‘join a whole host of people who are calling on the (UK) Prime Minister to ask his French counterpart to delay the demolition’.

Last Thursday, over 100 of Britain’s leading actors and authors and academics, including Jude Law, Helena Bonham Carter, Benedict Cumberbatch and Idris Elba, signed an open letter to Cameron urging him to allow children stuck in the camp to enter the UK.

The letter called on the UK prime minister ‘to persuade the French authorities that the decision to destroy further parts of the camp in Calais is postponed until all the minors currently residing there are either given full child protection within the French system or enabled to re-unite with their loved ones in Britain’.

It stressed: ‘This is a humanitarian crisis that needs to be acknowledged as such, and it is imperative that we do everything we can to help these innocent and highly vulnerable refugees, especially the minors, as swiftly as is humanly possible.’

Citizens UK has identified hundreds of unaccompanied minors in Calais who have valid legal claims to have their asylum applications processed in the UK. The first of these cases was heard in the UK courts last month, with the court ruling the children should legally be reunited with family in the UK while their asylum cases were processed.

One of the signatories, Jude Law, said: ‘Last week I visited the camp, and met some of these unaccompanied children who have no choice but to endure the horrific conditions of the Jungle. These are innocent, vulnerable children caught up in red tape with the frightening prospect of the demolition of the Jungle hanging over them. David Cameron and the British Government must urgently work with the French authorities to alleviate this humanitarian crisis.’

Referring to children in the camp, Simon Cuff from the charity Citizens UK said: ‘Those with rights to be with their families in Britain should be reunited with them, those without the right to the UK should receive specialist support and care from the French. Not chased off by police in riot gear.

‘We’re hugely grateful to all the public figures who’ve stood up and stepped out to help protect these refugee children. Governments need to get in there, bring order to the chaos and create safe legal routes to protect people.’

Eight groups working in the camp, including Doctors of the World, have warned that the alternative accommodation is not suitable. In a protest letter to the French interior minister, the group wrote that they are ‘very far from answering the needs of the problems encountered’.

Caritas relief organisation volunteer Pascal Froehly said: ‘I find it extremely annoying and unfair to move these people away from what they have created, including churches, shops and restaurants.’ He added that ‘it’s just a bed for them’ stressing that the plans to move migrants to heated containers elsewhere in the camp offered them no chance to socialise.

The plan was announced last Friday 12th February. The Pas-de-Calais prefect Fabienne Buccio said that they plan to evacuate around half of the migrant camp on the outskirts of the northern port town. Buccio said: ‘The time has come to move on, no one must live in the southern part of the camp, everyone must leave this section. We’ll give them a week to get their belongings together and take up a place that has been put at their disposal.’

Meanwhile, Citizens UK is calling for help to find 5,000 homes for Syrian refugees.

It says: ‘Calling all landlords! Join our homes for resettled refugees register today. A million Syrian children are languishing in refugee camps. Kids are drowning trying to reach safety.

‘The UK has so far resettled only around 200 Syrian refugees from the camps. We want to see 10,000 refugees resettled here each year for at least the next two years. That’s likely to mean around 5,000 refugee families over the two year period.

‘Citizens UK has been campaigning for a year to get local authorities to pledge to resettle just 50 refugees each. Many councils are willing, but they need our help to find appropriate homes for families in the private rented sector. We desperately need landlords to join our Homes for Resettled Refugees Register.

Please sign up on the Homes for Resettled Refugees Register if you: l own a family-sized rental property in the UK; l would be prepared to offer it as a home for a Syrian refugee family if it is vacant when there is demand in your area;

• can offer a 3-year tenancy to enable the family to have some stability when they arrive;
• are able rent out the property for the Local Housing Allowance Rate in your area. The first 12 months of the rent will be paid for by the European Union under a scheme for placing vulnerable refugees.

‘If you match these criteria, please register below. If you do not, please try and find landlords and letting agents in your area who might help, and get them to sign up.’

A central theme of the 66th Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale) was the plight of refugees and the ramifications for Europe and the world arising from the historically unprecedented mass movement of people fleeing war and poverty. The fact that the main prize of the festival went to a film, Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) by Gianfranco Rosi, dealing directly with the fate of refugees attempting to enter Europe, is significant: here.

French security forces violently attacked refugees with tear gas Monday as they launched the demolition of the refugee camp in Calais. The assault, launched as Macedonian police assaulted refugees at the Greek border to shut off the Balkan route leading to Germany, testifies to the escalating persecution of refugees throughout Europe: here.

Last Thursday, Germany’s lower house of parliament (Bundestag) passed the so-called Asylum Package II by a large majority. The upper house (Bundesrat) then agreed on Friday to this further restriction of the country’s right to asylum as well as a law making it easier to deport convicted foreigners: here.

German Chancellor Merkel’s refugee policy and the call for a European army: here.

Artists support Calais refugees

Jude Law speaks at an event at the Calais migrant 'Jungle' camp photo credit: AFP/EBU

From ITV in Britain:

21 February 2016 at 7:47pm

Jude Law speaks at Calais ‘Jungle’ event

Actor Jude Law was among a number of famous faces to visit the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais today to raise awareness for the plight of refugees.

He joined musician Tom Odell, actress Juliet Stevenson and comedian Shappi Khorsandi at the French camp which holds an estimated 4,000 migrants and refugees, two days before it was due to be dismantled.

Many of those in the camp are unaccompanied children, aid charities have said.

More than 100 celebrities have already signed an open letter urging David Cameron to step in and ensure children based in the camp are saved.

“It’s our responsibility as humans to look after our children.

The children in the camp at Calais need us. It isn’t a big ask. It is simply the right thing to do.”

– Actor Jude Law

Tom Odell played alongside other musicians and refugees in the camp, and described it as “one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life”.

Black British solidarity with Calais refugees

This video shows Zita Holbourne and other activists from Britain visiting the Calais refugee camp in France on 19 September 2015.

By Zita Holbourne in Britain:

Fighting for survival in the Calais jungle

Thursday 18th February 2016

ZITA HOLBOURNE explains how she and fellow black activists have overcome racist border guards, obstructive officials and a lack of funds in order to bring desperately needed aid to the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk

FOR the past six months Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac UK) has been carrying out humanitarian work to support refugees in Calais stuck in limbo living in inhumane conditions in the shanty town there. It’s known as the “Jungle” but many refugees we have met find that term derogatory.

On our first visit we joined a peaceful march in Calais organised by local charities, refugees and anti-racist organisations from Britain.

We took aid and gave out gifts and cards which were requested by organisers as a way of showing solidarity.

It was also a fact-finding mission for us. …

As we were leaving, part of our group who had gone back to get our vehicle witnessed local police threatening a group of young Eritrean women. The women were marching and chanting that they were not animals, that the jungle is for animals and that they demanded their rights. The police threatened to set riot police on these women peacefully marching but our group were able to intervene and prevent this. Watch it unfold on this video.

This video is called Eritrean Women in Calais march for Human Rights.

We discovered that many people there were in their teens and early twenties, that there were many unaccompanied minors, that the cultural and dietary needs of some there were not being catered for and that people were collecting firewood to cook on and having to make shelters out of sheets of plastic, fabric and twigs which were destroyed quickly in adverse weather.

With a handful of toilets, stand pipes and a couple of showers, hygiene and washing was a problem and illness was spreading quickly.

People would have to walk for two to three hours to a charity where they could access a shower. We were asked if we could help with dietary needs by bringing traditional food items, African hair and skin products. At that time the majority community were Sudanese.

Most people were experiencing post-traumatic stress from the long and perilous journeys to get to France on top of the persecution, war or poverty they were fleeing.

Many had lost their families.

Since then we have made regular monthly trips to take aid and solidarity and to help the local charities, L’Auberge Des Migrants and Secours Catholique.

Seeing that people were having to collect firewood to cook, we purchased camping stoves. I am a visual artist and curator and we raised funds for these by auctioning and raffling my and other artists’ art.

During Black History Month I donated a percentage of all my art sales towards items to take.

The humanitarian work goes hand in hand with our work campaigning against racism and for migrant rights as we recognise that aid is not a solution. We are a founding organisation of Movement Against Xenophobia and were instrumental in the “I am an Immigrant” poster campaign in Tube and train stations last year. We have also been campaigning to make the links between migration, the current refugee situation and climate change, and in December I spoke at the Paris climate change conference at a session organised by the PCS union on this issue.

In November in addition to bringing food, skin and hair products, our focus was on supporting people to survive the cold winter months, we took tents, blankets, sleeping bags, packs containing thermal fleece hats, scarves, gloves, socks, vests and bottoms, leggings, cocoa butter, toiletries, emergency blankets, tissues, hand gel, tea, coffee, sugar, snack bars, biscuits, sweets, rain ponchos and fresh fruit. We also appealed to the London artist community and took the art materials they donated to the art school at the camp. I donated about 100 of my own books to the library.

Our journey to Calais took 10 hours due to border officials and police questioning and detaining us at the ferry terminal and raging storms meaning we were stuck at sea for several hours. We distributed in the dark and freezing cold while other volunteer groups abandoned their aid distribution attempts that day; then it took another 10 hours to get home. It was a small taste of the harsh outdoors conditions and of what it is like to be stuck in limbo between France and Britain.

In November I also accompanied the London Interfaith Forum on a fact-finding and solidarity visit to the Calais camp, at the same time London Citizens were there with Labour MP Yvette Cooper and the two groups met. Since then a campaign has led to some unaccompanied children in Calais winning their legal case and being reunited with family in Britain.

On every trip we have been questioned and delayed by border officials and police, who have been stopping volunteer groups, charities and activists under the Terrorism Act. We at Barac face an additional layer of racial profiling and questioning and police even stated that they were checking on us as if we got to France we could go on to Turkey then Syria. We are even asked if we are the same people going back as went out. This is because we are a group of black volunteers.

On our most recent distribution in January we took traditional and basic food supplies for distribution to the community kitchens and fresh vegetables, spices and fruit, plus survival packs, blankets and sleeping bags which were distributed to new arrivals, a large supply of toiletries from Lush distributed to the women’s camp and books donated by Newham Bookshop to the camp’s aptly named Jungle Books library.

Volunteer groups also help in the Calais warehouse and with cleaning up and building work in the camp, among other things, so after our distribution we filled our van with family-sized tents to take to another camp in Dunkirk. Police were stationed all around and banned tents and building materials from being taken in.

The conditions there were far worse than those at Calais, without the same resources, and reminded me of my first visit to Calais last summer with people cooking with firewood. Conditions were extremely muddy and with no washing facilities, mud-caked clothes need replacing. There are only a handful of toilets and one shower, plus a tiny classroom.

Trade unions including PCS, CWU and GMB have supported our efforts by sponsoring transport and travel and we are seeking sponsorship for future humanitarian visits.

We have given a commitment that all the money we raise on GoFundMe goes directly to refugees.

If anybody wants to sponsor us or can provide a minivan, please get in touch with us. Financial donations towards aid can be made via GoFundMe at mstar.link/barac-gfm and aid or travel sponsorship can be made directly to Barac. PCS head office in Falcon Road, London SW11, is a drop-off point for donated items and should be addressed to Zita Holbourne, PCS NEC, C/O Harvey Jacobs.

We now aim to distribute to both Calais and Dunkirk and welcome all support. Adverse weather, frequent fires, police and state brutality, state-imposed exclusion zones and lack of adequate facilities mean that aid will be needed for some time to come.

People in the camps are threatened with short-notice evictions and left with very little time to gather and protect the few belongings and what little shelter they have.

It could be any of us fleeing persecution, poverty and climate change. Instead of accepting the myths and lies told about refugees and migrants as benefit tourists and “economic migrants” coming to Britain to steal jobs and housing, we should recognise that every human being deserves the right to survive and to seek and find a safe and secure place to live. Nobody goes through perilous journeys to face inhumane living conditions unless what they are fleeing is far worse.

Zita Holbourne is a co-founder and national co-chair of Barac UK, a community and trade union activist, human rights campaigner, writer, poet, visual artist and curator. For more information see http://www.blackactivistsrisingagainstcuts.blogspot.com or follow @BaracUK.

Armed neo-nazis attack Calais refugees

This video says about itself:

Calais Solidarity Trip (9) – Church

29 September 2015

We went to church on Sunday morning where there was an Ethiopian Christian service in the makeshift church. Very beautiful singing.

Hannah Slater and Rachael Heaven took donations from several UK towns and cities to the refugee camp in Calais in September 2015.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Calais Jungle refugees targeted by armed far-right militia in brutal campaign of violence

Exclusive: Migrants accuse local police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and carrying out their own assaults

Oscar Quine, Calais

Friday 12 February 2016 19:58 BST

Members of an armed far-right militia are attacking Calais migrants in an unprecedented, brutal campaign of violence, according to evidence seen by this newspaper. In a series of incidents in recent weeks, refugees living at the Jungle camp claim to have been targeted by organised thugs – sometimes in uniforms.

The Independent was told of one attack in which young male refugees were taken by van to a field where they were stripped naked and had their hands cuffed behind their back. They were then made to watch as their abductors – a group of unidentified men – beat them individually.

Migrants accuse local French police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and also carrying out their own assaults.

A coalition of NGOs, legal advisers and charities has decried both an increase in incidents of police aggression and the rise in attacks on refugees by groups of civilians, thought to be racist gangs.

The claims are outlined in a report compiled by staff at the camp’s legal centre, along with the British charity Care4Calais, which is to be submitted to the state prosecutor. It included 10 testimonies of violence, eight at the hands of police and five by civilian groups.

Many of the accounts are corroborated by medical reports from international humanitarian organisations Médecins sans Frontières and Médecins du Monde. Four videos thought to be included in the report have been seen by The Independent. One shows a 16-year-old Afghan boy whose arm is in a cast saying he was forced into the back of a van and taken to a field where he was beaten by a group of men. His arm and two fingers are broken. A similar account is given by another 16-year-old boy who refers to the unidentified men as “fascists”.

Marianne Humbersot, head of mission at the camp’s legal centre, said she has about 50 accounts in total which bear striking similarities of violence at the hands of “policemen and a certain civil militia of which we do not know the exact identity”.

She said: “We are talking about injuries that are life-threatening. Not just bruises but also stabbing, strangling and beating with metal sticks. These attacks are against men, women and children. Minors. I have the account of a 10-year-old boy who has been subjected to police violence. I have a 13-year-old who was beaten by police – and 10 days before he had his nose broken by ‘racists’.”

Concerns around these attacks have increased in the past month. The local region came close to electing Front National leader Marine le Pen in the recent elections. But the Care4Calais report forms the most comprehensive evidence of systematic violence against refugees at the hands of suspected right-wing militias.

While there is no suggestion that the police have worked with the group, many have accused them of failing to protect migrants as they hope to soon clear the camp. On Friday, the local police prefecture announced a large area of the camp, home to 800 to 1,000 people, would be bulldozed next week.

For the camp’s inhabitants, awareness of far-right groups has been heightened following a hostile political march held in early January that ended in clashes. Many migrants said they know people who have been attacked by these groups. Ali-Muhammad Jumar, 23, from Sudan was one such case. He had a broken finger and a fresh cut above his left eyebrow that he said were the result of being beaten the previous night by police near the Eurotunnel train tracks. “There are racists in Calais who beat people with sticks,” he added.

MSF and MDM both confirmed they had heard accounts and issued medical reports that corroborated the testimonies in the report.

“Most of the injuries are head trauma with bruises and face lacerations, some needing stitches,” said Marlene Malfaid, MSF medical co-ordinator for the camp. She added that the agency sees about 12 incidents a week of people who have been victims of violence. In the past week alone, they have had a dozen reports, eight regarding police violence and four of “non-police” attacks.

Isabelle Bruand, Nord-Pas-de-Calais regional co-ordinator for MDM, said: “What we see now seeing is targeted violence: groups who are targeting immigrants in the area near the camp for no reason other than simply to beat them. We don’t know who these people are. Some people say they are beaten by civilians. Some tell us they are beaten by groups of the CRS [the French riot police] and other policemen.

“These groups of civilians feel organised. In some cases they have weapons and they seem to come with the idea of ‘we will go to the camp and find some immigrants to beat up’.”

Diplomatic tensions between the EU member states are intensifying in the run-up to the meeting of heads of state and governments this week. The issue of what measures can better seal off Europe against refugees is further inflaming these conflicts: here.

This weekend’s Munich Security Conference, which brought together European and international officials, exposed deep and bitter divisions wracking European capitalism. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ public attack on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy in the European refugee crisis, in which Valls demanded even more vicious attacks on refugees, was among the sharpest of a whole host of conflicts that erupted: here.

Calais refugees attacked with rubber bullets

This video from London, England says about itself:

Developers board up new Banksy criticising Calais ‘Jungle’ teargas treatment

25 January 2016

Banksy has created a new artwork criticising the tactics used in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais – but it was covered up with wood shortly after developers discovered it. The latest mural was drawn opposite the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, west London, and depicts the young girl from the musical Les Miserables with tears streaming from her eyes as a can of CS gas lies beneath her. The artwork includes an interactive QR code which, when scanned, links to a video of teargas and rubber bullets allegedly used in a police raid on migrants and refugees in the camp on January 5.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

French cops ‘use rubber bullets on Calais refugees

Thursday 4th February 2016

FRENCH police are using tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees living in the notorious Jungle camp outside Calais.

Manchester-based Refugee and Asylum Participator Action Research (Rapar), which has visited the camp to deliver vital humanitarian aid, released evidence of the attacks yesterday.

The camp contains 6,000 refugees living in appalling conditions of mud and squalor. Refugees in the Jungle sent some of the visiting groups photographic evidence of the injuries inflicted by police, including pictures of spent baton rounds.

Rapar member Rhetta Moran said: “Mohammed, an Afghan father of a toddler girl, sent Rapar photographs of rubber bullet wounds that he described as sustained by Calais refugee camp residents.”

Labour MEP Julie Ward has visited the camp, where French riot police tried to prevent her from getting in.

She said: “The use of tear gas, rubber bullets and physical force, such as I experienced, is insupportable when dealing with people who are dispossessed.

“The refugees should be protected from the extreme right-wing who lurk on the fringes of the camp, and vulnerable camp inhabitants should be given the humanitarian assistance they need.”

London-based Umjum Mirza, an assistant branch secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, also visited the camp.

“We need to learn the lessons of history and let the refugees into Britain immediately,” he said.

Calais Jungle refugees targeted by armed far-right militia in brutal campaign of violence. Exclusive: Migrants accuse local police of failing to protect them from the beatings – and carrying out their own assaults: here.