rfi 2024-02-26 22:35:36


French town tests controversial school uniforms

In a first for the country, hundreds of pupils in southern France headed to school in uniforms for the first time on Monday as part of a national experiment to determine whether to make them compulsory.

Uniforms have never been required in state schools in mainland France.

But President Emmanuel Macron last month announced a uniform trial at around 100 schools, with a view to making them mandatory nationwide in 2026 if it is successful.

Towns run by the right wing make up the majority that signed up for the test, though some have met strong resistance from teachers, students and parents.

Critics say the money would be better spent in other areas of public education to improve learning.

The idea was first launched in January last year.



Around 700 students at four schools in the southern town of Beziers appeared to be the first to try it out in mainland France on Monday, after a school gave identical outfits a go in the overseas territory of La Reunion last month.

Pupils in Beziers, a town with a far-right mayor and a high unemployment rate, had been invited to come with their parents to pick up their outfit during half term.

‘Nowhere near creating equality

The city and national governments are sharing the €200 cost of each uniform, made up of a blazer with the school’s logo, two polo shirts and one pair of trousers, as well as a pair of shorts or a skirt depending on gender.

Schools have until June to sign up to the initiative.

First lady Brigitte Macron, a former drama teacher, has backed the introduction of school uniforms.

Far-right former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has also supported a compulsory dress code.

But French-Algerian writer Nabila Ramdani, author of the book Fixing France and who was interviewed earlier this year by the Spotlight on France team,  is not happy. When the debate on school uniforms started last year, she strongly rejected Brigitte Macron’s support for the measure, saying that it “…it goes nowhere near erasing any superficial or significant differences – concerning wealth, social status,or life chances – so as to create equality”.



  • French MPs reject far right’s proposal to reintroduce school uniforms

(With newswires)


Diplomacy

France reiterates its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara

France’s foreign minister Stephane Séjourne has reiterated Paris’ “clear and constant” support for Morocco’s autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, during a visit to Rabat.

French foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné, who arrived in Rabat on Sunday evening, said that he had been “personally” commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron to work towards closer relations with Morocco.

“This visit is a major step towards opening a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries”, a diplomatic source explained.

During a press conference on Monday, alongside his counterpart, Nasser Bourita, the French foreign minister said of the Western Sahara: “This is an existential issue for Morocco. We know that […]. It is now time to move forward. I will see to it personally”, also announcing his desire to build a partnership with Morocco for the next 30 years.



Diplomatic tensions

The last visit by a French foreign minister dates back more than a year. In December 2022, Catherine Colonna went to Rabat to announce the end of visa restrictions to France. But there was no significant improvement between the two countries in the following weeks.

A vote by the European Parliament in January 2023 condemning the deterioration in press freedom in Morocco added to the diplomatic tensions.

In response, Morocco terminated the mission of its ambassador in Paris.

  • Morocco names woman former journalist as ambassador to France

Relations seemed to have reached an dead end until the French ambassador to Morocco issued a public mea culpa in October. A new Moroccan ambassador to France was then appointed.

‘New political agenda’

On the French side, the revelations by the Forbidden Stories media group, according to which the phone numbers of Emmanuel Macron and ministers were targeted in 2019 by Morocco, were not much appreciated.

  • Morocco files French libel suit over Pegasus spyware claim

In September, a new controversy arose when France offered aid to Morocco, hit by an earthquake, which Rabat ignored.

Séjourné’s visit is therefore a first step “towards a new political agenda, in all areas, with shared priorities”, said a diplomatic source.

(with AFP)


UKRAINE CRISIS

Macron hosts summit seeking solutions for war-ravaged Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron is on Monday hosting an international conference in support of Ukraine as Russia’s invasion enters its third year.

European leaders and ministers have been invited to the meeting to “study the available means” of reinforcing cooperation in support of Ukraine, Macron’s office said.

“Two years after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, this working meeting will be an opportunity to study ways to boost the cooperation between partners in support to Ukraine.”

French officials say Macron is determined to send a message to Moscow that there is no “Ukraine fatigue” in Europe despite fears over continued US support.

  • EU leaders seal €50bn Ukraine aid deal after Hungary lifts veto

Search for solutions

Polish President Andrzej Duda told Polsat television that he would attend the conference “to discuss new propositions of solution and aid for Ukraine”.

Ukraine has faced intense pressure on its eastern front in recent months as it grapples with ammunition shortages and hold-ups to much-needed Western military aid.

Russia has for months been ramping up arms production and driving massive human resources into its offensive, at what Kyiv says is an enormous human toll.

  • France and Ukraine to sign security agreement during Zelensky’s Paris visit

This meeting comes 10 days after Emmanuel Macron and Volodymyr Zelensky signed bilateral security agreements at the Elysée Palace in Paris.

The French President pledged to provide “up to three billion euros” of “additional military aid” to Kyiv this year, also announcing his intention to visit Ukraine “before mid-March”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday his country’s victory “depends” on Western support and that he was “sure” the United States would approve a critical package of military aid.

The US Congress has so far refused to approve new funding for military aid to Kyiv, even as President Joe Biden expressed confidence that it will eventually do so.

Zelensky also said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in two years of war with Russia, in a rare admission of military losses.


    NATO

    Hungary’s parliament has ratified Sweden’s bid to join NATO

    Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, bringing an end to more than 18 months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

    The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, was the culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership.

    The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into NATO in July 2022, but the matter stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.

    Budapest also accused Swedish officials of being “keen to bash Hungary” on rule-of-law issues.

    But after a meeting last Friday between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson in Budapest, the nationalist leader announced progress.

    “We have managed to clarify our mutual good intentions,” Orban told journalists after signing a deal to acquire four Swedish-made fighter jets, expanding its existing fleet of 14 Jas-39 Gripen fighters.



    Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party, whose ruling coalition with the Christian Democratic KDNP holds a two-thirds majority in parliament, had already indicated it would support Sweden’s bid.

    All opposition parties except the far-right Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) movement were in favour of ratification.

    Lawmakers greenlighted the Nordic nation’s bid in the parliamentary vote on Monday afternoon.

    The President is now expected to sign it in the coming days.

    Sweden will then be invited to accede to the 1949 North Atlantic (“Washington”) Treaty and officially become a NATO member. Official entry into the alliance will then take place shortly: Finland entered the group on April 4, 2023, after Ankara had given the green light four days earlier.

    • EU leaders seal €50bn Ukraine aid deal after Hungary lifts veto

    (With newswires)


    French politics

    French far-right leader calls for ‘economic patriotism’ for agriculture

    After the chaotic visit of President Emmanel Macron at the Agriculture Show in Paris on Saturday, far-right National Rally leader Jordan Bardella was keen to show his support for farmers with a two-day visit starting Sunday.

    While French presidents have often been jeered at the annual fair, Saturday’s scenes were a first.

    It was a long day for Emmanuel Macron who was heckled by angry farmers who scuffled with police upon his arrival at 8am.

    Police arrested six people and eight officers were hurt in the violence.

    Farmers’ leaders had already warned Macron that his visit to the Salon de l’Agriculture – a fixture of the presidential calendar – would not go smoothly if the government had not delivered on their promises to meet their demands.

    • Paris Agriculture Show opens as angry farmers continue quarrel over costs

    Macron held a two-hour meeting with the leaders of the three main farmers unions, the FNSEA, Jeunes Agriculteurs and Coordination Rurale, over their concerns over prices, red tape and state aid.

    It was a step down from the major national debate he had originally planned before scrapping it after a row over who could be invited.

    Government proposals

    “I always prefer dialogue to confrontation,” Macron said. “I am telling you that work is being done on the ground, we are in the process of simplifying things.”

    Macron stressed that his government had made 62 commitments to meet farmers demands, including promises of minimum prices for some agricultural commodities.

    The protesting farmers were not all impressed.

    “Did you hear him? He doesn’t let us speak, he talks down to us. We want him to go,” farmer Eric Labarre, an FNSEA member, told French news agency AFP.

    • Why are French farmers angry and who will reap the rewards?

    FNSEA leader Arnaud Rousseau was more conciliatory. “There are a certain number of advances that we are happy about,” he told LCI television.

    Macron said he would meet again with farmers in three weeks, after the fair shuts on 3 March.

    ‘Distress’ of the agricultural industry

    On Sunday, it was Jordan Bardella’s turn to woo the attendees at the fair, escorted by around twenty deputies.

    The young head of the far-right National Rally party said he would one-up the President by spending two days at the fair to show his dedication to the ailing industry.

    Instead of scuffles, attendees queued up to take selfies with the young politician, who took over from Marine Le Pen in 2022.

    “Behind the distress of the agricultural sector, there is the distress of rural France, the distress of working France, which today is asphyxiated by standards, asphyxiated by taxes, and which is no longer able to live with dignity,” he told reporters.

    Bardella called in particular for “economic patriotism” for agriculture and “the end of inheritance taxes” for farmers.

    “Obviously, there is the question of income and work. But our farmers must be competitive. However, by being put in competition with products or sectors that do not respect any of the standards, it is very complicated,” he insisted.

    European elections on the horizon

    He pointed out that farmers protests in recent weeks were not only attended by National Rally supporters and accused Macron of being paranoid over “a form of conspiracy”.

    • Is the EU facing a ‘New Right’ surge in Europe’s 2024 elections?

    Accused by Macron of being the bearer of a “stupid project” which would consist of “leaving Europe”, Bardella claims to want to “change the rules of the EU” by “pushing it from within”. But “as long as we accept that rules decided in Brussels come to apply on French soil, that poses a problem,” he says.

    Recent polls suggest that the RN – lead by Bardella –will emerge as the big winner in the 9 June European election with around one-third of the French vote, some 10 points ahead of a coalition led by Macron’s Renaissance party.

    (with newswires)


    Senegal

    Symbolic votes replace real polls as Senegalese declare a day of ‘mourning’ for democracy

    Dakar, Senegal – Since 1978, presidential elections have always taken place in Senegal in February. This Sunday was the first time that this tradition was not observed. However, voters didn’t want to stay home. Instead they took part in symbolic voting by turning up at their polling stations.

    The civil society group ‘Senegal Vote‘  invited citizens to go to the polls… even though they couldn’t vote.

    “Deprived of their presidential election, the Senegalese people are organising their vote!” the group posted on social media.

    “This Sunday, February 25, 2024, go to your voting center, take a photo of yourself to demonstrate your presence and share this with all your networks.”



    And many answered the call, including candidates like Anta Babacar, and some journalists.



    Amy Ndao Fall and Awa Mbow Kane, both doctors, went to a simulated polling station  in Dakar organised by the citizen collective Aar Sunu Election (“Let’s preserve our election”) on the day the Senegalese were supposed to vote.

    They told RFI that “voting has always been part of their culture”.

    Others compared the political deadlock to the Covid crisis, which had had a masive negative impact on Senegal’s economy.

    Some candidates met at the headquarters of Taxaawu candidate, Khalifa Sall.

    “Today is a dark day for our democracy,” he told the guests. “Senegal is a cracked democracy because, for the first time, we are touching on this myth that was the presidential election.”



    According to a note from the Interior Ministry, talks to set a new date for Senegal’s presidential vote will start on Monday at 4pm.

    Sixteen presidential candidates have already said they are refusing to take part in this dialogue.

    The national dialogue should also determine how the country will be governed after Macky Sall steps down and until elections are held.

    “We want to vote,” a voter told AFP. “Before 2 April, it is obligatory. This endless campaign, these demonstrations, all these people killed for years… We must turn this page and get back to work.”

     (with AFP)


    Senegal

    Senegalese demonstrate in Dakar both for and against President Sall

    Dakar, Senegal – Sunday was supposed to be the day of the presidential election in Senegal. Instead, the weekend was marked by a series of protests in Dakar, with the opposition and civil society organisations calling on President Macky Sall to announce a date. His supporters also staged a big event in another part of the city. 

    Hundreds of protesters turned out on Saturday in the neighbourhood of HLM Grand Yoff, in Dakar, at the invitation of the F24 collective, many chanting “Macky Sall dictator”.

    Some opposition leaders and presidential candidates also answered the call and came to speak with the protesters, and support their demand for the election to take place as soon as possible.

    “Sall must accede to this request from the Senegalese population,” Dethié Fall, candidate for the Senegalese presidential election, told them “to this request from Senegalese democracy.”

    Thierno Alassane Sall, member of the FC25 Front, which brings together 16 of the 19 validated candidates, wants to repeat that they are not going to join the dialogue the President invited them to.

    • Senegal: Civil society, opposition step up protests to break political deadlock

    “It is out of the question to sit down with the President of the Republic”, he said.

    “On Monday, we will submit a collective request to the Constitutional Council so that it complies with its decision”, he added. “We have no intention of going to this dialogue!”

    Peaceful gathering

    Despite police presence, the rally went ahead peacefully.

    Abdoulaye Bathily is the president of the communication commission of F24 movement, the “driving forces of Senegal”.

    He told RFI that Sall’s action was tantamount to a coup.

    “We are here to say no to this constitutional coup because we consider it a coup. And following the declaration of the President of the Republic who is not respecting the decisions of the Constitutional Council.” 

    He denounced an “umpteenth attack on democracy”, and added his voice to ask that the elections in Senegal be held on the due date. 

    “Of course, we have passed the date,” he added, “but at least we can hold the elections before 2 April, the date of the end of the mandate of the President of the Republic.”

    Most political commentators have congratulated the F24 organisers for a successful meeting, well managed and beyond party lines.

    Later on Saturday, a larger crowd met in front of the local town hall in Grand Yoff, and celebrated what they called a ‘goodbye party’ for the President.

    F24 has invited people to return on Sunday to take selfies in front of what should’ve been their polling stations.

    Organisers have also called for an opération ville morte (ghost town day) for Tuesday.

    ‘Thank you’ march

    Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Macky Sall’s supporters also marched to thank the President for his achievements.

    Thousands of Senegalese gathered with placards reading “Macky is in our hearts”.

    The event was mocked by a part of the national and local press, who condemns Sall for triggering one the West African nation’s worst political crises.

    According to Sall, he delayed the election because of disputes over the disqualification of potential candidates and concerns about a return to unrest seen in 2021 and last year.

    Mamadou Dia, a 30-year-old student, defended Sall’s record as president since 2012 and believes the election date matters little.

    • Senegal’s Macky Sall says his mandate as president will end in April

    “We are here to show national and international opinion that what people are saying about Macky Sall is totally false. Macky Sall has done all he needed to do for Senegal,” he told French news agency AFP.

    Sall to expected to announce a date for the election on Tuesday evening, even if opposition candidates boycott his invitation to dialogue.

     If no agreement is reached during the dialogue, Sall said it would be up to the Constitutional Council to decide the next step.


    Cinema

    Franco-Senegalese documentary ‘Dahomey’ wins Berlin’s Golden Bear

    Dahomey, a documentary by Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop probing the thorny issues surrounding Europe’s return of looted antiquities to Africa, won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize Saturday. 

    Kenyan-Mexican Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, the first black jury president at the 74th annual event, announced the seven-member panel’s choice among 20 contenders for the Golden Bear award at a gala ceremony.

    Diop said the prize “not only honours me but the entire visible and invisible community that the film represents.

    “To rebuild we must first restitute, and what does restitution mean? To restitute is to do justice,” she added.

    Diop’s dreamlike film traces the 2021 journey home of 26 precious artifacts of the Dahomey kingdom to Benin from a Paris museum.

    In the movie, Diop has one of the statues recount in a haunting Fon-language voice-over his land being pillaged by the French, the circumstances of his own exile and his ultimate repatriation in Cotonou museum.

    Upon the collection’s arrival, local students debate in fascinating, unscripted scenes the historic importance of the restitution gesture and whether it is cause for rejoice or outrage.

    ‘Some kind of miracle’

    The New York Times called the documentary “some kind of miracle, packing an extraordinary amount of information, inquiry and wild, persuasive imagination into a slim, 68-minute runtime”.

    Variety said Dahomey was a “striking, stirring example of the poetry that can result when the dead and the dispossessed speak to and through the living”.

    Diop’s supernatural Netflix drama Atlantique made her the first black woman to compete in Cannes in 2019, when she picked up the runner-up Grand Prix award.

    While acknowledging restitution’s importance, Diop told French news agency AFP during the festival she had no intention of “celebrating” the gesture by French President Emmanuel Macron.

    Only 26 artefacts were returned “against the more than 7,000 works still held captive” in Paris, she noted.

    • France hands back Benin cultural treasures at historic museum ceremony
    • Benin cockerel looted by British to be returned by Cambridge University

    As for the other honours, South Korean arthouse favourite Hong Sang-soo captured the runner-up Grand Jury Prize for A Traveller’s Needs, his third collaboration with French screen legend Isabelle Huppert.

    Hong, a frequent guest at the 11-day festival, thanked the jury, joking “I don’t know what you saw in this film”.

    French auteur Bruno Dumont accepted the third-place Jury Prize for The Empire, an intergalactic battle of good and evil set in a French fishing village.

    Dominican filmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias won best director for Pepe, his enigmatic docudrama conjuring the ghost of a hippopotamus owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar.

    • See all the Berlin Film Festival prize-winners here

    Culture

    Turning motion into art using soft pastels and Olympic vigour

    The first thing that stands out about Lorenzo Mattotti’s works is the explosion of vibrant colours and shapes. Each drawing is full of eye-catching detail, and it’s hard to know where to look.

    The Italian artist’s work depicting running – in all its forms – is at the heart of a dynamic exhibition, “The Art of Running – Catch the Race”, on show at the Angoulême Museum.

    It is part of the Cultural Olympiad, a series of nationwide events combining sport and art in conjunction with the 2024 Paris Olympics.

    “Lorenzo Mattotti excels at capturing dynamic movement with his portraits of swimmers and dancers,” exhibition curator Marguerite Demoëte tells RFI when asked why this artist was chosen.

    “We can really see how the bodies vibrate on the page.”

    In both large and small formats, Mattotti deftly captures the action and speed of running – a feeling of movement induced through the use of crayon, ink and pastels in layers of brush strokes and lines.

    ‘Finesse and subtlety’

    “Running is probably the most difficult motion to draw. There’s the acceleration of the body, the repetition. It’s an obsession that becomes quite hypnotic,” Demoëte says.

    “I think he manages this with a lot of finesse and subtlety.”

    Based in Paris for more than 20 years, Mattotti first became known to the French public through his graphic novels such as Fires (1986).

    He is also an accomplished all-round artist, his illustrations turning up on the covers of magazines such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue, in award-winning animation films and even the official poster for the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

    His latest work can be seen on the posters and catalogues for the 2023-2024 season of the Dijon Opera House.

    The Art of Running” opened during the Angoulême International Comics Festival in January and is on display until 10 March.

    Demoëte, the newly appointed artistic director of the festival, is proud to see the exhibition selected as a part of the national Cultural Olympiad.

    Involving community centres and volunteers, the Olympiad events run parallel to the Olympic competitions and are designed to explore the connections between art and athletics, and the values they share such as excellence, inclusion, cultural diversity and universalism, according to the organisers.

    In the words of Pierre de Coubertin, the French co-founder of the International Olympic Committee: it’s the meeting of “muscles and mind”.

    In this vein, Demoëte sought to create a dialogue between artistic disciplines by inviting award-winning French novelist Maria Pourchet to write short descriptive texts to accompany Mattotti’s works.

    Naturally, part of the exhibition is dedicated to the symbol of the Olympic flame, from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

    For Mattotti, the torch bearer is the one who leads the way in dark times, delivering a message of hope. War-torn landscapes appear in murky green, grey and black. But in the middle of each picture, a yellow and orange flame burns brightly – a guiding light.

    For Pourchet, it’s the Ancient Greek story of Eucles, who ran 42 kilometres in record time to deliver a message of victory to Athens during the Battle of Marathon, thus inventing the birth of the legendary sporting event we know today.

    • Paris 2024 Olympics Committee to reveal names of torch bearers

    She also imagines the story of a teenage swimmer preparing to represent her community in the Olympic torch relay. This reflects the participation of thousands of French people who will pass the torch to one another on its journey from Marseille to Paris, in time for the opening ceremony on 26 July.

    Besides the Olympic connection, Mattotti and Pourchet explore running in other forms. From an instinctive reflex since the dawn of time to escape danger to leisurely joggers by the river to competitors testing their physical prowess in a race.

    Running is portrayed as a popular activity – accessible in a way other sports are not; no special equipment is necessary. It can be done almost anywhere, solo or in groups, by men and women, young and old, at a fast or slow pace.

    It is also a symbol of freedom, of emancipation, as Pourchet points out in her homage to women runners.

    • Ply me a river: Seine to shine in Paris 2024 Paris Olympics opening ceremony

    “What is interesting is the connection between sport and creativity, particularly with comics. We see many parallels,” Demoëte says.

    “Being a comic book writer means making things look easy by hiding the effort. It means starting over, failing, preparing – all of this echoes how sportspeople train their bodies.”


    Society

    Photographs lift the lid on Japan’s underground 1950s tattoo scene

    Takagi Akimitsu, one of the most prolific and well-known crime novelists of 20th century Japan, was also a brilliant photographer. A French book depicting his photos from 1950s Tokyo was recently on display at the International Tattoo Fair in Paris.

    Akimitsu was born in 1920 and died in 1995. He acquired his nickname “the tattoo writer” after his first book Shisei Satsujin Jikenk was published in 1948, which deals with the murders of tattooed people in Tokyo.

    In 2017, the first French translation of this book (Irezumi in French) was realeased, and journalist Pascal Bagot, who had been doing research on traditional Japanese tattooing for 15 years, decided to contact the writer’s heirs.

    During a meeting in Tokyo, he learned that Takagi took hundreds of photographs of tattoed people in the 1950s, which led him to publish a photography book entitled The Tattoo Writer in 2022.

    RFI: How did Takagi take these photos that are shown at the International Tattoo Fair

    Pascal Bagot: Takagi got acquainted with tattooers and some tattooed people during the writing of his first book.

    He was so interested and passionate about Japanese tattooing that he started documenting it. He liked taking pictures, too, and used a medium format camera.

    The photos are absolutely amazing and have an artistic and historical value for historians, sociologists and lovers of traditional tattoos. 

    I’m in charge of promoting this collection and publishing it.

    RFI: What do you know about the tattoed men who were photographed near a waterfall in Tokyo?

    PB: I’m still doing research to find out exactly who these people are.

    What I know so far is that they created a club in the beginning of the 20th century, of people keeping the tradition of the old Tokyo tattooing style. It may be the oldest tattoo club in the world.

    These people are gathering in a public park and having a good time socialising. They are mainly carpenters, craftsmen, firemen, etc. People from the working class.

    RFI: Was having a tattoo allowed at that time in Japan?

    PB: Tattooing in Japan was officially banned at the end of the 19th century and for about 70 years until 1945. 

    It really had a negative image in Japan because of this prohibition … and because the mafia and the yakuza started to adopt it as a badge of their outsider lifestyle.

    RFI: What was the traditional Japanese tattoo method used at that time?

    PB: The traditional hand style technique used is called tebori. It means carving by hand. 

    It uses bamboo or wooden sticks … on top they put some needles and then, using the left hand, they stretch the skin and pierce the skin by repeating a movement with the tool. 

    It’s supposed to be less traumatic than the machine.

    Surprisingly it’s a technique that is very popular at the moment. A lot of Western people are returning to this technique because of the craftsmanship, the authenticity, and also for the quality of the results.

    RFI: We can see a lot of tattoed women in the photo series…

    PB: This is a very specific aspect of this photo archive.

    It can be explained by the relationship between Takagi and tattooing, because he got really interested in tattooing when he was a child. 

    He went to a public bath with his mother when he was really young and there he saw tattooed women and somehow it changed his life. 

    That’s why when he started documenting the photos, he really paid a strong attention to women because they had something special, a kind of erotic and phantasmagoric (dreamlike) aspect too.

    It’s very interesting to see these women with the same strong, big tattoos that men have.

    All this was very intriguing for the storyteller that he was.


    This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


    Niger

    Ecowas lifts Niger sanctions on ‘humanitarian grounds’

    West Africa’s regional bloc Ecowas on Saturday said it was lifting some of the sanctions imposed on Niger after last year’s military coup.  

     A no-fly zone, border closures and asset freezes were among the measures being stopped “with immediate effect” on “humanitarian grounds”, Ecowas Commission chief Omar Alieu Touray said following an emergency heads of state summit in Abuja.

    Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a military coup last July, prompting the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to suspend trade and impose tough sanctions.

    But the bloc’s warning of military intervention has fizzled out with little sign that Bazoum – still imprisoned in the presidential palace in Niamey – is close to being restored.

    Touray called for Bazoum’s “immediate release” at the summit in Nigeria’s capital.

    He said the measures to be lifted included the freezing of Niger‘s assets in Ecowas central banks and the suspension of financial transactions between Ecowas states and Niger.

    But Touray told French news agency AFP “individual sanctions as well as political sanctions remain in place in Niger… (and) in other countries political sanctions remain”.

    The sanctions have hit Niger hard, where the extreme poverty rate exceeds 40 percent according to the World Bank, and the news that some were being lifted was welcomed.

    Rethink strategy

    Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had urged worried West African leaders to rethink their strategy on the region’s coup-hit states at the start of the summit.

    West Africa has been rocked by a series of political crises and Tinubu told the leaders they were meeting at a “critical juncture”.

    Following recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea, Tinubu – who is also head of Ecowas – said “we must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in four of our members states”.

    • Ecowas’ future in jeopardy after Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso leave group

    The four have been suspended from the organisation and were not represented at the summit.

    Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger declared their intention to permanently withdraw from the bloc in January, but Ecowas has called for them to return.

    Tinubu urged them to “reconsider the decision” and said they should “not perceive our organisation as the enemy”.

    Senegal in spotlight

    The three countries’ new military leaders have accused former colonial power France of instrumentalising Ecowas, and they have pushed out French ambassadors and forces while turning politically and militarily towards Russia.

    West Africa has also been rattled by President Macky Sall’s sudden decision to delay elections in Senegal.

    Sall has faced growing calls to set a date for the presidential election after his postponement of the 25 February poll triggered weeks of turmoil.

    Sall attended Saturday’s summit and Touray said Ecowas leaders had “taken note of the end of President Macky Sall’s term of office on April 2”.

    He urged all parties to prioritise dialogue to achieve “free, fair and inclusive elections”.

    (with AFP)

    International report

    Will Turkey ditch Russian missiles for US military jets?

    Issued on:

    As Turkey’s rapprochement with the United States gathers pace, the future of Turkish-purchased Russian S-400 missiles is increasingly in question. The missile deal is a potent symbol of Ankara’s close ties with Moscow, but Washington is offering to sell Turkey its advanced F35 military jet for the removal of the Russian weapons.

    Ankara was kicked out of the jet program after it purchased Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, which Washington said compromised the F-35’s stealth technology.

    Now Turkey’s purchase of the advanced F-35 military jet could be back on the agenda.

    Acting deputy of Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, during a visit to Istanbul last month, offered to revive the jet sale if the Russian missiles were removed.

    Along with the $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) price tag for the Russian missiles, Ankara paid a heavy price militarily and economically by being expelled from the F-35 program.

    Founding partner

    Turkey was one of the founding partners of the jet program, with Turkish companies building numerous parts for the plane.

    Diplomatically the missile sale created a deep divide between Turkey and its NATO partners, raising questions over its allegiance to the Western military alliance.

    “After the purchase of the anti-aircraft missiles, which was unprecedented, some people in [President] Erdogan’s cabinet also admitted this was a big mistake,” says Onur Isci, a Russian affairs expert at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University told RFI.

    “Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s was a very costly endeavor.”

    • The escaping Russians finding a better life in Turkey

    The S-400 missile sale was a powerful symbol of deepening Russian Turkish ties and deteriorating relations with Washington.

    The sale came in the aftermath of Ankara’s accusations of Washington’s involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first leaders to offer Erdogan support during the attempted putsch.

    Important symbol

    While the Russian missiles sit unused in a warehouse, they remain an important symbol of Erdogan’s close ties to Putin, making their removal difficult for the Turkish president.

    “The buying of the S-400 air defence system from Russia was a diplomatic catastrophe of historical magnitude,” says former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, now a regional analyst.

    “Unfortunately, it is not possible. I am led to believe that Erdogan will walk back from that mistake … It was an unforced error. It was an own goal, whichever metaphor you like.”

    • Turkey’s bid to join EU back on the table at upcoming summit

    However, US-Turkish ties are improving with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership and Washington’s reciprocating by allowing the sale of F16 jets to Turkey.

    But the F16 is inferior to the F35, which neighbor and rival Greece is set to purchase as part of its military modernisation, causing alarm in Ankara.

    “When you read Turkey’s hawks, everybody is afraid that the air force balance over the Aegean is not tilting or is going to be tilting in favor of Greece,” warns Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. 

    Waiting game

    Whether Ankara takes up Washington’s offer of F-35 jets in exchange for removing the Russian-made missiles – possibly to a Turkish ally like Azerbaijan, Qatar, or even Libya – depends on the progress of improving relations with the United States.

    “It’s very important if we see any more moves from Washington,” says Yoruk Isik, a geopolitical analyst in Istanbul with the Washington-based Middle East Institute

    “The F35 was the first signal in years that that was a really positive signal from Washington. Ankara is waiting to hear the continuation of that message.”

    Erdogan’s close ties with Putin have benefited Turkey in deferments on energy payments for Russian energy. The Turkish leader is predicted to be looking to Washington to pay a high price to remove the Russian weapons. 

    “Turkey can easily renounce on S-400; it’s a political decision, it’s not a military necessity,” said Huseyin Bagci, head of the Foreign Policy Institute, a research organisation in Ankara.  

    “So far, the S-400 has helped Turkey to increase the level of negotiations with NATO and the United States of America.”

    Ankara’s purchase of Russian missiles was widely seen as a diplomatic triumph for Moscow, dividing Turkey from its NATO allies.

    Their removal would be a similarly significant victory for Washington.


    Paris

    Paris’ Eiffel Tower to reopen after six-day strike

    France’s Eiffel Tower that had been closed for six days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument’s management announced a deal had been struck with unions.  

    The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.

    The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months”.

    With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some €380 million up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.

    The unions have accused city hall of charging the Eiffel Tower‘s operator of a leasing fee that is too high, sapping funds for necessary maintenance work.

    • In photos: Gustave Eiffel, a global legacy beyond the tower

    On Thursday, SETE promised new measures to address these concerns, including hiking the price of tickets by 20 percent.

    A ticket now costs €29.40 euros ($31) for an adult to take the lift to the summit, while those who climb up partway by stairs pay a little less.

    SETE has since received a recapitalisation of €60 million, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.

    SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.

    The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around €120 million ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

    Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.

    Culture Minister Rachida Dati on Thursday suggested the Eiffel Tower be classified a “historical monument” to allow the state to help fund works if needed.

    “The Eiffel Tower does not have enough protection,” she posted on X.

    The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.

    (with AFP)


    AWARDS

    Ukrainian journalists recount horror during Russian siege of Mariupol

    Journalists Evgeniy Maloletka and Mstyslav Chernov spent 20 days in Mariupol at the beginning of the siege that would last nearly three months. The south-eastern Ukranian city is now occupied by Russian forces. The resulting documentary won prizes in 2024 from Bafta and the Directors Guild of America. It has also been nominated for an Oscar. RFI met the two Ukrainian reporters at the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award for war correspondents event in 2022 where they both won prizes.

    The award-winning photojournalist Evgeniy Maloletka met Mstyslav Chernov, a documentary photographer and videographer while they were both reporting in Donbas, eastern Ukraine, in 2014.

    The region was a powder keg stoked by tension after the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv which culminated in the ousting of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.

    Both journalists documented the annexation of Crimea, clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist groups, the destruction of towns and the failure of the 2015 Minsk peace accord.

    War never abated in this part of the country, but it disappeared from the international news radar, until Russia launched its “security operation” on 24 February.

    International outcry

    Despite the journalists’ experience in the field, nothing could prepare them for what they witnessed in Mariupol, the strategic city on the Sea of Azov, where very quickly, scenes of war became everyday currency.

    They recorded everything they could, sending images and videos out, despite the difficulty of finding a stable connection and a safe place to connect. Soldiers and police helped them.

    On 9 March, they raced over to the scene when they heard rockets land. They saw a huge crater just metres from the maternity hospital no°3.

    ‘Information terrorists’

    World leaders, including European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, condemned the blast. The EU leader called for an investigation into possible war crimes.

    Maloletka and Chernov quickly realised that they were the only journalists left in the area, the others had evacuated some days earlier.

    The material they released through the Associated Press agency stirred public opinion both in and outside Ukraine, galvanising the war effort in favour of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    The Russian authorities got wind of the emerging reports and began actively tracking the journalists. The pair reluctantly left the city along with hundreds of civilians.

    “In Russia they labelled us ‘information terrorists’. They said the pictures were staged,” Maloletka told RFI at the joint exhibition of their work in Bayeux.

     “Mariupol” is a selection of still photographs and video clips, accompanied by a soundtrack of falling bombs that plunge the viewer into the cold, hard reality of war.

    Displayed inside the Chapel of the Tapestry in Bayeux, the content is uncompromisingly presented, a deliberate move by curator Jérôme Delay, and one supported by the journalists themselves.

    The use of still images and video of the same scenes is complementary and aids understanding of a complex situation.

    “We’re aware of the ongoing debate about how much a viewer can take of graphic images,” Chernov says. “Some images can certainly push a viewer away which we ultimately don’t want, as journalists who want to inform people about what’s really going on. However, by moderating the amount of violence in the image, we take the risk of misrepresenting war as it really is”.

    Those left behind

    The two men are at pains to hide their anxiety and frustration over the senseless violence they witnessed, as well as their desire to return quickly to the frontline. Every moment spent away from the field means precious minutes of observation lost.

    Mariupol is preparing for winter now, explains Chernov, “The city still has no water, almost no electricity, still almost no connection,” he says.

    • Frontline reports from Ukraine, Africa among winners at Bayeux awards

    “The journalists’ stories are not as important as the stories of those left behind,” Chernov told the audience on 8 October as he accepted the Bayeux trophy for best video image and second prize for short format television documentary.

    “Hopefully our work will change something and help bring an end to this war”.

    “It’s not just a story,” echoed Maloletka, who won the Photo Trophy. “It’s heartbreaking, it’s our lives, our neighbours. It’s important for journalists to give a voice to these people”.

    “Mariupol” is open to the public until 30 October 2022, in the Chapel of the Tapestry in Bayeux, Normandy.

    Mstyslav Chernov’s film “20 Days in Mariupol” – produced by the Associated Press and PBS’ “Frontline” – is among the nominees for best documentary at the 2024 Academy Awards on 11 March 2024.


    Ukraine crisis

    France and EU support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

    French President Emmanuel Macron warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin early Saturday not to “count on any fatigue from Europeans” over the war in Ukraine, pledging that France’s support for Kyiv “will not waver”. This comes amid Europe-wide rallies and protests marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

    “Battered and bruised, but still standing. Ukraine is fighting for itself, for its ideals, for our Europe. Our commitment at its side will not waver,” Macron wrote in a message on X marking the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, which falls on Saturday.

    A separate statement from Macron’s office touted the European Union’s support for Kyiv, including accepting refugees, offering civil and military aid, and levelling sanctions on Moscow.

    “President Putin’s Russia must not count on any fatigue from Europeans,” the statement said.

    “France is also committed to continuing its support on all fronts, including the supply of military equipment, cooperation between defence industries through the development of co-productions, training, intelligence and civilian aid,” it added.

    “The outcome of this war will be decisive for European interests, values and security.”

    The French pledge of support came as other key Ukrainian allies renewed their commitment to assisting Kyiv.

    Sanctions

    US President Joe Biden on Friday announced more than 500 new sanctions against Russia, while vowing sustained pressure to stop President Vladimir Putin’s “war machine”.

    The sanctions, described as the largest single tranche since the start of the war, also seek to impose a cost for the death last week in a Siberian prison of Putin’s most vocal critic, Alexei Navalny.

    Britain, meanwhile, announced Saturday a new £245 million (€286 million) defence package to help boost the production of “urgently needed artillery ammunition” for Ukraine, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insisting in an earlier statement that “tyranny will never triumph”.

    • France and Ukraine to sign security agreement during Zelensky’s Paris visit

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asserted that Ukraine would be victorious, as he attended a ceremony at Kyiv’s Gostomel airport, which was targeted by Russia in the first days of the all-out assault in 2022.

    He spoke alongside the Canadian, Italian and Belgian prime ministers and EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen who came to Kyiv to mark the date.

    Supporters of Ukraine in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and other European countries gathered in the streets on Saturday to mark the second anniversary of the conflict.

    True valour

    In Britain, King Charles III praised the “determination and strength” of the Ukrainian people.

    “Despite the tremendous hardship and pain inflicted upon them, Ukrainians continue to show the heroism with which the world associates them so closely,” the monarch wrote.

    “Theirs is true valour, in the face of indescribable aggression.”

    The British sovereign went to say he continued to be “greatly encouraged that the United Kingdom and our allies remain at the forefront of international efforts to support Ukraine”.

    • France and allies launch ‘artillery coalition’ to bring more weapons to Ukraine

    Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni arrived in Kyiv Saturday to preside over a G7 virtual meeting.

    It is the first meeting of the G7, which groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada, under the Italian presidency.

    Italian diplomatic sources said the meeting would last 90 minutes and a joint declaration on Ukraine was due to be adopted.

    “Italy, Europe and the West must continue to back Kyiv because defending Ukraine means …. keeping war at bay, protecting our national interests and preventing the international order based on rules from breaking down,” Meloni told Italy’s Il Giornale newspaper in an interview published Saturday.

    (with AFP)


    Senegal

    Senegal: Civil society, opposition step up protests to break political deadlock

    Several hundred people demonstrated in the Senegalese capital Dakar on Saturday calling on President Macky Sall to set a date to elect his successor before his term ends on 2 April. Meanwhile, researchers, teachers, economists and analysts have been gathering to try and break the political stalemate.

    Earlier this week, President Macky Sall promised to step down when his mandate ends on 2 April, but he said he could not yet set a new date for an election.

    Pressure is increasing for him to end a three-week electoral crisis that has fuelled unrest and fears of democratic backsliding.

    Instead, Sall invited political parties and civil society to take part in talks scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

    This proposal has already been rejected by 15 of the 19 presidential candidates.

    “By his actions, he is destroying the constitution and tailoring it to his needs,” said a spokesperson for opposition candidate Khalifa Sall, calling on Sall to announce the election date as soon as possible.

    Nation’s future ‘held hostage’

    “I categorically reject this sham of a dialogue,” said fellow contender Anta Babacar in a statement. “You cannot hold a nation’s future hostage.”

    Journalists and members of the civil society also decry the president’s lack of concrete action, while he took off to Abuja to attend the Ecowas’ summit.

    • Senegal’s Macky Sall says his mandate as president will end in April

    In Dakar, civil society and opposition parties under the initiative of the F24 grouping took to the streets on Saturday and have organised more protests for the whole weekend and a “dead city” operation for Tuesday.

       “We want elections”, protesters in Dakar chanted, draped in national flags. “Macky Sall dictator.”

    Concern for Senegalese institutions and economy

    Meanwhile, calls for political leaders to focus on people’s needs and the economy are intesifying.

    Taxi drivers and shop owners deplore the crash of the tourism industry, while students complain about the closure of some of their dorms and classes.

    Universities and schools had to close for days, and the economy runs at a very slow pace.

    The Academic Council of Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar met yesterday Friday, and finally decided to resume face-to-face teaching from next Monday.

    On Friday as well, researchers from Wathi, a Dakar-based West African think tank, held a roundtable to share good practices and discuss solutions to the multifactorial crisis. 

    They presented priority projects for Senegal over the next five years, with researchers from different public universities in Senegal.

    Wathi founder Gilles Yabi said that university researchers have “the responsibility of training the future political, economic, scientific and cultural decision-makers of the country”, and that of “producing knowledge which should guide major decisions in all areas.”

    An example in West Africa 

    Most participants agree that the executive power, and especially President Sall, has too much power and that this slows down the administrative process, which is bad for many economic sectors, including energy, transport, education and trade.

    Zainab Kane, doctor and researcher in public law at the Alioune Diop University in Bambey, also a women’s rights activist and member of the Association of Senegalese Lawyers, said she believes that institutional reforms are essential too.

    “Institutions must be strengthened to make them more democratic, so that they serve the populations for whom they were created.”

    A guest at the event, Timbuktu Institute researcher Boubacar Ndiaye told RFI English that “people really feel that this election is now a priority, as much as food and connectivity.” 

    “It is now very important for all Senegalese that this election takes place as soon as possible,” he added. “Luckily, everything went through the legal process, and according to the rule of law. And, despite all the tension, there was no violence. This is why I hope that in the end Senegal will experience another peaceful political transition, which is a rare product in West Africa right now.”

     The new election date is now expected to be known on Tuesday.


    Environment

    Mixed reactions as France prepares to simplify wolf culling rules

    While French farming unions are glad their flocks be better protected from wolves thanks to changes to the government’s five-year management plan for the wild animals, environmental groups are angry.

    The 2024-2029 Wolf Plan is supposed to represent a turning point towards a “better balance” between the protection of herds and the conservation of an endangered species, the Agriculture Ministry says.

    After disappearing for a while in France, the wolf reappeared in the early 1990s – crossing the Alps from Italy – and its ranks gradually grew. At the beginning of September, 1,104 wolves were counted.

    However, their presence is a concern to breeders who say they lost more than 12,000 livestock in 2022 alone.

    As a result, they have been calling on the government to increase the quota of wolves to be killed each year.

    With an annual shooting quota of 19 percent, up to 209 wolves can be shot in France under existing rules.

    Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau on Wednesday confirmed the decree would be signed on Friday and a final plan would emerge in time for the annual Agriculture Show, which opens on Saturday.

    • Sheep farmers in Aveyron warn against over-protecting wolves in France

    ‘Right direction’

    Claude Font, sheep breeder in Haute-Loire and member of the National Sheep Federation (FNO), welcomed the government’s announcement – hailing in particular a “real work of transparency” on the methods used to estimate the number of wolves.

    The FNO represents sheep breeders within the majority agricultural union FNSEA.

    “We are simply trying to protect our herds,” underlined FNSEA president Michèle Boudoin, who believes the announcements were going “in the right direction”.

    A previous version of the Wolf Plan, presented in September 2023, was criticised by both environmental organisations and breeders.

    It already provided for a simplification of shooting protocols, for example by eliminating the obligation for wolf scouts (people responsible for managing the regulation of harmful species) and indentifying the animal before shooting.

    • Eye on France: Bear-faced wolf attack!

    Disappointment

    Environmental protection associations said they were disappointed and worried about the changes.

    Jean-David Abel, head of the biodiversity network France Nature Environnement (FNE), criticised Fesneau for not including scientific research in his handling of the situation.

    “He did not ask for a scientific study, but yet he facilitates the shooting as if it were a species of tens of thousands in our country,” Abel told public broadcaster FranceInfo.

    “Simplifying shooting is sending a very bad signal,” Cédric Marteau, general director of the League for the Protection of Birds, told French news agency AFP.

    Marteau added that dispersing the packs would lead to more attacks by lone wolves. Instead, he says there should be a “real public debate” with more attention to the scientific information.

    He said his organisation was thinking about ways to counter the new plan, including through legal channels.

    European level

    Increasing the shooting “will absolutely not solve the problem”, said Sandrine Bélier of the Humanity and Biodiversity association.

    The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned in September 2023 against the “real danger” of wolf packs in the European Union – announcing a possible revision of the protection status for this animal. 

    The question of the number of wolves present in different European countries is at the heart of many debates between breeders and environmental protection associations.

    Under the 1992 European Habitats Directive, most wolf populations in Europe benefit from strict protection.


    FRANCE – AGRICULTURE

    Paris Agriculture Show opens as angry farmers continue quarrel over costs

    French President Emmanuel Macron was met with whistles and insults from angry protesters who clashed with police ahead of the opening of France’s annual Agriculture Show in Paris on Saturday. This comes as farmers continue to protest in France and Europe over rising costs and dropping revenue. 

    Facing dozens of policemen inside the trade fair, the farmers were shouting and booing, calling for Macron to resign, using expletives aimed at the French leader.

    Shortly afterwards, Macron began his traditional visit with a breakfast meeting with trade union leaders, behind closed doors, before addressing the press. 

    He called for the fair to go ahead in a “calm” atmosphere and condemned the clashes between farmers and police officers earlier in the morning.

    However, he cancelled a debate he wanted to hold at the farm fair on Saturday with farmers, food processors and retailers, after farmers unions said they would not show up.

    Horizon 2040

    Instead, Macron proposed to hold a consultation “with all trade union organisations” in three weeks time at the Elysée palace, in particular to “consolidate emergency measures” and “build a French and European agricultural future plan for 2040”.

    In 2019, following months of weekly yellow vest protests, Macron launched a similar consultation or ‘Great national debate’ to gather proposals to address the protesters’ grievances.

    ​​​​

    The results were interrupted by the Covid pandemic, and it is unclear the format the debate with farmers will take, though some 200 people – farmers, union members, associations – are expected to take part, according to the Figaro newspaper.

    Weeks of roadblocks and a potential “siege” of Paris were called off at the start of February after the government proposed some measures, including a pause in the implementation of the Ecophyto plan to reduce pesticide use.

    But farmer unions have continued to pressure the government for more concrete measures to address costs, and local groups have continued road and highway blockages.

    • French farmers have ended their blockades, but the protest isn’t over
    • French PM seeks to avert fresh farmer protests with bill of change

    This week Prime Minsiter Gabriel Attal outlined legislation that would include a package of measures, and the launch of a parliamentary mission on the Egalim law, designed to guarantee fair prices for farmers during negotiations from distributors.

    He said a specific plan for livestock breeders, who are particularly suffering from a drop in income, will be presented at the agriculture fair.

    The Agriculture show is a major event in France, attracting around 600,000 visitors over nine days.

    Part of Macron’s visit will also include meeting the hundreds of farmers who have brought their prize cows and livestock from all over the country, including this year’s mascot, Oreillette, a five-year-old brown Normande dairy cow.


    Cinema

    French actress dominates Césars with calls for reckoning on sexual violence

    Actress Judith Godrèche received a standing ovation at the 2024 César Awards on Friday as she spoke out against sexual violence in the French film industry. Meanwhile, Cannes Palme d’Or winner Anatomy of a Fall dominated the event with six trophies, including best film, giving it new momentum ahead of the Oscars, in which it has five nominations. 

    Godrèche, who has become a leading figure in France’s #MeToo movement, denounced the “level of impunity, denial and privilege” in the industry.

    She has accused directors Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of sexually assaulting her while she was a teenager. Both deny the allegations.

    “Why accept that this art that we love so much, this art that binds us together, is used as a cover for illicit trafficking of young girls?” Godrèche told the stunned audience.

    “You have to be wary of little girls. They touch the bottom of the pool, they bump into each other, they hurt themselves but they bounce back,” she said.

    • French film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ nominated for five awards at 2024 Oscars

    Justine Triet, who became just the second woman to win the best director César, for Anatomy of a Fall, dedicated her award to women who have been hurt.

    The thriller about a wife accused of murdering her husband is one of France’s biggest international arthouse hits in recent years.

    Dedication to those who speak out

    “I would like to dedicate this Cesar to all women (…) to those who succeed and those who fail, those who have been hurt and who liberate themselves by speaking, and those who do not succeed,” said Triet, who in May became just the third woman filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

    The film also pulled best film, best actress for Sandra Huller, best supporting actor for Swann Arlaud, as well as best script and editing.

    • See the complete César awards list here

    The question of sexual violence was raised from the start in Paris with introductory remarks by actress and director Valérie Lemercier, who presided over the ceremony.

    “I will not leave this stage without praising those who are shaking up the habits and customs of a very old world where the bodies of some were implicitly at the disposal of the bodies of others,” she said.



    The first award of the night went to Adéle Exarchopoulos for best supporting actress in All Your Faces in which she plays a victim of incest.

    She famously walked out of the 2020 award ceremony in protest when Roman Polanski won the best director trophy for An Officer and A Spy. Polanski is still technically a fugitive from US justice over a child sex conviction in the 1970s.

    Before the ceremony at the Olympia venue in Paris, around a hundred people demonstrated at the call of the CGT union to support victims of sexual violence.

    • People under investigation for sex crimes barred from French ‘Oscars’ ceremony

    Before the awards, French culture minister Rachida Dati deplored a “collective blindness” that “lasted for years” in the industry in an interview with the magazine Le Film Francais.

    “Creative freedom is total, but here we are not talking about art, we are talking paedocriminality,” regarding Godreche, she said.

    French cinema has been rocked by allegations it has shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades, and criticism that the arts have too long provided cover for abuse.

    See all the awards here:

    (with AFP)


    African history

    How Black History month has slowly made its way to France

    Black History month took root in the US in the 1920s before becoming a national event by the mid-1970s. Some members of the African diaspora in France have been trying to import it and, in the last decade, have succeeded in establishing a homegrown version. 

    Officially observed in the US and Canada each February, and in Ireland and the United Kingdom in October, Black History month is a time to honour the achievements and contributions of key African American figures.

    Efforts to launch official celebrations in France, met by mixed reception, have had trouble taking off. 

    In February 2012, a group led by Maboula Soumahoro, professor of African American studies at the University of Tours, held a series of events.

    They later renamed the event Africana Days, and set them around 10 May, marking the 2001 law in which France recognised slavery as a crime against humanity.

    Africana Days lasted four years.

    ​​​Then, in 2018, an informal Black History month was launched in Bordeaux, a former slave port, by the charity Mémoires & Partages, founded by Karfa Diallo.

    Since then, there have been annual celebrations in Le Havre, Guadeloupe, La Rochelle and Bayonne.

    In 2022, the month was dedicated to Josephine Baker, the US-born famous dancer and member of the French Resistance during World War II.

    • Defining and celebrating blackness in the face of French universalism
    • Enriching the narrative of Black history and culture in Bordeaux

    Sixth edition

    This year, for the sixth edition, the theme is Portuguese-speaking Africa and “creolisation” with a celebration of the revolutionary Bissau-Guinean politician Amílcar Cabral. 

    From 3 to 29 February, events are organised across France, with an additional one in Cotonou, a port city in Benin, West Africa. 

    The program includes round tables, concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events. The main idea is to highlight the links forged between Africa and Europe.

    The focus on Portuguese-speaking Africa aims to teach the French public about the richness of cultures and identities that have resulted from colonialisation and other exchanges through history.  

    The group organised a series of guided tours to address the traces of slavery in Paris last Saturday.

    • Artist’s quest to honour hidden heroes of fight against French slavery
    • Lisbon street plaques tell story of Portugal’s forgotten slave trade

    Later in the day, the main event took place in the 18th arrondissement at Maison Muller with conferences, round tables and a photo exhibition.

    The exhibition featured photographs by Michelle Correa, vice-president of Mémoires & Partages in Ile-de-France, taken in her father’s native village in Guinea-Bissau.

    She told RFI that she travelled to her father’s village in Guinea-Bissau, a West African coastal country and a former Portuguese colony near Senegal and Guinea. 

    “My goal was to observe and show the everyday life of members of my family and the village of Capol, through photography, to show these images back in Europe to other Africans, members of the diaspora, and Europeans,” Correa said.

    She documented some rituals, spiritual practices, weddings and moments of reunions.

    In the evening, guests discussed the legacy of Bissau-Guinean politician Amílcar Cabral for the whole of Africa.

    The Bissau-Guinean painter Nú Barreto, who showed one of his paintings in Bordeaux and joined the conversation at the Paris event, told RFI that it is important to connect Portuguese-speaking Africans with this chapter of their history and teach Cabral’s ideas to the diaspora. 

    Cabral led the nationalist movement of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands then the ensuing war of independence in Guinea-Bissau.

    Deeply influenced by Marxism, he became an inspiration to revolutionary socialists and national independence movements worldwide before his assassination on 20 January 1973, about eight months before Guinea-Bissau’s unilateral declaration of independence. 

    The celebrations continue until 29 February in La Rochelle, Le Havre in France, and in Cotonou in Benin

    The Sound Kitchen

    A pioneering female French journalist

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Françoise Giraud. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz question, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    Facebook news: As you know, there are two different Facebook pages for you – one is the RFI English Clubs page, reserved for members of the official RFI English Clubs, and the other is the RFI Listeners Club page, open to all RFI Listener Club members.

    It is confusing, and every day I must decline membership to listeners who mistakenly go to the English Clubs page instead of the Listener Club page.

    So we’ve decided to merge the two pages into one: The RFI English Service Listener Forum. You will need to re-apply to the page by answering some questions (which if you don’t, I will decline your membership request). Soon, the RFI English Clubs and the RFI Listeners Club pages will be closed.

    It will be less confusing and there will be more radio lovers to interact with, so don’t be sad!

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Masahiro Kobayashi from Kawaguchi-City in Japan.

    Welcome Masahiro! So glad you have joined us!

    This week’s quiz: RFI English journalist Jessica Phelan, our French history expert, was on Alison Hird and Sarah Elzas’ podcast, Spotlight on France Number 105 with a piece on a pioneering French female journalist, Françoise Giraud. You were to listen carefully to the podcast and send in the answers to these questions: What is the name of the news magazine Françoise Giraud co-founded, what is the name of the other founder, and in what year was the magazine first published?

    The answer is: L’Express is the name of the magazine, which was first published in 1953. The co-founder’s name is Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What will you remember most about 2023?”

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

    The winners are: Fatematuj Zahra, the co-secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.  Fatematuj is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Fatematuj!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Hari Madugula, the president of the RFI Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India; Sultan Mahmud, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh; RFI Listeners Club member Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England, and RFI English listener Jibon Akhter Shammi from Bogura, Bangladesh.

    Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Piva” by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, performed by Paul O’Dette; “Respect” by Otis Redding; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Crosstown Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Hendrix with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Alison Hird’s article “Why are girls in France flunking maths and how can the equation be changed?” or listen to her story on Spotlight on France Number 106, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 25 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 30 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

    International report

    Will Turkey ditch Russian missiles for US military jets?

    Issued on:

    As Turkey’s rapprochement with the United States gathers pace, the future of Turkish-purchased Russian S-400 missiles is increasingly in question. The missile deal is a potent symbol of Ankara’s close ties with Moscow, but Washington is offering to sell Turkey its advanced F35 military jet for the removal of the Russian weapons.

    Ankara was kicked out of the jet program after it purchased Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, which Washington said compromised the F-35’s stealth technology.

    Now Turkey’s purchase of the advanced F-35 military jet could be back on the agenda.

    Acting deputy of Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, during a visit to Istanbul last month, offered to revive the jet sale if the Russian missiles were removed.

    Along with the $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) price tag for the Russian missiles, Ankara paid a heavy price militarily and economically by being expelled from the F-35 program.

    Founding partner

    Turkey was one of the founding partners of the jet program, with Turkish companies building numerous parts for the plane.

    Diplomatically the missile sale created a deep divide between Turkey and its NATO partners, raising questions over its allegiance to the Western military alliance.

    “After the purchase of the anti-aircraft missiles, which was unprecedented, some people in [President] Erdogan’s cabinet also admitted this was a big mistake,” says Onur Isci, a Russian affairs expert at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University told RFI.

    “Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s was a very costly endeavor.”

    • The escaping Russians finding a better life in Turkey

    The S-400 missile sale was a powerful symbol of deepening Russian Turkish ties and deteriorating relations with Washington.

    The sale came in the aftermath of Ankara’s accusations of Washington’s involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first leaders to offer Erdogan support during the attempted putsch.

    Important symbol

    While the Russian missiles sit unused in a warehouse, they remain an important symbol of Erdogan’s close ties to Putin, making their removal difficult for the Turkish president.

    “The buying of the S-400 air defence system from Russia was a diplomatic catastrophe of historical magnitude,” says former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, now a regional analyst.

    “Unfortunately, it is not possible. I am led to believe that Erdogan will walk back from that mistake … It was an unforced error. It was an own goal, whichever metaphor you like.”

    • Turkey’s bid to join EU back on the table at upcoming summit

    However, US-Turkish ties are improving with Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership and Washington’s reciprocating by allowing the sale of F16 jets to Turkey.

    But the F16 is inferior to the F35, which neighbor and rival Greece is set to purchase as part of its military modernisation, causing alarm in Ankara.

    “When you read Turkey’s hawks, everybody is afraid that the air force balance over the Aegean is not tilting or is going to be tilting in favor of Greece,” warns Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. 

    Waiting game

    Whether Ankara takes up Washington’s offer of F-35 jets in exchange for removing the Russian-made missiles – possibly to a Turkish ally like Azerbaijan, Qatar, or even Libya – depends on the progress of improving relations with the United States.

    “It’s very important if we see any more moves from Washington,” says Yoruk Isik, a geopolitical analyst in Istanbul with the Washington-based Middle East Institute

    “The F35 was the first signal in years that that was a really positive signal from Washington. Ankara is waiting to hear the continuation of that message.”

    Erdogan’s close ties with Putin have benefited Turkey in deferments on energy payments for Russian energy. The Turkish leader is predicted to be looking to Washington to pay a high price to remove the Russian weapons. 

    “Turkey can easily renounce on S-400; it’s a political decision, it’s not a military necessity,” said Huseyin Bagci, head of the Foreign Policy Institute, a research organisation in Ankara.  

    “So far, the S-400 has helped Turkey to increase the level of negotiations with NATO and the United States of America.”

    Ankara’s purchase of Russian missiles was widely seen as a diplomatic triumph for Moscow, dividing Turkey from its NATO allies.

    Their removal would be a similarly significant victory for Washington.

    The Sound Kitchen

    A pioneering female French journalist

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Françoise Giraud. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz question, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    Facebook news: As you know, there are two different Facebook pages for you – one is the RFI English Clubs page, reserved for members of the official RFI English Clubs, and the other is the RFI Listeners Club page, open to all RFI Listener Club members.

    It is confusing, and every day I must decline membership to listeners who mistakenly go to the English Clubs page instead of the Listener Club page.

    So we’ve decided to merge the two pages into one: The RFI English Service Listener Forum. You will need to re-apply to the page by answering some questions (which if you don’t, I will decline your membership request). Soon, the RFI English Clubs and the RFI Listeners Club pages will be closed.

    It will be less confusing and there will be more radio lovers to interact with, so don’t be sad!

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Masahiro Kobayashi from Kawaguchi-City in Japan.

    Welcome Masahiro! So glad you have joined us!

    This week’s quiz: RFI English journalist Jessica Phelan, our French history expert, was on Alison Hird and Sarah Elzas’ podcast, Spotlight on France Number 105 with a piece on a pioneering French female journalist, Françoise Giraud. You were to listen carefully to the podcast and send in the answers to these questions: What is the name of the news magazine Françoise Giraud co-founded, what is the name of the other founder, and in what year was the magazine first published?

    The answer is: L’Express is the name of the magazine, which was first published in 1953. The co-founder’s name is Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What will you remember most about 2023?”

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

    The winners are: Fatematuj Zahra, the co-secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.  Fatematuj is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Fatematuj!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Hari Madugula, the president of the RFI Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India; Sultan Mahmud, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh; RFI Listeners Club member Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England, and RFI English listener Jibon Akhter Shammi from Bogura, Bangladesh.

    Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Piva” by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, performed by Paul O’Dette; “Respect” by Otis Redding; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Crosstown Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Hendrix with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Alison Hird’s article “Why are girls in France flunking maths and how can the equation be changed?” or listen to her story on Spotlight on France Number 106, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 25 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 30 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

    International report

    Turkey and Egypt turn page on decade of friction with show of friendship

    Issued on:

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Cairo this week formally ended more than a decade of animosity with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with the two leaders committing their countries to a new era of cooperation.

    A military band and gun salute welcomed Erdogan when he arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, as Sisi rolled out the red carpet for his Turkish counterpart.

    Not long ago, the two leaders were more used to exchanging angry barbs. But now the talk is about cooperation to prevent Israel’s looming military offensive against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip and the growing humanitarian crisis there.

    “We will continue the cooperation and solidarity with our Egyptian brothers for the bloodshed in Gaza to stop,” Erdogan declared at a joint press conference with Sisi.

    “In the medium term, we are ready to work with Egypt for Gaza to recover and be rebuilt.”

    Decade-long rift

    Bilateral relations plunged into a deep freeze after Sisi ousted Erdogan’s close ally, Mohamed Morsi, in a 2013 coup.

    Erdogan’s visit to Cairo resulted from intense and ultimately successful diplomatic efforts to end years of antagonism between the leaders.

    “Reconciliation, an official visit by the Turkish president to Egypt, a meeting there is in and of itself significant,” observes international relations expert Soli Ozel, a lecturer at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

    “Given what transpired in the past, obviously, this is a major move on the part of both President Erdogan and President Sisi.”

    Clampdown on critical media

    For years, groups affiliated with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and critical of Sisi broadcast from Istanbul – further stoking tensions between Turkey and Egypt.

    “These Political Islam-inspired narratives across the whole region are obviously something that is considered corrosive by the Egyptian government,” says political scientist Jalel Harchaoui, of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London.

    Harchaoui claims moves by Ankara to curtail opposition TV broadcasting in recent years facilitated the rapprochement with Cairo.

    “It has always found a home in terms of being able to get broadcast across the region in Istanbul. But Erdogan was able to reduce these freedoms as part of his conversation with Cairo,” Harchaoui says.

    Regional realignment

    Turkey’s deployment of troops in the Middle East and North Africa is also a point of tension with Cairo. Turkey and Egypt backed rival sides in the Libyan civil war.

    But Erdogan, speaking to the media with Sisi, pledged a new era of cooperation.

    “We had the opportunity to evaluate the issues in Libya, Sudan and Somalia,” the Turkish president said. “We give full support to the unity, togetherness, territorial integrity and peace of these three brotherly countries.”

    • What are Turkish troops and Syrian militia fighters doing in Libya?

    During his Cairo visit, Erdogan underlined that rapprochement with Sisi was part of a more comprehensive policy of repairing ties across the region.

    “We never want to see conflict, tension, or crises in Africa, the Middle East or other places in our geography,” Erdogan said.

    “With this aim, we are determined to increase our contacts with Egypt at every level for the establishment of peace and stability in our region.”

    Libya breakthrough?

    Turkey and Egypt are two of the region’s powerhouses, and rivalry between the countries has only exacerbated conflicts in the region, particularly in Libya, argues Libyan security analyst Aya Burweila.

    “In general, I think this is good,” she said of their rapprochement. “I think it’s helpful for Libya as well because both sides support different factions in Libya. And the stalemate has gone on for such a long time.

    “It’s about time that the existing powers figure out something that everybody can agree on, and there is a deal to be had.”

    • Newly reconciled, Turkey and Egypt could be a force for stability in Africa

    Burweila believes Erdogan’s rapprochement with Sisi and the broader region is also born out of the realisation that cooperation is more productive than rivalry.

    “I think both parties realised that the best way forward is to cooperate and discuss, and that Turkey has realised that without economic partners in the Middle East, it cannot move forward,” she said.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, on a visit to Libya this month, stressed the importance of Erdogan’s meetings in Cairo to secure Libya’s long-term future.

    Erdogan and Sisi also discussed the development of the region’s energy resources.

    Such cooperation, observers suggest, could mark a new era in bilateral relations between these two regional heavyweights.

    The Sound Kitchen

    Senegal’s ‘slick goal’

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Africa Cup of Nations. There’s “The Listener’s Corner”, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz question, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    Facebook news: As you know, there are two different Facebook pages for you – one is the RFI English Clubs page, reserved for members of the official RFI English Clubs, and the other is the RFI Listeners Club page, open to all RFI Listener Club members.

    It is confusing, and every day I must decline membership to listeners who mistakenly go to the English Clubs page instead of the Listener Club page.

    So we’ve decided to merge the two pages into one: The RFI English Service Listener Forum. You will need to re-apply to the page by answering some questions (which if you don’t, I will decline your membership request). Soon, the RFI English Clubs and the RFI Listeners Club pages will be closed.

    It will be less confusing and there will be more radio lovers to interact with, so don’t be sad!

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Masahiro Kobayashi from Kawaguchi-City in Japan.

    Welcome Masahiro! So glad you have joined us!

    This week’s quiz: On 20 January, I asked you a question about one of Paul Myers’ articles on the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament: “2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 3 – Robust and reckless”. You were to send in the answers to these three questions: What is the name of the 20-year-old player for Senegal who, as Paul wrote, “scored a slick goal”? Which team was Senegal playing, and, finally, the name of the goalkeeper who could not keep out the young man’s “slick goal”?

    The answer is: Lamine Camara is the name of the “slick goal” doer, Senegal was playing The Gambia, and Baboucarr Gaye is the name of The Gambia’s goalkeeper who wasn’t able to repel Camara’s play.

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud: “Who is your favorite footballer, and why?”

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Habib ur Rehman Sehal from Kanhewal, Pakistan. Habib is also this week’s bonus quiz winner. Congratulations, Habib !

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Sazdeur Rahman, a member of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh, and Debjani Biswas, a member of the RFI Pariwer Bandhu SWL Club in Chhattisgarh, India.

    Finally, there are RFI Listeners Club members Ranjit Darnal from Gandaki, Nepal, and our brand-new RFI Listeners Club member Masahiro Kobayashi from Saitama, Japan.

     Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: Traditional music from Mali for the kora, played by Djelimoussa Sissoko; “Akwaba” written and performed by Dany Synthé, Magic System, Yemi Alade, and Mohamed Ramadan; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “We Came Through the Storm”, written by Jonathan Scales and performed by the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Paul Myers’ article “2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 30 – Endgame” to help you with the answer. 

    You have until 11 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 14 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

    International report

    As Turkey bombards Kurdish forces in Syria, is the US preparing to pull out?

    Issued on:

    Turkish military forces are carrying out an air assault on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, and Ankara has warned that a land operation may follow. The crackdown comes amid reports that Washington may pull its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

    Turkey’s government accuses Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria of being linked to attacks on its army. 

    Turkish drone strikes are bombarding oil refineries and electricity production in the Syrian border region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of ethnic militias and rebel groups.

    “The targets are energy infrastructure and that sort of stuff. Obviously, the goal is to make that area not sustainable, as a sustainable haven for the SDF,” says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat and now regional analyst for the Medyascope news portal.

    The SDF’s ranks include the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which Ankara accuses of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The armed movement is considered a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington.

    “The end game as defined by the Turkish authorities is to prevent a terrorist statelet [being created] beyond Turkish borders,” explains Selcen.

    “This means allowing the PKK or its Syrian affiliates, the YPG and YPJ, to establish a local administration in that area. War on terror is perhaps the number one priority for this government.” 

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month threatened a new land invasion into Syria.

    Turkish forces already control a large swathe of Syrian territory from previous operations against Syrian Kurdish forces.

    Possible US withdrawal

    The SDF is backed by a US military force of around 900 soldiers in the war against the so-called Islamic State group, raising the possibility of a conflict between NATO and its allies.

    Ankara’s ongoing assault comes amid reports that Washington is considering pulling its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

    “Washington may be preparing to hand off SDF as a partner to the Syrian regime and saying: ‘you guys sort yourselves out, we are actually going to leave’,” said Turkey analyst Sinan Ciddi of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

    “The administration is apparently toying with the idea that it’s no longer worth keeping US troops there because they are in harm’s way,” he said.

    At least some in the US administration want to explore, if they pulled their troops from northern Syria, “the extent to which Turkey could sort out its problems with the Kurds via engaging with the Syrian regime”, Ciddi added.

    US-Turkey reset

    A US withdrawal from Syria would relieve years of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

    “Unfortunately, this relationship with the United States and YPG creates a barrier between Turkey and the United States,” said Bilgehan Alagoz, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University. 

    “A NATO ally should not act against other allies’ national concerns,” she said. “That’s the main reason why Turkey perceives US policy in Syria as a national security concern.”

    • Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

    With Ankara last month lifting its veto on Sweden’s NATO membership and the White House reciprocating by green-lighting the sale of military jets to Turkey, the NATO allies appear to be seeking to reset ties

    Analyst Selcen warns time may be running out for the SDF.

    “If the Americans leave, it will be very difficult for the SDF to survive unless they cut a deal with Damascus,” Selcen said. “But the timing is of the essence, of course – they cannot get the same terms that they will get once the Americans leave.”

    Damascus compromise

    But Selcen suggests if the SDF moves quickly, it could secure a deal with Damascus that ensures its survival – at least in the short term, given the weakness of the Syrian security forces.

    “At the end of the day, they will have to come up with some kind of modus vivendi with [Syrian President Bashar Al] Assad. It does not mean that Assad will come to control this region again as he did. But they will have to come up with some sort of a solution with Damascus.”

    There could equally be advantages for the Turkish government, he believes.

    • Turkey lays the ground for a smoothing of relations with Syria

    “It will also be, in the end, a kind of a safe face-saving formula for Ankara, which can now take Damascus as the main interlocutor to deal with this [Kurdish problem],” Selcen said.

    “All these sides will be very happy to see the American presence leave the region – with the exception of, of course, the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds.”

    Opposition to the US military presence in Syria is rare common ground between Ankara and Damascus.

    If Damascus was to retake control of the predominantly Kurdish region, analysts say, it could be enough for Erdogan to claim victory over the SDF, end Turkey’s assault, and remove the main point of tension between Ankara and Washington.

    The Sound Kitchen

    France and the Academy Awards

    Issued on:

    Happy World Radio Day! Today we’ll celebrate WRD with your greetings and thoughts. There’s the answer to the question about France’s film submission to the Academy Awards, “The Listener’s Corner”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

    There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

    We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

    Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

    This week’s quiz: On 13 February, I asked you a question about our article “French film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ wins best screenplay, foreign film at Golden Globes”. You were to read the article carefully and answer this question: what is the name of the film that will represent France in this year’s Academy Awards?

    The answer is, to quote our article: “The Golden Globes traditionally serve as a preview of the Academy Awards, but Anatomy of a Fall, which won the top Palme d’Or award at Cannes, will not represent France for the best international film, with La Passion de Dodin Bouffant, a historical romance between two gastronomists, submitted instead.”

    La Passion de Dodin Bouffant is translated into English as The Taste of Things. 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What do you remember about your first experience traveling?”, which was suggested by Khuki Jahanara Yesmin from Bogura, Bangladesh.

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

    The winners are: Ras Franz Manko Ngogo, the president of the Kemogemba RFI Club in Tarime, Tanzania. Ras is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Ras!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Hari Madugula, the president of the Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India, and Muhammad Shamim, the president of the Golden Eagles RFI Club in Keralam State, India. Rounding out the list are RFI Listeners Club members Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan, and Zenon Teles, who is also the president of the Christian – Marxist – Leninist – Maoist Association of Listening DX-ers in Goa, India.

    Congratulations winners!

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The traditional French accordion song “La Reine de Musette”, performed by Lucy Riddett; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Claude Debussy’s “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner, written and performed by the composer, and “Roi Fayssal”, written and performed by Ali Toure Farka.  

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Melissa Chemam’s article “Senegalese lawmakers postpone presidential election to 15 December” to help you with the answer.

    You have until 4 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 9 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here


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    Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

    From 20 to 22 September 2022, the IFTM trade show in Paris, connected thousands of tourism professionals across the world. Sheo Shekhar Shukla, director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, talked about the significance of sustainable tourism.

    Madhya Pradesh is often referred to as the Heart of India. Located right in the middle of the country, the Indian region shows everything India has to offer through its abundant diversity. The IFTM trade show, which took place in Paris at the end of September, presented the perfect opportunity for travel enthusiasts to discover the region.

    Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, sat down to explain his approach to sustainable tourism.

    “Post-covid the whole world has known a shift in their approach when it comes to tourism. And all those discerning travelers want to have different kinds of experiences: something offbeat, something new, something which has not been explored before.”

    Through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shukla wants to showcase the deep history Madhya Pradesh has to offer.

    “UNESCO is very actively supporting us and three of our sites are already World Heritage Sites. Sanchi is a very famous buddhist spiritual destination, Bhimbetka is a place where prehistoric rock shelters are still preserved, and Khajuraho is home to thousand year old temples with magnificent architecture.”

    All in all, Shukla believes that there’s only one way forward for the industry: “Travelers must take sustainable tourism as a paradigm in order to take tourism to the next level.”

    In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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    Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

    The IFTM trade show took place from 20 to 22 September 2022, in Paris, and gathered thousands of travel professionals from all over the world. In an interview, Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia discussed the importance of sustainable tourism in our fast-changing world.

    Also known as the Land of the Beautiful Islands, Malaysia’s landscape and cultural diversity is almost unmatched on the planet. Those qualities were all put on display at the Malaysian stand during the IFTM trade show.

    Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia, explained the appeal of the country as well as the importance of promoting sustainable tourism today: “Sustainable travel is a major trend now, with the changes that are happening post-covid. People want to get close to nature, to get close to people. So Malaysia being a multicultural and diverse [country] with a lot of natural environments, we felt that it’s a good thing for us to promote Malaysia.”

    Malaysia has also gained fame in recent years, through its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Kinabalu Park and the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley.

    Green mobility has also become an integral part of tourism in Malaysia, with an increasing number of people using bikes to discover the country: “If you are a little more adventurous, we have the mountain back trails where you can cut across gazetted trails to see the natural attractions and the wildlife that we have in Malaysia,” says Hanif. “If you are not that adventurous, you’ll be looking for relaxing cycling. We also have countryside spots, where you can see all the scenery in a relaxing session.”

    With more than 25,000 visitors at this IFTM trade show this year, Malaysia’s tourism board got to showcase the best the country and its people have to offer.

    In partnership with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. For more information about Malaysia, click here.