Photo Credit: IOM/Romeo Balancourt
" I arrived in France on 28 August 1973. I had completed my studies in Egypt where the educational system was fragmented and I didn’t feel free to study what I wanted. I came to visit Paris with the plan to leave for London. And I am still here, 43 years later.
I already had a certain idea of France before I arrived. I knew a lot of French people living in Cairo, and they told me about France, its culture, its values. In Paris in 1973, racism was not as harsh as it is today; it was less generalized because the economy was doing better. But still, the Algerian war wasn’t over in people’s minds. Pretty often, people would think I was Algerian, and the glances became sometimes tougher.
At that time, French people would perceive a foreigner as someone coming to take part in the country’s development and not as someone who would take their daily bread away. What has changed today is the attitude of political leaders. But sadly, they are the mirror in which the French reflect.
We should build a counter-power, create bodies allowing to distinguish the true and the false statements in the political discourses and prevent impunity by making sure that the laws, especially those against discrimination, are effectively implemented. There should not be a double standard depending on people’s background.
It saddens me to see how the atmosphere is deteriorating. In Paris, there is potential, imagination and assets to move forward, go further. But some of those who speak harshly about foreigners seem to forget where they, themselves, come from. A man is like a tree: without roots, it just falls over.
My wife is French and my children live here. I am at home in both countries. My kids grew up with both cultures. I don’t feel French but Parisian, and I never applied for naturalization. An identity card can’t bring me more love than I already have for this country. Of course, I could return to Egypt. And many of my French friends who live there actually wonder why I stay here. I think that my heart just belongs to Paris now!
Paris is a cosmopolitan and friendly city. People here are used to live together. I love this city. After 43 years, I feel much more Parisian than from Cairo and I know this city like the back of my hand. I have my little habits here: morning coffee and croissant, at the café counter near my office. Every culture is rich in its own way and we should feel like knowing what others have to offer. We should show more solidarity and help those who are suffering. If I see my fellow man suffering without reaching out to help him, I don’t deserve to be called a human being."
This campaign is part of a partnership with the Mairie de Paris.