For a while i’m going to write exclusively in English. I have had it with the Flemish nationalists. What’s happening in Flanders recalls the dark Middle Ages when Flemish insurrectionists used the phrase ‘Schild en Vriend’ to select and kill French speaking soldiers in Bruges. The Bruges Matins or Brugse Metten was the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May 1302. The title of the massacre was an analogy to the Sicilian Vespers. The massacre has been compared to St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. This revolt led to the Battle of the Golden Spurs, which saw the Flemish militia defeat French troops on 11 July 1302.
Bruges had the exclusive rights for the importation of sheep’s wool from England. This trade was in the hands of the bourgeois but when Edward I began to deal directly with the customers, the traders lost their advantage. They and their political agents, the aldermen, called upon their liege, Philip the Fair, to maintain their dominant monopolistic position. To do so, he garrisoned French troops in the town. During the night of 18 May 1302, armed insurrectionists with Pieter de Coninck and Jan Breydel at their head entered the houses where the French were garrisoned. According to tradition, to distinguish the French from the natives, they asked suspects to repeat the shibboleth: “schild en vriend” which means “shield and friend” a sentence difficult to pronounce for a French speaker. Another version suggests the alternative “des gildens vriend”, “friend of the guilds”. Only the governor, Jacques de Châtillon, and a handful of the French managed to scape with their lives.
In Zaventem the employees of the community are forbidden to speak another language then Dutch. In Zaventem live more than 100 different nationalities, what’s more it is an International airport. For now, voyagers aren’t attacked yet, but who knows? Anyway when you want to go to swim in the communal swimming pool you must speak Dutch otherwise you have to bring along an interpreter to ask for your ticket at the pigeonhole. You can try to mimic the act of smimming, but you risk that the employee requires yo to speak Dutch saying: “Geen gebarentaal, meneeer, alleen Nederlands hier!” (No sign language here, sir. Only Dutch).
One could understand the insurrection of Flemish guilds at the time, their trade was threatened, but what happens TODAY in Brugges and other Flemish cities cannot be explained. At the cityhall of Sint Pieters-Leeuw on August 14th 2008 the followinfg conversation between an employee of the EU and a municipal official could be noticed :
– Good Morning, my name is Stefan Grech, this is my wife and this is my lovely daughter, she’s six.
– Geen Engels hier, mijnheer. (No English here Sir.)
– Alleen Nederlands. (Only Dutch.)
– Vous parlez Français?
– Nee meneer, zeker geen Frans. Alleen Nederlands. (No Sir, definitively no French. Only Dutch.)
– The lady nods intensely NO
– I start to get the impression that you understand what i’m saying.
– Nods YES. We spreken hier alleen Nederlands. U bent hier in Vlaanderen. (We only speak Dutch here. You are in Flanders here.)
– Would there be anyone else in the building who could help me?
– Nods intensely NO
– So, you do understand me.
The European Community has established an office to help their employees when confronted with the Flemish stubornness. Stefan Grech commented: ‘I can understand the situation of the Flemish around Brussels. It was explained to me. I got the picture. But there is another thing: elementary decency. The lady did understand me perfectly. I’ve travelled a lot. I lived in the poorest parts of Africa and in the Soviet Union during teh Cold War. But something like that? I’ve never passed through. I do not think there is a place in the world where you can find something like that.
But this is only the first example it gets worse. A young man missed his last train in Brugges. He had to look for a hotel. At the station he phoned his French speaking girlfriend to explain he couldn’t make it. Of course he phoned in French. A guy interrupts this private conversation by punching in his back saying: “In Brugge spreken we Vlaams!” (In Bruges we speak Flemish.) The young man thought he didn’t have to explain why he phoned in French and went on. A few seconds later he is pulled at his shoulder and receives a serious fist blow in his face. He bleeds and looses one tooth.
The French actor Stéphane Bern sitting on a terrace in Brugges cannot get a drink. The waiter refuses to serve him because he speaks French.
And then, on October 17, 2008, the 14 year old Sara. Perfectly bilingual: She walks home with a friend after school. They gossip and tattle in French. They are surrounded by three other girls from school. One is sending an SMS. Another reproaches Sara that she speaks French in Flanders. Sara tries to defend herself but a few minutes later the mates of the other girls appear at the scenery. Sara receives 38 stabs of a cutter knife. While they stab, they shout: “Geen Frans, we zijn hier in Vlaanderen.” (No French, We are in flanders here.)
[This story seemed to be based on the fantasy of the 14 year old, like all newspapers I was clearly fooled here , read for an update and how to avoid such mistakes Update on a cutting Knife]
And what still adds to it. Sarah is expelled from school. She was said to behave provocatively in defending herself. When her mother asks for an explanation the Flemish schooldirector says that he cannot guarantee Sarah’s security at school any longer. Sarah is not allowed to return to school.
——– I paste here a reaction from the French Community ——–
‘J’ai parlé français en Flandre’ -> 38 coups de cutter !
‘J’ai parlé français en Flandre’ (17/10/2008)
À Kapelle-op-den-Bos, cela n’a pas plu. Sara, 14 ans, a été tailladée de 38 coups de cutter ! KAPELLE-OP-DEN-BOS Il y a quelques années, Wendy a décidé de s’installer à Kapelle-op-den-bos, une commune flamande située à 10 km de Bruxelles. ‘Je suis francophone, mais je me débrouille en flamand et d’ailleurs, je travaille pour une société flamande. Je me suis installée ici car je voulais de la sécurité pour mes enfants et à Bruxelles, ce n’était pas possible. Finalement, c’est ici que ma fille a été agressée.’ Trente-huit coups de cutter sur les avant-bras car Sara, 14 ans, a parlé français dans la rue ! Sara est parfaite bilingue, comme beaucoup de ses amies. ‘Elle va à l’école en flamand. C’est à quelques minutes de chez nous. À la maison, c’est vrai que nous parlons le français.’ En rue aussi parfois. Et c’est cela qui a dérangé des jeunes de son école. Une des étudiantes a fait une remarque à Sara qui parlait français avec une amie sur le trottoir près de l’école. ‘Elle ne supporte pas que je parle à mes amies en français.’ Vendredi, les remarques ont pris un tournant on ne peut plus inquiétant. ‘Elle m’a fait signe de venir vers elle.’ Sara lui a demandé, en flamand, s’il y avait un problème. ‘Elle a pris son GSM et a envoyé un SMS.
Quelques secondes plus tard, ses amis sont arrivés vers moi.’ Sara s’est retrouvée entourée. ‘Je me suis raiment sentie menacée. J’ai voulu partir, mais ils ne m’ont pas laissé faire’, explique l’adolescente de 14 ans. ‘J’avais eu cours de dessin, j’avais donc un cutter avec moi. C’est idiot, je sais, mais j’ai eu le réflexe de le sortir. Ils étaient loin de moi et la lame n’était pas sortie.’ La jeune fille qui l’avait abordée lui a dit que ce n’était pas très malin. ‘C’était vrai. Je l’ai lâché, il est tombé à terre.’ Sara a cru que l’incident était clos. ‘Mais ils étaient toujours plus nombreux car tout le monde venait voir ce qui se passait.’ Quelqu’un a ramassé le cutter. ‘Ils m’ont tenue. J’ai voulu me débattre. Je sentais que ça brûlait à mes bras. Je pleurais.’ Et puis, Sara a vu le sang. ‘Je me suis enfuie et je suis allée à la maison. Ils riaient tous. Il y a même des gens qui ont applaudi.’ En voyant les blessures, Wendy, la maman de Sara (qui est sous calmants depuis), n’en a pas cru ses yeux. ‘Je suis allée à l’école. La police est venue. J’ai déposé plainte.’ Et là, c’est l’incompréhension. ‘C’est ma fille qui est renvoyée pour agression ! Le directeur est convaincu que ma fille s’est tailladée elle-même !’ Wendy s’est rendue avec sa fille, hier après midi, à l’école. ‘Pour l’instant, elle ne peut pas retourner à l’école, le directeur m’a dit qu’il ne pouvait pas garantir sa sécurité.’ Wendy est désemparée. ‘Je ne sais plus quoi faire ni à qui m’adresser. Je cherche un avocat qui pourra m’aider…’ En se renseignant, Wendy a appris que la discrimination de langue n’existait pas. ‘Et je fais quoi maintenant, moi ? Et ma fille, que va-t-elle devenir ?’
Emmanuelle Praet © La Dernière Heure 2008
——— End Paste ——————————————————-
An abundance of such incidents is reported to the papers these days. A monument for victims of the Second World War where the inscription in French is painted over, during football matches, Walloon players are offended, at the International Airport of Zaventem some taxi drivers refuse to speak French to voyagers coming from France and so on. Other examples of discrimination in the international press:
New-York Times:Seams of Belgium’s Quilt Threaten to Burst
International Heral Tribune: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/13/europe/belgium.php
But not all Flemish people act like that. Stefan Grech was surprised when a worker of the residential garbage collection service laughed when he tried to speak Dutch to him. He helped him kindly in fluent English. It’s a shame for the Flemish intellectuals that a garbage man has more decency than they have.
In 1994 a fascist militia TAK, attacked a gathering of Exploration where motion picture of journeys where projected, with subscriptions in Dutch. But the presentation was organised by Exploration, an organisation of the French speaking community of Ghent. Nothing political, just a cultural event, but of course some French was spoken. A few windows were broken, there were some people wounded though a massive police force was present. But these policemen were only present to check the prohibition of gathering by the mayor of Ghent, not to protect the citizens that went to a film presentation. The French speaking community always hyperactive in the cultural domain went underground.
On the other hand neo nazi groups from all over the World are welcome on Flemish soil as you can see in the clip below.
In the nineties only small fascists groups were active in such confrontations. Some people looked at it as folklore. Today it is a general attitude of a many, if not the majority of Flemish people. It is frightening. I’ve studied the beginning of the Balkan War intensely. I know it started that way in East Croatia, Slavonia. I was to publish a long story about it in December, but I think I will translate the whole thing in English, because I feel deeply ashamed. It’s time that some reasonable people stand up. Now is the time to show where we stand! Please reply on this post. I just moved a few months ago to my old neighbourhood. I felt happy to be back, close to my old Friends, but now I do not know it anymore. When they start to shoot, I will be gone.
One can find more information at the following sites (all in French):
There are many ways to protest against this shame. One could send a letter to Sara’s school asking that she is reintegrated and demanding that the attackers are punnished. This is the mail address of the Sint Godelieve Instituut at Kappellen-op-den-Bos: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in a city or community where people are discriminated because they do not speak Dutch, you can sent email to the communal authorities. Their addresses are to be found on the communal website. If you have other proposals, react on this posting. I’ll make a new posting with your proposals if necessary.
Email: Youth Service refusing children that do not speak Dutch on the playing fields email@example.com
Email: Secreatriat firstname.lastname@example.org
Email: Mayor obliging his employees to speak Dutch only email@example.com
Email: Service foreigners Zaventem firstname.lastname@example.org
Email: Service Personel email@example.com
Email: Head of the OCMW, service that refuses to grant the basic income to people that do not speak Dutch firstname.lastname@example.org
Email: Council Member of the OCMW email@example.com
Email: This is the service established by the municipality where people (snitches) can sent complaints to if a merchant uses another language than Dutch when advertising firstname.lastname@example.org
Email: the mayor email@example.com
Email: The first Alderman firstname.lastname@example.org
Email: Alderman for local economy email@example.com
Email: Alderman for Tourism firstname.lastname@example.org