Women and the flnc: an underground story …

While the nationalist movement has become the majority in the Corsican Assembly since 2015 and its history has been the subject of numerous books and documentaries, the female presence in its ranks has been largely obliterated. This is even more the case with regard to the field of clandestine armed struggle or violent public protest, waged openly. Seven years after the farewell to the arms of the Flnc, and while a nationalist woman, Nanette Maupertuis, has just become the first President of the Corsican Assembly, looking back on half a century of history, to search for traces clandestine activists or arrested for their links, real or supposed, with the armed organization or for violent actions.

In the underground organizations which preceded the Flnc, and which were called the FPCL ( Fronte paesanu Corsu di Libérazioni ), created in 1973, and Ghjustizia Paolina , founded in 1974, no woman was present, according to the information communicated. to Corsica.News by activists of these movements. On the other hand, they made their appearance in the ranks of the FLNC, shortly after its creation, in May 1976. In an article signed by Audrey Lebel, published on the online magazine  Cafebabel , Léon Alessandri, one of the first leaders of the  »  Front « In Haute Corse affirms: » we never let them exceed a certain threshold of violence « … According to him, the women supported the movement in various ways, ensured for example the transport of weapons and explosives and hid the Wanted, more than participated in attacks. The situation was significantly different in Southern Corsica, where a few activists – a handful – did indeed carry out such actions: information  confirmed to the author of these lines by some of them and by an official of the FLNC. Women, in very small numbers, were also reportedly present in Front groups that operated in France, during the  blue nights that marked the 70s and 80s.

In 1979, NF, a nationalist activist who was living in Marseille at the time, was arrested. At the time, it was the State Security Court (CSE), an emergency court dissolved by the Socialist Government elected in 1981, which prosecuted and tried those accused of harming the State. NF will not go to trial, however. 

A “  Continental ”, the first to be condemned for links with the flnc!

At the same time, a provincial far-left activist , Colette Meynard, a 33-year-old teacher, was indicted and prosecuted for her links with the Flnc. She will be judged in July 1980 by the CSE. She appears free but is then imprisoned, sentenced to five years of detention, half of which suspended. She is excluded from National Education. His imprisonment will end sooner than expected, due to the Amnesty promulgated by the Mitterrand Government. 

It was not the participation in the attacks that motivated the conviction of Colette Meynard, but the help given to the organization of a trip to Beirut, in Lebanon – in which she herself participated – by two militants of the FLNC, Léon Alessandri and Laurent Covili. Their objective: to find an arms branch and to follow military training in a Palestinian camp. Colette Meynard did not participate in this military « training ». According to his statements during his trial, his role was limited to that of guide for Corsican militants in Lebanon, without knowledge of their real motivations. She explains her mission by her sympathies for the Palestinian cause. She will nonetheless be the first woman to be condemned for her links with the Flnc. She died in 2012 in Paris. Her disappearance was hardly known in Corsica but on the other hand gave rise to a tribute in France, during her funeral in Aubervilliers, on the part of the Socialist Party, the movement that this activist and unionist of the Sgen-Cfdt had joined for decades. It is mentioned in particular in the autobiographical work of Léon Alessandri and in those of Pierrot Poggioli devoted to the history of Flnc .

Colette Meynard

In January 1980, while  Colette Meynard  was not yet tried and imprisoned, it was two Corsican activists in their twenties, Laetitia Gasperi and Jackie Lucchini, who were arrested in Aiacciu and imprisoned, along with about thirty of their comrades. male, as part of the resounding Bastelica-Fesch Affair 

Activists against « Francia », SAC dispensary

The 1980 operation, initially co-organized by the Flnc and the APC, a legal autonomist movement, was not to take the turn it had, namely the withdrawal of a group of militants, from Bastelica to Aiacciu and their encirclement. by the police at the Fesch hotel, where they had taken clients hostage and planned to organize a press conference. They will go to Gign, after two days of extreme tension, which caused three deaths in the streets of the city, one Crs killed by a demonstrator and two civilians killed by the police. The media coverage generated by the tragic events in fact gave more visibility than expected to the objective of the operation: revealing to public opinion the existence in Corsica of « Francia », a group local SAC (Civic Action Service). This parallel pharmacy, known as « barbouzarde », born in 1961 from the Gaullist order service, has been linked to numerous troubled cases, various violence against political opponents of the Right-wing Power, but also crimes. The SAC was dissolved by François Mitterrand. In Corsica, its Francia dispensary carried out attacks and had planned the assassinations of several nationalist militants. A Police Commissioner, Lucien Aimé-Blanc, acknowledged the facts in a book published in 2006, The Indic and the Commissioner (ed Plon .One of the women arrested in 1980, Laetitia Gasperi, who has now disappeared and who was imprisoned for two weeks at the time, was linked to the autonomist movement. The other, Jackie Lucchini, since then wife of Pierrot Poggioli, was then close to the FLNC. She was imprisoned following the Bastelica-Fesch Affair for a little over a month in Fleury-Mérogis. 

Two women in the maquis!

Within the framework of this same Affair, but several months later, in the summer of 1980, two other women, including SN, close to the Flnc, « took the maquis » and did not come out until after the victory of François Mitterrand in May 1981. In February of that year, during the trial concerning the events of Bastelica Fesch, Laetitia Gasperi and Jackie Lucchini were not among the accused: they had both obtained a dismissal, as well as a large part of their comrades.

During the history of the FLNC of the 70s and 80s, where the emblematic nationalist martyrology was fixed, no woman appears there and for good reason: none has died in circumstances related to their engagement.  None were assassinated, like Guy Orsoni in 1983, killed while handling explosives, like Stefanu Cardi in 1984, or during an attack, like Ghjuvan’Batti Acquaviva, in 1987. During the following period also, they are men who died in similar circumstances, but martyrology will not have the same status, because it involves militants killed during the « fratricidal war » of the 90s. 

A virile image 

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, beyond nationalist martyrology, which is therefore exclusively male, no female face imposes itself either as a representative of the Movement, or as an accused in historical trials or as a woman. elected to the Corsican Assembly. No woman participates in the management of the Flnc. None are spokespersons during clandestine press conferences, in decorumvery manly. This marginalization may seem surprising, given the role played by some activists who, in addition to more traditional missions, participate in the preparation of certain press conferences, as well as in the writing of articles and substantive texts of the organization . It is even a woman, CV, who will co-organize in 1980 the production and the forwarding to Corsica of the « White Book » of the flnc, out of the presses of the LCR, the Revolutionary Communist League., movement founded by Alain Krivine! After the resumption of the attacks in 1982, when the Socialist Government took over from a long right-wing power, left-wing activists who had been part of the flnc, or its traveling companions, left it. A small withdrawal from a numerical point of view, but which will have greater political implications than it seems.

If women left, men on the other hand, beyond the activists released from prison after the amnesty, joined the flnc in greater numbers during the 1980s, in particular former activists for autonomy. The « military » will take precedence over the « political », over a period marked by a radicalization of armed action, engendered by two facts. The first concerns the aftermath of the Orsoni Affair, which gives rise to a “political vendetta”. The second is linked to the fight against the anti-nationalist organization Cfr, which even bans the expression of Corsican-speaking cultural groups that have emerged since the 1970s. 

Several attacks directly targeting people or causing their death were claimed by the flnc during the 1980s. No woman took part or was targeted. Neither is arrested for defending violence, as will some male officials. 

Women under hoods

From the end of the Eighties, a new act opens in the history of the underground movement, which implodes in rival factions. The division becomes more evident when in the early 90s two Flnc emerges. The era will give rise to a greater « virilization » of the decorum of press conferences, with uniforms of a more military appearance and the display of heavier weaponry. However, it is paradoxically at this time that women would have participated in  press conferences, in particular that of the FLNC Canal Historique., in January 1996 in Tralonca. If it took place according to some, the feminization of the ranks, invisible under the hoods, is however not claimed. The objective of this organization would have been above all to number, to impose on public opinion and the Government its predominance over other factions.

During the 1990s when the underground movements split into fratricidal struggles, women linked to these organizations had no role in the attacks against members of rival factions. None of them are killed. No one close to the victims will lead a   personal Vindetta . Only one will call publicly, at the time of the tragedy, to avenge her husband, but will then reconsider his remarks. 

Facing the  Malamorti

The first concerned, during these  years of lead , appear not as vengeful « Colomba », but above all under the image of mourning shadows, surrounded by hooded men who pay homage to the deceased with salutes of honor. The ritualization concerning these funeral scenes is particularly codified with regard to the genre. Compared to the island rites of the past in the case of  Malamorti , the most striking difference, as far as the women are concerned, is the absence of any call for revenge, even if some undoubtedly wish it. This is not the case for those who will agree to respond to the media after the funeral. The widow, in 1996, of an activist of the Flnc  Canal Historique, who had a young child, will declare on television that she does not want this fratricidal drift for her son and for Corsica. Some women, on the other hand, but they had not had relatives killed because it was the first murder of an activist, applauded the demand for the assassination of Robert Sozzi by his former organization, the flnc  Canal Historique , during of the  Ghjurnati Internaziunali di Corti  in August 1993. 

Two nationalist lawyers and two FLNC

It was during these  Years of Lead  that two nationalist activists, representatives of two rival factions, will reach new positions of power within their respective movements. They are both lawyers. 

Marie-Josée Bellagamba

One of them is Marie-Josée Bellagamba, activist of the MPA, the movement of Alain Orsoni, legal expression of the FLNC  Canal Habitue l. She was the first nationalist woman elected to the Corsican Assembly, from 1992 to 1998. The other woman is Marie-Hélène Mattei, member of the  Cuncolta Naziunalista , relay of the FLNC  Canal Historique.  She will be head of the list in the municipal elections of Bastia but her election will be invalidated and she will be replaced by the No 2 on the list, Charles Pieri. On the other hand, she participated in the negotiations of her organization, concerning in particular the releases of its militants, to the exclusion of those of other movements, with the Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua, then his successor Jean-Louis Debré.

Marie-Hélène Mattei will pass fairly quickly from the alleys of Power to the shadow of prisons. She was arrested in mid-December 1996 and imprisoned. At issue: its links with the historic Canal Flnc  and especially the role she would have played in an attempt to extort funds targeting the CEO of Domaine de Sperone. In the nationalist world, she is the first member of the Bar, both sexes combined, to be indicted on such a charge. She is also the first woman responsible for a nationalist movement and having had close contact with the Government to be brought to justice. She was released at the end of March 1997, under judicial supervision, pending her trial which would take place in 2000. She was then sentenced to four years in prison, but the Court did not issue a committal warrant and the sentence was reduced to three years in 2001, one of which was suspended. She also receives five years of deprivation of civil rights. 

 Removal from the Bar and parcel bomb

In 2000,  Marie-Hélène Mattei  was also questioned by lawyer Pascal Garbarini for having, according to him, wanted to send through her a letter containing a cell phone chip to Charles Pieri, head of the Flnc  Canal Historique  then imprisoned. Garbarini specifies having thrown the sulphurous coin …

Marie-Hélène Mattei

On July 31, 2001, two years after the Migliacciaru agreements which sealed reconciliation between most nationalist organizations, Marie-Hélène Mattei received in Bastia a parcel bomb, which was defused. She is the only woman in the nationalist movement to have been subjected to this type of intimidation. In 2003, she was struck off the Bar, following the 2000 conviction and will be imprisoned for three months, in 2007, as part of the same procedure. In 2009, she will be acquitted with regard to the extortion case, but not with regard to the conviction linked to her links with the Flnc Canal Historique, which was ultimately suspended for three years.   

An activist « condemned to death » in 1995?

During the fratricidal attacks of the 90s, no activist was killed, but such a danger was feared by some islanders, when they learned that a woman was part of a list of four names of Corsicans « condemned. to death ”by the Flnc Canal Historique . The information was given in an article by Renaud Leblond, published in L’Expressof January 12, 1995. If it were founded, which would have been the case, it was a completely new threat in the history of island clandestine movements. In any case, it was not carried out. Because of the controversy generated by the crossing of the red line that would have constituted the assassination of an activist? Impossible to know. Since 1994, a massive female mobilization had in any case started, under the aegis of what later became  The Manifesto for Life . Its youngest spokesperson was Serena Battestini, the daughter of one of the historical leaders of the Flnc, Nanou Battestini.

Beyond the Manifesto , women belonging to different nationalist movements and close to their respective clandestine representation, for their part, worked to stop the fratricidal clashes and the signing in July 1999 of the Migliacciaru Agreements.

The agricultural track

In addition, from 1998, following the assassination of the prefect Claude Erignac, several hundred Corsicans were arrested and among them, many women. Many were companions or relatives of activists more than activists themselves and they will not be indicted or imprisoned, beyond the custody procedures. This is on the other hand the case of Fabienne Maestracci, arrested in March 1998, within the framework of the bewildering « agricultural track » to which her companion was linked. This trail will last long but has triggered the longest witch hunt in the history of contemporary Corsica. It affected dozens of people and lasted until 2016!  Fabienne Maestracci was imprisoned for 13 months in Fleury-Mérogis. This is the longest detention of a Corsican activist. It is all the more striking, if it is put in parallel with others, that the person concerned has not been tried: his case, like that of most of the accused of the agricultural track, ended with a non-place!

Fabienne Maestracci

It is the Erignac investigation which is at the origin, but in 2007, of the indictment of another activist, Patrizia Gattaceca, academic, pioneer of the female musical expression of the Seventies and one of the figures current most famous of literature and the Corsican scene. She was arrested in 2007 for having granted hospitality, for several weeks, in 2002 and early 2003, to Yvan Colonna, wanted since 1999 and arrested in 2003. Accused of having participated in the assassination of Claude Erignac, which ‘he always denied, he was sentenced to life.

 

Patrizia Gattaceca was released under judicial supervision after her arrest in 2007, but was sentenced in 2010 to a three-year suspended sentence for « concealment of a criminal in connection with a terrorist enterprise », and « criminal association ». The sentence was reduced to two years in May 2013. To this sentence was added five years of deprivation of civic, civil and family rights. An unprecedented sentence in Corsica for an activist and mother but also for an elected official, in this case municipal councilor in Bastia. If she was a long-time activist, Patrizia Gattaceca has never been a member of an underground organization and no proof of such a commitment has moreover been entered into the file by the judges.

Patrizia Gattaceca

If Patrizia Gattaceca has written many poems, and in some of her compositions evoked the nationalist struggle, she has never published a book on her own conflicts with anti-terrorism justice. On the other hand, Fabienne Maestracci spoke of her imprisonment in a book, entitled The walls of your prisons ( ed Albiana, 2001 ). Marie-Hélène Mattei also recounted  her career, with a very different profile, in a book published in 2000 entitled Le prix du silence (ed Lafon) 

Far from these autobiographical works, Jackie Lucchini-Poggioli, the first activist to have been imprisoned, with Laetitia Gasperi, did not speak in her productions, written or audiovisual, of her personal itinerary, but of that , collective, of all the island activists. She mentioned them in a text entitled The long march of Corsican women , published in a collective work, published in 2002, “  Une dramaturgie corse  ” (ed Autrement ) . It is a study which recontextualizes the nationalist feminine engagement in the history of the movements of women in the XXth century on the island. She has also devoted to the political history of island women, between the 1970s and 2000, a documentary in Corsican language, produced by ViaStella and entitled  « Donni corsi: E puri si sò mossi! »  » 

Jackie Lucchini - Poggioli

She also recounted the female engagement through two other bilingual documentaries. In  Malastoria,  released in 2017  she retraced, along with the journeys of male prisoners, those of prosecuted activists like Serena Bartoli, but also those of mothers and wives of prisoners. In  Donni di Corsica parolle cruciati / fe mmes de Corse, crossed words  broadcast in 2019, she drew the portraits of several actresses of current Corsican civil society, including Ghjermana de Zerbi, anthropologist and historical figure of the nationalist and feminist movement, and Davia Benedetti, scholar, artist, and member of Cori in Fronte.

Ghjermana de Zerbi

Since the farewell to the arms of the FLNC in 2014, the question of nationalist female engagement linked to the armed struggle, or seen as such by the courts, has not been raised. However, the subject of the relationship of women to violence in the political field, within the framework of specific actions, has not disappeared. Several activists were thus arrested, following demonstrations punctuated by clashes with the police. 

This is particularly the case of Davia Benedetti, at the time a student and trade unionist in  Ghjuventù Paolina,  Serena Bartoli  member at the time of her arrest of  Ghjuventù Independentista,  Elodie Pieri activist of  Corsica Libera  and her daughter Lisandra The last three were arrested in January 2014 and indicted, the day after a demonstration that had degenerated in Corti. They were charged with “violence against a law enforcement officer”. They are the only nationalist activists to have been indicted for this crime. None of them have been imprisoned. Elodie Pieri was on the other hand in 2004, in Fleury-Mérogis, but for her participation, as manager or shareholder, in various companies, in particular hotel and security, accused of having supplied the Flnc Canal Historique, for which his father Charles Pieri was one of the responsible. In 2014, though she escaped prison, she was placed under judicial supervision. His daughter Lisandra and Serena Bartoli were released on probation because they were minors at the time of the facts.

Davia Benedetti, Elodie Pieri, è Serena Bartoli.

Since 2014, on the other hand, it is only men who have been arrested following attacks, in 2019 for example, or who have participated in open-face actions that have led to clashes with the police, such as the brief occupation of the Aiacciu prefecture in February 2021 by about twenty young activists.  

Almost half a century after the creation of the Flnc, if we take a close look at the history of nationalist feminine engagement linked to violence, clandestine or not, and its judicial repression, a major fact emerges: among the hundreds of Corsican Nationalists who have been imprisoned since the 1970s, the women are only six to have been imprisoned (not simply arrested). 

Six activists imprisoned, since the beginnings of the Flnc

Among them, only three, Colette Meynard, Marie-Hélène Mattei and Elodie Pieri, went to trial. The longest arrest warrant requested was that of Colette Meynard and the longest imprisonment, that of Fabienne Maestracci. The last Corsican female detention, for a nationalist, dates back to 2007: it is that of Marie-Hélène Mattei. The last conviction of a Corsican woman by the anti-terrorism justice dates from 2013: it is that of Patrizia Gattaceca. All the activists tried or imprisoned within the framework of anti-terrorism legislation are activists of the same generation: that of the “1970s”. This is also the case for SN, the woman who joined the bush in 1980 and came out in May 1981.

The imprisonments of women, tried or not, were short, if we put them in parallel with those of many men: for the most heavily sentenced, they were between eight years and life imprisonment, for three of the activists tried in the framework of the Erignac Affair and 25 years in prison, for Charles Santoni. One reason for this asymmetry of condemnations concerning gender: no island activist has ever been indicted as a perpetrator of an attack, much less having spilled blood. This situation refers to a very atypical profile of the Corsican underground movement with regard to the question of gender, compared to the Basque ETA or the Irish IRA. Many activists of these movements have indeed been tried for attacks including causing deaths and injuries, and they remained in prison for decades, or still are, for the Basques.

As for the activists of the Flnc, seven years after the farewell to the arms of this organization, they all remain in the shadows. They do not want to testify or have not been asked to do so. Perhaps this will take place within the framework of the thesis prepared by Caroline Torres at the University of Corsica on women involved in nationalist and feminist movements. For the time being, the only woman who has publicly mentioned, in this case on the Cafébabel  # Blue Border site , her support for clandestine action is Dominique Giacomoni, 63 years old. She is also part of the Generation of 70. 

Dominique Giacomoni

Today, she is an activist for the autonomist and feminist organization Donne di manca , founded by Anne-Laure Cristofari in 2019. She specifies that her action, in the 1980s, was limited to transporting weapons. No woman has so far publicly claimed her participation in the attacks. This word will perhaps emerge soon, but the very shifted character it will have in relation to events is eminently symbolic. 

In the past, the public testimonies of women who took part in historical events were also often very late, including concerning particularly mythical pages. 

The male prerogative of arms

Many Corsican Resistance fighters from 39-45 in fact waited decades before evoking their engagement against the Occupier. Some have died without ever having done so!  Even during the Second World War, however,  they did not take part in armed combat in Corsica. If photographs show some of them with rifles, they are reconstructions made at the Liberation. If island women, especially from the rural world, knew how to handle firearms, so present in Corsica, using them during the war was not, concerning them, a historically proven fact.

Very far from certain myths, Corsican customs and traditions, very patriarchal, concerning weapons, explain the marginal place of activists in nationalist clandestine violence. Even if in the 1970s and 1980s, marked by the rise of feminism, some, very rare, were able to breach gender norms and participate in attacks, the surrounding cultural codes quickly brought them back to a more conventional. Corsican nationalist women, unlike Basque and Irish activists, have left men with the prerogative of arms and even more the formidable power to shed blood: a power very valued in fact throughout the world throughout history, and forbidden including by law for centuries and until the twentieth, in the professional armies, the kind that gives life.

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