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A "no-go area" or "no-go zone" is an area in a town barricaded off to civil authorities by a force such as a paramilitary, or an area barred to certain individuals or groups. The term has also been used to refer to areas:

  • Undergoing insurgency where ruling authorities have lost control and are unable to enforce sovereignty;[1]
  • That have a reputation for violence and crime which makes people frightened to go there;[2]
  • That are inhabited by a parallel society that have their own laws and which are controlled by violent non-state actors have been described as "no-go zones".[3]

Some types of no-go zones, such as military exclusion zones, border zones, or other declared exclusion zones, may have a legal basis. De facto no-go zones may arise in conjunction with inadequate local governance or tactical advantage. The boundaries of de facto no-go zones are volatile and responsive to changes in security and tactical advantage. No-go zone boundaries can be negotiated between hostile parties or declared unilaterally by one side of a conflict. Other no-go zones are undeclared or unofficial, making accurate boundary identification difficult. No-go zones in which rescue or security services are unavailable enable unrestricted lethal violence.

Historic no-go zones

Hong Kong

With no government enforcement from the British colonial government aside from a few raids by the Hong Kong Police, the Kowloon Walled City became a haven for crime and drugs. It was only during a 1959 trial for a murder that occurred within the Walled City that the Hong Kong government was ruled to have jurisdiction there. By this time, however, the Walled City was virtually ruled by the organised crime syndicates known as Triads. Beginning in the 1950s, Triad groups such as the 14K and Sun Yee On gained a stranglehold on the Walled City's countless brothels, gambling parlors, and opium dens. The Walled City had become such a haven for criminals that police would venture into it only in large groups.[4]


See Rebel Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities


During the Mozambican War of Independence, the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) set up and defended no-go "liberated zones" in the north of the country.[5]

Northern Ireland

Free Derry Corner, the gable wall which once marked the entrance to Free Derry

During the Troubles, the term was applied to urban areas in Northern Ireland where the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and British Army could not operate openly.[6] Between 1969 and 1972, Irish nationalist/republican neighborhoods in Belfast and Derry were sealed off with barricades by residents. The areas were policed by vigilantes and both Official and Provisional factions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) operated openly.[7] The most notable no-go area was called Free Derry.

The areas' existence was a challenge to the authority of the British government. On 31 July 1972, the British Army demolished the barricades and re-established control in Operation Motorman.[8][9] It was the biggest British military operation since the Suez Crisis.[10] Although the areas were no longer barricaded, they remained areas where the British security forces found it difficult to operate and were regularly attacked.[6] As a result, they entered only in armored convoys and in certain circumstances, such as to launch house raids.[11] Police presence in these areas remained contentious into the 2000s and the main republican political party, Sinn Féin, refused to support the police. In 2007, however, the party voted to support the new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).


The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were in actuality no-go areas for the Pakistani authorities, where the Pakistani police could not enter. The situation was changed temporarily with the United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, when the Pakistani government was supported by U.S. military forces. Currently FATA is no more a "no-go area" as it has been merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.[12]


The term "no-go area" has a military origin and was first used in the context of the Bush War in Rhodesia.[citation needed] The war was fought in the 1960s and 1970s between the army of the predominantly white minority Rhodesian government and communist-backed black nationalist groups.

The initial military strategy of the government was to seal the borders to prevent assistance to the guerrillas from other countries. However, with the end of Portuguese colonial rule in Angola and Mozambique, and especially the arrival of some 500,000 Cuban armed forces and tens of thousands of Soviet troops,[citation needed] this became untenable and the white minority government adopted an alternative strategy ("mobile counter offensive"). This involved defending only key economic areas, transport links ("vital asset ground"), and the white civilian population. The government lost control of the rest of the country to the guerilla forces, but carried out counter-guerilla operations including "free-fire attacks" in the so-called "no-go areas,"[13] where white civilians were advised not to go.


After the 1980 Turkish coup d'état, the Turkish communist guerillas established "liberated" no-go zones.[14]


"Peace zones", seen in red, offered to gangs by the Venezuelan government

In 2013, the Venezuelan government negotiated with large criminal gangs on how to prevent violence and agreed to avoid policing gang territory in what were known as "peace zones", reinforcing criminal behaviors and making gang practices de facto law.[15] According to InSight Crime, there are over a dozen mega-gangs in Venezuela, with some having up to 300 members.

Alleged and acknowledged contemporary no-go areas

The following are areas that have been described as no-go areas in recent years, though in some cases the characterization has been disputed.


In the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks, the Molenbeek municipality in Brussels was described in many media reports as a "no-go area", where gang violence and Islamic fundamentalism had fed on Molenbeek's marginalisation, despair and festering resentment of authority.[16] In 2015 Belgium's home affairs minister said that the government did not "have control of the situation in Molenbeek" and that terrorists' links to this district were a "gigantic problem".[17] Other academics, commentators, journalists and residents have contested the description of Molenbeek as a no-go zone.[18][19][20]


Some slum areas (known as favelas) in Brazil, most notably in Rio de Janeiro, are controlled by gangs with automatic weapons.[21][22] Police and investigative reporters have been tortured and killed there, such as Tim Lopes in 2002.[23] Attempts at clearing up such areas have led to security crises in Rio[24] as well as in São Paulo.[25]


An early usage of the term regarding Europe was in a 2002 opinion piece by David Ignatius in The New York Times, where he wrote about France, "Arab gangs regularly vandalize synagogues here, the North African suburbs have become no-go zones at night, and the French continue to shrug their shoulders."[26] La Courneuve, a municipality (commune) in the Paris region, was described by police as a no-go zone.[27]

In 2010, Raphaël Stainville of French newspaper Le Figaro called certain neighborhoods of the southern city Perpignan "veritable lawless zones", saying they had become too dangerous to travel in at night. He added that the same was true in parts of Béziers and Nîmes.[28] In 2012, Gilles Demailly [fr], the mayor of the French city Amiens, in the wake of several riots, called the northern part of his city a lawless zone, where one could no longer order a pizza or call for a doctor.[29] In 2014, Fabrice Balanche, a scholar of the Middle East, labelled the northern city of Roubaix, as well as parts of Marseille, "mini-Islamic states", saying that the authority of the state is completely absent there.[30] American magazines Newsweek[31] and The New Republic[32] have also used the term to describe parts of France.

In January 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, various American media, including the news cable channels Fox News and CNN, described the existence of no-go zones across Europe and in France in particular. In some cases, the French areas termed "sensitive urban zones"[33] were described as no-go zones.[34][35] Both networks were criticized for these statements,[36] and anchors on both networks later apologized for the characterizations.[37][38][39][40] The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said that she intended to sue Fox News for its statements.[41][needs update]


A sociology paper published in 2009 said that right-wing extremists had been discussing the creation of no-go areas in Western Europe since the 1980s.[42] It described attempts to create "national liberated zones" (national befreite Zonen) in Germany: "'no-go-areas', which are areas dominated by neo-Nazis,"[43] attributing their appeal in the former DDR to "the unmet promises of modernisation and the poor socio-cultural conditions that offer no perspectives to young people".[44] Whether or not Germany actually had no-go zones was disputed: the paper concluded "according to ... state officials, the police and other relevant institutions, [the phenomenon of no-go zones] does not actually exist ... by contrast, the national press in Germany, various civic associations, and also experts acknowledge and give examples of the existence of no-go areas."[45]

In a February 2018 interview, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that there are no-go areas in Germany, saying, "There are such areas and one has to call them by their name and do something about them."[46] This came in the context of arguing for a zero-tolerance policy in German policing.[47] It appeared to be the first time that a German government politician had stated that no-go areas exist in the country.[46]


In Kenya, the ongoing conflict in Somalia, where the terrorist organization al-Shabaab controls territory, has severely affected the security situation even on the Kenyan side of the border. There have been terrorist attacks and kidnappings in Kenya followed by a Kenyan intervention, Operation Linda Nchi, and police crackdowns. These have affected counties bordering Somalia and in Nairobi, the suburb of Eastleigh, which is inhabited mostly by Somalis. The U.S. government prohibits its personnel from traveling to the counties bordering Somalia: Mandera, Wajir and Garissa and Tana River County, Lamu county and Kilifi county north of Malindi.[48] The area has been called a "no-go zone for travellers" because of terrorism and internal conflicts.[49] Already in 2004, Eastleigh was described as a no-go zone for Kenyan authorities after dark.[50] In 2012, in travel advisories issued by the U.S. and U.K. governments, Eastleigh was temporarily declared a no-go zone because of bombings and ongoing conflict.[51][52][53][54]

Israel and Palestine

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) maintains a border zone on the Gaza strip and declares "no-go zones", where they may use lethal force to enforce the security exclusion zone.[55] An IDF spokesman said that "residents of the Gaza Strip are required not to come any closer than 300 meters from the security fence", although there is some allowance for farmers to approach up to 100 meters if they do so on foot only.[56] The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the no-go zones include about 30% of the arable land in the Gaza strip, and a small number of residents farm in the exclusion zones despite the risk of military action.[55] Unlike a legal border zone, the no-go zone is declared unilaterally in occupied territory, without acknowledgement or cooperation of Palestinian authorities, and as such can be considered a disputed no-go zone. It is considered unlawful by the Swedish organization Diakonia.[57]

South Africa

The term "no-go zone" has been informally applied to high-crime neighborhoods in South African cities. In South Africa, the apartheid policy created segregated neighborhoods where whites risked being removed or victimized in black-only neighborhoods and vice versa. Because of the bantustan system, many urban inhabitants lived in the city illegally per apartheid laws. For example, in Cape Town, Cape Flats was a neighborhood where many of those evicted were relocated. It became a "no-go area" as it was controlled by criminal gangs.[58] However, many of these areas have experienced significant gentrification; for example, Woodstock in Cape Town has experience significant urban renewal and cannot be described as a no-go zone anymore.[59] Nevertheless, MiX Telematics uses the term "no-go zones" to warn drivers of the risk of carjacking and other crime in its proprietary Matrix vehicle tracking software.[60] In 2010, a housing complex comprising a number of city blocks in Atlantis, Western Cape were described as a "no-go zone for police conducting raids",[61][62] and ambulances could not enter without police escort. In 2014, the situation had improved, and after convictions of several gang members, a police official said that "legislation concerning organised crime was beginning to work".[63] In 2018, a gang war in Parkwood, Cape Town was reported to turn the area into a "no-go zone", although a minister visited the area to ensure policing continues.[64]

Criticism of use of the term

Articles have appeared in The Atlantic and Business Week magazines, Media Matters for America, and including criticism of the use term "no-go zone" to refer to areas claimed to operate under Sharia Law in Europe or the US.[65][66][67][68][69]

See also


  1. ^ David Wadley (September 2008), "The Garden of Peace", Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 98 (3): 650–685, doi:10.1080/00045600802099162, JSTOR 25515147
  2. ^ Definition of no-go area, Collins English Dictionary (online), retrieved 2015-01-22
  3. ^ Chaudhry, Rajeev. Violent Non-State Actors: Contours, Challenges and Consequences. CLAWS Journal - Winter 2013. [1]. Quote: Although the patterns of causation are not always clear, there is a correlation between state weakness and the emergence of one or another kind of VNSAs. States with low legitimacy, for example, are unable to create or maintain the loyalty and allegiance of their populations. In these circumstances, individuals and groups typically revert to, or develop, alternative patterns of affiliation. The result is often the creation of "no-go" zones or spaces in which VNSAs emerge as a form of alternative governance.
  4. ^ Carney, John (16 March 2013). "Kowloon Walled City: Life in the City of Darkness". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  5. ^ Morier-Genoud, Eric (2012-04-19). Sure Road? Nationalisms in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. BRILL. ISBN 9789004226012.
  6. ^ a b Gillespie, Gordon. The A to Z of the Northern Ireland Conflict. Scarecrow Press, 2009. pp.177-178
  7. ^ David McKittrick et al, Lost Lives (Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 2008) p. 176
  8. ^ "IRA left Derry 'before Operation Motorman'". BBC News. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  9. ^ "History – Operation Motorman". The Museum of Free Derry. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  10. ^ Chronology of the Conflict: 1972. Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN).
  11. ^ Steve Bruce (May 1993), "Alienation Once Again", Fortnight (317): 18–19, JSTOR 25554014
  12. ^ "KP Assembly approves landmark bill merging Fata with province". DAWN Pakistan. 27 May 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  13. ^ Moorcraft, Paul L.; McLaughlin, Peter (2008), The Rhodesian War: A Military History (2010 reprint ed.), Stackpole Books, p. 38, ISBN 9780811707251 note - first printed in South Africa in 1982 by Sygma Books and Collins Vaal
  14. ^ Munir, Metin (1980-07-25). "Turkish Army Moves Against Leftists' 'Liberated Zone'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  15. ^ "10 claves para entender las Zonas de Paz". Runrunes. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  16. ^ "Visiting Molenbeek - home of two of the gunmen in the Paris attack". The Independent. 2015-11-15. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  17. ^ Freytas-tamura, Kimiko De; Schreuer, Milan (2015-11-15). "Belgian Minister Says Government Lacks Control Over Neighborhood Linked to Terror Plots". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  18. ^ Robert Chalmers Is Molenbeek really a no-go zone?, GQ Magazine 21 June 2017
  19. ^ Hans Vandecandelaere Old Molenbeek: A No-Go Zone? Goethe-Institut Brüssel, September 2016 "Hans Vandecandelaere is a writer and historian. For one of his books, "In Molenbeek" (Epo, 2015), he spent three years interviewing experts along with 200 of Old Molenbeek's residents to present a kaleidoscopic view of this stigmatised suburb."
  20. ^ Residents of Europe's 'No-Go Areas' Talk About Life in the Danger Zone, Vice, May 22, 2017
  21. ^ "A rota de fuga dos traficantes da Vila Cruzeiro para o Complexo do Alemão". O Globo (in Portuguese). 2010-11-25. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  22. ^ "Repórter foi capturado, torturado e morto por traficantes - Brasil - Estadão". Estadão. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  23. ^ "Tim Lopes - Journalists Killed - Committee to Protect Journalists". Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  24. ^ Domit, Myrna; Barrionuevo, Alexei (2010-11-28). "Brazilian Forces Claim Victory Over Gangs in Rio Slum". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  25. ^ "More die in fresh Brazil violence". BBC. 2006-05-14. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  26. ^ Ignatius, David (April 27, 2002). "Wake up to the problem : Separate and unequal in France". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Abrahamson, Mark (2013-11-25). Urban Sociology: A Global Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 76. ISBN 9781107649415.
  28. ^ Stainville, Raphaël (August 3, 2010). "Insécurité : "C'était intenable, nous sommes partis" (fr)". Le Figaro.
  29. ^ Marie-Laure Combes, Aurélien Fleurot (August 15, 2012). "Amiens-Nord, une "zone de non-droit"? (fr)". Europe1.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  30. ^ "Des "mini Etats islamiques" en France (fr)". Radio Télévision Suisse. September 25, 2014.
  31. ^ Christopher Dickey, Europe's Time Bomb, Newsweek, 2005-11-20;
  32. ^ Donald Morrison, What Does It Mean to Be French? The 'Charlie Hebdo' Massacre Complicates the Answer, The New Republic, 2015-01-08;
  33. ^ "Combien de ZSP ? / ZSP / 2013 / Archives des actualités / Archives - Ministère de l'Intérieur". 2015-11-19. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  34. ^ Rajeev Syal (January 13, 2015). "Nigel Farage tells Fox News there are no-go zones for non-Muslims in France". The Guardian. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  35. ^ "CNN, too, trafficked in 'no-go zone' chatter". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  36. ^ "CNN again hammers Fox News over 'no-go zones,' with a touch of hypocrisy". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  37. ^ Eugene Volokh (January 19, 2015). "Fox News retracts allegations of "no-go zones" for non-Muslims in England and France". Washington Post. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  38. ^ Brian Stelter (January 18, 2015). "Fox News apologizes 4 times for inaccurate comments about Muslims in Europe". CNN Money. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  39. ^ Lisa de Moraes (2015-01-22). "CNN's Anderson Cooper Apologizes On Air For "No-Go Zone" Remarks - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  40. ^ "CNN's Anderson Cooper acknowledges mistake on 'no-go zones'". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  41. ^ Gregory Wallace; Brian Stelter (January 20, 2015), Paris mayor: We intend to sue Fox News, CNN Money
  42. ^ Novotný, Lukáš (June 2009), "Right-wing Extremism and No-go-areas in Germany", Sociologický Časopis / Czech Sociological Review, 45 (3): 591–609, JSTOR 41132745
  43. ^ Novotny p. 591
  44. ^ Novotny p.596
  45. ^ Novotny p.605
  46. ^ a b "Merkel says Germany has 'no-go areas'; gov't won't say where". The Washington Post. The Associated Press. 28 February 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-02-28. Retrieved 2 March 2018. The notion there are places in Germany outsiders — including police — can't visit has previously been dismissed by officials.
  47. ^ "RTL Aktuell heute, 18:45 Uhr: Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel im Interview: "Ich hoffe, dass auch viele SPD-Mitglieder die Verantwortung verspüren, dass Deutschland eine gute Regierung braucht"". (in German). Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  48. ^ "Kenya Travel Advisory".
  49. ^ Nomads, World. "How Bad Is Crime in Kenya? Tips to Travel Safely".
  50. ^ Menkhaus, Ken. Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism. The Adelphi Papers, Volume 44, 2004.
  51. ^ Samora, Mwaura (4 November 2018). "The Somali Question". World Policy Journal. 30 (3): 99–106. doi:10.1177/0740277513506387.
  52. ^ "US Government Issues Warning Ahead of Kenya's October Elections".
  53. ^ "How to get travel insurance for a no-go zone". 2015-07-03.
  54. ^ " - Connecting People Through News".
  55. ^ a b Smith, Ron J.; Isleem, Martin (2017). "Farming the front line". City. 21 (3–4): 448–465. doi:10.1080/13604813.2017.1331566. (subscription required for access to full article)
  56. ^ "Gisha - IDF spokesman provides contradictory answers regarding the width of the "no-go zone" which residents of the Gaza Strip are prohibited from entering".
  57. ^ "The Legality of the Land "Buffer Zone" in the Gaza Strip - Diakonia".
  58. ^ ADZ, King (2 November 2017). Fear and Loathing on the Oche: A Gonzo Journey Through the World of Championship Darts (Shortlisted for the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year). Random House. ISBN 9781473549074 – via Google Books.
  59. ^ "4 Ways to See the 'Real' Cape Town: An Expat's Guide". HuffPost. 2015-08-25.
  60. ^ "Avoid Crime Hotspots With Driver No-Go Zone Alerts".
  61. ^ Buthelezi, M.W. Gang violence in the Western Cape. Research Unit, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, 08 August 2012.
  62. ^ "Atlantis cops not just fighting criminals - IOL News".
  63. ^ "Convictions 'shatter' Atlantis gangland - Cape Times".
  64. ^ "Police minister walks gangland streets - The Daily Voice".
  65. ^ Grahamjan, David A. (January 20, 2015), "Why the Muslim 'No-Go-Zone' Myth Won't Die", The Atlantic
  66. ^ Carol Matlack (January 14, 2015), "Debunking the Myth of Muslim-Only Zones in Major European Cities", Business Week
  67. ^ Karen Finney (January 26, 2015), "The No-Go Zone Myth Comes To America", Media Matters blog, Media Matters for America
  68. ^ "Caliph-ain't",, January 18, 2015, A number of localities in the United States, France, and Britain are considered Muslim "no-go zones" (operating under Sharia Law) where local laws are not applicable. False.
  69. ^ "Debunking the Myth of Muslim-Only Zones in Major European Cities". 14 January 2015 – via