Sunday, October 15, 2006
By Ali Al-Hail
(Professor, Dr. Ali Al-Hail, Professor of Mass Communication, Twice Fulbright Award Winner, Fulbright Visiting Scholar)
"A paper titled ‘Ohé Partisans’, published by the French Trotskyists, described Sétif as an “Algerian Oradour”. Oradour was a French town, where the Nazi occupiers had slaughtered more than 600 people, including children. Paris had frequently, said barefacedly, that, the past should be left to historians. Isn't such an assertion is rather hilarious? Well, following the French ‘logic’, the Armenian ‘Genocide’ should also, be left to historians. Or else bigger states in this World, have the right to play double standards, and to choose when to be selective?
French President Jacques Chirac, upon harsh reactions to the law encouraging the good sides of the French colonial history, made the statement, "Writing history is the job of the historians, not of the laws." Writing history is the job of the historians."
Algeria first became a colony of France in 1830. When the Algerian people rioted against the French colonial rule, the French dispatched 400,000 troops to pacify the anti-colonial uprising. The French colonial forces launched an air and ground offensive against several eastern cities, particularly Setif and Guelma, in response to anti-French riots. The crackdown lasted several days and according to the Algerian state left 45,000 people dead.
There were executions and widespread arrests during the War of Independence. "Many European lawyers refused to defend the accused. Villages were bombed from the air and a town was shelled from a cruiser at sea. The attacks were more or less random. The point was not so much to punish the original rioters as to teach the whole Muslim population to know their place. Settlers set up their own unofficial death squads and killed hundreds of Muslims. German and Italian prisoners of war were released to take part in the massacre"
The 1945 Massacres was one of the most tragic massacres French committed in Algeria. As Le Monde put it, "as France celebrated victory in Europe on 8 May 1945, its army was massacring thousands of civilians in Sétif and Guelma - events that were the real beginning of Algeria’s war of independence."
Ahmed Ben Bella also argues that the French committed a genocide against the people and Algerian culture: "Algeria's indigenous population was decimated in the early years of French settler colonial rule, falling from over four million in 1830 to less than 2.5 million by 1890. Systematic genocide was coupled with the brutal suppression of Algerian cultural identity. Indigenous Algerians were French subjects, but could only become French citizens if they renounced Islam and Arab culture. A ruthless policy of acculturation followed, and the remaining Algerians were forced to cease speaking their native Arabic and use the French of their colonial masters instead.
Furthermore, in an interview with Al Jazeera TV during 2005, Ahmed Ben Bella, also made the point that, hundreds of Algerians were thrown in La Sinn River alive, and they were left to be drawn, on October 17th, 1961. They were rioting against French Colonial rul, and demanding independence.
France did not apologize for massacres it committed in Algeria.
The archives in France on the issue have been kept closed till now. The French collected all documents regarding the massacres and genocide. For many, the closed archives are another signs of the Genocide in Algeria.
In response to the action of the French parliament, making it an offence to deny the Armenian genocide, the Turkish parliament is drafting a bill to make it illegal to deny that the French committed genocide in Algeria. "