Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fifty years after Algeria's independence, France is still in denial

An exhibition in Paris marking the years of colonial rule in Algeria whitewashes the crimes of France's erstwhile empire

Nabila Ramdani, Thursday 5 July

".....But for Algerians of my parents' generation the swinging 60s mean something entirely different. My father remembers 5 July 1962 – exactly 50 years ago – as the day that France's last major colony became independent.

Freedom for Algeria, the largest country in Africa and the Arab world, called time on a savage period of history in which some 1.5 million Algerians died, most in aerial bombing raids and ratissages – jargon used to describe the way in which army units "combed through" cities and towns slaughtering those they came across. Hundreds of thousands more were tortured as an entire nation was made to pay for resisting the might of an overseas "master" to whom it had been subjugated for 132 years......

Consequently, the exporting of Gallic "civilisation" will be used to disguise what really happened in such recent history. Just as France continues to infuriate the Arab world with its opportunistic policies in countries like Libya and Tunisia (supporting tyrants one week, and then turning on them the next), so it pretends that it was acting in the best interests of Algerians all along. Meanwhile, those once-colonised people who were young and ambitious on 5 July 1962 can, more than anyone else, see through this manipulation of history. The decade of the 1960s will always be as clear in their collective memory as it is for the millions who remember it for its fun and glamour."

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