France occupied Algeria for 132 years, from July 5, 1830, until July 5, 1962…
Almost 64 years have passed since the outbreak of the Algerian revolution in early 1954. Now, a number of voices in France are calling on Paris to acknowledge its colonialist past.
France occupied Algeria for 132 years, from July 5, 1830, until July 5, 1962, when the country declared its independence from colonial rule.
This year, Algerians held celebrations countrywide to mark the 64th anniversary of the revolution, which succeeded — after seven years of fighting — in expelling the French invaders.
During the course of the struggle for independence, some 1.5 million Algerians were martyred, while hundreds of thousands more were injured, went missing or were forced from their homes.
In December of last year, French President Emmanuel Macron described his position on France’s colonialist crimes in Algeria as “neither a denial nor an apology”.
Later, however, Macron acknowledged France’s responsibility for the torture and murder in 1957 of French journalist Maurice Audin, who had been covering Algeria’s fight for independence.
In a statement, the French presidency admitted — for the very first time — that “the French state allowed the use of torture during the war in Algeria”.
Algeria, for its part, saw the move as a “positive step” towards the admission by Paris of its colonialist past.
Since its independence, Algeria has repeatedly asked France to acknowledge its colonial-era crimes.
Paris, however, has consistently responded to these requests with the refrain, “Let’s forget the past and look towards the future.”
According to French author and historian Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, France must recognize all the crimes it committed in Algeria from 1830 to 1962.
In a telephone interview with Anadolu Agency, Grandmaison said he and a number of other historians — he did not provide names — were calling for the recognition by France of all its colonialist activities, not just in Algeria.
Regarding Macron’s recent admission about the Audin case, Grandmaison said: “Along with Audin, thousands of Algerian Muslims were also tortured and killed.”
According to the historian, torture wasn’t the only crime committed by France during the colonial era.
“There were a number of other crimes as well, including nuclear testing and the use of banned weapons,” he said.
Dahman Abdel Rahman, a former adviser to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012), recently unveiled an Algerian-French initiative to erect a memorial in France to commemorate French crimes in Algeria.
Abdel Rahman, who is of Algerian descent, told Anadolu Agency that Macron’s recent admission regarding Audin “wasn’t directed at the country’s colonialist past, but was a gesture towards the French Communist Party, of which Audin was a member”.
“Macron has been completely contradictory regarding his positions on French crimes in Algeria,” he said. “There’s a big difference between Macron as candidate and Macron as president.”
“When Macron wanted to run in the presidential election, he went to Algeria and condemned colonialism,” Abdel Rahman said.
“But these remarks were intended for French voters of Algerian origin,” he added.
“After his election, Macaron returned to Algeria turning the page of what he said before,” he said.
Abdel Rahman went on to urge the Algerian authorities to demand that Paris recognize — and apologize for — all its colonial-era crimes against the Algerian people.
“I’m working on a memorial — to be erected on French soil — to remind everyone of France’s crimes in Algeria, as a result of which millions of Algerians lost their lives,” he said.