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| FLN (ALN)|
|Commanders and leaders|
Mustapha Benboulaïd †
Hocine Aït Ahmed
Ahmed Ben Bella
Larbi Ben M'Hidi †
Ali La Pointe
|Paul Cherrière (1954–55)|
Henri Lorillot (1955–56)
Raoul Salan (1956–58)
Jacques Massu (1956–60)
Maurice Challe (1958–60)
Jean Crepin (1960–61)
Fernand Gambiez (1961)
| Pierre Lagaillarde|
|30,000 identified 40,000 civilian support||470,000 (maximum reached and maintained from 1956-1962)|
plus 90,000 Harkis
|Casualties and losses|
unknown number of wounded
|100 dead (OAS)|
2,000 jailed (OAS)
| FLN (ALN)|
|Commanders and leaders|
Mustapha Benboulaïd †
Hocine Aït Ahmed
Ahmed Ben Bella
Larbi Ben M'Hidi †
Ali La Pointe
|Paul Cherrière (1954–55)|
Henri Lorillot (1955–56)
Raoul Salan (1956–58)
Jacques Massu (1956–60)
Maurice Challe (1958–60)
Jean Crepin (1960–61)
Fernand Gambiez (1961)
| Pierre Lagaillarde|
|30,000 identified 40,000 civilian support||470,000 (maximum reached and maintained from 1956-1962)|
plus 90,000 Harkis
|Casualties and losses|
unknown number of wounded
|100 dead (OAS)|
2,000 jailed (OAS)
The Algerian War (Berber: Amgaru Adzayri, Arabic: الحرب الجزائرية), also known as the Algerian War of Independence or the Algerian Revolution (Berber: Tagrawla Tadzayrit, Arabic: الثورة الجزائرية Ath-Thawra Al-Jazā’iriyya) was a war between France and the Algerian independence movements from 1954 to 1962, which led to Algeria regaining its independence from French occupation. An important decolonization war, it was a complex conflict characterized by guerrilla warfare, maquis fighting, terrorism by both sides, the use of torture by both sides, and counter-terrorism operations. The conflict was also a civil war between loyalist Algerians believing in a French Algeria and their insurrectionist Algerian pro-independence counterparts. Effectively started by members of the National Liberation Front (FLN) on November 1, 1954, during the Toussaint Rouge ("Red All Saints' Day"), the conflict shook the foundations of the French Fourth Republic (1946–58) and led to its eventual collapse. In 1961, president Charles de Gaulle decided to give up Algeria—which was up to then regarded as an integral part of France—after conducting a referendum showing huge support for Algerian independence. The planned withdrawal led to a state crisis, to various assassination attempts on de Gaulle, and some attempts of military coups. Most of the former were carried out by the Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS), an underground organization formed mainly from French military personnel supporting a French Algeria, which committed a large number of bombings and murders in both Algeria and the homeland to stop the planned independence.
At the time when the independence came into force in 1962, 900 000 European-stemming Algerians (Pieds-noirs) fled to France, in fear of the FLN's revenge, within a few months. The government was totally unprepared for the vast number of refugees who caused significant turmoil in France. The greatest part of the Algerians having worked for the French were deliberately left behind, though de Gaulle himself estimated a ″bloodbath″ among them once the French would be gone. In particular the Harkis, having fought as soldiers on the side of the French army, were regarded as traitors by the FLN. Between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis and family members, disarmed by French officers before they left, were murdered by the FLN or lynch-mobs, often after being abducted and tortured. About 91,000 managed to flee to France, some with help from their French officers acting against orders, and today form a significant part of the Algerian-French population.
The Algerian War has long been treated as a taboo by French authorities; only in 1999 the national assembly passed a law officially allowing to use the term guerre d'Algérie ("Algerian War") instead of a number of previous euphemistic paraphrases. Today, the conflict is widely regarded as a prototype of a modern asymmetrical war with regular military fighting informal insurgents recruited from the civilian population. The unconventional, often illegal and human rights violating counter-insurgency measures applied by the French military against the FLN, namely torture, forced disappearances and illegal executions, were widely regarded as militarily successful, but also to have significantly weakened the French position due to the ensuing moral and political controversy. Similar measures were later employed in a number of conflicts, especially during the 1970s and 1980s era of right-wing military dictatorships in Latin America battling and often killing any potential opposition in what became known under the Argentinian term Dirty War (Guerra Sucia). According to a number of sources, this happened with the official assistance of French military advisors and also exiled OAS-members, besides support from the US military and intelligence agencies such as for the covert multinational search-and-kill Operation Condor. Early during the occupation of Iraq, the Directorate for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict of the Pentagon used the famous 1966 semi-documentary movie The Battle of Algiers as a show case for successfully defeating an insurgency and yet losing the "war of ideas".
On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algiers in 1830. Directed by Marshall Bugeaud, who became the first Governor-General of Algeria, the conquest was violent, marked by a "scorched earth" policy designed to reduce the power of the Dey; this included massacres, mass rapes, and other atrocities. Applauding Bugeaud's method, liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville declared, "War in Africa is a science. Everyone is familiar with its rules and everyone can apply those rules with almost complete certainty of success. One of the greatest services that Field Marshal Bugeaud has rendered his country is to have spread, perfected and made everyone aware of this new science."
In 1834, Algeria became a French military colony and, in 1848, was declared by the constitution of 1848 to be an integral part of French territory and divided into three French departments (Algiers, Oran and Constantine). After Algeria was divided into departments, many French and other Europeans (Spanish, Italians, Maltese, and others) settled in Algeria.
Under the Second Empire (1852–1871), the Code de l'indigénat (Indigenous Code) was implemented by the Sénatus-consulte of July 14, 1865. It allowed Muslims to apply for full French citizenship, a measure that few took, since it involved renouncing the right to be governed by sharia law in personal matters and was considered a kind of apostasy. Its first article stipulated:
The indigenous Muslim is French; however, he will continue to be subjected to Muslim law. He may be admitted to serve in the army (armée de terre) and the navy (armée de mer). He may be called to functions and civil employment in Algeria. He may, on his demand, be admitted to enjoy the rights of a French citizen; in this case, he is subjected to the political and civil laws of France. (for French original, see below)
However, until 1870, fewer than 200 demands were registered by Muslims and 152 by Jewish Algerians. The 1865 decree was then modified by the 1870 Crémieux decrees, which granted French nationality to Jews living in one of the three Algerian departments. In 1881, the Code de l'Indigénat made the discrimination official by creating specific penalties for indigenes and organizing the seizure or appropriation of their lands.
After the World War II, equality of rights was proclaimed by the Ordonnance of March 7, 1944, and later confirmed by the Loi Lamine Guèye of May 7, 1946, which granted French citizenship to all the subjects of France's territories and overseas departments, and by the 1946 Constitution. The Law of September 20, 1947, granted French citizenship to all Algerian subjects, who were not required to renounce their Muslim personal status.
Algeria was unique to France because, unlike all other overseas possessions acquired by France during the 19th century, only Algeria was considered and legally classified an integral part of France, in the same manner that Alaska and Hawaii are considered states in the United States of America, despite their geographic distance from the mainland.
Both Muslim and European Algerians took part in World War I, fighting for France. Algerian Muslims served as tirailleurs (such regiments were created as early as 1842) and spahis ; and French settlers as Zouaves or Chasseurs d'Afrique. With Wilson's 1918 proclamation of the Fourteen Points, whose fifth point proclaimed: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined", some Algerian intellectuals—dubbed oulémas began to nurture the desire for independence or, at least, autonomy and self-rule.
Within this context, a grandson of Abd el-Kadir, spearheaded the resistance against the French in the first half of the 20th century. He was a member of the directing committee of the French Communist Party (PCF)). In 1926, he founded the Étoile Nord-Africaine (North African Star) party, to which Messali Hadj, also a member of the PCF and of its affiliated trade union, the Confédération générale du travail unitaire (CGTU), joined the following year.
The North African Star broke from the PCF in 1928, before being dissolved in 1929 at Paris's demand. Amid growing discontent from the Algerian population, the Third Republic (1871–1940) acknowledged some demands, and the Popular Front initiated the Blum-Viollette proposal in 1936 which was supposed to enlighten the Indigenous Code by giving French citizenship to a small number of Muslims. The pieds-noirs (Algerians of European origin) violently demonstrated against it and the North African Party opposed it, leading to the project's abandonment. The pro-independence party was dissolved in 1937, and its leaders were charged with the illegal reconstitution of a dissolved league, leading to Messali Hadj's 1937 founding of the Parti du peuple algérien (Algerian People's Party, PPA), which, at this time, no longer espoused full independence but only extensive autonomy. This new party was dissolved in 1939. Under Vichy, the French state attempted to abrogate the Crémieux decree in order to suppress the Jews' French citizenship, but the measure was never implemented.
On the other hand, nationalist leader Ferhat Abbas founded the Algerian Popular Union (Union populaire algérienne) in 1938, while writing in 1943 the Algerian People's Manifest (Manifeste du peuple algérien). Arrested after the Sétif massacre of May 8, 1945, during which the French Army and pieds-noirs mobs killed about 6,000 Algerians, Abbas founded the Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA) in 1946 and was elected as a deputy. Founded in 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) succeeded Messali Hadj's Algerian People's Party (PPA), while its leaders created an armed wing, the Armée de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Army) to engage in an armed struggle against French authority.
In the early morning hours of November 1, 1954, FLN maquisards (guerrillas) attacked military and civilian targets throughout Algeria in what became known as the Toussaint Rouge (Red All-Saints' Day). From Cairo, the FLN broadcast a proclamation calling on Muslims in Algeria to join in a national struggle for the "restoration of the Algerian state – sovereign, democratic and social – within the framework of the principles of Islam." It was the reaction of Premier Pierre Mendès France (Radical-Socialist Party), who only a few months before had completed the liquidation of France's tete empire in Indochina, which set the tone of French policy for five years. He declared in the National Assembly, "One does not compromise when it comes to defending the internal peace of the nation, the unity and integrity of the Republic. The Algerian departments are part of the French Republic. They have been French for a long time, and they are irrevocably French. ... Between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession." At first, and despite the Sétif massacre of May 8, 1945, and the pro-Independence struggle before World War II, most Algerians were in favor of a relative status-quo. While Messali Hadj had radicalized by forming the FLN, Ferhat Abbas maintained a more moderate, electoral strategy. Fewer than 500 fellaghas (pro-Independence fighters) could be counted at the beginning of the conflict. The Algerian population radicalized itself in particular because of the Main Rouge (Red Hand) attacks. This group engaged in anti-colonialist actions in all of the Maghreb region (Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria), killing, for example, Tunisian activist Farhat Hached in 1952.
The FLN uprising presented nationalist groups with the question of whether to adopt armed revolt as the main course of action. During the first year of the war, Ferhat Abbas's Democratic Union of the Algerian Manifesto (UDMA), the ulema, and the Algerian Communist Party (PCA) maintained a friendly neutrality toward the FLN. The communists, who had made no move to cooperate in the uprising at the start, later tried to infiltrate the FLN, but FLN leaders publicly repudiated the support of the party. In April 1956, Abbas flew to Cairo, where he formally joined the FLN. This action brought in many évolués who had supported the UDMA in the past. The AUMA also threw the full weight of its prestige behind the FLN. Bendjelloul and the pro-integrationist moderates had already abandoned their efforts to mediate between the French and the rebels.
After the collapse of the MTLD, the veteran nationalist Messali Hadj formed the leftist Mouvement National Algérien (MNA), which advocated a policy of violent revolution and total independence similar to that of the FLN, but aimed to compete with that organisation. The Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), the military wing of the FLN, subsequently wiped out the MNA guerrilla operation in Algeria, and Messali Hadj's movement lost what little influence it had had there. However, the MNA retained the support of many Algerian workers in France through the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Algériens (the Union of Algerian Workers). The FLN also established a strong organization in France to oppose the MNA. The "Café wars", resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths, were waged in France between the two rebel groups throughout the years of the War of Independence.
On the political front, the FLN worked to persuade—and to coerce—the Algerian masses to support the aims of the independence movement through contributions. FLN-influenced labor unions, professional associations, and students' and women's organizations were created to lead opinion in diverse segments of the population, but here too, violent coercion was widely used. Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist from Martinique who became the FLN's leading political theorist, provided a sophisticated intellectual justification for the use of violence in achieving national liberation. From Cairo, Ahmed Ben Bella ordered the liquidation of potential interlocuteurs valables, those independent representatives of the Muslim community acceptable to the French through whom a compromise or reforms within the system might be achieved.
As the FLN campaign of influence spread through the countryside, many European farmers in the interior (called Pieds-Noirs), who lived on lands stolen from Muslim villages, sold their holdings and sought refuge in Algiers and other Algerian cities. After a series of bloody, random massacres and bombings by Muslim Algerians in several towns and cities, the French Pieds-Noirs and urban French population began to demand that the French government engage in sterner countermeasures, including the proclamation of a state of emergency, capital punishment for political crimes, denunciation of all separatists, and most ominously, a call for 'tit-for-tat' reprisal operations by police, military, and para-military forces. Colon vigilante units, whose unauthorized activities were conducted with the passive cooperation of police authorities, carried out ratonnades (literally, rat-hunts, raton being a racist term for denigrating Muslim Algerians) against suspected FLN members of the Muslim community.
By 1955 effective political action groups within the Algerian colonial community succeeded in convincing many of the governors general sent by Paris that the military was not the way to resolve the conflict. A major success was the conversion of Jacques Soustelle, who went to Algeria as governor general in January 1955 determined to restore peace. Soustelle, a one-time leftist and by 1955 an ardent Gaullist, began an ambitious reform program (the Soustelle Plan) aimed at improving economic conditions among the Muslim population .
The FLN adopted tactics similar to those of nationalist groups in Asia, and the French did not realize the seriousness of the challenge they faced until 1955, when the FLN moved into urbanized areas. "An important watershed in the War of Independence was the massacre of Pieds-Noirs civilians by the FLN near the town of Philippeville (now known as Skikda) in August 1955. Before this operation, FLN policy was to attack only military and government-related targets. The commander of the Constantine wilaya/region, however, decided a drastic escalation was needed. The killing by the FLN and its supporters of 123 people, including 71 French, including old women and babies, shocked Jacques Soustelle into calling for more repressive measures against the rebels. The government claimed it killed 1,273 guerrillas in retaliation; according to the FLN and to The Times, 12,000 Algerians were massacred by the armed forces and police, as well as Pieds-Noirs gangs. Soustelle's repression was an early cause of the Algerian population's rallying to the FLN. After Philippeville, Soustelle declared sterner measures and an all-out war began. In 1956, demonstrations by French Algerians caused the French government to not make reforms.
Soustelle's successor, Governor General Lacoste, a socialist, abolished the Algerian Assembly. Lacoste saw the assembly, which was dominated by pieds-noirs, as hindering the work of his administration, and he undertook the rule of Algeria by decree. He favored stepping up French military operations and granted the army exceptional police powers—a concession of dubious legality under French law—to deal with the mounting political violence. At the same time, Lacoste proposed a new administrative structure to give Algeria some autonomy and a decentralized government. Whilst remaining an integral part of France, Algeria was to be divided into five districts, each of which would have a territorial assembly elected from a single slate of candidates. Deputies representing Algerian risings were able to delay until 1958 passage of the measure by the National Assembly of France.
In August and September 1956, the leadership of the FLN guerrillas operating within Algeria (popularly known as "internals") met to organize a formal policy-making body to synchronize the movement's political and military activities. The highest authority of the FLN was vested in the thirty-four-member National Council of the Algerian Revolution (Conseil National de la Révolution Algérienne, CNRA), within which the five-man Committee of Coordination and Enforcement (Comité de Coordination et d'Exécution, CCE) formed the executive. The leadership of the regular FLN forces based in Tunisia and Morocco ("externals"), including Ben Bella, knew the conference was taking place but by chance or design on the part of the "internals" were unable to attend.
In October 1956, the French Air Force intercepted a Moroccan DC-3 bound for Tunis, carrying Ahmed Ben Bella, Mohammed Boudiaf, Mohamed Khider and Hocine Aït Ahmed, and forced it to land in Algiers. Lacoste had the FLN external political leaders arrested and imprisoned for the duration of the war. This action caused the remaining rebel leaders to harden their stance.
France opposed Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's material and political assistance to the FLN, which some French analysts believed was the revolution's main sustenance. This attitude was a factor in persuading France to participate in the November 1956 British attempt to seize the Suez Canal during the Suez Crisis.
During 1957, support for the FLN weakened as the breach between the internals and externals widened. To halt the drift, the FLN expanded its executive committee to include Abbas, as well as imprisoned political leaders such as Ben Bella. It also convinced communist and Arab members of the United Nations (UN) to put diplomatic pressure on the French government to negotiate a cease-fire.
Writer, philosopher and playwright Albert Camus, native of Algiers, often associated with existentialism, tried unsuccessfully to persuade both sides to at least leave civilians alone, writing editorials against the use of torture in Combat newspaper.
The FLN considered him a fool, and some Pied-Noirs considered him a traitor. Nevertheless, in his speech when he received the Literature Nobel Prize in Oslo, Camus said that when faced with a radical choice he would eventually support his community. This statement made him lose his status among the left-wing intellectuals; when he died in 1960 in a car crash, the official thesis of an ordinary accident (a quick open-and-shut case) left more than a few observers doubtful. His widow claimed that Camus, though discreet, was in fact an ardent supporter of French Algeria in the last years of his life.
To increase international and domestic French attention to their struggle, the FLN decided to bring the conflict to the cities and to call a nationwide general strike and also to plant bombs in public places. The most notable instance was the Battle of Algiers, which began on September 30, 1956, when three women, including Djamila Bouhired and Zohra Drif, simultaneously placed bombs at three sites including the downtown office of Air France. The FLN carried out shootings and bombings in the spring of 1957, resulting in civilian casualties and a crushing response from the authorities.
General Jacques Massu was instructed to use whatever methods deemed necessary to restore order in the city and to find and eliminate terrorists. Using paratroopers, he broke the strike and then in the succeeding months destroyed the FLN infrastructure in Algiers. But the FLN had succeeded in showing its ability to strike at the heart of French Algeria and to assemble a mass response to its demands among urban Muslims. The publicity given to the brutal methods used by the army to win the Battle of Algiers, including the use of torture, a strong movement control and curfew called quadrillage and where all authority was under the military, created doubt in France about its role in Algeria. What was originally "pacification" or a "public order operation" had turned into a colonial war accompanied by torture.
From its origins in 1954 as ragtag maquisards numbering in the hundreds and armed with a motley assortment of hunting rifles and discarded French, German, and American light weapons, the FLN had evolved by 1957 into a disciplined fighting force of 40,000. More than 30,000 were organized along conventional lines in external units that were stationed in Moroccan and Tunisian sanctuaries, where they served primarily to divert some French manpower from the main theaters of guerrilla activity to guard against infiltration.
During 1956 and 1957, the FLN successfully applied hit-and-run tactics in accordance with guerrilla warfare theory. Whilst some of this was aimed at military targets, a significant amount was invested in a terror campaign against those in any way deemed to be supporting or encouraging French authority. This resulted in acts of sadistic torture and brutal violence against all, including women and children. Specializing in ambushes and night raids and avoiding direct contact with superior French firepower, the internal forces targeted army patrols, military encampments, police posts, and colonial farms, mines, and factories, as well as transportation and communications facilities. Once an engagement was broken off, the guerrillas merged with the population in the countryside, in accordance with Mao's theories. Kidnapping was commonplace, as were the ritual murder and mutilation of civilians (see Torture section).
Although successfully provoking fear and uncertainty within both communities in Algeria, the revolutionaries' coercive tactics suggested that they had not yet inspired the bulk of the Muslim people to revolt against French colonial rule. Gradually, however, the FLN gained control in certain sectors of the Aurès, the Kabylie, and other mountainous areas around Constantine and south of Algiers and Oran. In these places, the FLN established a simple but effective—although frequently temporary—military administration that was able to collect taxes and food and to recruit manpower. But it was never able to hold large fixed positions.
The loss of competent field commanders both on the battlefield and through defections and political purges created difficulties for the FLN. Moreover, power struggles in the early years of the war split leadership in the wilayat, particularly in the Aurès. Some officers created their own fiefdoms, using units under their command to settle old scores and engage in private wars against military rivals within the FLN.
Despite complaints from the military command in Algiers, the French government was reluctant for many months to admit that the Algerian situation was out of control and that what was viewed officially as a pacification operation had developed into a war. By 1956, there were more than 400,000 French troops in Algeria. Although the elite colonial infantry airborne units and the Foreign Legion bore the brunt of offensive counterinsurgency combat operations, approximately 170,000 Muslim Algerians also served in the regular French army, most of them volunteers. France also sent air force and naval units to the Algerian theater, including helicopters. In addition to service as a flying ambulance and cargo carrier, French forces utilized the helicopter for the first time in a ground attack role in order to pursue and destroy fleeing FLN guerrilla units. The American military later used the same helicopter combat methods in Vietnam. The French also used napalm, which was depicted for the first time in the 2007 film L'Ennemi intime (Intimate Enemies) by Florent Emilio Siri.
The French army resumed an important role in local Algerian administration through the Special Administration Section (Section Administrative Spécialisée, SAS), created in 1955. The SAS's mission was to establish contact with the Muslim population and weaken nationalist influence in the rural areas by asserting the "French presence" there. SAS officers—called képis bleus (blue caps)—also recruited and trained bands of loyal Muslim irregulars, known as harkis. Armed with shotguns and using guerrilla tactics similar to those of the FLN, the harkis, who eventually numbered about 180,000 volunteers, more than the FLN effectives, were an ideal instrument of counterinsurgency warfare.
Harkis were mostly used in conventional formations, either in all-Algerian units commanded by French officers or in mixed units. Other uses included platoon or smaller size units, attached to French battalions, in a similar way as the Kit Carson Scouts by the US in Vietnam. A third use was an intelligence gathering role, with some reported minor pseudo-operations in support of their intelligence collection. U.S. military expert Lawrence E. Cline stated, "The extent of these pseudo-operations appears to have been very limited both in time and scope. ... The most widespread use of pseudo type operations was during the 'Battle of Algiers' in 1957. The principal French employer of covert agents in Algiers was the Fifth Bureau, the psychological warfare branch." The Fifth Bureau "made extensive use of 'turned' FLN members, one such network being run by Captain Paul-Alain Leger of the 10th Paras. "Persuaded" to work for the French forces included by the use of torture and threats against their family; these agents "mingled with FLN cadres. They planted incriminating forged documents, spread false rumors of treachery and fomented distrust. ... As a frenzy of throat-cutting and disemboweling broke out among confused and suspicious FLN cadres, nationalist slaughtered nationalist from April to September 1957 and did France's work for her." But this type of operation involved individual operatives rather than organized covert units.
One organized pseudo-guerrilla unit, however, was created in December 1956 by the French DST domestic intelligence agency. The Organization of the French Algerian Resistance (ORAF), a group of counter-terrorists had as its mission to carry out false flag terrorist attacks with the aim of quashing any hopes of political compromise.
But it seemed that, as in Indochina, "the French focused on developing native guerrilla groups that would fight against the FLN", one of whom fought in the Southern Atlas Mountains, equipped by the French Army.
The FLN also used pseudo-guerrilla strategies against the French Army on one occasion, with Force K, a group of 1,000 Algerians who volunteered to serve in Force K as guerrillas for the French. But most of these members were either already FLN members or were turned by the FLN, once enlisted. Corpses of purported FLN members displayed by the unit were in fact those of dissidents and members of other Algerian groups killed by the FLN. The French Army finally discovered the war ruse and tried to hunt down Force K members. However, some 600 managed to escape and join the FLN with weapons and equipment.
Late in 1957, General Raoul Salan, commanding the French Army in Algeria, instituted a system of quadrillage (surveillance using a grid pattern), dividing the country into sectors, each permanently garrisoned by troops responsible for suppressing rebel operations in their assigned territory. Salan's methods sharply reduced the instances of FLN terrorism but tied down a large number of troops in static defense. Salan also constructed a heavily patrolled system of barriers to limit infiltration from Tunisia and Morocco. The best known of these was the Morice Line (named for the French defense minister, André Morice), which consisted of an electrified fence, barbed wire, and mines over a 320-kilometer stretch of the Tunisian border.
The French military command ruthlessly applied the principle of collective responsibility to villages suspected of sheltering, supplying, or in any way cooperating with the guerrillas. Villages that could not be reached by mobile units were subject to aerial bombardment. FLN guerrillas that fled to caves or other remote hiding places were tracked and hunted down. In one episode, FLN guerrillas, who refused to surrender and withdraw from a cave complex, were dealt with by French Foreign Legion Pioneer troops, who, lacking flamethrowers or explosives, simply bricked up each cave, leaving the residents to die of suffocation.
Finding it impossible to control all of Algeria's remote farms and villages, the French government also initiated a program of concentrating large segments of the rural population, including whole villages, in camps under military supervision to prevent them from aiding the rebels. In the three years (1957–60) during which the regroupement program was followed, more than 2 million Algerians were removed from their villages, mostly in the mountainous areas, and resettled in the plains, where it was difficult to reestablish their previous economic and social systems. Living conditions in the fortified villages were poor. In hundreds of villages, orchards and croplands not already burned by French troops went to seed for lack of care. These population transfers effectively denied the use of remote villages to FLN guerrillas, who had used them as a source of rations and manpower, but also caused significant resentment on the part of the displaced villagers. Relocation's social and economic disruption continued to be felt a generation later.
The French Army shifted its tactics at the end of 1958 from dependence on quadrillage to the use of mobile forces deployed on massive search-and-destroy missions against FLN strongholds. Within the next year, Salan's successor, General Maurice Challe, appeared to have suppressed major rebel resistance. But political developments had already overtaken the French Army's successes.
Recurrent cabinet crises focused attention on the inherent instability of the Fourth Republic and increased the misgivings of the army and of the pied-noirs that the security of Algeria was being undermined by party politics. Army commanders chafed at what they took to be inadequate and incompetent political initiatives by the government in support of military efforts to end the rebellion. The feeling was widespread that another debacle like that of Indochina in 1954 was in the offing and that the government would order another precipitate pullout and sacrifice French honor to political expediency. Many saw in de Gaulle, who had not held office since 1946, the only public figure capable of rallying the nation and giving direction to the French government.
After his time as governor general, Soustelle returned to France to organize support for de Gaulle's return to power, while retaining close ties to the Army and the pied-noirs. By early 1958, he had organized a coup d'état, bringing together dissident Army officers and pied-noirs with sympathetic Gaullists. An Army junta under General Massu seized power in Algiers on the night of May 13, thereafter known as the May 1958 crisis. General Salan assumed leadership of a Committee of Public Safety formed to replace the civil authority and pressed the junta's demands that de Gaulle be named by French president René Coty to head a government of national unity invested with extraordinary powers to prevent the "abandonment of Algeria."
On May 24, French paratroopers from the Algerian corps landed on Corsica, taking the French island in a bloodless action, Operation Corse. Subsequently, preparations were made in Algeria for Operation Resurrection, which had as objectives the seizure of Paris and the removal of the French government. Resurrection was to be implemented in the event of one of three following scenarios: Were de Gaulle not approved as leader of France by the parliament; were de Gaulle to ask for military assistance to take power; or if it seemed that communist forces were making any move to take power in France. De Gaulle was approved by the French parliament on May 29, by 329 votes against 224, 15 hours before the projected launch of Operation Resurrection. This indicated that the Fourth Republic by 1958 no longer had any support from the French Army in Algeria and was at its mercy even in civilian political matters. This decisive shift in the balance of power in civil-military relations in France in 1958, and the threat of force was the main, immediate factor in the return of de Gaulle to power in France.
Many people, regardless of citizenship, greeted de Gaulle's return to power as the breakthrough needed to end the hostilities. On his June 4 trip to Algeria, de Gaulle calculatedly made an ambiguous and broad emotional appeal to all the inhabitants, declaring, "Je vous ai compris" ("I have understood you."). De Gaulle raised the hopes of the pied-noir and the professional military, disaffected by the indecisiveness of previous governments, with his exclamation of "Vive l'Algérie française" ("Long live French Algeria") to cheering crowds in Mostaganem. At the same time, he proposed economic, social, and political reforms to improve the situation of the Muslims. Nonetheless, de Gaulle later admitted to having harbored deep pessimism about the outcome of the Algerian situation even then. Meanwhile, he looked for a "third force" among the population of Algeria, uncontaminated by the FLN or the "ultras" (colon extremists) through whom a solution might be found.
De Gaulle immediately appointed a committee to draft a new constitution for France's Fifth Republic, which would be declared early the next year, with which Algeria would be associated but of which it would not form an integral part. All Muslims, including women, were registered for the first time on electoral rolls to participate in a referendum to be held on the new constitution in September 1958.
De Gaulle's initiative threatened the FLN with decreased support among Muslims. In reaction, the FLN set up the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisoire de la République Algérienne, GPRA), a government-in-exile headed by Abbas and based in Tunis. Before the referendum, Abbas lobbied for international support for the GPRA, which was quickly recognized by Morocco, Tunisia, China, and several other African, Arab, and Asian countries, but not by the Soviet Union.
In February 1959, de Gaulle was elected president of the new Fifth Republic. He visited Constantine in October to announce a program to end the war and create an Algeria closely linked to France. De Gaulle's call on the rebel leaders to end hostilities and to participate in elections was met with adamant refusal. "The problem of a cease-fire in Algeria is not simply a military problem", said the GPRA's Abbas. "It is essentially political, and negotiation must cover the whole question of Algeria." Secret discussions that had been underway were broken off.
From 1958–59, the French army won military control in Algeria and was the closest it would be to victory. In late July 1959, during Operation Jumelles, Colonel Bigeard, whose elite paratrooper unit fought at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, told journalist Jean Lartéguy, (source)
"We are not making war for ourselves, not making a colonialist war, Bigeard wears no shirt (he shows his opened uniform) as do my officers. We are fighting right here right now for them, for the evolution, to see the evolution of these people and this war is for them. We are defending their freedom as we are, in my opinion, defending the West's freedom. We are here ambassadors, Crusaders, who are hanging on in order to still be able to talk and to be able to speak for." Col. Bigeard (July 1959)
During this period in France, however, opposition to the conflict was growing among the population, notably the French Communist Party, then one of the country's strongest political forces, which was supporting the Algerian Revolution. Thousands of relatives of conscripts and reserve soldiers suffered loss and pain; revelations of torture and the indiscriminate brutality the army visited on the Muslim population prompted widespread revulsion, and a significant constituency supported the principle of national liberation. International pressure was also building on France to grant Algeria independence. Since 1955, the UN General Assembly annually considered the Algerian question, and the FLN position was gaining support. France's seeming intransigence in settling a colonial war that tied down half the manpower of its armed forces was also a source of concern to its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. In a September 16, 1959, statement, de Gaulle dramatically reversed his stand and uttered the words "self-determination" as the third and preferred solution , which he envisioned as leading to majority rule in an Algeria formally associated with France. In Tunis, Abbas acknowledged that de Gaulle's statement might be accepted as a basis for settlement, but the French government refused to recognize the GPRA as the representative of Algeria's Muslim community.
Convinced that de Gaulle had betrayed them, some units of European volunteers (Unités Territoriales) in Algiers led by student leaders Pierre Lagaillarde and Jean-Jacques Susini, café owner Joseph Ortiz, and lawyer Jean-Baptiste Biaggi staged an insurrection in the Algerian capital starting on January 24, 1960, and known in France as La semaine des barricades ("the week of barricades"). The ultras incorrectly believed that they would be supported by General Massu. The insurrection order was given by Colonel Jean Garde of the Fifth Bureau. As the army, police, and supporters stood by, civilian pied-noirs threw up barricades in the streets and seized government buildings. General Maurice Challe, responsible for the Army in Algeria, declared Algiers under siege but forbade the troops to fire on the insurgents. Nevertheless, 20 rioters were killed during shooting on Boulevard Laferrière. Eight arrest warrants were issued in Paris against the initiators of the insurrection. Jean-Marie Le Pen, a member of parliament and future Front national founder, who called for the barricades to be extended to Paris, and theoretician Georges Sauge were then placed under custody.
In Paris on January 29, 1960, de Gaulle called on the army to remain loyal and rallied popular support for his Algerian policy in a televised address:
I took, in the name of France, the following decision — the Algerians will have the free choice of their destiny. When, in one way or another – by ceasefire or by complete crushing of the rebels – we will have put an end to the fighting, when, after a prolonged period of appeasement, the population will have become conscious of the stakes and, thanks to us, realised the necessary progress in political, economic, social, educational, and other domains. Then it will be the Algerians who will tell us what they want to be.... Your French of Algeria, how can you listen to the liars and the conspirators who tell you that, if you grant free choice to the Algerians, France and de Gaulle want to abandon you, retreat from Algeria, and deliver you to the rebellion?.... I say to all of our soldiers: your mission comprises neither equivocation nor interpretation. You have to liquidate the rebellious forces, which want to oust France from Algeria and impose on this country its dictatorship of misery and sterility.... Finally, I address myself to France. Well, well, my dear and old country, here we face together, once again, a serious ordeal. In virtue of the mandate that the people have given me and of the national legitimacy, which I have incarned for 20 years, I ask everyone to support me whatever happens.
Most of the Army heeded his call, and the siege of Algiers ended on February 1 with Lagaillarde surrendering to General Challe's command of the French Army in Algeria. The loss of many ultra leaders who were imprisoned or transferred to other areas did not deter the French Algeria militants. Sent to prison in Paris and then paroled, Lagaillarde fled to Spain. There, with another French army officer, Raoul Salan, who had entered clandestinely, and with Jean-Jacques Susini, he created the Organisation de l'armée secrète (Secret Army Organization, OAS) on December 3, 1960, with the purpose of continuing the fight for French Algeria. Highly organized and well-armed, the OAS stepped up its terrorist activities, which were directed against both Algerians and pro-government French citizens, as the move toward negotiated settlement of the war and self-determination gained momentum. To the FLN rebellion against France were added civil wars between extremists in the two communities and between the ultras and the French government in Algeria.
Beside Pierre Lagaillarde, Jean-Baptiste Biaggi was also imprisoned, while Alain de Sérigny got arrested, and Joseph Ortiz's FNF dissolved, as well as General Lionel Chassin's MP13. De Gaulle also modified the government, excluding Jacques Soustelle, believed to be too pro-French Algeria, and granting the Minister of Information to Louis Terrenoire, who quit RTF (French broadcasting TV). Pierre Messmer, who had been a member of the Foreign Legion, was named Minister of Defense, and dissolved the Fifth Bureau, the psychological warfare branch, which had ordered the rebellion. These units had theorized the principles of a counter-revolutionary war, including the use of torture. During the Indochina War (1947–54), officers such as Roger Trinquier and Lionel-Max Chassin were inspired by Mao Zedong's strategic doctrine and acquired knowledge of convince the population to support the fight. The Fifth Bureau were organized by Jean Ousset, French representative of the Opus Dei, under the order of Permanent Secretary General of the National Defense (SGPDN) Geoffroy Chodron de Courcel. The officers were initially trained in the Centre d'instruction et de préparation à la contre-guérilla (Arzew). Jacques Chaban-Delmas added to that the Centre d'entraînement à la guerre subversive Jeanne-d'Arc (Center of Training to Subversive War Jeanne-d'Arc) in Philippeville, Algeria, directed by Colonel Marcel Bigeard. According to the Voltaire Network, the Catholic stay-behind Georges Sauge animated conferences there, and the maxim "This Army must be fanatic, despising luxury, animated by the spirit of the Crusades." appeared on the walls. Pierre Messmer hence dissolved structures which had turned themselves against de Gaulle, leaving the "revolutionary war" to the exclusive responsibility of Gaullist General André Beaufre.
The French army officers' uprising was due to a perceived second betrayal by the government, the first being Indochina (1947–1954). In some aspects the Dien Bien Phu garrison was sacrificed with no metropolitan support, order was given to commanding officer General de Castries to "let the affair die of its own, in serenity" ("laissez mourrir l'affaire d'elle même en sérénité").
The opposition of the MNEF student trade-union to the participation of conscripts in the war led to a secession in May 1960, with the creation of the Fédération des étudiants nationalistes (FEN, Federation of Nationalist Students) around Dominique Venner, a former member of Jeune Nation and of MP-13, François d'Orcival and Alain de Benoist, who would theorize in the 1980s the "New Right" movement. The FEN then published the Manifeste de la classe 60.
A Front national pour l'Algérie française (FNAF, National Front for French Algeria) was created in June 1960 in Paris, gathering around de Gaulle's former Secretary Jacques Soustelle, Claude Dumont, Georges Sauge, Yvon Chautard, Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour (who later competed in the 1965 presidential election), Jacques Isorni, Victor Barthélemy, François Brigneau and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Another ultra rebellion occurred in December 1960, which led de Gaulle to dissolve the FNAF.
After the publication of the Manifeste des 121 against the use of torture and the war, the opponents to the war created the Rassemblement de la gauche démocratique (Assembly of the Democratic Left), which included the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) socialist party, the Radical-Socialist Party, Force ouvrière (FO) trade union, Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens trade-union, FEN trade-union, etc., which supported de Gaulle against the ultras.
Women fulfilled a number of different functions during the Algerian War. The majority of Muslim women who became active participants did so on the side of the National Liberation Front (FLN). The French included some women, both Muslim and French, in their war effort, but they were not as fully integrated, nor were they charged with the same breadth of tasks as their Algerian sisters. The total number of women involved in the conflict, as determined by post-war veteran registration, is numbered at 11,000, but it is possible that this number was significantly higher due to underreporting.
Urban and rural women's experiences in the revolution were much different. Urban women, who constituted about twenty percent of the overall force, had received some kind of education and usually chose to enter on the side of the FLN of their own accord. Largely illiterate rural women, on the other hand, the remaining eighty percent, due to their geographic location in respect to the operations of FLN often became involved in the conflict as a result of proximity paired with force.
Women operated in a number of different areas during the course of the rebellion. "Women participated actively as combatants, spies, fundraisers, as well as nurses, launderers, and cooks", "women assisted the male fighting forces in areas like transportation, communication and administration"  the range of involvement by a woman could include both combatant and non-combatant roles. While most women's tasks were non-combatant, their less frequent, violent acts were more noticed. The reality was that "rural women in maquis [rural areas] support networks" contained the overwhelming majority of those who participated; female combatants were in the minority.
De Gaulle convoked the first referendum on the self-determination of Algeria on January 8, 1961, which 75% of the voters (both in France and Algeria) approved and de Gaulle's government began secret peace negotiations with the FLN. In the Algerian départements 69.51% voted in favor of self-determination.
The "generals' putsch" in April 1961, aimed at canceling the government's negotiations with the FLN, marked the turning point in the official attitude toward the Algerian war. De Gaulle was now prepared to abandon the pieds-noirs, the group that no previous French government was willing to write off. The army had been discredited by the putsch and kept a low profile politically throughout the rest of France's involvement with Algeria.
Talks with the FLN reopened at Évian in May 1961; after several false starts, the French government decreed that a ceasefire would take effect on March 18, 1962. In their final form, the Évian Accords allowed the pieds-noirs equal legal protection with Algerians over a three-year period. These rights included respect for property, participation in public affairs, and a full range of civil and cultural rights. At the end of that period, however, all Algerian residents would be obliged to become Algerian citizens or be classified as aliens with the attendant loss of rights. The agreement also allowed France to establish military bases in Algeria even after independence (including the nuclear test site of Regghane, the naval base of Mers-el-Kebir and the air base of Bou Sfer) and to have privileges vis-à-vis Algerian oil.
In the second referendum on the independence of Algeria, held in April 1962, 91 percent of the French electorate approved the Evian Accords. On July 1, 1962, some 6 million of a total Algerian electorate of 6.5 million cast their ballots. The vote was nearly unanimous, with 5,992,115 votes for independence, 16,534 against, with most Pied-noirs and Harkis either having fled or abstaining. De Gaulle pronounced Algeria an independent country on July 3. The Provisional Executive, however, proclaimed July 5, the 132nd anniversary of the French entry into Algeria, as the day of national independence.
During the three months between the cease-fire and the French referendum on Algeria, the OAS unleashed a new campaign. The OAS sought to provoke a major breach in the ceasefire by the FLN but the attacks now were aimed also against the French army and police enforcing the accords as well as against Muslims. It was the most wanton carnage that Algeria had witnessed in eight years of savage warfare. OAS operatives set off an average of 120 bombs per day in March, with targets including hospitals and schools.
Summer 1962 saw a rush of pied-noirs to France. Within a year, 1.4 million refugees, including almost the entire Jewish community, had joined the exodus to France. Despite the declaration of independence on July 5, 1962, the last French forces did not leave the naval base of Mers El Kébir until 1967. (The Evian Accords had permitted France to maintain its military presence for fifteen years—the withdrawal in 1967 was significantly ahead of schedule.)
Pieds-Noirs (including indigenous Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews) and Harkis accounted for 13% of the total population of Algeria in 1962. For the sake of clarity, each group's exodus is described separately here, although their fate shared many common elements.
from Arab countries
Pied-noir (literally "black foot") is a term used to name the European-descended population (mostly Catholic), who had resided in Algeria for generations; it is sometimes used to include the indigenous Sephardi Jewish population as well, which likewise emigrated after 1962. Europeans arrived in Algeria as immigrants from all over the western Mediterranean (particularly France, Spain, Italy and Malta), starting in 1830. The Jews arrived in several waves, some coming as early as 600 BC and during the Roman period, known as the Maghrebi Jews. The Maghrebi Jewish population was outnumbered by the Sephardic Jews, driven out of Spain in 1492 and was further strengthened by Marranos refugees from the Spanish Inquisition through the 16th century. Algerian Jews largely embraced French citizenship after the décret Crémieux in 1871. In 1959, the pieds-noirs numbered 1,025,000 (85% of European Christian descent, and 15% were made up of the indigenous Algerian population of Maghrebi and Sephardi Jewish descent), and accounted for 10.4% of the total population of Algeria. In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 of them fled, the first third prior to the referendum, in the largest relocation of population to Europe since the Second World War. A motto used in the FLN propaganda designating the Pied-noirs community was "Suitcase or coffin" ("La valise ou le cercueil") – an expropriation of a term first coined years earlier by pied-noir "ultras" when rallying the European community to their hardcore line.
The French government claimed not to have anticipated such a massive exodus; it estimated that a maximum of 250–300,000 might enter metropolitan France temporarily. Nothing was planned for their move to France, and many had to sleep in streets or abandoned farms on their arrival. A minority of departing pieds-noirs, including soldiers, destroyed their possessions before departure, to protest and as a desperate symbolic attempt to leave no trace of over a century of European presence, but the vast majority of their goods and houses were left intact and abandoned. Scenes of thousands of panicked people camping for weeks on the docks of Algerian harbors waiting for a space on a boat to France were common from April to August 1962. About 100,000 pieds-noirs chose to remain, but most of those gradually left in the 1960s and 1970s, primarily due to residual hostility against them, including machine-gunning of public places in Oran.
The so-called Harkis, from the Algerian-Arabic dialect word harki (soldier), were indigenous Muslim Algerians (as opposed to European-descended Catholics or indigenous Algerian Mizrachi Sephardi Jews) who fought as auxiliaries on the French side. Some of these were veterans of the Free French Forces who participated in the liberation of France during World War II or in the Indochina War. The term also came to include civilian indigenous Algerians who supported a French Algeria. According to French government figures, there were 236,000 Algerian Muslims serving in the French Army in 1962 (four times more than in the FLN), either in regular units (Spahis and Tirailleurs) or as irregulars (harkis and moghaznis). Some estimates suggest that, with their families, the indigenous Muslim loyalists may have numbered as many as 1 million
In 1962, around 91,000 Harkis took refuge in France, despite French government policy against this. Pierre Messmer, Minister of the Armies, and Louis Joxe, Minister for Algerian Affairs, gave orders to this effect. The Harkis were seen as traitors by many Algerians, and many of those who stayed behind suffered severe reprisals after independence. French historians estimate that somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis and members of their families were killed by the FLN or by lynch mobs in Algeria, often in atrocious circumstances or after torture. The abandonment of the "Harkis" both in terms of non-recognition of those who died defending a French Algeria and the neglect of those who escaped to France, remains an issue that France has not fully resolved—although the government of Jacques Chirac made efforts to give recognition to the suffering of these former allies.
While it is difficult to enumerate the war's casualties, the FLN (National Liberation Front) estimated in 1964 that nearly eight years of revolution had cost 1.5 million dead from war-related causes. Some other French and Algerian sources later put the figure at approximately 960,000 dead, while French officials estimated it at 350,000. French military authorities listed their losses at nearly 25,600 dead (6,000 from non-combat-related causes) and 65,000 wounded. European-descended civilian casualties exceeded 10,000 (including 3,000 dead) in 42,000 recorded terrorist incidents. According to French official figures during the war, the Army, security forces and militias killed 141,000 presumed rebel combatants. But it is still unclear whether this includes some civilians.
More than 12,000 Algerians died in internal FLN purges during the war. In France, an additional 5,000 died in the "café wars" between the FLN and rival Algerian groups. French sources also estimated that 70,000 Muslim civilians were killed or abducted and presumed killed, by the FLN.
Historians, like Alistair Horne and Raymond Aron, consider the actual number of Algerian Muslim war dead was far greater than the original FLN and official French estimates but was fewer than the 1 million figure finally adopted by the Algerian government post-independence. Horne has estimated Algerian casualties during the span of eight years to be around 700,000. Uncounted thousands of Muslim civilians lost their lives in French Army ratissages, bombing raids, or vigilante reprisals. The war uprooted more than 2 million Algerians, who were forced to relocate in French camps or to flee into the Algerian hinterland, where many thousands died of starvation, disease, and exposure. In addition, large numbers of pro-French Muslims were murdered when the FLN settled accounts after independence, with 30,000 to 150,000 allegedly killed in Algeria in post-war reprisals.
After Algeria's independence was recognised, Ahmed Ben Bella quickly became more popular and thereby more powerful. In June 1962, he challenged the leadership of Premier Benyoucef Ben Khedda; this led to several disputes among his rivals in the FLN, which were quickly suppressed by Ben Bella's rapidly growing support, most notably within the armed forces. By September, Bella was in de facto control of Algeria and was elected premier in a one-sided election on September 20, and was recognised by the U.S. on September 29. Algeria was admitted as the 109th member of the United Nations on October 8, 1962. Afterward, Ben Bella declared that Algeria would follow a neutral course in world politics; within a week he met with U.S. President John F. Kennedy, requesting more aid for Algeria with Fidel Castro and expressed approval of Castro's demands for the abandonment of Guantanamo Bay. Bella returned to Algeria and requested that France withdraw from its bases there. In November, his government banned political parties, providing that the FLN would be the only party allowed to function overtly. Shortly thereafter, in 1965, Bella was deposed and placed under house arrest (and later exiled) by Houari Boumédiènne, who served as president until his death in 1978. Algeria remained stable, though in a one-party state, until a violent civil war broke out in the 1990s.
For Algerians of many political factions, the legacy of their War of Independence was a legitimization or even sanctification of the unrestricted use of force in achieving a goal deemed to be justified. Once invoked against foreign colonialists, the same principle could also be turned with relative ease against fellow Algerians. The FLN's struggle to overthrow colonial rule and the ruthlessness exhibited by both sides in that struggle were to be mirrored 30 years later by the passion, determination, and brutality of the conflict between the FLN government and the Islamist opposition.
Torture was a frequent process in use from the beginning of the colonization of Algeria, which started in 1830. Claude Bourdet had denounced these acts on December 6, 1951, in the magazine L'Observateur, rhetorically asking, "Is there a Gestapo in Algeria?" Torture was also used on both sides during the First Indochina War (1946–54) D. Huf, in his seminal work on the subject, argued that the use of torture was one of the major factors in developing French opposition to the war. Huf argued, "Such tactics sat uncomfortably with France's revolutionary history, and brought unbearable comparisons with Nazi Germany. The French national psyche would not tolerate any parallels between their experiences of occupation and their colonial mastery of Algeria." General Paul Aussaresses admitted in 2000 that systematic torture techniques were used during the war and justified it. He also recognized the assassination of lawyer Ali Boumendjel and the head of the FLN in Algiers, Larbi Ben M'Hidi, which had been disguised as suicides. Bigeard, who called FLN activists "savages", claimed torture was a "necessary evil."[dead link] To the contrary, General Jacques Massu denounced it, following Aussaresses's revelations and, before his death, pronounced himself in favor of an official condemnation of the use of torture during the war.
Bigeard's justification of torture has been criticized by Joseph Doré, archbishop of Strasbourg, Marc Lienhard, president of the Lutheran Church of Augsbourg Confession in Alsace-Lorraine, and others.
In June 2000, Bigeard declared that he was based in Sidi Ferruch, a torture center where Algerians were murdered. Bigeard qualified Louisette Ighilahriz's revelations, published in the Le Monde newspaper on June 20, 2000, as "lies." An ALN activist, Louisette Ighilahriz had been tortured by General Massu.[dead link] However, since General Massu's revelations, Bigeard has admitted the use of torture, although he denies having personally used it, and has declared, "You are striking the heart of an 84-year-old man." Bigeard also recognized that Larbi Ben M'Hidi was assassinated and that his death was disguised as a suicide. Paul Teitgen, prefect of Algiers, also revealed that Bigeard's troops threw Algerians into the sea from helicopters, which resulted in traumatised corpses, found in open waters and nicknamed "crevettes Bigeard" ("Bigeard's shrimp"). This tactic was later theorized in Argentina by Admiral Luis María Mendía, as "death flights."[dead link]
Specializing in ambushes and night raids to avoid direct contact with superior French firepower, the internal forces targeted Army patrols, military encampments, police posts, and colonial farms, mines, and factories, as well as transportation and communications facilities. Kidnapping was commonplace, as were the murder and mutilation of civilians. At first, the FLN targeted only Muslim officials of the colonial regime; later, they coerced, maimed, or killed village elders, government employees, and even simple peasants who refused to support them. Throat slitting and decapitation were commonly used by the FLN as mechanisms of terror. During the first two and a half years of the conflict, the guerrillas killed an estimated 6,352 Muslim and 1,035 non-Muslim civilians.
Counter-insurgency tactics developed during the war were used afterward in other contexts, including the Argentine "Dirty War" in the 1970s. In a book, journalist Marie-Monique Robin alleges that French secret agents taught Argentine intelligence agents counter-insurgency tactics, including the systemic use of torture, block-warden system, and other techniques, all employed during the 1957 Battle of Algiers. The Battle of Algiers film includes the documentation. Robin found the document proving that a secret military agreement tied France to Argentina from 1959 until the election of President François Mitterrand in 1981.
Although the opening of the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a 30-year lock-up enabled some new historical research on the war, including Jean-Charles Jauffret's book, La Guerre d'Algérie par les documents ("The Algerian War According to the Documents"), many remain inaccessible. This is contrary to the engagement of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's (Socialist Party, PS) on July 27, 1997. The recognition in 1999 by the PS-dominated National Assembly, permitted the Algerian War, at last, to enter the syllabi of French schools. The details of the Paris massacre of 1961 are finally more discussed, although access to the archives remains restricted. The French state, which finally recognized 40 deaths, does not permit free access to the archives. (In France, there is no such law such as the U.S.'s Freedom of Information Act.) However, it has been proven, including with David Assouline's limited access to the Paris archives, granted by Socialist Minister of Culture Catherine Trautmann, that at least 70 Algerians died during these events and 90 people by the second half of October 1961.
The Algerian War remains a contentious event today. According to historian Benjamin Stora—who holds a Ph.D. degree in history and sociology, teaches at Paris VII, and is one of the leading historians on the Algerian war—memories concerning the war remain fragmented, with no common ground to speak of, translated from French:
There is no such thing as a history of the Algerian War; there is just a multitude of histories and personal paths through it. Everyone involved considers that they lived through it in their own way, and any attempt to understand the Algerian War globally is immediately rejected by protagonists.
Even though Stora has counted 3,000 publications in French on the Algerian war, there still is no work produced with a French person and an Algerian cooperating with one another. Even though, according to Stora, there can "no longer be talk about a 'war without a name', a number of problems remain, especially the absence of sites in France to commemorate" the war. Furthermore, conflicts have arisen on an exact commemoration date to end the war. Although many sources as well as the French state place it on March 19, 1962, the Evian agreements, others point out that the massacres of harkis and the kidnapping of pied-noirs took place afterwards.
Stora further points out, "The phase of memorial reconciliation between the two sides of the sea is still a long way off." This was recently illustrated by the Union for a Popular Movement's UMP vote on the February 23, 2005 law on colonialism, which asserted that colonialism had overall been "positive." Thus, a teacher in one of the elite high schools of Paris declared:
Yes, colonization has had positive effects. After all, we did give to Algeria modern infrastructures, a system of education, libraries, social centers. ... There were only 10% Algerian students in 1962? This is not much, of course, but it is not nothing either!
Alongside a heated debate in France, the February 23, 2005, law had the effect of jeopardizing the treaty of friendship that President Jacques Chirac was supposed to sign with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika — a treaty no longer on the agenda. Following this controversial law, Bouteflika has talked about a "cultural genocide", particularly referring to the 1945 Sétif massacre. Chirac finally had the law repealed through a complex institutional mechanism.
Another matter concerns the teaching of the war, as well as of colonialism and decolonization, in particular in French secondary schools Hence, there is only one reference to racism in a French textbook, one published by Bréal publishers for terminales students (those passing their baccalauréat). Thus, many are not surprised that the first to speak about the October 17, 1961, massacre were music bands, including, but not only, hip-hop bands such as the famous Suprême NTM ("les Arabes dans la Seine") or politically engaged La Rumeur. Indeed, the Algerian War is not even the subject of a specific chapter in textbook for terminales Henceforth, Benjamin Stora stated:
As Algerians do not appear in an "indigenous" condition, and their sub-citizens status, as the history of nationalist movement, is never evoked as their being one of great figures of the resistance, such as Messali Hadj and Ferhat Abbas. They neither emerge nor are being given attention. No one is explaining to students what colonization has been. We have prevented students from understanding why the decolonization took place.
The Algerian War has affected 21st-century France, as well as the social situation in the French suburbs, the conditions of which were brought to world attention during the civil unrest in autumn 2005. For the first time since the Algerian war, the head of state, President Chirac, proclaimed a state of emergency, which was confirmed a few weeks later by the National Assembly. (The only party to vote against its extension were the Communist Party and the Greens.)
In metropolitan France in 1963, 43% of French Algerians lived in bidonvilles (shanty towns). Thus, Azouz Begag, the delegate Minister for Equal Opportunities, wrote an autobiographic novel, Le Gone du Chaâba, about his experiences while living in a bidonville in the outskirts of Lyon. It is impossible to understand the third-generation of Algerian immigrants to France without recalling this bicultural experience. An official parliamentary report on the "prevention of criminality", commanded by then Interior Minister Villepin and made by member of parliament Jacques-Alain Bénisti, claimed that "Multilingualism (bilinguisme) was a factor of criminality." (sic). Following outcries from many NGOs and left-wing sectors, the definitive version of the Bénisti report finally made multilingualism an asset rather than a fault.
After having denied its use for 40 years, the French state has finally recognized its history of torture; although, there was never an official proclamation about it. Paul Aussaresses was sentenced following his justification of the use of torture for "apology of war crimes." But, as it did during wartime, the French state claimed torture was an isolated act, instead of admitting its responsibility for the frequent use of torture to break the insurgents' morale and not, as Aussaresses has claimed, to "save lives" by gaining short-term information which would stop "terrorists". The state now claims that it was a regrettable incident due to the context of the war. But academic research has proven both theses false. "Torture in Algeria was engraved in the colonial act; it is a 'normal' illustration of an abnormal system", wrote Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard and Sandrine Lemaire, who discuss the phenomena of "human zoos." From the enfumades (smoking parlors) of the Darha caves in 1844 by Pélissier to the 1945 riots in Sétif, Guelma, and Kherrata, the repression in Algeria has used the same methods. Following the Sétif massacres, other riots against the European presence occurred in Guelma, Batna, Biskra, and Kherrata; they resulted in 103 deaths among the pied-noirs. The suppression of these riots officially saw 1,500 other deaths, but N. Bancel, P. Blanchard and S. Lemaire estimate the number to be between 6,000 and 8,000.
Translations may be available for some of these works. See specific cases.
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