In 1951 I left the US for Europe. I was working as a translator and interpreter in the new postwar world of international organisations: UN agencies, trade-union bodies, student and youth associations. My plan was to visit France briefly, but I stayed nearly ten years. For anyone living in Paris, the Algerian war was inescapable. Where did your sympathies lie? Which side were you on? In 1960 at an international youth conference in Accra, I struck up a friendship with the two Algerian representatives: Frantz Fanon, a roving ambassador for the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic, and Mohamed Sahnoun of the exiled Algerian student movement. After the conference, I flew to New York, where I met Abdelkader Chanderli, the head of the Algerian Office, as the unofficial Algerian mission at the UN was known. Chanderli invited me to join his team, lobbying UN member states to support Algerian independence.
Tag Archives: Algeria
After the Manchester massacre… yes, and after Nice and Paris, Mosul and Abu Ghraib and 7/7 and the Haditha massacre – remember those 28 civilians, including children, killed by US Marines, four more than Manchester but no minute’s silence for them? And of course 9/11…Counterbalancing cruelty is no response, of course. Just a reminder. As long as we bomb the Middle East instead of seeking justice there, we too will be attacked. But what we must concentrate upon, according to the monstrous Trump, is terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. And fear. And security. Which we will not have while we are promoting death in the Muslim world and selling weapons to its dictators. Believe in “terror” and Isis wins. Believe in justice and Isis is defeated.
Now here is a deeply contemporary story. When the French abandoned Algeria in 1962, they also betrayed the tens of thousands of Algerians who fought for them. Stealthily – sometimes, quite literally, in the thick of night – they stole away from the barracks in which their Harki warriors were sleeping, and left them to their fate at the hands of the FLN (National Liberation Front) nationalists who were to inherit this oil-wealthy and deeply corrupt country. Often, they disarmed the Harkis first, so that their fate came more speedily upon them.
Harki – from the Arabic harka – is probably best translated as “volunteers”, auxiliaries who fight for the local master race, in this case France. Their end in Algeria was a despicable affair. So terrifying, in fact – so racist – that the history of the loyal Harkis who fought for France during the 1956-1962 war of Algerian independence has been the last taboo for the colony which Charles de Gaulle betrayed 54 years ago.
To understand the Islamist beheading of a French priest, we must remember what happened 20 years earlier
Faced with the murder and beheading of seven of his monks by Islamists 20 years ago, the Archbishop of Algiers went one better than the Archbishop of Rouen this week. He didn’t talk about the slaughter of an elderly priest as the “unnameable”. He saw the road of Calvary. In fear of his own life amid a ferocious conflict, Monseigneur Henri Teissier, 67 years old and a French professor of Arabic, responded by celebrating mass for six nuns and monks all those years ago by reading from St Matthews, Chapter 25, verse 13: “Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.”
THE story of Algeria is supposed to be about “reforms”. Most dictatorships are. Restrict presidential terms – unless, of course, the people demand the same old fogey as president yet again – and encourage the country’s minority to believe its status is respected.
In Algeria’s case, Abdelaziz Bouteflika presents his country with a president – now in his fourth term of office – who has undergone so many medical operations (in Europe, of course) that he stares into the camera like a dead man.
It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action – and inaction – help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.
We were taught that Interpol was on the front line against world crime. Then it became part of the battle against global terror. But these days, Interpol is getting a bad reputation for harassing those who have fled the terror of ruthless Arab dictatorships and for helping to arrest innocent men – on behalf of Middle East despots.
Il n’apparaît qu’à de rares occasions à la télévision. Essentiellement lors des visites de dirigeants étrangers. Quelques images d’un homme affaibli, s’exprimant avec difficulté. Ses visiteurs ont beau, à l’image du ministre français des affaires étrangères, Laurent Fabius, en mai, saluer « l’acuité » de l’homme, ils ne parviennent pas à rassurer un pays qui ne sait plus qui le gouverne ni où il va.
I first heard about the writer Kamel Daoud a few years ago, when an Algerian friend of mine told me I should read him if I wanted to understand how her country had changed in recent years. “If Algeria can produce a Kamel Daoud,” she said, “I still have hope for Algeria.” Reading his columns in Le Quotidien d’Oran, a French-language newspaper, I saw what she meant. Daoud had an original, epigrammatic style: playful, lyrical, brash. I could also see why he’d been accused of racism, even “self-hatred.” After Sept. 11, for example, he wrote that the Arabs had been “crashing” for centuries and that they would continue crashing so long as they were better known for hijacking planes than for making them. But this struck me as the glib provocation of an otherwise intelligent writer carried away by his metaphors.
Deep in the Algerian Sahara, the oasis town of Ain Salah is a focus of opposition to a new wave of fracking, with violent confrontations between police and up to 40,000 protestors, writes Alexander Reid Ross. They have two main concerns: preventing pollution to the aquifer that sustains them, and keeping out foreign oil giants like Total and Halliburton.