Human Right Issues of French colonialism in Algeria
France occupied Algeria for 132 years, before Algeria’s independence in March 1962 after a savage and bloody war which lasted over seven years. Algerian authorities reported that 1.5 million people were killed in the war, while many French historians claimed that the number of those killed was half a million, mainly Algerians.
History provides evidence of countless atrocious crimes committed by French colonial authorities in Algeria when it colonized the country for 132 years between 1830 and 1962. The two countries have a complicated relationship, with Algeria often accusing France of interfering with its internal affairs. At least five million people were killed and hundreds of thousands more injured during the course of the struggle for independence. Other crimes committed during this period include torture, murder, and displacement of indigenous people, denial of the most fundamental rights, nuclear tests, the confiscation of fertile agricultural lands, and many others (AA, 2021).
France occupied Algeria for 132 years, before Algeria’s independence in March 1962 after a savage and bloody war which lasted over seven years. Algerian authorities reported that 1.5 million people were killed in the war, while many French historians claimed that the number of those killed was half a million, mainly Algerians (Aljazeera, 2022). This is while other reports say that throughout the 132 years of French colonization, at least 5 million Algerians lost their lives, and as Algerian historian Mohammed al-Amin has claimed, the number of dead could be as high as 10 million, which significantly contradicts the 400,000 deaths reported to by French historians. Algerian historians believe their land has continued to feed the French economy with its oil, gold, iron, coal and various minerals. At a conference held at the Emir Abdelkader University of Islamic Sciences on Feb. 21, 2021, researchers and historians estimated that over 110 tons of Algerian treasures of gold and silver and more than $180 billion have been transferred to France during the colonial period (TRT World, 2021).
The colonial period in Algeria was a time of suffering and struggle for Algerians who fought to regain their freedom and defend their values against French attempts to exploit them. Colonialism had certainly devastating effects on Algerians, some of which are still evident throughout the country. In 1871, the French colonial administration issued the Indigenous People Law, which had a great impact on abusing Algeria’s resources and wealth. The law made Algerians dependent on the colonialists and granted ownership of fertile agricultural lands to colonists from France, Italy, Spain and Malta. This law resulted in the exploitation and devastation of Algerians’ wealth, the confiscation of their agricultural lands, and their expulsion to arid and mountainous lands (AA, 2021).
It is also believed that rape crimes have taken place on a large scale during colonialism and especially over the course of Algerians fight for independence. As a result of tremendous courage, some of the experiences of the Algerian women impacted have come to light, while many others remained buried under taboos. According to French researcher Raphaëlle Branche, when women were targeted, ‘the desire was less sexual than the desire for possession and humiliation’ because systematic rape crimes affect not only the victims, but also the families, the whole village, and all the Algerian people. These rapes, as Branche refers to them, are mainly a military strategy to create terror among the native people (The New Arab, 2022).
In the colonial period, the language, culture, and lifestyle of the country were Frenchized. France exerted pressure to destroy the identity and culture of the Muslim people and to make the French language dominant instead of Arabic and Berber, leading to a big problem in the formation of Algerian national identity after independence. Language is the most critical element of national identity, and the colonists, who were aware of this, made their own languages compulsory in administration and education during their domination in Africa (Aralık, 2021) to speed up the loss of national identity of Algerians, depriving them of one of their basic rights.
In sum, France is believed to have carried out multiple crimes against Algerian civilians, including torture, enforced disappearance, exploitation of land and wealth, neglecting the identity of the indigenous people, sexual violence, and many more. The most important thing Algerians have consistently demanded after independence is recognition for their painful experiences under French rule, since supported by growing numbers of sociological, psychological, historical and ethnographic studies detailing life under colonization (TRT World, 2021). Honor and respect is what they deserve and have an undeniable right to.
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