Sixty years later, Algerians and French are sharing stories of the Algerian war
On March 18, 1962, the Evian Accords paved the way for Algeria’s independence from France after more than seven years of gruesome war. Sixty years later, the wounds of that bloody conflict are still deep, on both sides of the divide. France 24 spoke with Algerians and French wounded by the war.
Their names are Lucien, Bashir, Marie-Claude, Serge, Roger, Jamila. They are Algerian or French. In 1954, when the Algerian War of Independence broke out, they were barely in their teens. It was a time of post-war decolonization all over the world. In Algeria, the so-called Indians hoped to end 132 years of French colonial rule.
But France did not see things that way. Home to over 1 million Europeans (and about 9 million Algerians), Algeria was the only colony of the French colonial empire to be settled by Europeans, and as a French province, it was considered part of France. It was also a land rich in oil and gas. In 1956, the French government of Guy Mollet decided to send the army to maintain order in the occupied territory. In total, 1.5 million young French conscripts were sent to Algeria to fight against the Algerian guerrillas of Fellagas.
Sixty years after the Evian Accords, the Algerians and the French are remembering the trauma of the war and its consequences. © Studio Graphique – France Médias Monde On March 19, 1962, when the ceasefire in the Evian Accords came into effect, 400,000 French recruits were still on the other side of the Mediterranean. Their military service lasted at least 18 months, sometimes 28 or even 30 months. Many found the experience painful. For decades, talking about what they lived through was taboo, even within their own families. These were not war experiences, at least officially, because the “events” in Algeria – as they were known – were not recognized as war until 1999.
We interviewed French conscripts, a conscript’s wife, an Harki (an Algerian who served as an aide in the French army), a member of the pro-independence National Liberation Front (FLN, or FLN) and a fighter in the FLN. The armed wing, l’Armée de Libération nationale (ALN, or National Liberation Army). They told us about colonization, the horror of conflict, torture and fear, as well as their desire to be healed. Sixty years after that war without a name, they delved into their memories and told us their stories.
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