France after Nazism: the Massacre at Sétif………


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                          Neck of the woods
“On the European side, vague anxiety was succeeded by real fear. Despite all the changes, the idea of treating Algerians as equals was intolerable, to be avoided at all costs……… In Sétif the trouble started when police tried to seize the PPA flag, now the Algerian flag, and banners calling for the release of Messali Hadj and Algerian independence. It spread to the surrounding countryside, where tribes rose up. In Guelma the events were triggered by arrests and the actions of the militia, which provoked tribes to take revenge on local settlers. The European civilians and the police responded with mass executions and reprisals against entire communities. To remove all traces of their crimes and prevent investigations, they opened mass graves and burned the bodies in the lime kilns at Heliopolis. The army’s actions caused a military historian, Jean-Charles Jauffret, to say that its conduct “resembled a European wartime operation rather than a traditional colonial war” (4). In the Bougie region about 15,000 women and children were forced to kneel before a military parade. The final toll is speculative, as the French government closed the commission of inquiry directed by General Tubert and the killers were never tried………….”

The Pieds noirs, the European colonists, not only wanted to keep the myth that Algeria was French and that Algerians were “French. They also did not want the Muslim Algerians to have equal political rights. Messali Hadj later formed a movement against the FLN and was demonized by Arab nationalists (he died in exile in France). Ferhat Abbas went on to become first president of the Interim Algerian Government in exile after the FLN started its revolt in 1954. He was replaced later. After independence in 1962 Ahmed Ben Bella came out of a French prison to became president. He was overthrown in 1965 by a coup plotted by Boumedienne and Bouteflika (the current president) and others.
Later on, Ben Bella, after he was released from his ‘Algerian” prison, visited Hadj’s grave.

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