Algeria and the Arab Revolutions https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/11137/all cached version 12/06/2018 18:36:30 en “We have managed to draw the Algerian regime into a confrontation with its own people” https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/sidali-kouidri-filali-m%C3%A9lanie-matarese/%E2%80%9Cwe-have-managed-to-draw-algerian-regime-into- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Sidali.jpg" alt="Sidali Kouidri Filali" hspace="5" width="80" height="100" align="left" />Sidali Kouidri Filali is a 35 year old civil servant and blogger who has chosen to campaign with <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">Barakat</a> to «&nbsp;defend his country&nbsp;». He estimates that this time, the Algerian regime, trapped in its own “cocoon”, will not survive the contestation:&nbsp; an interview.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Melanie Matarese:&nbsp; The age and profile of the activists, the nature of their demands, and the absence of iconic leader(s) – all suggest that the opposition movement to President Bouteflika’s candidacy for a fourth term gathering in Algeria’s civil society, is like no previous. True?</em></p> <p><strong>Sidali Kouidri Filali:</strong> Yes, it is fundamentally different. In 2011, the protests were of a social nature at first. Today, they are political. Behind the refusal of the fourth term, we protest for our dignity. The regime imposes on us a candidate, physically unfit, who hasn’t spoken publically for two years, supported by a politico-financial mafia. We don’t have any other choice but to enter into a conflict with this regime, which despises its people and squanders our oil. </p> <p><em>MM: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">Barakat</a></em> <em>seems to have emerged pretty well overnight, is that the case?</em></p> <p><strong>SKF:</strong> We saw it coming. We saw the ministers using the Republic’s money as though it was the King’s own coin for distributing around the circuits that have been so well oiled for the last fifteen years.&nbsp; Abdelmakel Sellal (the current Algerian Prime Minister) visited more than 40 wilayas (cities)! Something never seen before and certainly not since Independence! </p> <p>We thought that the political elite, the intellectuals were going to react, but nothing happened, so it was clear that we needed to take action. This is when it all started. At the first protest, there were barely five of us. Today, we are completely overwhelmed by requests from every region of the country, enquiries about how to organise, people realising,“well then, we also think in the same way”. Only, they don’t have the channels to express themselves at their disposal, since the media is at the regime’s mercy and on its payroll. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in breaking down that wall of fear, bringing back hope and provoking the regime into a head-on confrontation with its own people. </p> <p><em>MM: Didn’t we see this with the CNDDC in 2011, or again with the Mouvement des Chomeurs (Unemployed Movement)? The regime is only too adept at dismantling protest by repressing it or by driving it to implode….</em></p> <p><strong>SKF:</strong> We are quite aware that the regime has its methods, and that it is one of the most vicious and most experienced dictatorships in the world. But this time, their classic responses won’t have any effect. They will be outclassed. When we were arrested by the police, on Saturday March 1, during the protest in front of the central faculty of Algiers, we were surprised by the reception we had at the police stations. So many police officers, whatever their function, came to congratulate us, whereas in 2011, they were saying, “what do you think? Algeria is neither Egypt nor Tunisia”. Today, they support us. Some of them said, “I would never shoot my own people”.&nbsp; The last few days, we saw army officers removing their stripes(rank) and sending us messages of solidarity, something never seen before in Algeria.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Algiers.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Algiers.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="341" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">A woman being silenced and arrested during a Barakat protest on March 6 in Algiers</span></p> <p><em>MM: What about the absence of charismatic political “figureheads” to lead the movement?</em></p> <p><strong>SKF:</strong> Of course, we received calls from many prominent citizens and well known political figures offering their help. But despite our inexperience, even if we were to make mistakes or even fail, we want to do this on our own. We need to try to structure ourselves, because we consider that the political parties have failed. </p> <p>In 2011, we saw social contestation taken over by the people who have always done politics. This tendency in fact partly explains the failure. Politics is a gerontocractic activity and even the opposition reproduces the very same schemes utilised by the regime they pretend to confront. People don’t believe in political parties any more. However, if they are with us as citizens, as is the case of Soufiane Djilali, who put himself forward without a mention of <em>Jil Jadid</em> (his political party) – if they do it this way, we say yes!</p> <p><em>MM: But surely if the political parties calling for a boycott joined you, your potential to mobilise people would increase tenfold?</em></p> <p><strong>SKF:</strong> The boycott is an option that we respect, but it is a political solution. Even if 99% of all Algerians were to boycott, Abdelziz Bouteflika (current Algerian president) would still go through. A passive boycott will not hurt him. At this stage, we would like nothing more than to say STOP to this masquerade. Let’s defend Algeria first. &nbsp;We do not want a fourth term, which would be the mandate of death for Algeria. We receive a lot of support from people who never did politics but who readily identify with the slogan, “NO to the mandate of shame”. It’s the minimum we should ask for. </p> <p><em>MM: You don’t seem to have escaped the accusations that you are being manipulated….</em></p> <p><strong>SKF:</strong> I must insist on the autonomous and civic character of our movement, which has no partisan affiliations, no official or unofficial allegiance to any candidate.&nbsp; Our demands are clear and unambiguous like our aspirations. If we are here today, it is so that this country doesn’t go adrift or enter the unknown, which could easily happen if such rotten a system continues to govern. </p> <p><em>MM: At every protest, activists are arrested. Do you not fear that discouragement will wear you down? How far are you willing to go?</em></p> <p><strong>SKF: </strong>We are willing to do whatever it takes to defend our rights. All the way. But I insist: peacefully. &nbsp;We know that Algerians are traumatised. We are accused of wanting to destabilise the country, but I answer; we are patriots, we only defend Algeria. It is those confronting us who use violence. On Tuesday, at the Constitutional Council, whilst we were trying to deliver a simple letter, activists were beaten up and humiliated. </p> <p>We can see that the regime is cowering.&nbsp; And this mobilisation counts even more especially if we consider a significant obstacle: our recent history. It is not easy for us to shake the Algerian people, who have entered a state of lethargy bought off by the regime through a social peace. But the Algerian people today, are they not the same people as those who in 1954 (the start of the Algerian revolution against the French occupation) defeated terrorism? </p> <p>The regime knows that it has every reason to fear them. And I tell you this, this nation will wake up, the rupture is vertical: there are Algerians at the heart of the regime, who do not want to continue this way. The regime doesn’t want to see what is outside its cocoon, but reality will soon catch up with it.</p> <p><em>This article first appeared in French on </em><a href="http://elwatan2014.com/component/k2/item/984-Nous-avons-r%C3%A9ussi-%C3%A0-ramener-le-syst%C3%A8me-%C3%A0-la-confrontation-avec-son-propre-peuple">El Watan 2014</a><em> on the 7 March 2014.</em></p> <p><em>It was translated into English by Rachida Lamri, who is a writer, musician and activist. She is a member of Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC), a London-based organisation campaigning for peaceful democratic change in Algeria. She is also the founder of a cultural organisation called <a href="https://m.facebook.com/Afroculturama">Culturama</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Mélanie Matarese Sidali Kouidri Filali Meet the participants Fri, 14 Mar 2014 08:48:57 +0000 Sidali Kouidri Filali and Mélanie Matarese 80281 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Battle of Algiers: a formative influence on Moroccan cinema https://www.opendemocracy.net/jamal-bahmad-martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-formative-influence-on-moroccan-cinema <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>Laying bare the social and economic structures of oppression to reconstruct a national psyche from the ruins – how an idea caught on.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>Martin Evans:</strong> <em>What impact did the </em>Battle of Algiers<em> have upon Moroccan cinema?</em></p><p><strong>Jamal Bahmad</strong>:&nbsp; Moroccan postcolonial cinema came into existence in the shadow of <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>(1966). The filmmakers saw themselves as progressive intellectuals with the duty of laying bare the social and economic structures of oppression which were holding back Morocco. Even though <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> did not create a cult of the collective hero as in Algeria, the first Moroccan films showed a strong affinity with their Algerian counterparts through delving into the past in an attempt to understand it and reconstruct a sense of national self from its ruins. The big question of Moroccan cinema was existential: who are we? Due to the lack of state funding for feature films until 1980 and the difficult climate of fear under King Hassan II&rsquo;s increasingly authoritarian regime, filmmakers resorted to personal fictions which when scrutinised reveal themselves to be national allegories of a subtle kind. Instead of the commemoration of the heroic past in Algerian cinema in the 1960s and 70s, Moroccan films from 1968 onwards asked the same questions about national identity by exploring the national psyche and the building blocks of Moroccan subjectivity.</p> <p><strong>ME:</strong> <em>Morocco won independence from France in 1956? How did Moroccan cinema develop?</em></p> <p><strong>JB:</strong> Morocco inherited a relatively well-developed film infrastructure from the French colonisers, who invested heavily in making films in and about Morocco in the protectorate. The Centre Cin&eacute;matographique Marocain (CMM) was established in 1944 to regulate and control the burgeoning sector but also to counter the growing influence of Egyptian cinema, which was seen as a threat because it allegedly spread ideas of Arab and Muslim nationalism. The CCM passed into Moroccan hands in 1956 and, in line with the developmental priorities of the independent state, focused on the production of newsreels and pedagogical documentaries about nation-building projects. These were shown in every cinema in the country before every main film screening. The trend continued throughout the 1960s and much of the 70s. The CCM&rsquo;s production of documentaries and newsreels slowly died out with the coming of television, which the state seized upon to promote itself and its discourse of national identity. It was not until 1980 that the government introduced the famous <em>Fonds de Soutien</em> to support feature film production. The funding scheme was substantially revised in 1987 (with partial amendments in 2004 and 2012) so as to make Moroccan cinema a cultural industry with an international reputation. </p> <p><strong>ME: </strong><em>Who are the key political filmmakers?&nbsp; What themes did they address?&nbsp; How have they changed over time</em>?</p> <p><strong>JB:</strong> For the sake of convenience, let me distinguish between two generations with distinct styles and preoccupations in Moroccan cinema. The first one consists of film directors born in the (late) colonial period and who were active in the national film industry from independence to the 2000s. The second generation emerged in the 1990s and has changed the face of Moroccan cinema through transnational aesthetics, thematic audacity and technical quality. Some of the key filmmakers of the first generation are Hamid Bennani, Souheil Ben Barka, Ahmed Bouanani, Mohamed Abderrahman Tazi, Jilali Ferhati, Mohamed Reggab, Farida Benlyazid, Nabyl Lahlou, Mustapha Derkaoui, Hakim Noury, Abdelkader Lagta&acirc;, Farida Bourquia, Abdelmajid Rchiche.&nbsp; Some of the finest directors among the second generation are Nabil Ayouch, Noureddine Lakhmari, Faouzi Bensa&iuml;di, Narjiss Nejjar, Mohamed Achaour, Mohamed Cherif Tribek, Mohamed Mouftakir, Hicham Falah, Ali Safi, Ahmed Baidou.</p> <p>Moroccan cinema has come a long way from its timid beginnings in the late 1960s to what is today a vibrant quality cinema with increasing visibility abroad. National cinema in its early decades was driven by a thematic grid centred on patriarchy, pastoral imagery and a cerebral aesthetic of national allegorism. Despite the sterling experiments of filmmakers like Ahmed Bouanani and Mustapha Derkaoui and the thespian forays of Nabyl Lahlou on the big screen, most veteran filmmakers were not keen on making formally self-conscious works. The wave of films that have garnered wide audience attention since the 1990s have applied shock therapy to Moroccan society through a politically motivated aesthetic realism. The filmmakers of the second generation are commonly called <em>Briseurs de tabous </em>(Breakes of tabous), a movement of Moroccan artists who aim to change society by unsettling its convictions about religion and sexuality. Their aim is to force it to see itself through the prism of repressed desires and subaltern narratives. Their vision consists of a creative destruction of a society torn between a yearning for secular modernity and a powerful longing for traditions and a glorious if imperial past.</p> <p><strong>ME:</strong>&nbsp; <em>Identify three key Moroccan films - explaining what they are and why you think they are so important?</em></p> <p><strong>JB: </strong>Certainly &ndash; my three:</p> <p><em>Wechma </em>(1970) by Hamid Bennani. </p> <p>This film is often considered the first truly postcolonial film in Morocco. It is a subtle treatise on the national subject. It tells the story of Messaoud's troubled childhood under the stern gaze of his overbearing stepfather and his tragic delinquency after failing to stand up to the Father and an oppressive social system. This film has enjoyed limited impact among the general public despite the critical consensus on its aesthetic merits as a national allegory and cinematic achievement. <em>Wechma</em> set a benchmark for Moroccan cinema over the course of 1970s when various films of a high standard were made despite the lack of state support for feature cinema and the lack of commercial distribution for national films.</p> <p><em>Hallaq derb al-fuqara / The Barber of the Poor&rsquo;s Neighbourhood</em> (1982) by Mohamed Reggab. </p> <p>Set in a poor working-class neighbourhood in Casablanca, this film is notorious for being one of the first Moroccan films to be censored. The CCM and local banks made its production a fiasco. It has never had a general release in Morocco, but the film is famous for its originality and political message. The USSR-trained Reggab brought to the fore the narratives of resistance among the urban poor at a time when Moroccan cities, particularly Casablanca, witnessed massive upheavals against poverty and King Hassan&rsquo;s police regime. Despite its difficult conditions of production, the films stands out for its artistic qualities as an original undertaking in the history of Moroccan cinema. The film captures the feelings of ordinary people in 1980s Morocco. </p> <p><iframe width="460" height="345" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/o-fMO7c-Ly4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <br /><em>Ali Zaoua, Prince of the Streets</em> (2000) by Nabil Ayouch </p> <p>The second feature film of the French-Moroccan director remains one of the most popular films in recent years. It is not only an award-magnet, but also the film which brought Casablanca's street children to national and global attention. The eponymous protagonist dies a violent death in the film&rsquo;s opening sequence and his three friends&mdash;Kwita, Omar, and Boubker&mdash;pull him on a makeshift carrier to their hideout in a disused part of the seaport&rsquo;s concrete pier. They decide to bury him like a prince in accordance with his dream. Ali dreamed and died a prince (of the streets). In reality, as his three friends put it: &ldquo;He led a shitty life, but he shall not be given a shitty burial.&rdquo; Ayouch cast real street kids for this fictional account of street life. As a diasporic filmmaker recently established in Morocco, he observed this other world in the streets of Casablanca. He spent two years talking to these children in the country&rsquo;s main cities. The street children as actors provide a convincing portrait of life on the streets through natural behaviour aided by compelling looks and the indelible scars on their haggard faces, bruised souls and worn bodies. Before mostly going back to street life after <em>Ali Zawa</em>&rsquo;s shooting was over, they acted their own world with agency rather than projecting it through the spectatorial gaze. The film&rsquo;s combination of gritty realism and fantasmatic animation unveils the harsh everyday life of society&rsquo;s homeless kids whilst retaining a space for the expression of their dreams and historical agency.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Morocco </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Morocco Civil society Conflict Culture Ideas International politics Presents and Futures Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Martin Evans Jamal Bahmad Thu, 09 Jan 2014 07:46:26 +0000 Jamal Bahmad and Martin Evans 78263 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What Algeria 1992 can, and cannot, teach us about Egypt 2013 https://www.opendemocracy.net/hicham-yezza/what-algeria-1992-can-and-cannot-teach-us-about-egypt-2013 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Hicham Yezza - Editor-in-Chief - Ceasefire Magazine.jpg" border="10" alt="" hspace="10" height="80" align="left" />In the weeks after the 1991 elections, official Algerian rhetoric too was replete with appeals to the popular will and the promises of a swift and total return to democracy. Promises that, two decades on, have yet to be fulfilled.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/2237624.jpg" width="460" /><br /><em><small><small>Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi protest in front of the Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City in Cairo, Egypt. <a href="http://www.demotix.com/news/2237669/egypt-morsi-supporters-clash-military">Demotix/Nameer Galal</a>. All rights reserved.</small></small></em> <p>Over the past few days, as Egypt sinks ever more alarmingly into the quicksand of civil strife and political impasse, the question of whether we&rsquo;re seeing the germination of an &ldquo;Algerian scenario&rdquo; is a persistent leitmotif of the coverage. With <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/04/egypt-revolution-lessons-from-algeria">minor exceptions</a>, most of those evoking the Algerian comparison have been doing so in order to discard it as, at best, inadequate and and, at worst, misleading. Of course, the Algerian precedent is not <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/opinion/can-egypt-avoid-pakistans-fate.html?_r=4&amp;">the only one</a> being floated. For decades, Jackson Diehl of <em>the Washington Post</em> points out, &ldquo;from Buenos Aires to Bangkok, crowds have begged generals to oust democratically elected governments and cheered when they responded&rdquo;.</p> <p>Let us state the obvious: no two historical events or socio-political contexts are ever the same, and it is pointless to pretend otherwise. Nevertheless, a careful analysis of the parallels, patterns and similarities between 1992&rsquo;s Algeria and 2013&rsquo;s Egypt remains desperately needed yet largely absent from the current discussion. </p> <h2>Algeria: what happened in 1992?</h2> <p>On December 26, 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party won a remarkable 181 seats (out of 232) in Round One of the <a href="http://faculty.virginia.edu/j.sw/uploads/research/Schulhofer-Wohl%202007%20Algeria.pdf">country&rsquo;s first ever free legislative elections</a>. Under pressure from the Army, then-President Chadli Bendjedid resigned and the elections were summarily cancelled. Instead, an unelected five-member committee was charged with steering the country towards new elections and a return to democracy. </p> <p>I describe what happened next in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/hicham-yezza/how-to-be-different-together-algerian-lessons-for-tunisian-crisis">an earlier column</a>: </p> <p>&ldquo;Against accusations that this was simply a cynical coup d'&eacute;tat by the military leadership, the move was presented by many within the democratic and secular movement as a necessary last ditch attempt to "save the republic" from an imminent Islamist takeover. Two decades on, the debate rages on: some hold the government responsible for trampling on the popular will, others blame the Islamists for totalitarian designs that left others no other options, with many blaming both sides for forcing a zero-sum game on everyone else. Everyone agrees, however, that what followed was a dark decade of untold tragedy and suffering.&rdquo;</p> <p>Setting aside <a href="http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/07/07/the_wikipedia_war_over_egypts_coup">the ongoing debate</a> over whether Morsi&rsquo;s ouster was a military coup, the parallels with Egypt&rsquo;s current predicament seem hard to ignore. Indeed, the battle over semantics (Is it a &ldquo;military intervention&rdquo;, &ldquo;a democratic coup&rdquo;, a &ldquo;revolutionary act III&rdquo;?) is itself a familiar echo of the debates among Algerians twenty years ago (still continuing two decades on) over the cancellation of the 1991-2 elections. (Was it a classical coup, constitutional? a Republican revival?) Back then, as seems to be the case in Egypt today, both sides felt the answer was self-evident. &nbsp;</p> <h2>Why Egypt is not Algeria</h2> <p>In a piece entitled &ldquo;Why Egypt is not Algeria&ldquo; (subsequently <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/04/egypt-revolution-lessons-from-algeria">echoed in the western media</a>) the Egyptian academic Khalid Fahmy has offered four key reasons why the comparison doesn&rsquo;t hold worth examining. First he argues, whereas, &ldquo;the FIS never had a chance of forming a government&rdquo; in Algeria, &ldquo;the MB did win, occupy the presidency, dominate parliament and form a government&rdquo;. As such, it is the MB&rsquo;s &ldquo;disastrous mismanagement and not a military fiat that caused their downfall&rdquo;. </p> <p>Things were slightly more complicated than he seems to suggest here. For a start, the FIS <em>did</em> win and govern. In June 1990, it scored a resounding victory in the local and regional elections, taking control of more than half of the country&rsquo;s municipal councils. This is an episode very few people seem to remember, yet it is important. The FIS&rsquo;s record over the subsequent eighteen months was, by common consent, a disaster. Moreover, at the 1991 elections, in a hugely favourable electoral climate, the FIS in fact lost nearly a quarter of the votes it had secured a year earlier. For many secularists, this represented the best evidence that the FIS should have been given more, not less, opportunity to face the realities of governance. &nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, Fahmy says, &ldquo;the Algerian elections were not the result of a revolution the way the Egyptian elections were&rdquo;. Again, this is true only when seen through a rather narrow frame. The 1991 elections in Algeria were the culmination of a democratic opening triggered largely by the events of October 1988, which saw the biggest mass riots in Algerian history and led to the drafting of a new constitution, the abolition of the one party system and the introduction of an independent press. It is true that, in terms of genesis, scale and dynamics, the events of October 88 share little with the January 25 revolution, but this doesn&rsquo;t mean the 1991 elections emerged out of a vacuum. </p> <p>Third, Fahmy argues that, unlike their Algerian counterparts in 1992, &ldquo;Egypt&rsquo;s Islamists have already had their taste of violence&rdquo; and have discovered and accepted, that it was a failed strategy. One hopes he is correct about the prospects for violence in Egypt: but his analysis nonetheless ignores the complex and long history of Islamist movements in Algeria. To pick one obvious (and ominous) counter-example, the <em>Algerian Islamic Armed Movement</em> engaged in attacks on civilian and military targets around the capital, Algiers, from 1982 to 1987, when dozens of its members were arrested and tried. Many of those same militants later regrouped after the cancellation of the elections in 1992, joining the armed insurrection against the military.</p> <p>Finally, Fahmy insists that &ldquo;Egypt is still in a revolutionary moment &hellip; something that was missing in Algeria in 1991&rdquo;. This, I believe, is the strongest and most compelling of his arguments. Millions of Algerians did not pour into the streets either to demand or denounce the cancelling of elections in 1992. However, while the Algerian military certainly could not point to massive shows of popular opinion to legitimise its actions, it could nevertheless draw on a very wide spectrum of vocal support from political parties, media outlets, and civil society organisations, as well as of numerous intellectuals and artists who all seemed to agree that &ldquo;something had to be done&rdquo; to &ldquo;save the republic&rdquo;. (Indeed, in response to appeals to the sanctity of electoral legitimacy, many at the time adopted quasi-Orwellian notions such as the &lsquo;tyranny of the ballot box&rsquo; or &lsquo;mere numerical democracy&rsquo;). </p> <h2>Political consequences</h2> <p>As we begin to hear the many rationalisations and justifications for the (&ldquo;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/01/egypt-thought-democracy-enough-morsi">reluctantly mounted</a>&rdquo;) ouster emanating from the anti-Morsi camp, I am struck by how much they echo those I heard, and sometimes defended, in 1992. This week, many activists and political leaders within the anti-Morsi alliance insist that <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/01/egypt-thought-democracy-enough-morsi">&ldquo;the military does not want to rule&rdquo;</a>, that the Army will not be allowed to hijack the revolution, or reverse its gains - exactly as pro-democracy Algerian activists and politicians promised us in 1992. </p> <p>Of course, once the alliance with the military was accepted as an inevitable but lesser evil, its logic informed a succession of ever more dramatic concessions by the Algerian secular/democratic movement of democratic liberties that had been hard-earned through years of struggle. As the government closed Islamist newspapers, jailed FIS leaders and rounded up thousands of ordinary sympathisers into desert camps, self-appointed defenders of democracy looked away, convinced that this was all for the greater good. Of course, as was bound to happen, emergency laws that were ostensibly enacted to curb Islamist &ldquo;destabilisation&rdquo; efforts were, soon enough, extended to target the activities of the &lsquo;good&rsquo; guys. Secular parties, which had vociferously defended the 1992 coup, soon found their ability to hold meetings, run newspapers or to organise protests considerably reduced under the very emergency laws they had hailed as necessary and legitimate months earlier. </p> <p>A number of commentators this week, notably the eminent legal scholar <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/201375122254190958.html">Richard Falk</a>, have detected a silver lining in the Egyptian military&rsquo;s apparent reluctance to, &ldquo;part company with the legitimating mandate of democracy.&rdquo; While one hopes such optimism is warranted, it is equally crucial to keep in mind that in the weeks after the 1991 elections, official Algerian rhetoric too was replete with appeals to the popular will and the promises of a swift and total return to democracy. Promises that, two decades on, have yet to be fulfilled.</p> <p>Of course, one must not dismiss the danger that elements and tendencies within political Islamism can represent to a people&rsquo;s right and ability to express its will. The main argument used against allowing the FIS to reach power, now <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/how_egypts_michele_bachmann_became_president_and_plunged_the_country_into_c/">recylcled against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt</a>, is Islamism&rsquo;s supposed inherent and sinister impulse to deploy democracy&rsquo;s own mechanisms to subvert and eventually destroy democracy itself. While this is certainly a serious argument, (one that I subscribed too wholeheartedly at the time,) the Algerian experience has taught us that one cannot defeat authoritarian tendencies with authoritarian tools, and certainly not with authoritarian ideological justifications. </p> <p>The other consequence of the alliance between the secular/democratic pole and the military hierarchy that accompanied the 1992 coup has been the consolidation and entrenchment of the role of the army as ultimate arbiter of the nation&rsquo;s political life, and as such, the revival of the primacy of the military over the civilian. </p> <p>For the past two decades, no serious political opposition has been able to achieve critical mass in large measure because of what happened in 1992. Segments of the population have never forgiven those who treated their votes with such contempt, while many secularists, however much they despise the autocratic rulers in place, still dread the prospect of what would come in their stead. As such, whatever the intentions behind the move to oust Morsi, one of its results is certainly that future presidents, no matter how legitimate or substantial their electoral victories, will govern with a sword of Damocles hanging above their heads, held not by the people but by an unaccountable institution primarily moved by self-interest. While it is true that not everyone in Egypt, or elsewhere, sees the primacy of the military as such a bad thing, I believe it is at the heart of the Arab world&rsquo;s inability to shake off the shackles that have hampered its development over the past century.</p> <h2>Moral costs</h2> <p>The key and lasting parallel between the Algerian scenario and the Egyptian one relates to the &nbsp;moral cost of military usurpation of the democratic process. Cancelling elections, like deposing elected leaders, is a deeply wounding experience for a nation&rsquo;s sense of collective self, because it seems to reaffirm, however implicitly, that one segment of the population has a higher moral claim to have its vision, aspirations and desires taken seriously than any other. </p> <p>As such, it fatally undermines the very social contract and national settlement that forms the basis of any cohesive, popular revolution. I am thinking here of the sense of utter alienation felt by many of those who had voted for the FIS, many of them first time voters after 30 years of abstention, who discovered their country&rsquo;s future was run with only one section of its citizenry - the &lsquo;good&rsquo;, &lsquo;responsible&rsquo;, &lsquo;acceptable&rsquo; Algeria &ndash; in mind. </p> <p>And we see this today in Egypt: while those who support Morsi&rsquo;s ouster are routinely portrayed as authentically representative of the Egyptian revolution and popular will, those who oppose it, no matter how numerous, are reflexively <a href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/07/05/who_won_the_coup">described</a> as mere &lsquo;Morsi or MB supporters&rsquo;. </p> <p>While many of those supporting the coup claim it was a painful option, the spectacle of <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23197801">air shows over the skies of Cairo</a> and <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/01/egypt-thought-democracy-enough-morsi">helicopters flying Egyptian flags over Tahrir</a> in celebration can only deepen the sense of anger and betrayal felt by the millions of Egyptians who felt there was nothing to celebrate. (A <a href="http://www.ahram.org.eg/News/872/60/219446/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%B4-%D9%8A%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D8%A8-%D9%81%D8%B1%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%87-%D8%A8%25D">frontpage headline</a> in <em>Al Ahram</em> on Saturday read: &ldquo;The Army joins the people&rsquo;s joyful celebrations with air shows over Tahrir during the &lsquo;Friday of Victory&rsquo;).</p> <h2>Conclusion</h2> <p>As was the case in Algeria twenty years ago, how Egypt manoeuvres itself out of the current impasse largely depends not on what has already happened but on <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/20137515562854215.html">what is yet to come</a>. In this regard, one cannot but be extremely worried by what has happened in the past few days since Morsi&rsquo;s ouster. </p> <p>The military leadership&rsquo;s decision to close TV stations sympathetic to the Brotherhood, to issue arrest warrants for hundreds of its leaders and militants and to launch a process of prosecuting both Morsi and fellow leaders (for alleged misdeeds that apparently include <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/75868.aspx">'Jan 25 Revolution crimes'</a>) is a dark echo of the corrosive vindictiveness that characterised the anti-FIS crackdown of early 1992, with disastrous consequences for all. </p> <p>Calls for the Muslim Brotherhood to be disbanded and locked out of political life, as the Tamarrod movement has demanded, are dangerous in the extreme, not only because of their impact on the political actors but the message they send to the millions who voted for them. Encouragingly, Morsi&lsquo;s last statement before his arrest, <a href="http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2727bb22-e3ca-11e2-b35b-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2Y5yprjee">calling on Egyptians</a> to &ldquo;preserve blood and to avoid falling into the swamp of infighting&rdquo; is at odds with the discourse of the FIS back in 1992 - &nbsp;which urged the people to rise up against the government. </p> <p>Though the prospect of civil war in Egypt remains distant, the Algerian scenario is not incomparable (especially in light of Egypt&rsquo;s relatively more heterogonous religious make-up.) The <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/egypt-officer-says-gunmen-kill-5-morsi-supporters">shooting and killing of dozens of MB protesters</a> early on Monday morning is the sort of dangerous swerve that can prove hard to recover from. </p> <p>More worrying still is the escalation between supporters of the two camps, a familiar feature of early 90s Algeria, with accusations of treason, murder and being anti-Islam becoming a constant refrain of exchanges across the social media. Unless this <a href="http://www.madamasr.com/content/sheep-and-infidels">&ldquo;sheep vs infidels&rdquo;</a> paradigm is actively resisted now &ndash; and by all sides - unless the demonization of opponents is publicly exposed as anti-revolutionary, anti-democratic, and anti-Egyptian, the slippery slide towards the irreparable can only accelerate.&nbsp;</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our continuous <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/arab-awakening">coverage</a> of the Arab Awakening.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em>To stay up to date with our columnists, bookmark our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/you-tell-us">You Tell Us</a> page and follow the <a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/openAwakening/arab-awakening-columnists">columnists on twitter.</a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Algeria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Egypt divided Algeria and the Arab Revolutions You tell us Violent transitions Arab Awakening gems Hicham Yezza Tue, 23 Jul 2013 17:41:09 +0000 Hicham Yezza 73901 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In short: Dr Meziane Saidi, historian of Algerian War, on Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/meziane-saidi/in-short-dr-meziane-saidi-historian-of-algerian-war-on-pontecorvo%E2%80%99s-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The film shows a popular revolution above all else.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The film <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> represents a very significant part of the history of the Algerian Revolution.&nbsp; The film of Pontecorvo in itself represents something of documentary value that retraces the reality of the anti-colonial struggle on the part of Algerians and can be used as a pedagogical tool in the teaching of the history of the Algerian War.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The film meticulously demonstrates the efficiency of the FLN organisation put in place in August 1956....The film shows the role of the inhabitants of Algiers and above all the Casbah, and the coherence that existed between the leaders of the FLN and the whole of the Algerian population (it is a popular revolution above all else).&nbsp; It perfectly demonstrates the reality of the historical facts and highlights the nature of the clash between the two camps.&nbsp; Yacef Saadi, playing himself in the film under the name Jaffar, was up to the job and the acting was so good that one feels the strength of the events as they unfold.&nbsp; Consequently the film has had a big impact upon the Algerian public who feel an exemplary pride in the martyrs such as Hassiba Ben Bouali, Ali la Pointe and Taleb Abderrahmane: symbols of the revolution in Algiers.&nbsp; The film, in the most beautiful way, shows the French repression and the use of torture, with bloody scenes which led to the banning of the film in France.&nbsp; This explains the divergence of French views with those of Algerians and more precisely the European settlers who considered the FLN as a terrorist organisation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In conclusion, I will say that the film is very well appreciated by the Algerians who see the bravery of their fathers, mothers and all the classes of the population who made huge sacrifices for the realisation of independence.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture International politics Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Meziane Saidi Sat, 15 Jun 2013 17:47:20 +0000 Meziane Saidi 73330 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Pontecorvo's Colonel Mathieu: the paratrooper who embodied France https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/pontecorvos-colonel-mathieu-paratrooper-who-embodied-france <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>What we see is a three dimensional character who is eloquent and thoughtful in his actions.<br /><br /></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In so many ways Colonel Mathieu, the paratrooper commander, is the central figure of the film, the 'Battle of Algiers'. Anti-Nazi Resistance veteran, humanist, respectful of his adversaries: Mathieu ensures that the film is never one-sided. It is complex and multi-layered because his character encapsulates the French perspective. Through him we understand the logic of colonial repression.&nbsp; We grasp the spiral of Algerian <em>and </em>French violence and counter-violence that is at the heart of the film.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Col%20Mathieu.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>The part is played brilliantly by Jean Martin, the only professional actor in the film.&nbsp; Born in 1922 in the Berry region in central France, Martin was a French Resistance veteran who was well known for his anti-militarist, leftist views. Already by the mid-1960s he was an <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/feb/12/jean-martin-obituary">acclaimed stage actor </a>who had made his reputation playing Samuel Beckett. In January 1953, in a tiny theatre on the Left-Bank of Paris he was in the first adaptation of <em><a href="http://www.superfluitiesredux.com/2010/06/30/waiting-for-godot-world-premiere/">Waiting for Godot</a></em>, winning superb reviews for his rendition of Lucky. From then on he was a rising star, combining regular appearances at the People&rsquo;s National Theatre in Paris with film parts, including Jacques Rivette&rsquo;s 1960 feature <em>Paris Belongs to Us</em>.</p> <p>However, in September 1960 Martin was a signatory of the Manifesto of 121.&nbsp; The Manifesto denounced the Algerian War, called on young French men to desert and expressing solidarity with the small group of French people who were about to go on trial for underground opposition to the Algerian War.&nbsp; The Manifesto&rsquo;s intention was to provoke an international outcry and it duly did because so many the 121 signatories were amongst France&rsquo;s most prominent figures, including the philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, the surrealist Andr&eacute; Breton and the actor Simone Signoret.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To sign was a courageous rejection of the Algerian War but in Martin&rsquo;s case it had immediate consequences for his career.&nbsp; He was black listed and, even after Algerian independence in July 1962, he found it very difficult to find work in film, television or theatre.</p> <p>It was in this context that Gillo Pontecorvo approached Martin.&nbsp; Pontecorvo was clear that, unlike the other roles, for Mathieu he needed a professional actor. But neither did Pontecorvo want an established film star because this would undermine the film&rsquo;s realism. What led him to Martin was the fact that he was primarily a theatre actor, little known to film audiences.&nbsp; Having seen him on stage, Pontecorvo admired his acting style.&nbsp; Equally he identified with Martin&rsquo;s anti-colonial politics which he knew would bring an added dimension to the film. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Pontecorvo travelled to Paris to audition Martin. They met in a bar in the rue de Varennes.&nbsp; Pontecorvo asked him to go into the toilet and don a paratrooper uniform, much to the astonishment of the clientele. Then in the street Pontecorvo took some photographs.&nbsp; One week later Martin got the part.</p> <p>Martin was chosen by Pontecorvo and the film&rsquo;s producer Saadi Yacef because the actor exuded gravitas.&nbsp; They knew that, given his training and stage experience, Martin would be at ease with the long scenes.&nbsp; They knew that he would have the authority to deliver Mathieu&rsquo;s dialogue in a subtle and nuanced manner. At the same time Jean Martin had considerable input in moulding the character. Martin was clear that he wanted to show the French side.&nbsp; Like Pontecorvo he did not want the <em>Battle of Algiers </em>to become an anti-French polemic and the end result is the all the more powerful because of that balance.&nbsp; By the end of the film we understand both Ali la Pointe and Colonel Mathieu, even if the message of the film is anti-imperialist.&nbsp; </p> <p>Yet, the collaboration between the two was not always easy.&nbsp; There were moments of tension on set. Martin found it hard to work with non-professional actors. Similarly Pontecorvo pushed Martin to the limit. Often there were numerous shots, sometimes as many as 100, because Pontecorvo deliberately wanted Martin to look exhausted for the final take.&nbsp; </p> <p>Mathieu briefly appears at the beginning of the film. He enters the scene of the interrogation of the Algerian prisoner who has given away Ali la Pointe&rsquo;s hiding place.&nbsp; But there is no hint of Mathieu&rsquo;s importance. We do not see him again until almost half way through the film when Mathieu marches through Algiers at the head of a military cortege of three hundred paratroopers.&nbsp; It is a dramatic entry.&nbsp;&nbsp; He has been called in to restore law and order and to the sound of military drum beat a voice-over summarises his military career to date.&nbsp; Veteran of the anti-Nazi Resistance, the D-Day Landings, the anti-colonial wars in Madagascar and Indochina, he has already fought in Algeria and was most recently in the autumn 1956 Suez Campaign.&nbsp; He cuts an impressive figure. Muscular, slim and athletic with trademark dark glasses, here is a battle hardened commander who has the respect of his men. Indeed during the shooting of this scene, Pontecorvo stuffed handkerchiefs into the actor&rsquo;s shirt sleeves to bulk his biceps.&nbsp; His intention: to give Mathieu what he saw as the true physical stature of a paratrooper commander. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Matheiu&rsquo;s presence brings a real sense of urgency to the film. This is a new stage because the FLN are now up against the paratroopers who have been given the task of eradicating Algerian terrorism by any means necessary. Throughout the rest of the film Pontecorvo gives Mathieu the space to express his views. What we see is a three dimensional character who is eloquent and thoughtful in his actions. So, it is Mathieu who outlines with a blackboard the pyramid system by which the FLN operates as a clandestine organisation. After twenty-four hours, he explains, their information will be useless.&nbsp; This is why torture is necessary.&nbsp;</p><p>He also respects his opponents. When the FLN leader, Larbi Ben M&rsquo;Hidi, is found strangled in his cell Mathieu pays homage to his courage and commitment in front of the assembled journalists. He admired Ben M&rsquo;Hidi&rsquo;s beliefs even if he disagreed with them.&nbsp; In the same vein when asked whether he likes the anti-colonial intellectual, Jean-Paul Sartre, his response is tinged with an understanding of the power of Sartre&rsquo;s words:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>No, but I like him even less as a foe. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Mathieu is the key to the central scene of the film: the moment when he is cross-examined by international journalists about torture. Accused by journalists of being evasive about the methods of victory, he rounds on them. He reminds them of the consequences of blind terrorism:</p> <blockquote><p>Is it legal to set off bombs in public places?... No, gentlemen, believe me. It is a vicious circle.&nbsp; We could talk for hours to no avail because that is not the problem. The problem is this: the FLN want to throw us out of Algeria and we want to stay.</p></blockquote> <p>He underlines that there was a political consensus, from right to left, in support of destroying the FLN rebellion.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>We are here for that reason alone.&nbsp; We are neither madmen nor sadists.&nbsp; Those who call us fascists forget the role many of us played in the Resistance.&nbsp; Those who call us Nazis don&rsquo;t know that some of us survived Dachau and Buchenwald.&nbsp; We are soldiers. Our duty is to win.</p> <p>At which point Mathieu throws the question back at the journalists:</p> <blockquote><p>Therefore to be precise, it is my turn to ask a question. Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences. </p></blockquote> <p>The film then cuts to torture scenes of Algerian prisoners, some being beaten and strung from the ceiling, some having their heads shoved under water, while others are being subjected to electric shock treatment. It is a shocking moment and all the more so because Mathieu has given a logical defence of why this torture is necessary. </p> <p>In total Martin appeared in more than eighty films.&nbsp; One further high point was his role in the 1973 film <em>The Day of the Jackal</em> where he played one of the renegade army officers plotting the assassination of de Gaulle as revenge for the betrayal of French Algeria. Another, in the same year, was his role as a villain in the comedy spaghetti western <em>My Name is Nobody. </em>He also continued to act both on stage and in television.&nbsp; At the time of his death from cancer in 2009 he was writing a biography of Beckett; a career of many parts, even if it is as Colonel Mathieu that he will be forever remembered &ndash; one of the most remarkable on-screen roles in film history.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture International politics Battle of Algiers Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Martin Evans Thu, 02 May 2013 09:54:24 +0000 Martin Evans 72500 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algerians in London protest against shale gas and the lack of a national debate https://www.opendemocracy.net/hamza-hamouchene-amine-mouffok-meriem-ais-rachida-lamri/algerians-in-london-protest-against-shale-ga <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fracking has raised major concerns for its substantial use of water (particularly worrying for the Sahara) and for the potential leaking of these chemical substances into groundwater.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shale1.png" alt="" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">Mr. Yousfi (pictured right) politely declines the protestors&rsquo; calls for questions as he enters HSBC building. &copy; Guy Bell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>It was during an informal discussion in London, organised by Algeria Solidarity Campaign (ASC) on the topic of the dangers of shale gas exploitation in Algeria, that some participants, learning of the imminent official visit of the Algerian Minister of Energy and Mining to London, felt compelled to take action.</p> <p class="p2">The information presented during the discussion left participants extremely concerned with the potentially deleterious consequences of shale gas extraction in Algeria, through hydraulic fracturing &ldquo;fracking&rdquo;. A shale gas well requires the high-pressured injection of colossal quantities of water (20 000 m3), mixed with a concoction of over 750 <a href="http://www.lematindz.net/news/10813-amendement-sans-debat-de-la-loi-des-hydrocarbures-a-lapn.html">chemical substances</a> (29 of which are known or suspected carcinogens, presenting health and environmental risks), together with sand, in order to fracture highly impermeable rock, leading to the release of shale gas. This technique has raised major concerns for its substantial use of water (particularly worrying for the Sahara) and for the potential leaking of these chemical substances into groundwater. It was, therefore, rejected by many communities across the world, including France. Indeed, the latter banned it on its soil, but has been <a href="http://www.lepartidegauche.fr/actualites/communique/ni-ici-ni-ailleurs-non-l-extraction-des-gaz-schiste-par-la-france-en-algerie-19962">invited to experiment</a> with it in Algeria.</p><p> The participants then learnt that on March 9, 2013, the Algerian authorities had passed amendments to the Hydrocarbon Law, which opened the way to the exploitation of shale gas in Algeria. This law was approved in a climate of total opacity, without an open national and public debate, which would have involved the country&rsquo;s wide range of competencies, necessary for the appraisal of such a potentially highly destructive and economically unproven project. Economists, environmental specialists, technical experts, local&nbsp;communities and civil society were not consulted prior to the introduction of this law in parliament.</p> <p>The protest thus began to take shape; the organisers; members of ASC, ACC (Algerian Cultural Collective), and concerned Algerian citizens, started seeking the backing of other Algerian organisations concerned about the issue. These included Algerian civil society organisations some of the organisers had met two weeks earlier, during the <a href="http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/world-social-forum-2013-algerian-perspective/">World Social Forum</a> in Tunis. The organisers also reached out to British activists opposing fracking in the UK.</p> <p>A week later, on Monday,&nbsp;April 15, the Algerian Minister for Energy and Mines, Mr. Youcef Yousfi, arrived at HSBC Private Bank for a meeting to present and discuss investment opportunities in Algeria, with the representatives of 80 British companies.&nbsp; The protestors awaited him with various placards bearing anti-fracking messages, demands for transparency, and calls for a national debate on the subject. Mr. Yousfi politely declined the protestors&rsquo; calls for questions and entered the building.&nbsp;</p> <p>Inside, introduced by Lord Risby (the British Prime Minister&rsquo;s Trade Envoy for Algeria), Mr. Yousfi painted a picture of an idyllic Algeria, an attendee recalled. Meanwhile, protestors&rsquo; chants could be heard fairly loudly and, at times, seemed to slightly unsettle the minister: &ldquo;<em>Youcef Yousfi, what&rsquo;ya doing, youcef Yousfi, where&rsquo;s Algeria going?</em>&rdquo; Some chants; creative adaptations of popular Algerian songs (including an original anti-fracking version of Khaled&rsquo;s <em>Aicha);</em> proved particularly effective at catching participants&rsquo; attention.</p><p>Come question time, an Algerian participant and supporter of the protest going on outside, was first to take the opportunity to ask a couple of hard-line questions to set the tone.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Shale2.png" alt="" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">&ldquo;Stop Fracking, Start Debating&rdquo; &amp; &ldquo;Yes to transparency and democracy, No to corruption &amp; dictatorship&rdquo;. &copy; Guy Bell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>He started by telling the minister and the audience that he agreed with the protesters outside and that hydraulic fracking technology is highly controversial, with potentially serious environmental, economic and health consequences. He added that the interests of Algeria should be those of the majority, not the minority. He went on to talk about the discontent of Algerians and the recent protests in the south; &ldquo;these people will ask: why are you having a dialogue with your counterparts in foreign capitals but never with us? How is it possible that you have been pumping oil and gas under our feet for 50 years, while we, people of the South, have been largely ignored and alienated from this wealth that is ours? Moreover, now you want to poison our land by passing a law, in complete opacity, without a public national debate, one that should involve, without any restriction, national and international experts, Algerian civil society (trade unions, various associations), political parties, public and private media outlets and parliamentary committees&rdquo;.</p> <p>The participant concluded by saying to the minister: &ldquo;when are we going to have a genuine debate in Algeria on shale gas? What do you have to say to the thousands of youth in the South, but also throughout Algeria who are angry right now? Is it more important to talk to foreign diplomats, or to have a dialogue with us, the people, as this means democracy?&rdquo;</p> <p>The minister&rsquo;s answer was predictable on the issue of debate. He advised us that he had himself pushed for the law to be passed and that a debate did indeed take place with experts, as well as in parliament. At this moment, our participant retorted by: "But Algerians do not believe at all in the current parliament. It has no value in their eyes&rdquo;. The Minister did not react to this and proceeded to downplay the dangers of fracking and dismissing all current controversies surrounding this technology: &ldquo;it is an old technique that is well-known to international hydrocarbons experts&rdquo;, emphasising that &ldquo;a large number of fracking operations had taken place around the world&rdquo;.&nbsp; He then proceeded, to the participant&rsquo;s great surprise and disapproval, to compare and equate the dangers of this technology to those of gold mining in Algeria. On the question of youth anger and current protests in the south, the minister advised that the people of southern Algeria were among those who benefited the most from the hydrocarbon industry, notably in terms of employment; adding that those who were protesting were only seeking work with SONATRACH (state-owned oil company).</p> <p>At the end of the discussion, the minister refused to shake the hand of the participant, who, for good measure, was also directly criticised by the British ambassador to Algeria for having embarrassed their guest. The participant, both bemused and surprised by such a reaction from a senior diplomat, retorted: &ldquo;the United Kingdom is a democracy and it is my right to ask important and relevant questions that concern the Algerian people.&nbsp; Your reaction is outrageous&rdquo;.&nbsp; </p> <p>Meanwhile, chanting continued in earnest outside until the delegation left the building. Joined by the brave participant, the protestors were now convinced more than ever that this was not just a fracking issue, but also a matter of democracy first and foremost.&nbsp; Moreover, they have directly witnessed the collusion of western powers with corrupt and undemocratic regimes; as long as the latter serve and maintain the interests of the former (as we&rsquo;ve already seen happen with Ben Ali&rsquo;s Tunisia and Mubarak&rsquo;s Egypt).</p><p> This may have been a small contribution to Algeria&rsquo;s current democratic struggles, but it is only a first step. The protestors feel positive and uplifted that their action, supported by other sister-organisations, has rattled a few cages. It&rsquo;s one of many small steps that will pave the way to the long road of transparency and democracy in Algeria.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Amine Mouffok Rachida Lamri Meriem Ais Hamza Hamouchene Mon, 22 Apr 2013 09:00:19 +0000 Hamza Hamouchene, Amine Mouffok, Meriem Ais and Rachida Lamri 72259 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algerian activism: a new generation draws the line https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/hicham-yezza/algerian-activism-new-generation-draws-line <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Hicham Yezza - Editor-in-Chief - Ceasefire Magazine.jpg" border="10" alt="" hspace="10" height="80" align="left" />Away from the traditional circles of power, a new force has been working its way up to the surface of the Algerian political landscape: that of organised youth activism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>A common answer to the question of </span><span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14167481"><span>why there has not been an “Algerian Spring”</span></a></span><span> to date, is that most Algerians - still coming to terms with the traumatic legacy of a decade of brutal infighting - had little appetite for another round of instability and a further potentially tragic leap into the unknown. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>And yet, although this answer carries conviction, one would do well to pay closer attention to the assumptions behind the question itself. Although Algeria has seen little in the way of large-scale street demonstrations or dramatic resignation announcements, there has nonetheless been a seismic shift in the national consciousness as a result of the events in Sidi Bouzid, Cairo and beyond.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In particular, away from the traditional circles of power, a new force has been working its way up to the surface of the Algerian political landscape: that of organised youth activism. Long dismissed as an irrelevant, albeit relatively harmless nuisance by the political and media class, a new generation of young organisers, trade unionists and campaigners - galvanised by the infectious energies of their comrades across the region - have been issuing increasingly audacious challenges to the country’s complacent rulers, and they are, at last, being taken seriously. Indeed, for most Algerians the defining story of 2013 might well turn out to be not the French Mali intervention or the </span><span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21186272"><span>In Amenas terrorist attack</span></a></span><span>, which both received </span><span><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/hicham-yezza/after-in-amenas-algerian-perspective"><span>intensive coverage in the western media</span></a></span><span>, but the unprecedented wave of protests that has been taking place across the Algerian South over the past four weeks, and which have gone largely ignored beyond the country’s borders.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The initial spark occurred on March 14, when The National Committee for the Rights of the Unemployed (Comité national pour la défense des droits des chômeurs, CNDDC) issued a call for a </span><span><a href="http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20130314170747/"><span>mass peaceful protest in the city of Ouargla</span></a></span><span>, 600 kilometres south of the capital Algiers. Against expectations, thousands of protesters turned out, demanding a dignified future and a fairer sharing-out of the country’s wealth. This was a powerfully resonant call for millions of disaffected youth, especially those living in the South, the site of the country’s oil and gas wealth, where poverty and under-development are endemic.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Soon, further protests mushroomed across other southern cities, such as Laghouat and El-Oued. The protests were a remarkable success, not just because they actually went ahead (itself an achievement in a culture where, for decades, public dissidence has been seen as a highly hazardous gambit) but because they secured unprecedently widespread, and overwhelmingly positive, coverage in the national press as well as across social media networks. Even the official public TV channels felt compelled to report them, a sure sign of the degree of alarm this nascent movement has raised among decision-makers.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Emboldened by these early successes, further protests have been spreading northwards, a sign that this is not an ephemeral surge but a real, unmistakable shift in the collective mindset. As one activist told me last week, too many now feel they have literally nothing left to lose to care about any possible repercussions.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For now, it seems the authorities remain paralysed with confusion over how to respond to this challenge. Last week, all of the 96 Algerian activists heading for the World Social Forum – held in Tunis from March 26 – 30</span><span> </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span>– </span><span><a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/28/headlines/algerian_activists_barred_from_traveling_to_world_social_forum"><span>were stopped at various border crossings</span></a></span><span> and denied exit, mostly under spurious pretexts to do with having invalid travel documents, a move condemned by civil society groups at home and </span><span><a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/travel-ban-stops-algerian-activists-attending-world-social-forum-2013-03-26"><span>international human rights organisations</span></a></span><span> abroad. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For many, such a hamfisted measure might prove to be a stupendous and unnecessary own goal, and possibly a costly one too. The authorities are right to worry, of course: a new generation has become increasingly assertive in its determination to make itself heard and is losing the fear that had dependably kept earlier generations quiet. Furthermore, although strikes, sit-ins and marches have been a regular feature of Algerian public life for years, we are seeing for the first time a level of organisation and effectiveness that is impressive and which in turn has generated enthusiasm and apprehension in equal measure.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In particular, the movement has been alert to the political and economic realities of the moment, and its sustained and dogged scrutiny of official policy and actors. Take, for instance, the new Hydrocarbons law, which came into effect on March 9, and is the first to officially authorise </span><span><a href="http://mondediplo.com/2013/03/09gaz"><span>shale gas drilling</span></a></span><span>, a highly controversial move yet one which has received very little attention in the national media, let alone been subjected to the requisite levels of public </span><span><a href="http://www.lematindz.net/news/9296-lalgerie-sans-petrole-et-gaz-conventionnel-a-horizon-2030.html"><span>scrutiny and debate</span></a></span><span>. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Activists have since raised the alarm over the serious economic, environmental and political consequences of allowing the move to go unchallenged. In addition to </span><span><a href="http://cnlc-dz.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/non-%C3%A0-lexploitation-de-gaz-de-schiste-en-Alg%C3%A9rie.pdf"><span>producing research briefings and coordinating media campaigns,</span></a></span><span> they have also aimed at widening their actions overseas. Many will be </span><span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/363578067081113/"><span>protesting in London on Monday, April 15</span></a></span><span>, outside HSBC offices where Youcef Yousfi, Algeria’s energy minister, will be holding meetings. Such dogged determination to hold the government to account is tremendously encouraging.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Unsurprisingly, this rising tide of political dissent is evolving beyond the reach of traditional party politics. And no wonder: since the early 1990s, political parties in Algeria have been largely seen as an irrelevance; toothless actors sustaining an artificial political circus utterly disconnected from the everyday concerns and voices of the population. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>With next year’s presidential elections fast approaching, creaking party machines are already clicking into gear, preparing to rehearse the same routine, and seemingly oblivious to the tectonic shifts underneath. Instead, the predictable rounds of intrigue and skulduggery among the political elites have intensified - its latest victim, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, was </span><span><a href="http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20130131171709/"><span>recently dethroned</span></a></span><span> from his position as General Secretary of the ruling party, the FLN, with many more heads predicted to roll over the months ahead as factions fight to protect their share of the pie.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For now, 2014 looms as a forbiddingly ominous deadline. While President Bouteflika’s quest for a 4</span><span>th</span><span> presidential term </span><span><a href="http://www.lesafriques.com/politique-economie/algerie-l-eventuel-4eme-mandat-de-bouteflika-divise-l-2.html?Itemid=308?articleid=38157"><span>has polarised the political class</span></a></span><span>, there is a growing realisation that the election will not be about the survival of a particular candidate at the helm of the system, but the survival of the system itself. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Time is running out, fast, however, and Algeria’s youth are getting better organised, more vocal and less patient than ever. Whether the old guard can muster enough political dexterity, moral courage and margin of manoeuvre to push through a genuinely reformist agenda before it’s too late will determine whether this decade will be one of healing transition or turbulent, cataclysmic rupture.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><em> To stay up to date with our columnists, bookmark our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/you-tell-us">You Tell Us</a> page and follow the <a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/openAwakening/arab-awakening-columnists">columnists on twitter</a>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our continuous <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/arab-awakening">coverage</a> of the Arab Awakening.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-evans-natalya-vince/algeria-and-north-africa-west-asia-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Awakening: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hicham-yezza/algeria-how-murder-of-two-children-shook-nation">Algeria: how the murder of two children shook a nation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Culture Democracy and government Algeria and the Arab Revolutions You tell us Hicham Yezza Thu, 11 Apr 2013 01:57:08 +0000 Hicham Yezza 72105 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The practice of harm in The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/najtaylor/practice-of-harm-in-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>It was the French colonisers, after all, who were bound to international conventions that govern the practice of harm in a way that a small groups of individuals like the Algerians, were not.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/the-battle-of-algiers-1966-52179-1280x800.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>&ldquo;<em>Harm is&hellip; evil (physical or otherwise) as done to or suffered by some person or thing&rdquo; which produces: &ldquo;grief, sorrow, pain, trouble, distress, affliction</em>&rdquo;.&ndash; Oxford English Dictionary, 1978 *</p><p>It is often said that our central obligation as humans is to refrain from harming each other, and that, according to Cicero, any person who unnecessarily does so is an &ldquo;enemy of the human race&rdquo;.&nbsp;What then are we to make of the primary ethico-political question posed by Gillo Pontecorvo in <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>? That is to say, is torture a moral countermeasure to terror? &nbsp;</p> <p>The "problem of harm in world politics"as Andrew Linklater <a href="http://www.academia.edu/2488090/Review_of_Andrew_Linklaters_The_Problem_of_Harm_in_World_Politics_Theoretical_Investigations">recently put it</a>,&nbsp;is endured and inflicted by all people at different times, and to varying degrees. All states and peoples must have the capacity to harm &ndash; to see off threats and feel secure. But at the same time, every actor must also develop the unwavering commitment to avoid causing any unnecessary harm and suffering, and arguably also too, the positive obligation to help those who find themselves in harm&rsquo;s way. </p> <p><em>The Battle of Algiers</em> may be read, therefore, as an exploration of how all peoples and states must balance these (at times competing) responsibilities, while at the same time inviting viewers to ask how we individually and collectively internalize harm in our political and moral consciousness. </p> <p>Pontecorvo&rsquo;s message is made plain when he has the head of France&rsquo;s counterinsurgency unit parade the capture of a senior Algerian figure to world news media. Interestingly the foreign journalists are the only outsiders present in the film, and uncannily their line of questioning is almost exclusively that of the moral arbiter: </p> <blockquote><p>1st Journalist: Isn&rsquo;t it cowardly to use your women&rsquo;s baskets to carry bombs, which have taken so many innocent lives?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Ben M'Hidi: And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on unarmed villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets. </p></blockquote> <p>Terror, seen from this perspective, is morally and politically not only necessary, but justified. Based on a number of interviews since making the film, we know that the <em>Battle of Algiers</em> was very much written and constructed with this intention in mind &ndash; it was always a piece of political art. </p> <p>But what the film also shows is something Pontecorvo could not escape: terror may respond to oppression and torture, but it can also produce it. As George Orwell <a href="mailto:http://theorwellprize.co.uk/george-orwell/by-orwell/essays-and-other-works/you-and-the-atom-bomb/">reasoned</a>, &ldquo;a simple weapon &ndash; so long as there is no answer to it &ndash; gives claws to the weak&rdquo;.&nbsp;And so when the Pentagon used the <em>Battle of Algiers </em>to train staff in 2003, the invitations included the following <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45136-2003Aug25.html">statement</a> to ensure there was no misunderstanding: </p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas... Children shoot soldiers at point blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.&rdquo;</p></blockquote> <p>That the French and the Algerians are both shown using terror in the film, including in civilian areas, is seemingly a moot point for the Pentagon. </p> <p>In an interview decades after the film was released, Pontecorvo <a href="http://cinemaguild.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&amp;Store_Code=TCGS&amp;Product_Code=1005">noted</a> the care that was taken to have the &ldquo;same music for French and Algerian dead&rdquo;, as well as the absence of any single protagonist, as if to say: all human life matters. But at the same time, it is notable how the Algerian characters are often afforded displays of empathy, courage, togetherness and honour, whilst the French for the most part, are not. </p> <p>For instance, the central Algerian figure in the film, Ali Le Pointe, is first shown having to prove his loyalty and effectiveness to one of the movement&rsquo;s leaders, Saari Kader, before he establishes unrivalled influence over the entire city. Yet, unlike his compatriots who resort to carrying out acts of terror, Le Pointe is depicted by Pontecorvo to be admirably principled in how he himself goes about the task of killing, as in: </p> <blockquote><p>Le Pointe: &hellip; you let me risk my life for nothing.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Kader: C'mon ... you're exaggerating. The orders were to shoot him in the back.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Le Pointe: I don't do that kind of thing.&nbsp; </p></blockquote> <p>And throughout the film he really doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;do that kind of thing&rdquo;. We see that in each scene where Le Pointe is tasked with executing individual targets on the street, he always makes sure they can see his face &ndash; putting himself, and the entire resistance (history suggests), at risk.&nbsp;It is not until he&rsquo;s the only one left standing that he resorts to terror.&nbsp;</p> <p>By contrast, the French are shown dispassionately and incessantly humiliating civilians at checkpoints, enforcing arbitrary detentions, being culturally insensitive to women, as well as carrying out torture and executions of political prisoners. It was the French colonisers, after all, who were bound to international conventions that govern the practice of harm in a way that a small groups of individuals like the Algerians, were not.</p> <p>Thus, as the film closes with scenes of renewed unrest in 1960, what are we to make of the French deploying tear gas against protestors followed by strafing machine gun fire? The taboo on chemical weapons, whilst not yet codified at the time of the Battle of Algiers, had nonetheless evolved over more than a century &ndash; particularly during the Second World War &ndash; and is now almost universally adhered to under international law. For example, commenting on similar scenes in Cairo in November 2011, the Egyptian presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaradei <a href="https://twitter.com/ElBaradei/status/139081472064761856">tweeted</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;Tear gas with nerve agent &amp; live ammunition being used against civilians in Tahrir. A massacre is taking place&rdquo;</p></blockquote> <p>As earlier, Pontecorvo is no less direct in his judgement, and no doubt viewers will recall that earlier scene involving the French command and another moralising journalist: </p> <blockquote><p>Colonel Mathieu: &nbsp;&ldquo;Should France remain in Algeria? If you answer &lsquo;yes&rsquo;, you must accept all the necessary consequences&rdquo;. &nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Given that the use of torture is the predominant feature of both films, it is no surprise, therefore, that many have sought to reignite these themes within Pontecorvo&rsquo;s the <em>Battle of Algiers</em> in defence of Kathryn Bigelow&rsquo;s <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>. This is not the place to rehearse a critique of Bigelow&rsquo;s film, except to draw your attention to the final refrain of her <a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-0116-bigelow-zero-dark-thirty-20130116,0,5937785.story">statement</a> to media, which touches on my earlier point about the nature of human duty: </p> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;Bin Laden wasn&rsquo;t defeated by superheroes zooming down from the sky; he was defeated by ordinary Americans who fought bravely even as they sometimes crossed moral lines, who labored greatly and intently, who gave all of themselves in both victory and defeat, in life and in death, for the defense of this nation.&rdquo; </p></blockquote> <p>What Bigelow seems to want to make clear is that she is aware of the moral and legal problems with torture, but that she agrees with Pontecorvo&rsquo;s French colonisers, in that torture is just part of "the necessary consequences&rdquo; that &ldquo;the defense of this nation&rdquo; demands. That is to say, whilst Pontecorvo might have shown the suffering of torture and the necessity of terror from the perspective of the Algerians, Bigelow sought to make a case for how and why the Americans were justified in deploying torture against aggressors <em>not from here</em>. </p> <p>In defense of a deeper humanity, I am of the view that our response to Bigelow should correspond with our times, not resort to asking Pontecorvo. For how much longer can we let our governments decide both unilaterally, and in secret, who is and isn&rsquo;t inside the circle of our moral community? That is to say, whom we will never torture (our fellow citizens) and whom we might (foreigners). And when will our actions and moral reasoning be better attuned to the emotional needs and interests of distant strangers? </p> <p>What we can and must return to <em>The</em> <em>Battle of Algiers</em> for is a sense of perspective: the longer we take to ask ourselves these sorts of questions, the longer this practice will continue.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>* <span>Andrew </span><span>Linklater introduced the field of International Relations to the conceptualization of &ldquo;harm&rdquo; used in this essay. See: Andrew Linklater, </span><em>The Problem of Harm in World Politics: Theoretical Investigations</em><span>, Cambridge University Press, 2011.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> United States France Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Violent transitions N.A.J.Taylor Mon, 18 Mar 2013 08:52:29 +0000 N.A.J.Taylor 71620 at https://www.opendemocracy.net First encounters with the Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/first-encounters-with-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>On February 6, 2013, the University of Sussex History Department held a special screening of the <em>Battle of Algiers</em>, followed by discussion with Yasmin El Derby from the Middle East and North Africa Film Festival in London. Here are three reactions.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Algeria%20Eyes_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <blockquote><p>After seeing the film I now know why it was such an important film for institutions in the 1960s like the Black Power movement. The realistic style really makes the guerilla tactics seem like an instruction manual to fight oppressors. Over 45 years after its production this movie is still sheer dynamite. You can feel the tension throughout the whole screening. </p><p>What really struck me was that the French are not shown as the bad guys. The leader of the paramilitaries is a character you can actually have sympathy for. I did not really know on which side I was on since the conflict was not caused by the generation who fought in that film. That made the film exciting until the last minute. I definitely would recommend the film to anybody who is interested in independent films and history. </p><p>One point of criticism has to be made here: the subtitling is not really good. I know a bit of French and could tell that some passages were either left out or just translated badly. In that respect the discussion was really helpful because the Arabic-speaking discussants could give me further insight into the translation of the film. Especially in the end the people singing in Arabic were not translated. Although I could imagine what they were singing, the discussion here helped a lot to actually get to know what was going on.</p></blockquote> <p>&nbsp;Karl Siebengartner: &nbsp;MA student in Contemporary History at Sussex University. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>Thoroughly enjoyed the <em>Battle of Algiers</em>. Knowing very little about Algeria&rsquo;s&nbsp;recent history, the film&rsquo;s intimate documentary style thrust me right into&nbsp;the middle of the revolutionary 1950s. </p><p>As mentioned in the discussion at the end, some of the reactionary violence proves depressingly redolent of the current situation in North Africa. The scene outside the milkbar -&nbsp;where the survivors hear the airport bomb going off &ndash; also called to mind&nbsp;my own experience of hearing the Tavistock Square bus explosion, from my&nbsp;workplace in London 2005.&nbsp; </p><p>My most abiding memory of the film though is Morricone&rsquo;s music, particularly in the scenes of violence and its aftermath; poignant, spellbinding and brilliantly suited to Portecorvo&rsquo;s&nbsp;alternation between tension and sadness. Thanks to all involved for arranging the showing at Sussex.</p></blockquote> <p>Richard Geoffrey Hall: MA student in Contemporary History at Sussex University. &nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>Thank you for screening the <em>Battle of Algiers</em> on Wednesday. Both film and discussion were stimulating.&nbsp;Here's my response to the film. At some points in the film, especially in the final mass protests scene, the Arabic chants of the protesters are neither translated not subtitled. In the last scene the French occupation soldiers ask the protesters via megaphones what it is that they want? The response comes clearly and unequivocally, but in Arabic. The protesters chant for independence, freedom, and shout at the French soldiers to 'leave our country'. Some of the characters in this final scene are ones we have witnessed speaking perfect French during the film. However, they choose to voice their demands in Arabic, and standard Arabic at that. I wonder if this is a cinematic device to point to the difficult or even impossibility of dialogue between these two different discourse genres, between radically different cultures and clashing interests, where the two sides do not share a language, not on the linguistic level, but on the level of politics and perspectives.</p></blockquote> <p>Dr Heba Youssef: Associate tutor in International Development at Sussex University.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Presents and Futures Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Martin Evans Sat, 16 Mar 2013 07:15:54 +0000 Martin Evans 71562 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Battle of Algiers transposed into a Palestinian key https://www.opendemocracy.net/jacob-norris/battle-of-algiers-transposed-into-palestinian-key <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>Cinematic representations of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation frequently invoke <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> as a point of reference. This reflects a long history of Palestinian identification with the Algerian independence movement and more specifically with Pontecorvo’s film.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In May 1989, Edward Said arrived at the Rome apartment of Gillo Pontecorvo, eager to press the Italian filmmaker on the connections between <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> and the First Intifada that was then raging in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In his account of the interview, Said presents the discussion of these connections as the climax of his conversation with Pontecorvo: &ldquo;Finally&hellip;I was able to get to what seemed to me to be the logical contemporary extension of the political situations represented in <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>&rdquo;.</p> <p>In his eagerness to relate Pontecorvo&rsquo;s 1966 masterpiece to Palestine, Said was voicing a much wider fascination among both Palestinians and Israelis with establishing the film&rsquo;s relevance (or irrelevance) to the contemporary Middle East. The potential parallels are there for all to see. From the brutality of France&rsquo;s colonial occupation (complete with checkpoints, house demolitions and separation barriers), to the FLN&rsquo;s targeting of civilians and urban warfare tactics, <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>seems to invite comparison with Israel&rsquo;s on-going military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/url-2.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p>But what are the more specific, historical factors that tie the film to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how deep do these connections really run? To answer this question we need to appreciate the film&rsquo;s wider role as a visual marker of the entire Algerian War of Independence. However inaccurate or selective the film may be (see articles by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-historical-truth-and-filmic-representation">Martin Evans</a> and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/walid-benkhaled/genesis-of-film-battle-of-algiers">Walid Benkhaled</a>) in its treatment of the war, successive generations of anti-colonial movements have drawn inspiration from the tactics and themes it portrays.</p> <p>The inspiration the PLO drew from the FLN in the 1960s and 70s, for example, often conflated Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film with the real-life Algerian resistance, particularly in terms of the film&rsquo;s portrayal of the FLN structure of command and methods of urban warfare. In a reflection of Stefani Bardin&rsquo;s insistence that &ldquo;the visual shows what is actually possible&rdquo;, <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>has become inseparable from the events themselves. It has served as a type of documentary guidebook for anti-colonial struggle in a way that written texts cannot, showing what such campaigns might look like in an aesthetic as well as logistical sense.</p> <h2>Reception in Israel</h2> <p>But to get to the core of the film&rsquo;s specific relationship to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we also need to appreciate its reception within Israeli society. The film was initially banned from public screening in Israel, and it was only in 1975 that it became legally available. Whatever the motivations behind the banning of the film (most likely fear of its impact on Jewish public opinion played the biggest role), this decision only served to reinforce the parallels between French Algeria and Israel&rsquo;s post-1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, not least because the film was also banned in France until 1971.&nbsp;</p> <p>The outbreak of the First Intifada in the Occupied Territories in 1987 greatly increased interest in <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>within Israel. Famously the Tel Aviv Cinematheque screened the film for several months in 1988 as the Intifada reached its peak. Left-wing intellectuals used it as a warning signal for what might happen if the occupation continued, while the political right dismissed the film as irrelevant to Israel&rsquo;s &ldquo;historic claims&rdquo; over the West Bank and Gaza.</p> <p>But it was during the Second Intifada (spanning roughly 2000 to 2005) that the film seemed to assume most relevance to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Some of the tactics employed by the Palestinian resistance during the Second Intifada more closely resembled the FLN methods portrayed in Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film, most notably letting off bombs in public places in order to bring the war to the doorstep of the enemy&rsquo;s civilian population. Likewise, the types of justifications for these actions used by Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad often mirrored Larbi Ben M&rsquo;hidi&rsquo;s famous retort in <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>: &ldquo;Give us your bombers sir and you can have our baskets&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p> <p>Equally important in establishing <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>&rsquo; reputation as a metaphor for Israel/Palestine during the Second Intifada was the ruthlessness of Israel&rsquo;s military response and its reliance on the discourse of terrorism. It was during this period that daily life for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories increasingly came to mirror that of Algiers&rsquo; Casbah as it was portrayed in the movie. Israel&rsquo;s construction of the West Bank Separation Wall (beginning in 2000), the multiplication of military checkpoints and the frequent use of house demolitions as collective punishment all brought the drama of Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film closer to home for Palestinians during the Second Intifada.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/url_1.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <h2>Operation Defensive Shield and <em>Jenin Jenin</em><em>&nbsp;</em></h2> <p>All these factors seemed to converge in April 2002 when Israel launched &lsquo;Operation Defensive Shield&rsquo; &ndash; the largest military operation carried out in the West Bank since the 1967 War. The brutality of this campaign was at its most apparent in Jenin where the Israeli army entered the city&rsquo;s refugee camp, declaring it a closed military area. For ten days all access to the camp was denied with a 24-hour curfew imposed, provoking comparisons with the French army&rsquo;s treatment of the Algiers Casbah during the 8-day strike of 1957.</p> <p>One of the Israeli military commanders involved in Operation Defensive shield, Moshe Tamir, even went so far as to suggest that <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>was a valuable source of information for his troops, seemingly missing Pontecorvo&rsquo;s wider point that military victories cannot suppress a people&rsquo;s cry for freedom.</p> <p>Against this backdrop it seems inevitable that when Palestinian director Mohammed Bakri decided to make a documentary on the Israeli invasion of Jenin, parallels were made with <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>. Like Pontecorvo&rsquo;s 1966 production, Bakri&rsquo;s film, titled <em>Jenin Jenin</em>,<em> </em>was initially banned by the Israeli Film Ratings Board on the grounds that claims of a massacre made by local Jenin residents in the film were libellous. Although the ban was later overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court, Bakri continues to face legal challenges whenever his film is screened to audiences sympathetic to Israel&rsquo;s occupation of Palestinian territory.</p> <p>While the censorship debate surrounding <em>Jenin Jenin </em>makes the film particularly relevant to the Algerian case, a look at the bigger picture indicates this is just one of a steady stream of Palestinian and Israeli films that draw comparisons with <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>. Whether it is Hany Abu-Assad&rsquo;s <em>Paradise Now </em>(2005) or the more recent <em>5 Broken Cameras </em>(2011), reviews of films dealing with the nitty-gritty of Israel&rsquo;s occupation invariably fall back on Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film as a point of reference.</p> <p>This is undoubtedly the most powerful legacy of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>. It serves as a universal standard bearer for all anti-colonial filmmaking &ndash; a kind of generic emblem that largely divorces the film from the specifics of the war it portrays. Whatever the particular points of comparison between the Palestinian and Algerian national movements, it is this symbolic value that ties Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film most closely to the Palestinian experience. In the archetypal and longest-running of all anti-colonial struggles, that of Palestine, it should come as little surprise that the archetypal anti-colonial film is so frequently invoked.&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Jacob Norris Mon, 11 Feb 2013 10:58:31 +0000 Jacob Norris 70875 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In short: Belkacem Belmekki on The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/belkacem-belmekki/in-short-belkacem-belmekki-on-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>A 36-year old Algerian lecturer from the&nbsp;post-independence generation&nbsp;explains what Gillo Pontecorvo’s film means to him.&nbsp;</p><br /> </div> </div> </div> <p>I remember having watched Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film <em>La Bataille d&rsquo;Alger</em> a couple of times when I was young. I have actually watched many films about Algeria&rsquo;s war of independence, often run on Algerian state TV on national days; however, <em>la Bataille d&rsquo;Alger</em> is a special one. &nbsp;It looks more like a documentary than a film. For me, this film is a work of art full of historical symbols. It reveals, in an objective manner, the vehemence with which the Algerian people was determined in its quest for freedom. It depicts the role played by every individual in the Algerian society, men, women, boys and girls, no matter under what circumstances, in the struggle for a just cause. In my opinion, one of the best scenes in this film is the pride and dignity with which a smiling Larbi Ben M&rsquo;hidi faced death. &nbsp;In the meantime, <em>La Bataille d&rsquo;Alger</em> also reflects the extent of the harshness of French colonial rule in Algeria, which was almost unequalled anywhere in contemporary history. This film indeed holds a special place in the minds and hearts of all Algerians. &nbsp;It really makes me proud of my country&rsquo;s past.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Conflict Culture International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Belkacem Belmekki Mon, 11 Feb 2013 10:40:50 +0000 Belkacem Belmekki 70872 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria, Mali: another front in the “Global War on Terror”? https://www.opendemocracy.net/hamza-hamouchene/algeria-mali-another-front-in-%E2%80%9Cglobal-war-on-terror%E2%80%9D <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" width="140" hspace="5" align="right" /></a>What the Islamist terrorist threat has become is an incoherent pretext to intervene militarily on the part of the west. The only principled position to adopt therefore is the rejection of both, for the self-determination and sovereignty of the peoples.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&ldquo;We, Al Qaeda, announce this sacred operation&rdquo;. These were the words of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Algerian Djihadist leader who allegedly masterminded the tragic attack on the BP gas plant of In Amenas in south-eastern Algeria. &ldquo;We are ready to negotiate with the Westerners and the Algerian government on one condition: they need to stop bombing Muslims in Mali&rdquo;, he added. The dreadful hostage crisis, which ended on Saturday January 19 after four tense days, resulted in a dramatic death toll of at least 37 hostages (of 8 different nationalities, including one Algerian) and the killing of 32 terrorists, <a href="http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/les-revelations-de-sellal-22-01-2013-200480_109.php">according to the Algerian Prime Minister M. Sellal.</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/01/20/hugh-roberts/six-questions-about-tigantourine/">Many questions have been raised</a> in the last few days regarding this hostage crisis in Algeria, many of which stem from the information vacuum and the lack of communications from the Algerian authorities.</p> <p><em>Who are these terrorist groups? </em>Some reports told us that they are called Katibat El Moulathamine (&ldquo;The Brigade of the Masked Ones&rdquo;) or &ldquo;Those who sign in blood&rdquo;. They could be just different names for the same group, or one (the latter) is simply the affiliate of the former. It seems that this/these groups are offshoots of <em>Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb</em> (AQIM).</p> <p><em>Where did the attackers come from?</em> We&rsquo;ve been informed by confusing reports that these terrorists came from Mali, maybe via Libya and even from Niger according to the Mauritanian news agency, ANI. The Algerian Interior Minister Ould Kablia strikingly declared that they were locals from the region, but according to the official account of Prime Minister M. Sellal, the attackers (Tunisians, Nigeriens, Mauritanians, Malians, Egyptian, and one Canadian) travelled from Mali through Niger and then Libya.</p> <p><em>What was the reason for the attack? </em>Some suggested it was retaliation for the French neo-colonial intervention in Mali and to punish Algeria for opening its air space to French planes, although the attack might have been planned a few months ago. The Mauritanian news agency reported that the motive of the attack was to demand the cessation of French operations in Mali. There was also the question of a hostage exchange, as the attackers demanded the release of Omar Abd el-Rahman (the blind leader of the Egyptian jihadi group al-Jama&lsquo;a al-Islamiyya, jailed in the United States) and of <a href="http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/algerian-kidnappers-demand-release-dr-aafia-siddiqui/">Aafia Siddiqi</a>, a Pakistani woman unjustly sentenced to 86 years in prison in the US. Some other Algerian commentators went further and argued that the reason behind it was to internationalise the conflict and draw Algeria into the military operations in Mali.</p> <p>The other question that raised some concern from certain western capitals and sharp criticism from western mainstream media was <em>whether Algeria took all the steps necessary to avert a bloody outcome?</em> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/world/africa/algeria-hostage-siege.html?ref=world">This debate around managing such suicidal hostage-taking episodes</a> reflects the extreme difficulties and hard choices one needs to make to avoid a catastrophe in this kind of situation. The Algerian authorities however defended the deadly assault and said it saved many lives. It is one thing to say that the Algerian military&rsquo;s uncompromising stance on terrorism was the result of a traumatising civil war in the 1990s (that followed the nullification of elections won by the Islamists), and it is another to indulge in certain orientalist representations of the &ldquo;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/on-the-middle-east/2013/jan/18/algeria-al-qaida-sahara?intcmp=239">bloody</a>&rdquo; and &ldquo;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/hostage-siege-algeria-bloody-chapter-history">savage</a>&rdquo; history of Algerians. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/natalya-vince/in-amenas-%E2%80%93-history-of-silence-not-history-of-violence">Natalya Vince argued in a recent article</a> that if these commentators might eschew essentialism, they nevertheless reproduce a most unhistorical determinism, seeing Algeria as locked into a series of violent episodes, with each one engendering the next.</p> <h2>Beyond &lsquo;clash of civilisations&rsquo;- speke</h2> <p>The threat of international terrorism is real and is endangering &ldquo;Western interests&rdquo; and the stability of the countries affected, but beyond all these first questions and beyond the preposterous discourse of the &ldquo;clash of civilisations&rdquo; upheld again by the British prime minister when he claimed that the country faced an "existential" and "global threat" to "our interests and way of life" - lie more fundamental questions about the causes and origins of these reactionary groups, who are certainly &ldquo;crazy for god&rdquo; (Fou de dieu). Tackling these questions is paramount to any endeavour to seriously address this phenomenon.</p> <p><em>Where do these violent Islamic fundamentalist forces come from? </em>These forces have been erected and supported by the west (the United States particularly) since the inception of Saudi Arabia, the most fundamentalist state on earth and the exporter of a reactionary obscurantist ideology: <em>Wahhabism</em>. Let&rsquo;s not forget that the US, which appears to preach democracy and human rights was (and still is) the primary protector of Saudi Arabia and was the ally of these Islamist movements in its fight against secular nationalism and &ldquo;godless communism&rdquo;. This support took dramatic proportions after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan when these groups were mobilised, funded and armed. <em>Al-Qaeda</em>, the global terrorist organisation that was created by Bin Laden (a Saudi citizen) emerged out of this war. We can deduct from this that <a href="http://monthlyreview.org/2007/12/01/political-islam-in-the-service-of-imperialism">political Islam has been always an invaluable ally for western imperialism</a>.</p> <p><em>Do Western interventions represent a bulwark against terrorism and do they achieve stability?</em> According to the historical record, the answer is a big no. Instead it shows us the devastation caused by the interventions of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, the destruction and mayhem caused in Iraq by the US and British invasion; and how Libya<em> </em>became a centre of exporting militants and weapons to the Sahel region after the NATO intervention. The historical record is uncompromising; these colonial expeditions into Muslim lands neither bring stability nor install democratic regimes. They reinforce the terrorist organisations and end up creating an insurgent international network from Pakistan to the Sahel passing through Iraq and Somalia, which are willing to fight the &ldquo;new crusaders&rdquo;. The global war on terror is fuelling more violence and facilitating the unification of diverse groups under the banner of <em>Al-Qaeda</em>; and without any doubt, groups such as the <em>Al-Qaeda in the Maghrib</em> (AQIM) wouldn&rsquo;t have taken such proportions without the intervention in Afghanistan and more recently in Libya. In fact Belmokhtar who was born in 1972, fought alongside the Taliban when he was still under 20. In 1993, this Algerian fundamentalist returned to his country where he joined the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) and quickly rose to the rank of Emir (Commander). Five years later he joined the GSPC (the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), which became AQIM.</p> <p><em>What are the real reasons for intervening in Mali?</em> The French bellicose attitude in Libya was explained to us by the legitimate right to defend armed rebel groups against a criminal regime. Now in Mali, the motive is to defend the regime against criminal armed rebel groups, while in Syria, it favours these Islamist groups (some of which are emerging as terrorist organisations) with the active support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Thus, the Islamist terrorist threat has really become an incoherent pretext to intervene militarily. The terrorist groups with their fundamentalist ideology and their criminal activities only bear the immediate responsibility for the intervention in Mali. They acted as a trigger and do not represent the fundamental cause of the French operations. Instead they are one of the consequences of the structural crisis of the Malian state. The focus on them diverts us from the real questions such as: why has the Malian regime collapsed in the first place? Why is its army so fragile and too weak to even overcome 2000/3000 fighters?</p> <p>The answer to these questions will point the finger at the brutal neoliberal global order and at France&rsquo;s neo-colonial domination (Fran&ccedil;afrique). These are maintaining the status quo, while weakening states and perpetuating poverty, exploitation and plunder. This subordination is maintained by different tools including the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. Supporting corrupt local lackeys and interventions also inscribe themselves in this logic. Therefore when the western powers intervene, they do so solely to safeguard their own interests (oil and uranium resources in this case) and they will always try to ignore, sideline and discredit any other peaceful proposals that will threaten their influence in the region. </p> <p>The terrorist threat is exploited for this purpose by the French with Goebbels-style cynicism and lies (&ldquo;If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it&rdquo;). We are thus faced with a false choice between an imperialist intervention and Islamist terrorism: but in reality these two poles feed and justify each other. In fact, imperialism entertains the existence of such fundamentalist groups to justify its belligerent enterprises and to maintain its political and economic domination over the damned world&rsquo;s majority. The only principled position to adopt therefore is the rejection of both, for the self-determination and sovereignty of the peoples. This solution inscribes itself in the long-term vision of building strong democratic states that will engage with the populations&rsquo; legitimate grievances (including the Tuareg question in Mali), that are opposed to imperialist meddling, that will be capable of challenging a profoundly unjust global order and launching genuine development projects. </p> <p>Certainly, the Algerian hostage crisis cannot be well understood without taking into account the disastrous consequences of western interventions, especially the NATO onslaught on Libya two years ago. This episode unfortunately will be used as another justification for more western involvement and a prelude for another calamitous front in the global war against terror in North Africa and the Sahel.</p> <p>The Algerian people were unanimous and refused any foreign meddling in handling the hostage crisis, hence showing their anti-imperialist sentiments. However it is important to realise that the Algerian regime is the biggest threat to Algerian national sovereignty, be it political or economic. Suffice it to say that it&rsquo;s the regime that allowed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/us-drone-algeria-hostage-standoff-in-amenas_n_2496984.html">a US drone to monitor the hostage standoff</a>, that opened its airspace to French planes, that is collaborating with the western powers in the most anti-national manner in the global war on terrorism, and that is playing the role of a guardian for fortress Europe. It is they who have developed a dependent bazaar import-import economy that is offering the lion&rsquo;s share to multinational companies. Sovereignty is at stake: the imperative of democratisation in Algeria imposes itself and can no longer be ignored.<em></em></p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mali </div> <div class="field-item even"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Mali Algeria Libya Civil society Conflict International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Violent transitions Hamza Hamouchene Beyond enemy images: politics and the Other Security in Middle East and North Africa Non-state violence Peacebuilding Sun, 27 Jan 2013 12:55:11 +0000 Hamza Hamouchene 70577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Amenas – a history of silence, not a history of violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/natalya-vince/in-amenas-%E2%80%93-history-of-silence-not-history-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>In the latest edition of <a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576">Textures du temps</a>, a historian’s eye is brought to bear on the discourse prevailing in recent British media coverage of the intervention of Algerian forces in the hostage crisis of In Amenas - the neo-orientalist concepts typically invoked when the subject of Algeria’s history is raised filling a vacuum caused by the lack of explanation coming from the Algerian regime.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>I: Mistakes and dangerous liaisons</p> <p>Standing outside a wintry Downing Street, commentating on the British government&rsquo;s reaction to the ongoing hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas plant in the Algerian Sahara, one of the BBC&rsquo;s most highly regarded journalists, Nick Robinson, came to a chirpy conclusion. &lsquo;No one knows what&rsquo;s going on,&rsquo; Robinson stated, &lsquo;To be honest we&rsquo;re talking about countries which a few days ago most of us couldn&rsquo;t have found on a map.&rsquo;<a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576#footnote_0_576">1</a></p> <p>The statement was both refreshingly honest, after two days of supposedly &lsquo;expert&rsquo; opinion in the British press, radio and television, and quite frankly shocking. The media&rsquo;s first reaction when news first began to filter out on Wednesday that hundreds of hostages, including many foreign nationals, had been taken captive in In Amenas by an Islamist group supposedly calling itself <em>Al Mulathimin</em> was to bring out its security experts. Well there&rsquo;s plenty of them, to talk about Al Qaeda, but also to confuse the name of the Algerian prime minister with that of the minister of the interior.<a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576#footnote_1_576">2</a></p> <p>The British reaction when the Algerian army decided to launch an armed intervention against the hostage takers on Thursday was one of surprise. David Cameron was annoyed that he hadn&rsquo;t been informed by his Algerian counterparts, and that they hadn&rsquo;t taken up his offer of intelligence and tactical support. Nick Robinson told us that a member of the British cabinet let out an anguished wail of &lsquo;what are they doing?&rsquo; The media threw itself into trying to explain the apparently baffling Algerian decision to go in all guns a-blazing.</p> <p>More expert opinion was sought, and of course anyone who knows anything about Algeria could tell you that the reaction of the Algerian government and army was in no way surprising. Readers and audiences were reminded that Algeria was hostile to any suggestion of foreign military intervention on its soil or meddling in its affairs. We learnt that Algeria had one of the best-trained and best-equipped elite intervention forces in Africa (although not, of course, as good as its US, British or French equivalents). Both this military might and Algeria&rsquo;s &lsquo;uncompromising position&rsquo; on terrorism was explained as a result of the civil violence of the 1990s.</p> <p>On one level, this is very obvious. But behind these obvious statements, a series of pernicious connections began to be made. Take for example, the headlines of the following articles in the centre-left <em>Guardian</em>:</p> <p><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/on-the-middle-east/2013/jan/18/algeria-al-qaida-sahara?intcmp=239">Ian Black</a>: &lsquo;Algeria&rsquo;s bloody history forged brutal response to Saharan camp raid&rsquo;<a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576#footnote_2_576">3</a></p> <p><a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/hostage-siege-algeria-bloody-chapter-history">Nabila Ramdani</a>: &lsquo;Algeria spills more blood&rsquo; &ndash; followed by the subheading &lsquo;The violent end to this standoff is only the start of a new chapter in the country&rsquo;s savage history&rsquo;.<a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576#footnote_3_576">4</a></p> <p>Ramdani &ndash; or whoever wrote the title and subheading, often this is not the author &ndash; was trying to be clever, referring to the most famous English-language work on Algeria, Alistair Horne&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/books/imprints/classics/a-savage-war-of-peace/"><em>A Savage War of Peace </em></a>(1977). Black refers to exactly the same book in his article, usefully informing us that &lsquo;Algeria&rsquo;s modern history is steeped in blood.&rsquo; Well, it is if you schematise Algerian history as Black and Ramdani do, that is to say, reduce it down to the War of Liberation against French colonial rule (1954-1962), the civil violence of the 1990s and the 2013 In Amenas hostage crisis.</p> <p>Sticking ellipses into large parts of Algerian contemporary history, squashing it down into its violent episodes is seriously unhelpful. In their crudest form, such analyses fall into an Orientalist stereotype of Algerians which already exists &ndash; not least amongst her North African neighbours &ndash; of a bunch of crazy hothead machos, for whom human life means little and pride everything, headbutting their way around football pitches and hostage crises. I&rsquo;m sure Black, Ramdani, <em>et al.</em> are far too intelligent to fall into this trap, but if they might eschew essentialism, they nevertheless reproduce a most unhistorical determinism, seeing Algeria as locked into a series of violent episodes, with each one engendering the next. This is a shortcut which historians such as James McDougall have been fighting for over a decade. In fact, McDougall has written an article which borrows from the title of Horne&rsquo;s book, it&rsquo;s called &lsquo;Savage wars? Codes of violence in Algeria, 1830s-1990s&rsquo;.<a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/576#footnote_4_576">5</a> Note the question mark.&nbsp;The problem is not just one of journalists with deadlines to meet, but is of course one of historiography &ndash; there is very little published history of independent Algeria. Time ends in 1962, and only half restarts in 1988. Into this silence, suppositions and shortcuts fill the gap.&nbsp;</p> <p>II: Everyday silence</p> <p>There is another silence which has also been striking in the past few days. One of the problems which the international media has faced is the indifference of the Algerian state towards communication. In the first 48 hours of the crisis, there were no images, and hardly any official statements. The social media which today can fill some of this gap could not &ndash; there was no mobile phone footage uploaded onto the internet, no Facebook messages, the gas plant was so isolated that there were no neighbours to call up for an eyewitness view. By Friday, Algerian state TV had provided a few images of relieved Algerian, British and Turkish workers, responding to the rather leading question &lsquo;were you happy with the job done by the Algerian army&rsquo;? In the age of 24-hour news, minute-by-minute updates, Twitter and Youtube, there was an information vacuum. This is not to excuse the crassness of the reporting in much of the British media, instead it exposed their lack of knowledge. When you have no events to report, you try to provide context &ndash; but it is the context that requires a deeper level of understanding.&nbsp;</p> <p>As unconfirmed reports followed unverified figures, I was struck by an imperfect parallel.&nbsp;The international media suddenly found itself in the position of an average Algerian citizen, living in a state which is neither totalitarian nor fully democratic. The state in Algeria does not communicate on a day-to-day basis. Explanation, spin, justification&hellip; whereas in other countries it is an absolute necessity for the government to occupy public space and show that it is doing something, in Algeria, one might argue that the state can&rsquo;t be bothered to show, and the wider population can&rsquo;t be bothered to believe. And when the state does show, most people still don&rsquo;t believe. Symptomatic of this context is the importance of rumour in Algerian political culture &ndash; one of the most popular in the past decade has been that el-Alia cemetery in Algiers is being repainted, in preparation for the imminent death of the president&hellip; The big difference between the international media and the average Algerian citizen is that the rumours and guesswork of the latter are, unlike the former, rooted in the political, socio-economic and cultural context of Algeria. The rumours might not be true, but they tell us something, whereas the Afghanistan expert roped in to talk about Algeria tells us about&hellip; well erm&hellip; the priorities of western foreign policy in the past decade.&nbsp;</p> <p>III: Citizens, politics and the past</p> <p>Watching and reading (most) of those called upon to comment on the hostage crisis in Algeria in the British media, I was struck by a strange but familiar sensation, which perhaps will also be familiar to other people with a close connection to Algeria. I found myself metamorphosing into a staunch defender of the Algerian army and state: how dare they imply the Algerian army is incapable of dealing with this? Don&rsquo;t they know that Algeria won its &lsquo;war on terror&rsquo; before 9/11 even happened? Why do western governments think they should have oversight on what Algeria does in its own territory? Before you could say <em>ing&eacute;rence</em> (interference, in English, just doesn&rsquo;t quite sound the same), any kind of nuance had been thrown out of the window. Not least the usual questions which one asks about what&nbsp; &lsquo;winning&rsquo; the &lsquo;war on terror&rsquo; actually means in terms of death, human rights abuses, divisive amnesties and state co-option of &lsquo;Islamist&rsquo; ideas.<a href="http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/la-blogosphere-exhibe-son-patriotisme-20-01-2013-200224_109.php"><em> El Watan</em></a> reported that Algerians online &ndash; generally a pretty critical bunch when it comes to <em>el-hukuma</em> (the government) and generals in&nbsp;<em>el-jaysh</em> (the army) &ndash; were throwing their support behind Algerian handling of the crisis. The problem of course being that if you didn&rsquo;t, you might be seen to support western grumblings about Algerian incompetency. Perhaps inevitably, and in the urgency of the moment, when under threat from outsiders, a <em>union sacr&eacute;e</em> imposes itself.&nbsp;</p> <p>This feeling of being forced to be &lsquo;for&rsquo; or &lsquo;against&rsquo; is, however, part of a broader pattern of conceptualising contemporary Algerian history as a series of black and white alternatives. These are not so much historical frames of analysis but rather a series of politicised positions. For or against the seizure of power by the Oudja group in 1962. For or against the Boumediene coup in 1965. For or against the army&rsquo;s interruption of the electoral process in 1992. Eradicator or conciliator. Did the post-independence state live up to the hopes of those that fought and died for it? Was independent Algeria good or bad for women? Political discourse in many ways replaces historical research.</p> <p>Post-independence Algerian history is not a history of violence, it is a history of silence. The challenge for both historians and media commentators is to listen to those silences, because they may challenge what we think we know.</p> <ol><li>BBC News, 18 January 2012 </li><li>As the BBC&rsquo;s security expert, Frank Gardner, did. </li><li><em>The Guardian</em>, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/on-the-middle-east/2013/jan/18/algeria-al-qaida-sahara?intcmp=239%20">18 January 2013</a> </li><li><em>The Guardian</em>, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/17/hostage-siege-algeria-bloody-chapter-history">17 January 2013</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</li><li>James McDougall, &lsquo;Savage wars? Codes of violence in Algeria, 1830s-1990s&rsquo;, <em>Third World Quarterly</em>, 26: 1, pp. 117-131, 2005.&nbsp; </li></ol><p><a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/%20">Textures du temps </a>is a trilingual website (English, Arabic, French) created in 2012 by Dr Malika Rahal, a researcher at the Institut d&rsquo;histoire du temps pr&eacute;sent (IHTP) in Paris. Through articles on contemporary politics, current research projects and debates about the nature of historical research, it explores how to write the post-independence history of Algeria. Recent articles in English include Ed McAllister&rsquo;s discussion of <a href="http://texturesdutemps.hypotheses.org/414">nostalgia for the Boumediene&nbsp; era (1965-1978)</a>&nbsp; and a case study of <span style="text-decoration: underline;">what the War of Independence means to young Algerians today </span>by Natalya Vince. An extended version of this case study can also be found in <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13629387.2012.728049">the latest edition of the Journal of North African Studies</a>.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> uk UK Algeria Conflict Democracy and government International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Natalya Vince Mon, 21 Jan 2013 13:50:27 +0000 Natalya Vince 70482 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Transcending boundaries: Yasmin El Derby on The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/transcending-boundaries-yasmin-el-derby-on-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>The festival director of the London Middle East and North Africa Film Festival talks about the place of Pontecorvo’s film within the history of the region’s cinema and about its future.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">&nbsp;</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Yasmin El Derby is </em><em>the co-founder and festival director at the London Middle East and North Africa Film Festival</em><em> which takes place each autumn.&nbsp; Showcasing new films from the region, the Festival aims to open up cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.&nbsp; Below Yasmin El Derby talks to Martin Evans about the place of the&nbsp; Pontecorvo film within the history of North African and Middle Eastern cinema.&nbsp; She also discusses the broader issues of film making in the region which the London Festival is bringing to British audiences.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong>Martin Evans: </strong>What impact has Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film had upon film making in the North Africa and the Middle East since its release in 1966?</p> <p>Yasmin El Derby: More than 45 years after its completion, Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> (a film which focuses on the Algerian war of independence in the late 1950s &ndash; 1960s) still has a huge impact on filmmakers today. It is in fact, eerily relevant to the current social / political geography in the Middle East and North Africa region, perhaps now so more than ever. Let us begin with a quote from the film, something said by one opposition activist to another:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><em>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to start a revolution, even harder to continue it, and hardest of all to win it. But it is only afterwards, when we have won, that the true difficulties begin.&rdquo;</em></p></blockquote><p>Anyone who has been following the revolutions and developments within the Middle East and North Africa region will know that this quote is ringing true all over &ndash; ousting dictators is just the beginning, and film as an art form is situated perfectly to convey messages and also ideologies to the masses. </p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Algeria.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p>The landscape of filmmaking in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region has been morphing and developing since the dawn of the moving image. In the early twentieth century, when Europe was dipping its cinematic toe in the water, so were the upper classes of Egypt. The width and breadth of filmmaking styles within the region is huge &ndash; it&rsquo;s just that Europe, in particular the UK, rarely gets an opportunity to see many of these films.</p> <p>Algerian cinema has been hugely influenced by the war of independence (1954 &ndash; 1962) and nationalism as a topic has been explored many times in Algerian films since Pontecorvo&rsquo;s masterpiece. Nationalism has more recently been explored across the whole region. A recent documentary by the French documentary maker Laurene Lepytre <em>Jesus, Mary, Allah and The Others</em> (2012, France) discusses the ideas of nationalism in post-revolution Egypt &ndash; where many citizens are adamant that first and foremost, &ldquo;we are all Egyptians, regardless of religion&rdquo;. Nationality and country comes first, the rest is secondary.</p> <p>A recent film that could be compared in both theme and style to <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>, is the recent feature by Egyptian Ibrahim El Batout&rsquo;s <em>Winter of Discontent </em>(2012, Egypt). A story told against the backdrop of the Egyptian revolution. Production of El Batout&rsquo;s second feature was actually under way by February 10, 2011 &ndash; just one day before President Hosni Mubarak was ousted after 30 years in power, meaning that a lot of the footage in the film is actually real &ndash; giving the film a raw and authentic feel. Similar to <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>, and given the speed at which both films were produced from the time of the uprisings they are focusing on (Algeria had only been independent for 4 years when Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film was made) it is sometimes hard to distinguish what is &lsquo;real&rsquo; and what is acted. In fact, it was probably hard to distinguish for the actors themselves, and El Batout has revealed that a scene in which his real-life brother is talking about torture at the hands of the security forces was not strictly fictitious.</p> <p><strong>Martin Evans:</strong> Why does the film continue to be a reference point for North African and Middle East film makers? </p> <p><strong>Yasmin El Derby:</strong> Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s &nbsp;<em>The Battle of Algiers</em> continues to be a point of reference in all spheres of cinema &ndash; not just within the Middle East and North Africa, even in Quentin Tarantino&rsquo;s 2009 film <em>Inglorious Bastards</em> (2009, USA / Germany), for example. Political leaders, occupiers and activists alike have referenced the film numerous times.&nbsp; The film was banned in Israel until 1988, when it finally had a run of screenings during the first intifada (Palestinian uprising against the occupation lasting between 1987 &ndash; 1993). The film was also screened at The Pentagon in Washington in 2003 as a basis for discussing strategies being used in the Iraq invasion. </p> <p>The film shall no doubt continue to be an important example of &lsquo;revolutionary cinema&rsquo;. Although many people have praised the film&rsquo;s objectivity and &lsquo;fairness&rsquo; in representing the atrocities carried out by both sides, more than this it seems to fit into theories of third cinema (a term coined by Argentinean filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino in the 1960s in their work &lsquo;Towards a Third Cinema&rsquo; &ndash; which discussed Hollywood film as &lsquo;First Cinema&rsquo; - purely a vehicle for making money and pushing bourgeois ideals. &lsquo;Second Cinema&rsquo; as European art house cinema, concentrating on the individual artistic values of the <em>auteur</em>, and &lsquo;Third Cinema&rsquo; as a collective art form, expressing revolutionary ideals). </p> <p>The style of the film, brilliantly executed by cinematographer Marcello Gatti almost mimicked a news / documentary visual style. Similar to Koutabiba Al Janabi&rsquo;s <em>Leaving Baghdad </em>(2010, Iraq, UK, UAE, Hungary) &ndash; which went so far as to mix real documentary footage with fiction to create a fascinating and realistic feeling. Links can be made between Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film and the recent surge of revolution-based cinema of the last two years: either way, the film is a must-see for any filmmaker, film buff or film studies student and for that reason will continue to be used as a reference point &ndash; intentionally or otherwise.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Gatto.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p><strong>Martin Evans:</strong> What is the state of film making across North Africa and the Middle East now?</p> <p><strong>Yamin El Derby: </strong>There is so much change within the Middle East and North African region &ndash; both politically and culturally and this is having a huge impact on cinema. Not just in terms of themes, of course, like anywhere where films are picking up on the current social and political issues, but also in terms of production and what <em>type</em> of films are being produced. Take Egypt as an example, pre-revolution, 80% of all releases within the country were that of local productions, traditionally comedies, that not only packed cinemas in Egypt but also across the whole Arab world. A bigger tax was placed on foreign films and strict rules on how many could screen at any one time throughout Egypt. This meant that, like the days of the British &lsquo;Ealing Comedies&rsquo; &ndash; a huge number of &lsquo;light entertainment&rsquo; type films were churned out. But the types of films that were being released just before the revolutions kicked off across the whole region had already started to change in tone. Many had overtones of hopelessness and despair. </p> <p>Surprisingly, across the region, filmmaking did not cease because of the revolutions. In fact, in some instances it clearly pushed their creativity forward. Not only in the sense that the tone of the films was already beginning to be different, but also, suddenly, there was an international spotlight on film from the region. You only have to look at global film festival programmers to see that in 2011 and 2012 films from the Middle East and North Africa dominated many festivals worldwide.</p> <p>Filmmaking in the Middle East and North African region currently is in a very exciting phase. The future of cinema is certainly bright. </p> <p>Cinema from the region is securing a huge following from all around the world &ndash; thanks to our globalised web-linked world where a girl in Russia or Australia can find out about a film being made in UAE or Morocco at the touch of a button. I am in no doubt that the film industry in the region can only grow, and distribution will establish a further and further reach. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the traditional status quo of Egypt being the leaders in cinema production is being challenged. Egypt are still huge producers of film and some absolutely brilliant cinema is still coming out of the country, but countries like Jordan are also becoming big players, and with the creation of organizations such as the Doha Film Institute in Qatar there has been a huge surge of films being made within the UAE.</p> <p><strong>Martin Evans:</strong> In your view who are the key contemporary film makers in North Africa and the Middle East?&nbsp; How are they reflecting the huge changes taking place across the region?</p> <p><strong>Yasmin El Derby:</strong> There are so many filmmakers creating such inspiring work at the moment. Many contemporary filmmakers are reflecting the huge changes taking place not only through the themes that they are tackling, but also in the visual styles they are choosing to embrace. International film festivals selecting and screening a lot more films from the region, are giving a world audience to filmmakers such as Nadine Labaki, in her recent second feature <em>Where Do We Go Now?</em> (2012, Lebanon, France, Egypt, Italy) - a deeply touching and humorous story of Muslim and Christian women in a Lebanese village, that manages to tackle the highly sensitive topic of religious sectarianism; Saudi filmmaker Haifa Al-Mansour, who recently had her first feature <em>Wadjda</em> (2012, Saudi Arabia, Germany) screened at the London Film Festival, sparking an interest in the development of Saudi filmmaking (a country that does not host any cinema theatres) and the ongoing conversation about women&rsquo;s issues; and&nbsp; Egyptian-born director Hesham Issawi, whose recent feature <em>Cairo Exit</em> (2010, Egypt), is a gritty drama reflecting the realities for many people in pre-revolution Cairo. This has still not been screened in Egypt &ndash; but has had substantial screenings at festivals across Europe and the USA. Issawi completed the film in December 2010 &ndash; just one month before the revolution began Egypt&rsquo;s hopeful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Issawi later commented that if he had completed the film later &ndash; the whole tone would have been a lot more hopeful. </p> <p>Some other notable contemporary Egyptian filmmakers subverting the status quo are Amr Salama and Mohamed Diab. Salama directed the stunning <em>Asmaa</em> (2011, Egypt) a film inspired by true events about a young women in Egypt who is HIV Positive. He also co-directed the documentary <em>Tahrir: The Good, The Bad and The Politician</em> (2011, Egypt) &ndash; both films screened at the London Film Festival. Mohamed Diab directed the recent <em>Cairo 678</em> (2010, Egypt) a film following the stories of three women in Egypt who deal with the daily plight of sexual harassment. The 2012 film <em>After The Battle</em> directed by Yousry Nasrallah is again a direct representation of the revolution that has swept across Egypt.</p> <p>Moroccan cinema is also reaching new highs of production numbers. A recent must-see is the 2010 film <em>Majid</em> (2010, Morocco) by Nassim Abassi. A tale, which follows the lives of an orphan and a street kid as they set off on a journey, which takes them from Mohammedia to Casablanca. Nassim Abassi studied film in the UK so Majid is a polished feature made with the high production values which European audiences are used to, but it remains a quintessentially Moroccan story.</p> <p>There are so many films and filmmakers one could mention, this is just the tip of the iceberg!</p> <p><strong>Martin Evans: </strong>What is the aim of the Middle East and North African Film Festival in London?&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><strong>Yasmin El Derby:</strong> The idea for setting up the London MENA Film Festival came from a personal obsession with film in general and an observation that there was an extreme lack of representation of films from the MENA region here in the UK. I found this strange as there is such a huge diaspora in the UK and the film industry in the MENA region is so extensive. I came to the conclusion that, not only are there many British Arabs (including people of mixed heritage) who would be interested to see films from the region but also that there is a lot of interest in the region from the general British public &ndash; especially now with the current revolutions and uprisings across the Arab world (although the beginnings of the festival were already in motion by the time the first spark of revolution was lit). </p> <p>The festival aims to give Arab filmmakers a platform to express their creativity and also to give everyone an opportunity to access these films. Creating an environment of cultural exchange and being able to connect people &ndash; especially the diaspora to each other here in the UK (as well as to people back in the &lsquo;home&rsquo; countries) was of paramount importance to us. We also really wanted to break down stereotypes surrounding the MENA region that are often reinforced in western media.</p> <p>There has definitely been a growth in interest in Middle East and North African cinema. I think there are a number of reasons for this; the emergence of so many film festivals in the MENA region and the growth of &lsquo;new&rsquo; filmmaking in the UAE has contributed to this interest, and the recent revolutions and uprisings have had a huge impact &ndash; meaning people who never even thought about the region before have a sudden interest. Another contributing factor, in my view, is the current and prevalent media coverage of Arab countries &ndash; especially in recent years. Although a lot of this media coverage has been negative, I think it has sparked an interest for many people to discover more about the region, the people and culture. It is of paramount importance to display Middle East and North African cinema in the UK, simply because of the huge benefit in offering people an alternative to Hollywood cinema &ndash; just to show a different representation of the world and a different world-view. I also think there is a huge want for many British Arabs, especially second generation (myself included) to connect with their heritage and feel &lsquo;part&rsquo; of it. </p> <p>A big objective of the festival is also to create a platform that can dispel some prevalent stereotypes and myths and bring people together in a positive integrated fashion &ndash; and what better way than through film &ndash; a totally accessible medium that if executed properly can cross all the boundaries of language, culture and ideology.</p> <p>We want to feed the appetite of everyone who has an interest in MENA culture &ndash; and even people who do not, but who might be tempted to come and see a film because quite simply, they like films.</p> <p>I feel films play an invaluable role in free expression not just in the Middle East and North Africa region but also throughout the globe. Serious issues can be hinted at through storytelling and filmmakers may feel they have more freedom expressing their views this way &ndash; under a safety net of a fictional story. With ever easier and cheaper ways to shoot films I think many people will be inspired to get their voices heard. Films can also have worldwide views (unlike some other forms of media) &ndash; meaning that a particular point can be made with the world in mind - a film can transcend cultural, language and ideology barriers and bring people together - building bridges along the way.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-historical-truth-and-filmic-representation">The Battle of Algiers: historical truth and filmic representation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/walid-benkhaled/genesis-of-film-battle-of-algiers">Genesis of a film: the Battle of Algiers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Martin Evans Mon, 21 Jan 2013 09:00:08 +0000 Martin Evans 70454 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In short: Ken Loach on The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/in-short-ken-loach-on-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a></p><p>On 17 December 2012, Ken Loach summed up the personal significance of <em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">The Battle of Algiers</a> </em>for him, in our project situating <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria’s history, society and politics</a> within the wider context of the Arab world.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/458945/index.html">Ken Loach</a> is one of the Britain&rsquo;s most important film-makers. Born in 1936, his directing career began in television in the 1960s with episodes of the gritty British police drama <em><a href="http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/473009/index.html">Z-Cars</a> </em>followed by the television play <em>Cathy Come Home </em>(1966) - groundbreaking in the way that it confronted homelessness and unemployment &ndash; before moving into film-making with <em><a href="http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/442722/index.html">Poor Cow</a> </em>(1967) and <em><a href="http://www.criterion.com/films/27560-kes">Kes</a> </em>(1970).&nbsp; Often described as a political film-maker, his 1995 film <em><a href="http://links.org.au/node/2471">Land and Freedom</a> </em>narrates the story of David Carr, a British Communist who fights on the republican side during the Spanish Civil War, while his 2006 film <em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arts-Film/loach_3650.jsp">The Wind That Shakes the Barley</a> </em>deals with Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War. He is currently making a documentary on the place of &lsquo;1945&rsquo; in British culture<em>.&nbsp; </em></p> <p>His film-making is committed to a realist style; one that strives to give a voice to ordinary people and their daily lives.&nbsp; In developing this style, Loach has underlined the formative impact of three films in particular: Vittoria De Sica&rsquo;s <em><a href="http://www.criterion.com/films/210-bicycle-thieves">Bicycle Thieves</a> </em>(1948), Milos Forman&rsquo;s <em><a href="http://www.criterion.com/films/246-loves-of-a-blonde">Loves of a Blonde</a> </em>(1965) and <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bOr_U_92xE">Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s <em>The Battle of Algiers</em></a><em> </em>(1966)<em>...</em></p> <p>Martin Evans: Why is Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>important for you?</p> <p>Ken Loach: It was anti-imperialist film.&nbsp; It told the story from the point of view of ordinary people.&nbsp; It used non-professional actors.&nbsp; It was not over-dramatic.&nbsp; It was low key.&nbsp; It showed the impact of colonialism on daily lives.&nbsp; These techniques had an important influence on my film making...&nbsp; I saw the film when it came out in 1966.&nbsp; It was one of a number of films that influenced me.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/battleofalgiers.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p>Q. Did you know Gillo Pontecorvo?</p><p>A. I met Gillo Pontecorvo through the Venice Film Festival and we became good friends.&nbsp; I chided him for not making more films.&nbsp; A lovely man, with a twinkle in his eye, he was very political.&nbsp; He was a communist.&nbsp; He had been a partisan in the Italian Resistance and this clearly influenced the way in which he made the film. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Q. How does <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>continue to speak to the contemporary world?</p> <p>A. It continues to speak to the contemporary world because of imperialism, because of what the USA and Britain are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.&nbsp; The film is about the coercion of the local population.&nbsp; But it is also about how a local population can use local knowledge to win a guerrilla war...&nbsp; As long as imperialism is around it will be an important film.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the University of Portsmouth and the University of Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle of Algiers Highlights_1.png" width="140" /></a></p> <p>Read more from our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/battle-of-algiers">Battle of Algiers</a> debate, part of our <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions</a> editorial partnership with Martin Evans of the University of Sussex.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" width="140" /></a></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Conflict Culture Ideas International politics Battle of Algiers Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Martin Evans Tue, 08 Jan 2013 15:09:56 +0000 Martin Evans 70255 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Genesis of a film: the Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/walid-benkhaled/genesis-of-film-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />A 2006 documentary by Yves Boisset uses uncredited extracts from the film, mixed in with actual news reels, without stating that the film was made nine years after the events which it relates to. Fiction has become a historical document.&nbsp; </div> </div> </div> <p><em>The Battle of Algiers </em>was directed by the Italian Gillo Pontecorvo and produced by Antonio Musu for Igor Film and Yacef Saadi for Casbah Films. Released in 1966, the film is based on real events during the Algerian War of Independence 1954-1962, and in particular what has been called &lsquo;The Battle of Algiers&rsquo;. This took place in 1957 in the Algerian capital and saw the French army trying to crush the resistance of the National Liberation Front (FLN). In urban areas, the FLN was a guerilla movement which carried out attacks on both military and civilian targets. In Algiers, the FLN was led by Yacef Saadi, whose memoirs, published shortly after the war, were a key reference point in the making of the film. As well as being co-producer, Saadi also acted in the film, playing himself under the codename &ldquo;Djafar&rdquo;.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle-of-Algiers-Poster.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <h2>Production history</h2> <p class="Body">Analysing the context in which <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>was produced gives us key insights into the political, moral and intellectual motivations behind the film.</p> <p class="Body">The starting point was early 1962, a few months before Algerian independence in July of that year, when Pontecorvo and Franco Solinas, his co-screen writer and friend, went to Algiers with bogus journalist cards. Fascinated by the events and motivated by their left-wing commitments, they approached senior members of the FLN who helped them to approach people and even to explore some zones where the war was still raging. </p> <p class="Body">Pontecorvo and Solinas used all this documentation to write a script about a former paratrooper, <em>Para</em>, which was ultimately never made. Then in 1964, Pontecorvo and Saadi encountered each other: according to Pontecorvo&rsquo;s biographer, Saadi&rsquo;s representative Salah Baazi came to Italy. In an interview in 2004, Saadi states that he himself went to Italy to seek out Pontecorvo, inspired by his work and aware of his political sympathies. </p> <p class="Body">After his arrest in September 1957, Saadi had written in prison his first memoir <em>Souvenirs de la Bataille d&rsquo;Alger</em> (Memories of the Battle of Algiers) and was looking for a leftwing, non-French European director to direct the film - <a href="http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/news/10-05.html">Rosi</a> and <a href="http://www.fondazionelacolombaia.it">Visconti</a> were also on his shortlist.</p> <p class="Body">Pontecorvo tried to propose his own script <em>Para</em> instead because, he recalls, a script written by an ex-combatant was &ldquo;quite ugly from a cinematic point of view, or better to tell the truth, it was awful and with a sickeningly propagandistic intention&rdquo;. Baazi thought that <em>Para</em> treated colonialism from an exclusively European point of view and did not tell the story of the Algerian people. So Pontecorvo and Solinas decided to rewrite everything from scratch and were willing to take the risk of working for nothing and taking the time needed, however long that might be. </p> <p class="Body">In compensation, Saadi was supposed to help them to contact key figures and finance a new trip to Algiers in order to help them document their new script. In summer 1965, the production of the film started and lasted for just over four months. The cost of the film was around $800,000. After a long struggle to find an Italian co-producer, Antonio Musu, who had just created his new company Igor Film, completed the funding already provided by the Algerian government via Casbah Films, a company whose ownership was shared between Yacef Saadi and the Algerian state.<strong></strong></p> <p>Yacef had always been a fan of gangster films and an avid filmgoer. When he was eight he was an extra in the French film noir <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m4A9zEUXhs"><em>P&eacute;p&eacute; le Moko</em> (Julien Duvivier, 1937</a>), shot partly on location in the Algiers Casbah. The existence of Casbah films was unprecedented in a socialist country in which no private enterprise existed. Saadi had the full backing and support of the new Algerian president Houari Boumedi&egrave;ne who had overthrown Ahmed Ben Bella after the coup d&rsquo;&eacute;tat of June 1965. Indeed, local residents of Algiers thought that the tanks on the street at the moment of the coup were part of the film set.</p> <p class="Body">Pontecorvo and Saadi have given a number of interviews about the production of the film and various conflicting elements have emerged. In a 1967 article about the making of the film, Pontecorvo states that the script was based on &ldquo;thousands of eyewitness accounts, documents, photographs&rdquo; and does not specifically mention Saadi&rsquo;s memoirs. Saadi on the other hand has been <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg_b7CUvXdg">very vocal</a> in emphasising his individual role and importance, and has recently complained about being sidelined in the credits of the 2004 re-release. Since the making of the film and especially since it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival&nbsp;in 1966, Saadi has made a livelihood from talking about the film and in particular has been much more solicited since 9/11, more on which below. Indeed comparing Saadi&rsquo;s many TV and press interviews reveals internal contradictions in his version of events (both about the film and the real &ldquo;Battle of Algiers&rdquo;), from boldly defending the FLN&rsquo;s guerrilla methods in some interviews to regretting having blood on his hand in others, notably in Yves Boisset&rsquo;s documentary <em>La Bataille d&rsquo;Alger</em> in 2006.<strong></strong></p> <p class="Body">The second key feature which emerges from analysing the production of the film is the importance of the historical context and in particular intellectual currents at the time such as Marxism and Third Worldism. On the film&rsquo;s release <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/backissues/2011/10/essential-pauline-kael-film-reviews.html">Pauline Kael</a> wrote in the <em>New Yorker</em>: &ldquo;The burning passion of Pontecorvo acts directly on your emotions. He is the most dangerous kind of Marxist: a Marxist poet&rdquo;. </p> <p class="Body">In the 1960s, newly independent countries such Algeria attracted European Marxist intellectuals, disillusioned with the USSR (particularly since 1956) and looking for a new location for a socialist revolution. Often they were quite surprised when their visions of African revolution did not correspond to the reality on the ground. For example, Pontecorvo found it hard to recruit actresses for the film in Algeria, because of strict social codes separating the male and female spheres - this is ironic given the way in which women are shown in new roles in the film. When looking at the production history of the film we realise that the Italian co-producer needed the cultural knowledge and access to the Casbah provided by the Algerian producer and at the same time the film could not have been made without the technical competence of the Italians. Both were mutually dependent on the other, emphasising the many and complex forces at play in the production of the film, practical constraints and parameters which determine its final form as much as the script and actors.<strong></strong></p> <p>Finally, the production of the film demonstrates the importance which the Algerian state gave to creating its version of the Algerian War of Independence and a collective memory based on unity in fighting for a nationalist goal. The documentary aesthetic of the film provided the Algerian nation with the archives of its struggle.</p> <p>Pontecorvo once said, &ldquo;the ideal director should be three-quarters <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/10/movies/10ross.html?ex=1320814800&amp;en=21f96c43e19f7785&amp;ei=5088&amp;_r=0">Rossellini</a> and one-quarter <a href="http://sensesofcinema.com/2004/great-directors/eisenstein/">Eisenstein</a>&rdquo;. An analysis of the visual style of the film cannot be separated from its historical and ideological context as well as broader aspects of visual culture in the 1960s. The aesthetic of the film is intrinsically linked to the message its seeks to convey, so Pontecorvo wanted to make a choral film in which the only hero is the Algerian people - indeed, the slogan of newly independent Algeria was &ldquo;one sole hero, the people&rdquo; and the focus on the history of the mass could also be seen as influenced by Pontecorvo&rsquo;s Marxist sympathies.</p> <p>Pontecorvo decided to work only with non-professional actors. The <a href="http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1024-jean-martin-1922-2009">only exception is Jean Martin </a>who plays the part of Colonel Mathieu. The screenplay contains 138 roles. Most of them were cast in the street and in prisons. Pontecorvo was obsessed by the faces of his actors: &ldquo;<em>la Faccia</em>&rdquo;. In the opening scene for instance where we see a member of the FLN tortured by the French army, Pontecorvo had to convince the vice-minister of the interior to have a special authorisation to free the prisoner for the duration of the shooting just because he liked the face of the prisoner. </p> <div style="float:right; margin: 10px 10px 10px 10px;"> <img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/a90c86fc_1966-battleofalgiers-poster.jpeg" width="250" /></div> <p>The visual style of the film was deliberately close to a documentary news style: Pontecorvo liked to cite an English critic who described his film as a neo-realist work influenced by a decade of television experience. His use of grainy textures and black and white aimed to reproduce newsreels of the time to provide the &ldquo;tone of truth&rdquo;. The aesthetic which is both realist and emotionally powerful at the same time is what Pontecorvo calls &ldquo;the dictatorship of truth&rdquo;, an effect created technically by making a duplicate negative from a positive print (a dupe negative). </p> <p>The film looks so realistic that it was seen as necessary to warn the audience in the opening credits of the 2004 re-release that the film contains &ldquo;not a single frame of documentary or news footage&rdquo;.<em> </em>The documentary style and &ldquo;truth&rdquo; of the film means that extracts are regularly used to illustrate actual documentaries, for example a 2006 documentary by Yves Boisset mentioned above, also called <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>, uses uncredited extracts from the film, mixed in with actual news reels, without stating that the scenes are from a film made nine years after the events which it relates to. In this way the fiction has become a historical document.&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Battle of Algiers Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Walid Benkhaled Thu, 20 Dec 2012 11:19:02 +0000 Walid Benkhaled 70049 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Good guys and bad guys: The Battle of Algiers and The Dark Knight Rises https://www.opendemocracy.net/jonathan-lewis/good-guys-and-bad-guys-battle-of-algiers-and-dark-knight-rises <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />The ‘chaos and fear’ inspired by <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> is certainly there, enhanced by another parallel between the two films – the location from which the uprising bursts forth.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>More than four decades after its release, Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s masterpiece <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> (1966) remains a primary point of reference in the filmography of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62), and in the war film genre more generally. </p> <p>Indeed, the film&rsquo;s impact extends beyond even these parameters, inspiring directors who, to lesser or greater extents, delve into what we might call &lsquo;mainstream&rsquo; cinema. Directors to have cited the film as an influence include the English director Ken Loach and the American Steven Soderbergh. Both mention their admiration of the verisimilitude that Pontecorvo generates in his film, an aspect of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> that has been the subject of academic study. Loach <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/may/16/bicycle-thieves-ken-loach">refers to its immediacy</a> and the way in which the film makes a political event cinematic, without ever resorting to excess, as can often be the case with war films. For his part, <a href="http://www.popcornreel.com/htm/soderche.htm">Soderbergh</a> refers to the near-necessity to include a disclaimer at the beginning of the film specifying that &lsquo;not a foot of this film is documentary footage&rsquo;. As well as influencing individual directors, <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> has been <a href="http://explore.bfi.org.uk/sightandsoundpolls/2012/film/4ce2b6f24787d">cited as a precursor</a> to films such as <em>Z</em> (the 1969 French thriller directed by Costa-Gavras), <em>Michael Collins</em> (dir. Neil Jordan, 1996), and more recently the 2005 Steven Spielberg film <em>Munich</em>. </p> <p>While highlighting the wide-reaching legacy of Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film and its undoubted significance in the world of cinema, lines of comparison between <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>and the above films and directors are not hard to draw. Loach himself is known for his cinematic realism and a rundown of his cinematic output reveals firm socialist sympathies. Indeed, he cites his political engagement at the time of the release of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> as another reason why he was captivated by the film. Soderbergh&rsquo;s recent output includes the 2008 two-part biopic about the famous Cuban revolutionary figure, Che Guevara, and Soderbergh refers to <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> in <a href="http://www.popcornreel.com/htm/soderche.htm">his discussion of <em>Che</em></a>. </p> <p>Political turmoil in the wake of the military dictatorship in Greece in the 1960s provides the backdrop to <em>Z</em> which, incidentally, was filmed in Algiers, while <em>Michael Collins</em> and <em>Munich</em> are also based on historical, &lsquo;real-life&rsquo; events. The former tells the story of the Irish revolutionary, Michael Collins, who died in the Irish Civil War; the latter depicts the terrorism and counter-terrorism between Israeli and Palestinian groups in the aftermath of the murder by Palestinian terrorists of Israeli athletes and officials at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The parallels made between <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> and, in particular, <em>Michael Collins</em> and <em>Munich</em> inscribe Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film, and in passing the Algerian War as well, within a wider, transnational context of war, terrorism, and counter-terrorism, underlining the relevance of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> not just to the events that it represents, but to independence and anti-colonial movements around the world and to conflicts that remain of contemporary significance. The films mentioned above all share themes that <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> itself brings to the fore &ndash; political upheaval, revolution, war, terrorism and counter-terrorism, colonialism and anti-colonialism &ndash; all of which are explored through the lens of events rooted in history, even if none of the films succeed in emulating the grainy, black-and-white, documentary style that Pontecorvo deployed. </p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle%20of%20Algiers%20Truck.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p>It was thus with a degree of surprise and interest that I found the latest director to cite <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>as an influence to be Christopher Nolan, the man behind the latest films in the <em>Batman</em> franchise. The final instalment in Nolan&rsquo;s <em>Batman</em> trilogy, <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em>, premiered in July 2012, and brought an end to a story that commenced with 2005&rsquo;s <em>Batman Begins</em> and 2008&rsquo;s <em>The Dark Knight</em>. Interviews with Nolan and his team on the making of <em>The Dark Knight Rises </em>indicate that Nolan chose <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> as one of the films for the crew to watch and from which to gain inspiration before they started filming, with <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jul/14/dark-knight-rises-behind-the-scenes">Nolan stating</a> that &lsquo;no film has ever captured the chaos and fear of an uprising as vividly as [<em>The Battle of Algiers</em>]&rsquo;. In the remainder of this article, I will build on <a href="http://www.thehollywoodnews.com/2012/07/31/christopher-nolan-reveals-five-films-that-influenced-the-dark-knight-rises">Nolan&rsquo;s above statement</a>, exploring the ways in which traces of Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film manifest themselves in <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em>, especially with regard to the themes with which the final episode in the <em>Batman </em>trilogy engages.</p> <p>For where <em><a href="http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/dvd/videos.php">The Dark Knight Rises</a></em> differs from films such as <em>Michael Collins</em>, <em>Che</em>, and <em>Munich</em> is, clearly, in the fact that it is not based in any way on &lsquo;real-life&rsquo; characters and events &ndash; quite the opposite. While <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>lends itself well to influencing films about revolutions, wars, and acts of terror and violence rooted in historical fact, how these themes might be transmitted to a superhero, comic-book film is less obvious. However, what has set Nolan&rsquo;s <em>Batman </em>trilogy apart from the many films about comic-book characters and superheroes that seem to continue inundating cinemas has been its refreshing, more nuanced consideration of the issues that it brings to our attention, such as violence and terrorism. Though the films that make up the trilogy are still very much blockbusters, there is no American flag-waving nor, more importantly, a simplistically clear-cut representation of &lsquo;good&rsquo; and &lsquo;bad&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Ambivalence&nbsp;</h2> <p>This ambivalence was exemplified first in <em>The Dark Knight</em>, the second of the trilogy, which won two Oscars in 2009, including Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger&rsquo;s now iconic portrayal of the Joker. Though this iconic status has been heightened perhaps by Ledger&rsquo;s tragic death in 2008, the Oscar points towards the success of the Joker in captivating audiences and blurring the &lsquo;bad guy/good guy&rsquo; dichotomy. The Joker is a terrorist with few, if any, morals, but he is also the most entertaining character in the film and has all the best lines, causing him to overshadow Batman himself. </p> <p>In <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em>, the role of the &lsquo;bad guy&rsquo; is assigned to Bane who, though a very different character from the Joker, nonetheless blurs the dichotomy even further. The inevitability of comparing Bane with the Joker has led to <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/19/showbiz/movies/dark-knight-rises-review-charity/index.html">some reviewers</a> dismissing Bane as a one-dimensional brute who plays the convenient role of the jihadist for mainstream American audiences. This does Bane and the film a disservice. For Bane is a terrorist with a clear ideology &ndash; to fight against class inequality and the hegemonic powers. Firstly, his aim is to free the downtrodden and oppressed of Gotham who have been marginalised and forgotten, while the dominant classes have grown richer at their expense (highly symbolically, one of Bane&rsquo;s first targets is the stock market). However, Bane&rsquo;s ultimate goal is to bring Gotham to its complete and utter destruction: the city must be punished for its years of lavishness and greed. As <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/9403551/Batman-The-Dark-Knight-Rises-first-review.html">one reviewer put it</a>, Bane is &lsquo;a gas-masked revolutionary [...] who paints himself as &ldquo;Gotham&rsquo;s reckoning&rdquo;&rsquo;. The use of the word &lsquo;revolutionary&rsquo; here underlines the notion that the depiction of Bane as a terrorist is debatable (that old saying about freedom fighters and terrorists comes to mind), and points towards the idea that Nolan is not seeking to simply cast the latest Batman &lsquo;bad guy&rsquo; as a the archetypal anti-American terrorist. </p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Dark%20Knight%20Rises.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p>Parallels between Bane&rsquo;s uprising and the uprising in the <em>The Battle of Algiers </em>reinforce this point, and suggest that Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film might have constituted a greater influence on <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em> than Nolan himself lets on. The &lsquo;chaos and fear&rsquo; inspired by <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> is certainly there, enhanced by another parallel between the two films &ndash; the location from which the uprising bursts forth. For the narrow and maze-like corridors of the Casbah in <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>, substitute the underground sewer where Bane forms his army of rebels: both locations prove difficult for the authorities to penetrate, making the acts of terror that stem from them all the more effective, as bombs go off in the centre of either Algiers or Gotham. </p> <p>As Bane&rsquo;s uprising goes &lsquo;overground&rsquo;, he compels the downtrodden citizens of Gotham to take back control of their city from their rich oppressors. As well as providing contemporary echoes of deep resentment towards the current economic crisis, Bane&rsquo;s call-to-arms to the oppressed (the &lsquo;wretched of the earth&rsquo; to borrow from Frantz Fanon&rsquo;s famous reference to the victims of colonisation) and ultimate goal of Gotham&rsquo;s complete destruction recalls the need for colonised subjects to rise against the colonial system and put a violent end to it - a notion that Fanon himself puts forward in <em>The Wretched of the Earth </em>(1961).&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em>, Batman overcomes Bane and saves Gotham &ndash; an inevitability of Hollywood blockbusters that, granted, gives the impression that Nolan was on Batman&rsquo;s side, the side of &lsquo;good&rsquo;, all along. However, it has been said of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> that the film is &lsquo;clearly on the side of the Algerians in their liberation struggle&rsquo;, even if it is &lsquo;far from being a Manichean film&rsquo;. While <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> may be clearly on the side of the Algerian revolutionaries, it also aims to present &lsquo;a balanced version of the Algerian war&rsquo;, including &lsquo;a sympathetic and nuanced portrayal of the French colonel Mathieu&rsquo;. </p> <p>Similarly, <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em> may present Batman as the victor in the end but, in the final two films of his trilogy, Nolan presents us with a more nuanced portrayal of the classic comic-book &lsquo;bad guy&rsquo;, starting with the highly entertaining figure of the Joker, and ending with the revolutionary, anti-establishment rhetoric of Bane. This blurring of the &lsquo;good guy/bad guy&rsquo; dichotomy has largely contributed to the way in which Nolan has redefined the comic-book film genre, and testifies to the unlikely extent of the legacy of <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <br /><p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Jonathan Lewis Thu, 20 Dec 2012 11:07:40 +0000 Jonathan Lewis 70047 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Battle of Algiers: historical truth and filmic representation https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-historical-truth-and-filmic-representation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />The bitter divisions within the FLN are ignored. Instead, Gillo Pontecorvo, in his 1966 film, <em>The Battle of Algiers,</em> presents the war uniquely in terms of the FLN against the French paratroopers<em>. </em> We begin a new series exploring the many facets of this remarkable film.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo; was a pivotal event in the Algerian War of Independence.&nbsp; Taking place in the tiny backstreets and alleys of the Algiers Casbah from the summer of 1956 through to October 1957, the fighting set the Front de Lib&eacute;ration Nationale (FLN) against the elite paratroopers of the French Army.&nbsp; </p> <p>To <a href="http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_d%27Alger">call it a battle</a>, however, is a misnomer.&nbsp; This was not urban warfare on a grand scale like Stalingrad in 1942 or even the Irish Easter uprising of 1916.&nbsp; There was no sustained street-to-street combat.&nbsp; Rather the confrontation took the form of short bursts of fighting at close quarters, interspersed with the bombing of civilians on the FLN side and mass round-ups and torture on the French side.&nbsp; At the heart of this violence was one struggle: for the control of the capital&rsquo;s Muslim population. </p> <p>Similarly there is a debate about the exact starting point.&nbsp; Did the &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo; begin with the guillotining of two FLN prisoners, Ahmed Zabana and Abdelkader Ferradj on 19 June 1956 which provoked FLN operatives to respond with twenty-one attacks in Algiers, leaving ten dead?&nbsp; </p> <p>Did it begin with shadowy elements in the French police that planted a bomb in the densely populated Casbah on 10 August 1956, killing up to seventy people which led the FLN to explode bombs at two crowded French cafes in the city centre on 30 September?&nbsp; </p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/800px-Casbah-cache-Ali-lapointe.jpeg" width="460" /></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Ruins of the Casbah after its explosion by paratroopers. <a href="http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Casbah-cache-Ali-lapointe.jpg">Wikipedia/Saber 68.</a>. All rights reserved</small>.</em></p> <p>Or did it begin on 7 January 1957 when the French civilian authorities, at a loss to maintain law and order, handed police powers over to the French paratroopers commanded by General Jacques Massu?&nbsp; </p> <p>In contrast there is a clearer sense of an end point: 7 October 1957 when the last FLN leader, Ali Ammar alias Ali la Pointe, was cornered in a safe house near the top of the Casbah &ndash; the first sequence in Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film. Refusing to surrender, he was blown up by French paratrooper bomb experts.&nbsp; Then, within the rubble, the paratroopers exhumed Ali la Pointe&rsquo;s corpse as the physical proof of French military victory.</p> <h2>With us or against us</h2> <p>The roots of the &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo; must be traced back to the history of Algerian nationalism.&nbsp; On 1 November 1954 the FLN launched a series of bombing attacks across Algeria.&nbsp; A completely unknown new organisation, formed clandestinely just a few weeks before hand, FLN tracts, found scattered in the remote countryside, were uncompromising.&nbsp; Referring to splits within the nationalist movement without naming the protagonists, the 1 November 1954 Declaration underlined that these were in the past.&nbsp; Every Algerian, whatever their previous political allegiances, now had one duty: to rally behind the FLN &ndash; the new embodiment of the Algerian nation.&nbsp; Significantly, violence was at the centre of the revolution and those who placed their hopes in a gradualist solution were denounced as &lsquo;traitors&rsquo; and &lsquo;reformists&rsquo;.&nbsp; FLN violence was keyed into absolutes.&nbsp; There was no third way.&nbsp; Algerians could only be for or against the FLN.</p> <p>The FLN, therefore, had two inter-connected targets.&nbsp; Through immediate military action it wanted to overthrow French colonial rule, in place since 1830.&nbsp; But it also wanted to predominate over all other political rivals.&nbsp; Now the FLN alone could give orders and the existing parties &ndash; the Algerian Communist Party (PCA), the Union D&eacute;mocratique du Manifeste Alg&eacute;rien (UDMA) and Mouvement pour le Triomphe des Libert&eacute;s D&eacute;mocratiques (MTLD) &ndash; were told to dissolve themselves and join the FLN or else face reprisals.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Through violence the FLN hoped to spark mass revolt.&nbsp; This did not happen.&nbsp; For the first ten months the conflict was restricted to rural eastern Algeria.&nbsp; Thereafter it did spread to the rest of the country, and by the summer of 1956 Algeria was in the grip of a full scale conflict as the FLN was confronted with a left-of-centre government led by the Socialist Party, the Republican Front, which hoped to quell the uprising through a dramatic intensification of the conflict.&nbsp; This included the granting of special repressive powers to the army and a surge in troop levels, bolstered by the recall of reservists, that rose to 400,000.&nbsp; </p> <h2>One final surge &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</h2> <p>By this point the dominant figure in the FLN was the thirty-six old Abbane Ramdane. A political prisoner in November 1954, Abbane Ramdane joined the FLN on his release in early 1955 and quickly rose to assume the leadership of the internal FLN; a position which set him against the external leadership based in Cairo who, he argued, had no right to give orders because they were far from the harsh realities of the war.&nbsp;Abbane Ramdane was the brains behind the FLN&rsquo;s strategy in launching the &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo;.&nbsp; With a UN vote on Algeria imminent at the beginning of 1957 he believed that victory was within the FLN&rsquo;s grasp.&nbsp; He was convinced that France had lost the political will to fight on.&nbsp; All that was needed, he argued, was one final surge that would force the French into negotiations.&nbsp; This was the thinking behind the eight-day strike, timed in advance of the UN vote.&nbsp; It was also the thinking behind the campaign of urban terrorism.&nbsp; Continuous violence in Algiers, the centre of French power, would demonstrate that the FLN struggle was not just pockets of resistance in the mountains but a mass movement supported by the towns and the cities.&nbsp; It would create a climate of panic that would sap the French capacity to stay in Algeria.&nbsp; As one FLN directive stated: &lsquo;A bomb causing the death of ten people and wounding fifty others is the equivalent on a psychological level to the loss of a French battalion.&rsquo; Finally, by launching such co-ordinated violence, Abbane Ramdane wanted to show that it was the FLN, and not the rival Mouvement National Alg&eacute;rien led by the Algerian nationalist veteran Messali Hadj, which was the true representative of the Algerian nation, and the only political force that the French should negotiate with, </p> <p align="center"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Abane_Ramadan.jpeg" width="250" /></p> <p align="center"><em><small>Abbane Ramdane. <br /><a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abane_Ramadan.jpg">Wikimedia Commons/Some rights reserved.</a></small></em></p> <p>Faced with this challenge the Republican Front government effectively gave the French paratroopers a free hand to destroy the FLN in Algiers by any means possible and what followed was a cycle of violence and counter-violence.&nbsp; In the alleyways, cellars, sewers and tunnels of the Casbah the paratroopers and FLN played out a deadly game of hunter and hunted. The army resorted to torture on a systematic scale to extract information that included the &lsquo;disappearance&rsquo; of some 3,024 prisoners.&nbsp; Yet, there is no doubt that this repression strengthened support for the FLN.&nbsp; Out of the Casbah&rsquo;s total population of 80,000, between thirty and forty per cent of its active male population was arrested at one stage or another, and in truth this had always been part of the FLN&rsquo;s strategy.&nbsp; In pulling the trigger and letting the French react, it was unleashing a process of violence that would force the Algerian population full-square behind the FLN. As the <em>Le Monde </em>journalist Jean Lacouture later admitted, France had won militarily but lost politically because the methods of victory turned international opinion against the French cause. </p> <p>The consequences for the FLN were equally far-reaching.&nbsp; The severity of French repression meant that the leadership were forced to leave Algeria.&nbsp; Henceforth the FLN leadership would reside in exile.&nbsp; Cut off from the population and the realities of the war, its power structures would develop outside of a country riven by power struggles, where the military came to predominate over any form of civilian power: a fact exemplified by the death of Abbane Ramdane at the hands of Algerian officers in Morocco in December 1957.&nbsp; </p> <h2>Black and white&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </h2> <p>Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film was made on location in 1965. Talking to participants and using for the most part non-professional actors, the film, shot in grainy black and white, has a newsreel quality which means that it is often mistaken for a documentary.&nbsp; Much of the film&rsquo;s narrative follows the facts outlined above as Pontecorvo depicted, in a brutally honest manner, the effects of both French <em>and </em>FLN violence.&nbsp; Yet the film also diverges from the facts.&nbsp; On the French side, Colonel Mathieu, played brilliantly by the French actor Jean Martin whose anti-Algerian War stance had led him to be blacklisted in France, is a fictional character, albeit one clearly based upon the two actual military leaders &ndash; General Jacques Massu and Colonel Marcel Bigeard. It is also highly selective.&nbsp; There is nothing of the role of the Algerian Communists, who supplied the bomb making expertise to the FLN, or the rival MNA, still an important political force in early 1957.&nbsp; Equally, the bitter divisions within the FLN are ignored, as in the case of Abbane Ramdane who is absent as an historical figure.&nbsp; Instead Pontecorvo presents the war uniquely in terms of the FLN against the French paratroopers.&nbsp; </p> <p>Finally, the importance of Frantz Fanon for Pontecorvo must be underlined.&nbsp; Born in 1925 in the French-ruled Caribbean island of Martinique, a veteran of the World War Two Free French, Fanon studied psychology at Lyon University in the late 1940s, before arriving in Algeria in October 1953 as a psychiatrist in a hospital just south of Algiers.&nbsp; In 1956 Fanon resigned in protest at the Algerian War and made his way to Tunis to join the FLN where, in books and articles, he became a leading voice of the Algerian Revolution. Above all Fanon extolled the virtues of mirror violence, justifying this as a liberational act against the inherent violence of colonial rule.&nbsp; Fanon died in 1961, but his arguments infuse Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film, in particular the film&rsquo;s depiction of the role of women in carrying out bombing attacks on French cafes.&nbsp; This remarkable sequence was framed by Fanon&rsquo;s 1959 book <em>L&rsquo;An cinq de la revolution alg&eacute;rienne </em>(published in English under the title <em>A Dying Colonialism</em> ), which stressed how the actions of these Algerian women, either using the veil for hiding weapons, or discarding it to pass themselves off in a decoy function as sexually available French females, were challenging traditional values. </p> <p>Yet, in terms of understanding the war between 1954 and 1962 as a whole, this reliance on Fanon can lead to misunderstandings, especially if it is seen to encapsulate the Algerian historical experience.&nbsp; The Algerian women bombers from the &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo; were urban, educated and more middle class; in other words a minority, because most of the women involved in struggle were rural and, in many cases, illiterate.&nbsp; Similarly, until the final few months of the conflict in 1962, the &lsquo;Battle of Algiers&rsquo; was the <em>one </em>moment of sustained urban guerrilla warfare. Instead the Algerian War was overwhelmingly a rural war, fought in the mountains and the countryside.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <br /><p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Conflict International politics Battle of Algiers Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Martin Evans Tue, 18 Dec 2012 16:47:58 +0000 Martin Evans 69989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gender, myth, nationalism: Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers https://www.opendemocracy.net/mani-sharpe/gender-myth-nationalism-gillo-pontecorvos-battle-of-algiers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />In its framing techniques, Pontecorvo’s film arguably defines the ‘people’ in fundamentally masculine terms; as a Revolution comprised of male ‘heroes’ and martyrs.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Inspired by Yacef Saadi&rsquo;s account of his experiences as an F.L.N (<em>Front de Lib&eacute;ration Nationale</em><strong>)</strong> military commander, Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s seminal 1966 work <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> dramatises Algeria&rsquo;s struggle for independence between 1956 and 1957, during which the nationalist movement shifted its focus from rural Kabylia and the Aur&egrave;s mountains to the capital, Algiers. </p> <p>As the film illustrates, this renewed emphasis upon guerrilla warfare attracted both the attention of the international community and witnessed the increasing participation of women within the conflict, as female nationalists (known as <em>mujahida</em>)<em> </em>were tasked with carrying information and weapons through the besieged city. </p> <p>Traditionally, film scholars have tended to regard Pontecorvo&rsquo;s representation of gendered nationalism in positive terms, as the dramatization of a post-colonial national identity predicated upon sexual equality and egalitarian values. Nevertheless, as this article will illustrate, this hypothesis is somewhat problematized by the cinematographic patterns inherent within the film (lighting, framing and camera movement), which instead reveal an underlying subtext of gendered mutual exclusivity and sexual difference.</p> <p>In the <em>Battle of Algiers</em>, decisions regarding the cinematography of the film were decided by Marcello Gatti, who used telephoto lenses, fluid/unstable handheld cameras, and high levels of graininess/contrast to deliberately mimic the aesthetics of newsreel/television footage. Pontecorvo also used &lsquo;contratype&rsquo; that is, a negative reel made from a positive reel to enhance the amateur look of the narrative, whilst the disclaimer &lsquo;not even one foot of newsreel or documentary film is included in this picture&rsquo; seems to invite the audience to view the film in terms of &lsquo;documentary realism,&rsquo; emphasising the relationship between image and reality, sign and referent. </p> <p>These techniques are particularly evident when Pontecorvo focuses on the two masculine &lsquo;heroes&rsquo; of the film, Ali La Pointe (the leader of the insurrection played by Brahim Haggiag) and Si Djefar (the orchestrator of the bombings played by Yacef Saadi). In particular, both protagonists are frequently depicted using harsh, high contrast lighting - a technique known as chiaroscuro (or the &lsquo;Rembrandt effect&rsquo;), often used within western, narrative cinema to suggest psychological depth, the unconscious mind and subjectivity. Furthermore, in depicting these &lsquo;heroes&rsquo; of the revolution, Pontecorvo often uses framing techniques inherited from 1920s Soviet social realism<strong> </strong>(popularized by directors including Sergei Eisenstein) and 1950s Italian neo-realism (associated with directors including Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini), both of which privilege exterior locations in and a focus upon &lsquo;the people&rsquo; as opposed to the individual characteristic of classical Hollywood narratives. In <em>The Battle of Algiers</em> it is the winding topography of the Casbah and the neo-classical boulevards of the European quarter that form the main locus of narrative action. Nevertheless, in its framing techniques, Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film arguably defines the &lsquo;people&rsquo; in fundamentally masculine terms; as a Revolution comprised of male &lsquo;heroes&rsquo; and martyrs (see figure 1).&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle%20of%20Algiers%201.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em><small>Figure 1</small></em></p> <p>On the other hand, one scene in Pontecorvo&rsquo;s film appears atypical in its cinematographic patterns. Set initially within an interior, domestic space filled with mirrors, the scene in question depicts three Algerian women disguising themselves as European<em> </em>settlers in order to carry explosives over the restrictions placed on the war-torn city. As with the famous female resistance fighters Zohra Drif, Samia Lakdari and Djamila Bouhired, in an act of revolutionary masquerade, they manipulate the fixed, binary logic of colonialism through shifts in appearance, from veiled (haik) to a comparatively &lsquo;Westernised&rsquo; form of dress.</p> <p>Depicting Algerian women as active agents in the conflict, it is this scene which has led many theorists to view the film positively in terms of its gendered representation. Nevertheless, this is the only point at which the spectator is allowed any access to the female revolutionaries involved in the struggle; for the remainder of the film, female participants remain either silent within the narrative or part of the anonymous masses. Furthermore, this scene enacts a crucial stylistic shift from the neo-realism of the (masculine orientated) crowd scenes to a more conventional form of cinematography, drawing rather from the conventions of classical Hollywood cinema and its representation of female stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo. </p> <p>One way in which this shift takes place is through patterns of lighting, from the naturalistic techniques that deliberately mimicked the &lsquo;gritty&rsquo; aesthetics of newsreel/television footage, to three point lighting (comprised of a key, fill and back-light) a technique traditionally used by Hollywood directors to reduce the illusion of depth demanded by the narrative, giving flatness, the quality of a cut-out or icon rather than verisimilitude to the screen. Furthermore, a particular emphasis upon soft, frontal lighting, is apparent here, bathing the faces of the <em>mujahida</em> in a quasi-translucent glow that - at certain points - threatens to disrupt the fragile illusion of realism insofar as it is constructed by the narrative. </p> <p>Indeed, Ranjana Khanna describes the bombing sequence as &lsquo;contrasting starkly with the high neo-realism of the crowd scenes&rsquo;- an observation which casts doubt on the film as representing gendered nationalism in equal and objective terms. Furthermore, framing techniques used here are also reminiscent of classical Hollywood conventions, visualising a shift from exterior locations and &lsquo;the people&rsquo; (framed with wide shots) to a singular focus upon the individual (using medium and close-up shots). Whilst ostensibly representing female <em>mujahida</em> actively participating in the struggle, this shift in framing techniques thus simultaneously appears to remove the women from the Revolution (a tension expressed between the content of the film and the ways in which this content is articulated through film language). </p> <p>In other words, whilst men are symbolically associated with the streets and &lsquo;the people&rsquo;, (through cinematographic patterns appropriated from Soviet social realism and Italian neo-realism), through patterns of framing (characteristic of classic realist Hollywood cinema), women&rsquo;s role within the conflict is posited as singular, atypical and ultimately contingent upon on the male &lsquo;heroes&rsquo; of the uprising (figure 2).</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Battle%20of%20Algiers%202.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p><em><small>Figure 2</small></em></p> <p>Despite its iconic status in the canon of films depicting the Algerian War, <em>The</em> <em>Battle of Algiers</em> is nonetheless problematic in terms of its representation of gendered nationalism. </p> <p>In particular, as this article has shown, through cinematographic shifts in lighting and framing, Pontecorvo arguably associates the male heroes of the Revolution with subjectivity and &lsquo;the people&rsquo;, whilst the <em>mudjahida</em> emerge rather as warped Hollywood stars, stripped of their agency through an obsessive and singular emphasis upon their physical appearances. In this way, whist the film ostensibly represents the struggle in objective terms, cinematographic patterns inherent within the film nonetheless reveal an underlying subtext of gendered mutual exclusivity and sexual difference.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <br /><p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/martin-evans/battle-of-algiers-historical-truth-and-filmic-representation">The Battle of Algiers: historical truth and filmic representation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/jonathan-lewis/good-guys-and-bad-guys-battle-of-algiers-and-dark-knight-rises">Good guys and bad guys: The Battle of Algiers and The Dark Knight Rises </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/walid-benkhaled/genesis-of-film-battle-of-algiers">Genesis of a film: the Battle of Algiers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> Algeria Conflict Culture Ideas Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Battle of Algiers Mani Sharpe Tue, 18 Dec 2012 16:45:23 +0000 Mani Sharpe 70024 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A history of Algeria in six objects https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/history-of-algeria-in-six-objects <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" />Continuing the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">openDemocracy series</a> marking fifty years of Algerian independence, one of the series editors, Martin Evans, explores Algerian history through six objects.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<em>Lecture (6,500 words)</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>While studying at the University of Sussex my year abroad dissertation, researched at the University of Montpellier during the academic year 1984-85,&nbsp;was on the emergence of the National Front.&nbsp;Led by the bullish Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front had won ten per cent of the vote at the 1984 European Elections. I wanted to explain this rise and this search for reasons took me to Algeria. A diehard supporter of French Algeria, Le Pen had been a paratrooper in Algeria in 1956 and 1957, regularly accused of carrying out torture sessions. The party&rsquo;s politics was based upon anti-Algerian sentiments. By &lsquo;immigrant&rsquo; the National Front meant &lsquo;Algerian&rsquo; and the solution to unemployment (two million in 1984) was a question of &lsquo;kicking immigrants out&rsquo;. As one National Front slogan put it: &lsquo;two million unemployed is two million too many immigrants&rsquo;.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_5'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Jean-marie_le_pen.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Jean-marie_le_pen.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_5 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jean-Marie Le Pen. Flickr/staffpresi_esj. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p style="text-align: left;">A significant part of the National Front electorate was drawn from the former European settlers in Algeria, the million <em>pieds-noirs</em>, who on leaving Algeria at independence in 1962 largely settled in the south of France along the coast. The term <em>pied-noir </em>is of uncertain origin. Some observers argue that it is derived from the pressing of grapes in vineyards that&nbsp;existed in Algeria; others that it is a reference to the shiny black shoes worn by the French soldiers who invaded in 1830.&nbsp;&nbsp;The term only took off when the settlers, many of them of Italian, Spanish and Maltese origin, &lsquo;returned&rsquo; in 1962. For them General Charles de Gaulle was the great traitor because it was he who accepted Algerian independence. This is why in the mid-1980s so many <em>pieds-noirs </em>saw the National Front as their natural political home, rather than the mainstream Gaullist party.</p> <p>The National Front press was obsessed by Algeria.&nbsp; Articles listed crimes committed by people with Arab names as &lsquo;acts of aggression against France&rsquo;. Talk of giving immigrants the vote was linked back to a supposed communist plot dating back to the 1920s, where the route to political power in Paris was said to pass through Algeria and the stirring up of an &lsquo;Arab revolt&rsquo;. In 1984, the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Algerian War ( 1 November 1954) was greeting by a flood of articles on Algerian terrorism, connecting this with alleged incidents of &lsquo;Algerian criminality&rsquo; in the so-called &lsquo;hot suburbs&rsquo; of Marseille, Lyon and Paris.</p> <p>This obsession was not limited to the extreme-right. Montpellier was a socialist-controlled town. However, when President Fran&ccedil;ois Mitterrand sent a minister to Algiers in November 1984 to participate in the commemorations the Montpellier town hall flew the tricolore at half mast in protest. Mitterrand&rsquo;s decision brought renewed interest in his own political career during the Algerian War. As Minister of the Interior in November 1954 he had replied to the FLN attacks with increased repression, stating in the National Assembly: &ldquo;Algeria is France. And who amongst you, <em>Mesdames </em>and <em>messieurs, </em>would hesitate to employ all methods to preserve France?&rsquo; Furthermore, as Justice Minister in the left of centre Republican Front government between January 1956 and May 1957, he sanctioned the guillotining of FLN prisoners on death row on 19 June 1956; a point of no return in the cycle of violence and counter-violence.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Mitterand.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Mitterand.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>François Mitterrand. Wikimedia/Public Domain. </span></span></span></p><p style="text-align: left;">This in turn led me back to reflect upon the French Left&rsquo;s role in colonialism, both within Algeria and the wider French Empire. I wanted to explore the&nbsp;relationship between the rhetoric of the &lsquo;universal civilising mission&rsquo; derived from the French Revolution of 1789 and colonial rule: a perennial theme in all my subsequent work.</p> <p>As an undergraduate at Sussex University in the mid 1980's,&nbsp;I was taught by Professor Roderick Kedward. He is a leading authority on the French Resistance and it was he who encouraged to me to do a PhD. My topic was an examination of the French Resistance to the Algerian War. Through interviews I wanted to understand the motivations of the micro-minority (a few thousand at most) who opposed the Algerian War through draft-dodging, hiding FLN militants and transporting money levied from Algerians in France. This study re-located anti-Nazi Resistance discourse and took it into the post-1945 period. But it also took me into the realms of oral history and memory studies.</p> <h3>The role of history in Algeria&nbsp;</h3> <p>The French philosopher Ernest Renan, in a lecture given in 1882, famously argued: &lsquo;forgetting, even getting history wrong, is an essential factor in the formation of the nation, which is why the progress of historical studies is often a danger to nationality&rsquo;. </p> <p>Nowhere has this insight been more true than in post-independence Algeria. The function of history for the regime was neither truth nor scholarship. According to the official FLN slogan, inscribed on every building, the war had been fought &lsquo;by the people and for the people&rsquo; and the end result was a paradox in the sense that the past was everywhere, while history as a critical discipline was largely absent. History had one usage: to construct a heroic narrative that legitimised the post-independence regime and built a clear national identity based upon anti-colonialism, Islam and Arab nationalism. Reverence replaced understanding as this heroic narrative &ndash; militarised, selective, rooted in an image of popular struggle and divorced from any precise context &ndash; was transmitted to the new post-independence generations.</p> <p>Scholarship was tightly controlled. In the case of Mohammed Harbi, an FLN veteran who was imprisoned in June 1965 and then later escaped to France, his research was censored. As an historian working in exile at a Paris University he set out to give Algerians back their history through the publications of a series of books and key documents. For him history writing was an act of subversion because it was not just about the past, but the present and the future. By showing how the regime had come into being, he was giving Algerians the knowledge that could challenge the nature of this regime. And here his argument was that the war of liberations was a mirage; in reality the war against the French had allowed a narrow and highly secretive military caste to seize power. In 2002 Harbi would compare Algeria to Prussia in the eighteenth century, that is a military regime where the army controlled the state rather than the other way round.</p><div style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Harbi.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Harbi.jpg" alt="Mohammed Harbi" title="" width="240" height="349" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohammed Harbi. Image from Canalblog</span></span></span></div><p style="text-align: left;">On a popular level the heroic narrative broke down during the 1980s. Algeria was hit very badly by the collapse in oil and gas prices. Life became very hard for ordinary Algerians and simmering anger exploded in October1988. What followed was a transition to a multi-party system where, within the press, honesty about the past became a yardstick of the transition process. Visiting Algeria to do fieldwork in autumn 1989, I witnessed a new relationship to history. Younger Algerians told me that they were sick to death of having the mythology of the War of Liberation, this &lsquo;War of a Million and a Half Martyrs&rsquo;, literally shoved down their throats. They had become increasingly cynical about the War of Liberation. There was the idea that history had been manipulated to perpetuate a minority who were bleeding the country dry. I was continually told: "How do we know what the truth is, when this truth has been so manipulated?"</p><h3>The objects&nbsp;</h3><p style="text-align: left;">This breakdown in the heroic narrative is one of the contexts in which I have conducted my research on Algeria; while the other has been the attempt by historians in France, such as Benjamin Stora and Sylivie Th&eacute;nault, to break down the Algerian taboo. &nbsp; &nbsp; Through historical scholarship they want French society to face up to France&rsquo;s Algeria past in an open and honest fashion. With these contexts in mind I now want to move on to consider my six cultural objects, inspired in part, as my lecture title signals, by the Radio 4 series <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/explorerflash/?timeregion=7">A History of the World in a Hundred Objects.</a></p><h3><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/explorerflash/?timeregion=7"></a>A photograph&nbsp;</h3><p style="text-align: left;">I am fascinated by this photograph. It was taken on 14 July 1936, Bastille Day. It is Algerian nationalist demonstrators marching in Paris. What do they want? What are they demanding? How do they see their place in the world?</p><p><small><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_5'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/March.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/March.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="269" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_5 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></small></p><p>They are marching as part of the huge Popular Front Bastille Day march to celebrate the election of the left-wing Popular Front government led by the Socialist Party leader, L&eacute;on Blum, after the election victory of May.</p><p>But crucially they are in a separate cort&egrave;ge. They are part of a group of 30,000 North Africans, with hands clenched high and waving nationalist flags, shouting demands for Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian independence, the liberation of the Arab world, as well as the Popular Front slogans of &lsquo;bread, peace, and work&rsquo; and &lsquo;down with fascism&rsquo;. At the head of this North African contingent was Messali Hadj, the leader of the North Africa Star, the first Algerian nationalist party, formed in 1926 amongst emigrants in Paris calling for the independence of the whole of French North Africa. In standing full-square behind Messali Hadj, the North Africans wanted to publicly assert their separate national identities on the streets of the French capital. They wished to underline their particular place within the Popular Front, formed one year earlier in response to the rise of fascism. In uniting with communists, socialists and radicals in an atmosphere of fraternity and solidarity, these North Africans expected a future left-wing government to satisfy their national aspirations.</p><p>The North African Star was part of a remarkable period in Algerian history: the making of Algerian nationalism during the 1920s and 1930s that was linked to a wider surge of pan- Arab and pan-Islamic sentiment throughout North Africa and the Middle East. This flowering was evident in an explosion of Algerian press, written by and for Algerians rather than the European settlers; the establishment of sporting and cultural associations; the invention, to use the phrase of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invented_traditions">Hobsbawm and Ranger</a>, of national symbols, slogans and traditions; and the creation of political parties. The threads behind this upsurge were many. It was a reaction to the colonial triumphalism of the 1930 celebrations marking one hundred years since the French invasion. It was a result of the 1929 global economic crisis which hit Algeria as a whole very badly, but in particular the Muslim population. It was a consequence of the demographic time bomb. Between 1926 and 1936 the Muslim population increased from 6 million to 7.2 million, as opposed to the European population that remained at 1 million; a population explosion that created enormous social pressures.</p><p>Desperate for employment, thousands flocked to the coast and in the major towns and cities this produced a tinderbox atmosphere. Gathering on street corners, young Algerian men (and I do mean men, there is strong gendered aspect here) felt angry and humiliated. Forced to live on their wits, confronted with settler and police racism, lacking educational opportunities given to Europeans, many found it difficult to maintain their self-control. The slightest incident could provoke violence and in 1933 and 1934 Algeria witnessed a spate of urban rioting.</p><p>This volatile context made young Algerians receptive to new political ideas: communism, pan-Islamic ideas, Arab nationalism that must be linked to the impact of major global events, namely the 1916 Easter uprising in Ireland, the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Islamic Renaissance in Egypt and broader anti-imperialist movements in the Middle East and Asia. Consequently, some rioting took on an explicitly political dimension. On 12 February 1934 a 10-000 strong demonstration in Algiers organised by the Communist and Socialist Parties included a large number of Muslims. When the demonstration was blocked by the police, more young Muslim men descended from the Casbah, brandishing political placards and ransacking rich shops in the European <em>quartier</em>: an act of public aggression that produced widespread fear amongst the French authorities. &nbsp;This type of political activity was new and led to wholesale surveillance of all aspects of Algerian life. Through control, the authorities wanted to stop this process of politicisation.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_5'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Poster_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Poster_0.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="198" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_5 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><small> </small></p><p>In this sense the photograph is evidence of the conquest of public space by Algerian nationalism. Even if they are posing for the photograph, the body language, the way they are dressed, the manner in which they are looking at the camera, exudes political self-confidence that was reflected in the invention of national symbols. This politicisation process was not&nbsp;unique to Algerians. It was equally evident for Moroccan and Tunisian nationalists.&nbsp;It was also part of the outpouring of radical militancy during 1936 that took place with the factory occupations in France. However, this photograph has particular poignancy because of what happens next. First, the Popular Front government fails to carry through any reforms in Algeria. The colonial status-quo remains. Then, on 26 January 1937, the Popular Front banned the North African Star as a threat to French sovereignty: a crystallising moment which underlined the gulf between the French Left and Algerian nationalism.&nbsp;This gulf, as I argue in <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Algeria-Frances-Undeclared-Making-Modern/dp/0192803506">Algeria: France&rsquo;s Undeclared War</a>, </em>was at the core of the conflict in between 1954 and 1962.</p><p>As an image, the photograph also raises questions about the status of the photograph as historical evidence. Clearly on one level the invention of photography in the 1830s led to a democratisation of image making throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. Previously, images were the preserve of the rich and powerful. Now images took on a more popular form and this photograph is part of this broader, technological revolution in image making.</p><p>But, in thinking about how Algerians were photographed we need to be attentive to John Tagg&rsquo;s arguments about what he calls the &lsquo;burden of representation&rsquo;. In surveying the history of photography Tagg rejects the notion of a photograph as a straightforward record of reality. He shows how photographs are bound up not with democratisation, but surveillance and control of the poor and the colonised as evidence in courtrooms, hospitals and police work. And certainly this framework can be applied to the way in which Algerians were photographed by French authorities right up to 1962. Photographs, like this one of captured Algerian prisoners in the nineteenth century or another of Algerian women posing in the harem, are about power. They are intrinsic to processes of political and sexual coercion where the act of looking is about controlling colonial subjects.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Algerian Women_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Algerian Women_0.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="324" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Yet, for me, this comparison underlines how much the 14 July 1936 photograph is of a different order; one that does encapsulate a new Algerian nationalism. There is a sense that Algerians are defining their own image and, by extension, their own politics.</p><p><small> </small></p><h3><small>A bandit</small></h3><p>Algeria was invaded in 1830. By the mid-1870s the French authorities had defeated Muslim resistance in the north of the country and in 1881, in legal terms, Algeria became part of France, in theory no different than Normandy. In response, Muslim society turned in on itself finding solace in Islam which was seen to be an insurmountable barrier to total French rule. &nbsp;<br />And here the gender dimension was crucial. If Islam remained at the centre of their personal lives, this was a sanctuary sustained by women who organised religious festivals, circumcisions, marriages and funerals; oversaw rituals of cleanliness; and passed down stories and songs that instilled notions of a separate religious identity. All of which was expressed in popular Arabic or Berber, providing a powerful counterpoint to the language of official authority: French.&nbsp;</p><p>If hope was sustained by Islam, it was also fortified by the image of the honourable outlaw, a longstanding tradition within North African society. Invariably male figures, the bandits of the mountains were lionised in folklore. Through wit and cunning they had turned the tables and made the authorities of the plains, whether Roman, Arab or Ottoman, look ridiculous. Under French rule these &lsquo;primitive rebels&rsquo; instilled feelings of pride and revenge because they were not prepared to act out a subservient role. In the case of Bou-Zian, leading a band of men in the 1870s in the Sahara that attacked convoys and farms, it took years to finally track him down.With the authorities powerless to apprehend him, stories and songs championed Bou-Zian as a saintly presence protected by God. The enemy of colonialism and the poor Muslims&rsquo; friend, he was the emblem of freedom in a chained society.&nbsp;</p><p>Bou-Zian was so difficult to capture because everywhere in rural Algeria the French met with the law of silence. For Camille Sabatier, justice of the peace in Kabylia in the 1870s, this silence was a perennial problem. Nobody would answer questions. In part this was because of fear. People feared retribution from the bandits themselves. But it was also the product of an instinctive hostility to outsiders. People felt that it was wrong to talk because there was a strong sense of identification with these &lsquo;bandits of honour&rsquo;. They were seen to embody community resistance to colonialism and this unspoken bond made silence into a &lsquo;weapon of the weak&rsquo;. Not to speak was a mechanism for thwarting authority. It was also a way of signalling the illegitimacy of French rule; a deeply embedded reflex that was passed down from one generation to the next.&nbsp;</p><p>There is nothing uniquely Algerian about this. In his 1959 book, <em>Primitive Rebels, </em>and 1969 book, <em>Bandits, </em>Eric Hobsbawm explores notions of bandits and outlaws. Looking at Dick Turpin, Ned Kelly and Billy the Kid he examines how these figures, living on the edges of rural societies by robbing and plundering became, in the eyes of ordinary people, heroes, avengers and the defenders of unwritten notions of justice. Equally James C. Scott, whose notion of the &lsquo;weapons of the weak&rsquo; has been so influential, analyses how in the context of South-East Asia peasants have traditionally resisted authority through sabotage, foot- dragging, gossip and humour.</p><p><small> </small></p><h3><small>The oud&nbsp;</small></h3><p><small></small>Like bandits, music sustained Muslim self-belief and this leads me to my next object: the oud. Andalusian style classical orchestras made up of a fiddle, oud, kamenjah (violin-style instrument played vertically on the knee), zither, darbouka and tambourine were testament to a rich musical heritage derived from the fusion of Arab, Jewish and North African styles in Muslim Spain. Within North Africa, this tradition included <em>malh&ucirc;n</em>: a semi-classical form of sung poetry made up of an overture followed by solo verses, interspersed with refrains from the chorus. At the core of this poetry was word play, where metaphors and allusions, drawing upon oral story-telling and poetry traditions as well as mystical religious influences, were twisted to fit the flow of the music. French culture would try to absorb this music as &lsquo;exotic&rsquo;, but for Muslims this tradition was the embodiment of a different history and identity. It showed how North Africa was linked definitively to the Middle East and the heritage of Andalusian Spain.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Oud_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Oud_0.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="252" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Wikimedia/Viken Najarian.</span></span></span></p><p><span style="text-align: center;">These musical traditions were not revered as monuments. They were open to adaptation and improvisation and in the early twentieth century new forms of popular songs talked explicitly about French misrule, poverty and unemployment, mixing together aspects of the classical tradition and the </span><em>malh&ucirc;n </em><span style="text-align: center;">canon with spoken slang. This was the case of the street poets who went from village to village and performed in the open air. It was the case too of the </span><em>cheikhas</em><span style="text-align: center;">, women drawn from the vast Muslim underclass in Oran, who sang in cafes, bars and bordellos from the 1920s onwards.</span></p><p>Sections of Muslim society were shocked by what was seen as their licentious behaviour and at times sexually explicit lyrics. Yet, despite this hostility women like Cheikha Djenia, Cheikha Gr&eacute;lo and, most famous of all, Cheikha Remitti El Reliziana were unrepentant. Their music was not for respectable society. Expressing themselves in an Algerian Arabic that few French people would have understood and usually accompanied with a flute, violin and some percussion, they provided a snapshot of what is was like to be the lowest of the low in colonial society. They sang of pain, suffering and exclusion. Shared emotions that pointed to the way in which popular music and theatre, increasingly monitored by the authorities, became a measure of Muslim anger. But again there is nothing uniquely Algerian about this. Cultural resistance is a general historical process; one only has to think of the role that folk music played within Irish nationalism or jazz within the Czech dissident movement in the 1970s.</p><h3>Humour</h3><p>Ali Zamoum was born in 1933 in Boghni at the foot of the Djurdjura Mountains in Kabylia. He remembers that in the 1930s the Europeans, referred to collectively as <em>&lsquo;el-colon&rsquo;</em>, were an endless source of jokes. The Europeans were mocked for their lack of hygiene. They were said to wear perfume to hide their bad smell. They were said to only clean their hands and face. They were said not to wash after using the toilet. At school Zamoum and his friends developed subversive rituals that expressed their hostility to the French primary school system. When performing traditional French songs they deliberately sang out of tune. Similarly when asked to recite Victor Hugo&rsquo;s patriotic poem <em>Aux Morts </em>they spoke the final line &lsquo;Long live eternal France&rsquo; in a resigned and downbeat way. And this example takes us back to Scott. It is another example of the &lsquo;weapons of the weak.&rsquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Ali Zamoum.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Ali Zamoum.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="365" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h3>Football</h3><p>The Algiers football club Mouloudia Club d&rsquo;Alger was founded in the Casbah in August 1921 by a group of young Algerians. The name was taken from Mouloud, the festival celebrating the birth of the prophet Mohammed, while their team colours were green, representing Islam, red, representing sacrifice. MCA were part of an explosion of Muslim football clubs in the 1920s and early 1930s, all clamouring to participate in the North African championship established in 1927</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/437px-Logo_MCA.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/437px-Logo_MCA.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="330" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Badge of Mouloudia Club d'Alger. Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p> <p>Suspicious that these clubs were fronts for anti-French activity, the &lsquo;Native Affairs&rsquo; unit compiled regular reports on their activities on and off the field which would be sent upwards through the system to the three pr&eacute;fets in Oran, Algiers and Constantine before ending up on the desk of the governor-general in Algiers. Columns carefully tabulated who played for these teams, who was financing them and what their links were with political groups and parties. These reports caused alarm because the authorities did not want sport to become organised along racial lines and in regard to football, far and away the most popular sporting pastime for young Muslim men, the governor-general introduced a circular in January stating that all teams must have at least three European footballers; a ratio that was increased to five in October 1934. These rules were very unpopular amongst the Algerian teams and their supporters. Crowds chanted against it and teams tried to get round the quota, either by playing naturalised Muslims or claiming that it was impossible to recruit European members.</p><p>Anger manifested itself in aggression on the football field. Reports to the French authorities regularly report how matches between settler and Muslim teams ended in violence on the pitch. One letter, on 15 May 1936 from the mayor of Djidjelli to the local pr&eacute;fet in Bougie in eastern Algeria, warned that if there was a fixture between a Muslim and European team then racial confrontation was certain: </p><p><em>&ldquo;If a team essentially composed of natives should meet with one made up in large part of Europeans, it is beyond doubt that sporting antagonism, pushed to fever pitch, will add to the racial antagonism and at this moment the repercussions would be especially dangerous.&rdquo;</em> </p><p>These teams were particularly important to young men who found in them a collective identity denied by the 1930 centenary. These clubs, like similar ones for cycling basketball, swimming, tennis, shooting, boules and rugby, expressed nationalism through their names, their symbols and their shirt strips; a measure of how much more important sport was in solidifying a sense of &lsquo;us&rsquo; and &lsquo;them&rsquo;. Through sport young Muslim men were able to conquer public space and impose themselves physically which is why Muslim football clubs were a breeding ground for so many Algerian nationalist leaders, including the first post-independence president, Ahmed Ben Bella.</p> <p>Again, however, this story must be placed within the broader history of the professionalisation of football which began with the establishment of the English Football League in 1888, founded by twelve clubs including Stoke City. Equally, the relationship between sport and politics is a general historical phenomenon; one only has to think of Celtic versus Rangers or CLR James&rsquo; majestic 1963 book on Caribbean cricket: <em>Beyond the Boundary. </em>&lsquo;What do they of cricket know who only cricket know&rsquo; is James&rsquo; most famous phrase and one to which I return again and again as an historian because, without social, political and historical context, observers will understand absolutely nothing about Algerian football in particular and cultural history in general.</p> <p>In 1982 Algeria qualified for the World Cup in Spain for the first time in their history. Their first match on 16 June was against the highly fancied West Germany, the 1980s European Champions whose team included the talented Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Paul Breitner and Pierre Littbarski. In the run-up, the West German manager, Jupp Derwell, joked that if his team lost &ldquo; he would jump on to the first train back to Munich&rsquo;, while at the pre-match press conference several players talked of winning eight-nil, boasting: &ldquo;we will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives and the eight to our dogs&rdquo;.</p> <p>Yet, West Germany did lose. In a thrilling match, the Algerians played fast, entertaining football. They scored first in the fifty- fourth minute with a goal by Rabah Madjer. In the sixty-eight minute Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equalised for West Germany. Then, one minute later, a majestic, nine pass move climaxed with a strike by the Algerian number ten Lakhdar Belloumi, one of the goals of the tournament. The final score two-one. The historical significance of the result: Algeria was the first African team to defeat a European team at the World Cup and this just three weeks before the twentieth anniversary of independence; an anniversary that inspired the Algerian team as Belloumi underlined:</p> <p><em>&ldquo;We were conscious that 1982 was the twentieth anniversary of independence. We were determined to uphold the dignity of our people.&rdquo;</em></p> <p>Days later jubilation was matched by despair when West Germany, in a lacklustre game, beat Austria one nil. This result meant that West Germany and not Algeria reached the next stage&nbsp;on goal difference. The Spanish press denounced this as the sporting equivalent of the 1938 Anschluss, while in Algeria it became known as the &lsquo;game of shame&rsquo;.</p> <h3>A knife</h3> <p>On 1 November 1954 the National Liberation Front (FLN), a new political entity, launched a series of attacks across Algeria. At the time very few people had any idea what the FLN was, but scattered on the roads of Kabylia the 1 November declaration set out their demands: the restoration of an independent Algerian state based upon Arab and Muslims values. Yet, unlike Messali Hadj there was no reference to an elected assembly as the route to independence. The 1 November declaration placed armed struggle at the centre of the liberation struggle. Violence was the essence of the FLN revolution and those who proposed a gradualist solution were denounced as &lsquo;reformists&rsquo; and &lsquo;traitors&rsquo;. This violence was keyed into absolutes. People could only be for or against the FLN. The intention was to light a fuse of revolt. This did not happen.</p><p>Although within post-independence Algeria the image of a single people responding as one became the cornerstone of the new country&rsquo;s national identity, at the time it was a confused event, overshadowed by the on-going conflicts in Morocco and Tunisia; a fact that reminds us that like so many events, the 1916 Easter Uprising, the 1917 storming of the Winter Palace, the Blitz in Britain, there is a gulf between reality and subsequent myth. It was only in retrospect, as the bloodshed deepened during the next two years, that 1 November was elevated into <em>the </em>starting point for the war.</p> <p>Through violence the FLN wanted to bring the climate of insecurity &ndash; deeply embedded with the settler psyche &ndash; to a new level that would force the French to leave. At midday on 20 August 1955 thousands of peasants descended on towns and villages in eastern Algeria, egged on by FLN soldiers. Chanting &lsquo;jihad&rsquo; and armed with knives, clubs, sticks, axes and pitchforks, the attackers were merciless. In one small village thirty-seven settlers were killed, including ten children, by Algerian workers they had known for years. On the French side, a pamphlet about the massacres was sent to all mayors on mainland France. The photographs did not hang back. They catalogued in detail how the victims had been hacked to death even after death, men emasculated, mothers disembowelled, children mutilated. Consolidating the image of Algerian savagery encapsulated in the use of the knife &ndash; the image of a threatening Arab male with a knife was perennial stereotype in colonial Algeria &ndash; the photographs&rsquo; message was simple: you cannot negotiate with throat cutters. In the same vein when in 1959 a group of FLN fighters were captured how were they humiliated? By being publicly paraded through the streets with knives in their teeth.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Captured Algeiran Knife 1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Captured Algeiran Knife 1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="302" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Captured Algerians. Guerre d'Algerie blog </span></span></span></p><p>For Frantz Fanon FLN violence had a different meaning. Born in 1925 in Fort-de-France in Martinique, a veteran of the Free French campaign in Italy, Fanon studied psychology at Lyon University in the late 1940s. His first book, <em>Black Skins White Masks, </em>denounced French republican equality as a sham. Fanon argued that French Caribbeans like himself&nbsp;would never be considered as equal citizens; the black colour of his skin meant assimilation was impossible. In October 1953 Fanon began working as a psychiatrist in a hospital in Blida just south of Algiers. Coming to the conclusion that Algerian patients were suffering from mental health problems because of the psychological effect of colonialism, Fanon resigned and made his way to Tunis to join the FLN where he worked as a journalist on the FLN newspaper <em>El Moudjahid. </em>Fanon died of leukaemia on 6 December 1961, shortly after the publication of his most influential work, <em>The Wretched of the Earth</em>. Writing in an angry and confrontational style, Fanon extolled the virtues of mirror violence, justifying this as a liberation act against the inherent violence of colonial rule &ndash; a necessary stage which would purge Africans and Asians of any inferiority complex in regard to white settler rule. Containing a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre, who embraced Fanon&rsquo;s vision of a third world revolution led by a dispossessed peasantry, <em>The Wretched of the Earth </em>had a global resonance. It became an iconic text: the classic vindication of the Algerian cause where the knife was a tool of psychological liberation.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Frantz_Fanon.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Frantz_Fanon.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Frantz Fanon. Wikipedia/Fair Use. </span></span></span> </p><p>I now want to consider another knife. Made of hardened steel, twenty-five centimetres long and 2.5 centimetres wide, this was made in Nazi Germany and was used by the Hitler Youth. In 1957 in Algeria it was the property of a paratrooper lieutenant; his name is clearly marked J.M Le Pen. On 2 March 1957 Le Pen had left it by mistake in a house in the Algiers Casbah where his unit had arrested an Algerian suspect, Ahmed Moulay, and then tortured him in front of his wife and six children, before shooting him. The corners of his mouth were subjected to knife gashes. An official communiqu&eacute; claimed that Ahmed Moulay had been shot while trying to escape, a method of killing that was covered by government orders. One of the children, Mohammed Cherif, found that knife and hid it. On 4 May 2002, on the eve of the second round of the presidential elections where Le Pen was running against Jacques Chirac after securing 16.86 per cent in the first round, <em>Le Monde </em>published an account of Le Pen&rsquo;s knife affair, having procured the knife as evidence from Mohammed Cherif. Le Pen took <em>Le Monde </em>to court twice and lost. However, given the amnesty at the peace accords, he cannot be prosecuted for war crimes. So with this object we are taken back to colonial violence, as well as questions of French amnesia and the on-going support for the National Front.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Le Pen Knife.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Le Pen Knife.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="291" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Le Pen's knife.</span></span></span></p> <h3>What do Algerians want now?&nbsp;</h3> <p>The length and depth of French rule left a deep and lasting impact whether in terms of food, the baguette, the French language, or the fact that France is still the number-one destination for Algerian emigrants. In 2012 Algeria is still the most Francophone country after France. There is a French dimension to Algeria and an Algerian dimension to France: multiple, evolving aspects that have transformed, and will continue to transform, the histories of both countries. In other words it is a complex entanglement where love and fascination can co- exist with hated, anger and disgust.</p> <p>Within Algeria, ironically, &lsquo;France of the Rights of Man&rsquo; has come to stand as a model by which many of today&rsquo;s younger Algerians, with no memory of colonialism but who watch French television, measure the Algerian system&rsquo;s claim to be popular and democratic. Modern France is also seen to encapsulate a better economic life. It is the country which the majority of young Algerians want to emigrate to for practical reasons of family ties and language; when President Chirac visited Algeria in 2003, he was greeted by thousands waving their passports at him and shouting &lsquo;Chirac, visa!&rsquo; Some joke that if there was a referendum today they would vote for a return to French rule; a provocative comment that speaks volumes about their sense of post-independence dispossession. This ironic, sceptical mood is also captured in this 2007 image by Ali Dilem, Algeria&rsquo;s foremost political cartoonist. Marking the forty-fifth anniversary of independence it is a cartoon where an&nbsp;Algerian guerrilla fighter shouts after a departing Frenchman in 1962, telling him to be ready to help him with a visa application.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Ali Diem.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Ali Diem.png" alt="" title="" width="240" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>To return to the photograph from 14 July 1936, this photographic evidence made me think very hard about Algerian political demands in the mid-1930s. What did they want within the context of a wider North Africa and pan-Arab nationalist movements? </p> <p>So, Arab awakenings are nothing new. They did not begin in 2011. Change, transformation, uprisings: these have been an integral aspect of North Africa and the Middle East throughout the twentieth century. In 1952 the French demographer, Alfred Sauvy, in a seminal article in the left-wing magazine <em>L&rsquo;Observateur, </em>coined the term &lsquo;Third World&rsquo;. Drawing an explicit comparison between the two-bloc politics of the Cold War and the role of the third estate during the French Revolution, Sauvy wanted to convey the colossal transformation represented by decolonisation. For Sauvy this was the most significant revolution of the twentieth century: the arrival of Africa, Asia and Latin America on the international stage. The key question was then: what do these countries and their populations aspire to?</p> <p>After independence Algeria was at the vanguard of the third-world movement. The Algerian story, encapsulated in Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s 1966 film <em>The Battle of Algiers</em>, was seen to be an inspiration throughout Africa and the Middle East. Yet, by the 1980s the new post- independence generations were being humiliated by a regime presiding over corruption and a failing economy. Ordinary Algerians felt angry and this anger produced the riots of October 1988, the pivotal event of post-1962.</p> <p>Twenty-four years on and the problems are still the same. The majority feel excluded because the political elite offers no meaningful future for Algerian citizens. For the moment this political elite seems to have insulated Algeria from the rest of the Arab Spring. Despite obvious instability &ndash; 2010 alone witnessed more than 11,203 riots &ndash; Algeria has not gone the&nbsp;way of Tunisia, Egypt or Libya.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none imgupl_style_spacing_10'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Protest.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Protest.png" alt="" title="" width="400" height="243" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload imgupl_style_spacing_10 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Al Jazeera. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <p>To go from a photograph from 1936 to photographs of riots and protests in contemporary Algeria my question is: what do Algerians want in 2012, fifty years after independence? The answer to this question has been explored in a series of events organised by the Centre for European and International Studies Research at the University of Portsmouth under the rubric the &lsquo;Year of Algeria&rsquo;. This included a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/miloud-barkaoui-jean-pierre-s%C3%A9r%C3%A9ni-hamza-hamouchene-sami-bensassi/algeria-and-arab-spring-roundtable">round table</a> on Algeria and the Arab Spring; a conversation that is continuing within the pages of openDemocracy under the title &lsquo;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures&rsquo;</a>. In this way my research at the University of Sussex&nbsp;is engaging with a key problem in the contemporary world. What these populations aspire to and how they perceive the west is <em>the </em>major issue in international politics because this anger, emblematic of an arc of insecurity from Morocco to Indonesia, will not go away.&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="200" /></a></p> <p><em>This December &lsquo;</em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a><em>&rsquo; will contain a series of articles exploring Gillo Pontecorvo&rsquo;s 1966 film </em>The Battle of Algiers<em>; a film that inspired ant-imperialist struggles across Africa, Asia and Latin America and which,&nbsp; through its honest depiction of terrorism and counter-terrorism, continues to speak to the contemporary world. &nbsp;</em></p><p><em>This article is part of the&nbsp;partnership, funded by the University of Sussex and the University of Portsmouth. Read more about openDemocracy's&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a>&nbsp;programme.</em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em> </em></p><p><em><strong>Further Resources</strong></em></p><p><em>Select bibliography</em></p><p>Branche, Rapha&euml;lle, La Guerre d&rsquo;Alg&eacute;rie: une histoire apais&eacute;e, Paris: Seuil, 2005.<br />Branche, Rapha&euml;lle (ed.), La Guerre d&rsquo;ind&eacute;pendance des alg&eacute;riens 1954&ndash;1962, Paris: Perrin,&nbsp;2009.<br />Evans, Martin, Algeria: France&rsquo; s Undeclared War, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.<br />Evans, Martin and John Phillips, Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed, London: Yale University Press, 2007.<br />Evans, Martin, The Memory of Resistance: French opposition to the Algerian War 1954-62, Oxford: Berg, 1997.<br />Evans, Martin and Ken Lunn (eds.), War and Memory, Oxford: Berg,1997.<br />Godin, Emmanuel and Natalya Vince, France and the Mediterranean, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012.<br />Harbi, Mohammed, Le FLN: Mirage et r&eacute;alit&eacute;, Paris: &Eacute;ditions Jeune Afrique, 1980. Hobsbawm, Eric, Primitive Rebels, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959.<br />James, CLR, Beyond the Boundary, London: Hutchinson, 1963.<br />Lacheraf, Mostefa, L&rsquo;Alg&eacute;rie, Nation et Soci&eacute;t&eacute;, Paris: Maspero, 1965.<br />Labat, S&eacute;verine, Les Islamistes alg&eacute;riens: entre les urnes et le maquis, Paris: Seuil, 1995. McDougall, James, History and the Culture of Nationalism in Algeria, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006<br />Rahal, Malika, &lsquo;Fused Together and Torn Apart. Stories and Violence in Contemporary Algeria, History and Memory, Vol.24, number 1, March 2012<br />Roberts, Hugh, The Battlefield Algeria, 1988-2002, London: Verso, 2003<br />Scott, James C., Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, Yale: Yale University Press, 1985.<br />Stora, Benjamin, Algeria, 1830-2000, Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2001.<br />Stora, Benjamin, Messali Hadj, pionnier du nationalisme alg&eacute;rien, Paris: L&rsquo;Harmattan, 1986. Tagg, John, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories, London: Macmillan, 1988.<br />Th&eacute;nault, Sylive, Histoire de la guerre d&rsquo;ind&eacute;pendance alg&eacute;rienne, Paris: Flammarion, 2005. Willis, Michael, Politics and Power in the Maghreb: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco from Independence to the Arab Spring, London: Hurst &amp; Co, 2012<br />Willis, Michael, The Islamist Challenge in Algeria, London: Ithica, 1996<br />Zamoum, Ali, Les Pays des hommes Libres. Tamurt Imazighen, Paris: Pens&eacute;e Sauvage, 1998.</p><p><em>Websites</em></p><p><strong><a href="www.algeria-watch.org">Algeria Watch</a>:</strong> A very well-informed independent Algerian website that monitors human rights issues in the country.<br /><strong><a href="www.el-mouradia.dz">www.el-mouradia.dz</a>:</strong> The Algerian President&rsquo;s official website with speeches, historical documents and the Algerian constitution.<br /><strong><a href="www.ldh-toulon.net">www.ldh-toulon.net</a>: </strong>Website of the &lsquo;League of the Rights of Man&rsquo; in Toulon, France, which contains numerous articles examining the ongoing debates about the Algerian War.<br /><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a>: </strong>Drawing upon the conference at the University of Portsmouth (March 15-17 2012, &lsquo;Algeria and the Arab Revolutions), &lsquo;Algeria and the Arab&nbsp;Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures&rsquo; explores Algerian aspirations for themselves and their country in the twenty-first century.</p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> France Algeria Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality International politics Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Martin Evans Fri, 07 Dec 2012 09:30:19 +0000 Martin Evans 67152 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The 2012 National Elections: why Algeria remains the exception in North Africa https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans/2012-national-elections-why-algeria-remains-exception-in-north-africa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Thumbnail Algeria.jpg" alt="Algeria partnership" hspace="5" width="140" align="right" /></a>Large numbers did not vote because they saw the election as a charade. This sentiment was clear in countless blogs and posts on the internet.&nbsp; Again and again Algerians underlined their disgust with the political class, with ‘le pouvoir’ </div> </div> </div> <p>On Thursday 10 May 2012 national elections took place in Algeria with 44 parties and 186 independent candidates.&nbsp; It was the first electoral test since the Arab Spring and in the run up to the ballot the authorities did everything to ensure a high turnout.&nbsp; Through regular television adverts on state television backed up by a huge poster campaign and even mass texting, the message to ordinary Algerians was simple: voting was a citizen&rsquo;s duty.&nbsp; </p> <p>In a letter to the Algerian General Workers Union the seventy-five year old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika called on citizens to recognise that the country is on, &lsquo;the edge of a critical stage in its history, a stage that demands its citizens to mobilise to realise the objective of national renewal&rsquo;.&nbsp; He singled out women in particular, asking them to go to the polls in order &lsquo;to confirm their presence on the political stage and consolidate their participation in putting together a society of justice, tolerance and equality; as today&rsquo;s conditions are ripe more than ever before for their hopes to be realised&rsquo;. Then, just two days before, a frail-looking Bouteflika made an impassioned appeal to Algeria&rsquo;s youth population in a public speech in the east of the country.&nbsp; Hailing the elections as a decisive test of Algeria&rsquo;s programme of reform, the head of state talked of a generational crossroads: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m addressing the young people who must take over the baton because my generation has had its time.&nbsp; The country is in your hands.&nbsp; Take care of it.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;In this way the contest was not one between the political parties.&nbsp; It was between those who were going to vote versus those who were not going to vote where the issue was legitimacy.&nbsp; In the interests of political credibility the authorities needed a respectable turnout.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Bouteflika&rsquo;s pleas went unheeded, however.&nbsp; Only 42.9 per cent out of 21 million electors voted.&nbsp; Admittedly this is an improvement on the 2007 elections when the turnout was just 35 per cent, the lowest in Algeria&rsquo;s history.&nbsp; But such an abstention rate is still a damning verdict.&nbsp; It is a measure of the popular hostility to the political system.&nbsp; Large numbers did not vote because they saw the election as a charade. This sentiment was clear in countless blogs and posts on the internet.&nbsp; Again and again Algerians underlined their disgust with the political class. In their eyes the national assembly is a facade because the real power lies in the higher echelons of the military, known popularly by the French term &lsquo;le pouvoir&rsquo; (the power).&nbsp; On this basis they could not see the point of voting.&nbsp; In the case of 34 year old Djalel H from Annaba, he told the French daily <em>Le Monde </em>that he was abstaining because: &lsquo;I want something else, and I no longer have confidence in the system in place&rsquo;.&nbsp; This disaffection was also clear in political graffiti.&nbsp; In some cases government posters telling people to vote were simply ripped down.&nbsp; In others they were defaced with the price of potatoes which has tripled over the last few months. Thus abstention must not be confused with de-politicisation.&nbsp; Not voting was a political act for large numbers of Algerians.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/450px-7_-_%C3%89lections_l%C3%A9gislatives_alg%C3%A9riennes_de_2012.jpg" width="350" /></p><p align="center"><em><small>Algerian elections 2012. <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:7_-_%C3%89lections_l%C3%A9gislatives_alg%C3%A9riennes_de_2012.JPG">Wikimedia/Vikoula5</a>.</small></em></p> <p>The results themselves offered no surprises.&nbsp; They reaffirmed the political status-quo.&nbsp; The two winners were the parties of the ruling coalition, the Front de Lib&eacute;ration Nationale (FLN) led by President Bouteflika and the Rassemblement National D&eacute;mocratique (RND) led by the Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia.&nbsp; Out of 462 seats they secured 208 and 68 respectively.&nbsp; Behind them the Green Alliance, uniting three Islamist parties, made little headway, only getting 49 seats when it had been expecting 65. &nbsp;While the oldest opposition party the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) won 27 and the Trotskyist Parti des Travailleurs (PT) gained 24. </p> <p>On the face of it, therefore, Algeria is going against the grain. &nbsp;In contrast to Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where elections have witnessed a &lsquo;green wave &lsquo;catapulting Islamist parties into power, in Algeria they remain on the sidelines.&nbsp; In part this is because by participating in the elections they are complicit with the system in the eyes of many Algerians; a feeling made worse by the fact that until recently these parties were part of the ruling coalition.&nbsp; In this sense the Green Alliance was not a clean pair of hands. It suffered from a generalised suspicion towards all political parties; a symptom of the way in which &nbsp;the January 1992 elections still casts a long shadow over Algerian society.&nbsp; At this point the Islamist party, the Front Islamique de Salut (FIS- Islamic Salvation Front) &nbsp;was poised to take power, but were stopped by an army coup d&rsquo;&eacute;tat.&nbsp; Thereafter Algeria degenerated into a terrible cycle of violence and counter-violence between army hardliners and Islamist guerrilla groups.&nbsp; Elections were re-launched in 1995 with a presidential contest.&nbsp; However, the manner in which this democratic process has been controlled by the authorities has produced widespread cynicism.&nbsp; Many Algerian believe that the results are a foregone conclusion.&nbsp; Consequently they are circumspect about parties of any political ilk.&nbsp; They do not want to be manipulated.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Externally Bouteflika needed the legitimacy of the international community.&nbsp; On this basis the country welcomed 500 electoral observers which gave the elections a measured stamp of approval.&nbsp; Their reactions ranged from the Arab League team, happy to describe them as free and transparent, to the EU team, led by Jos&eacute; Ignacio Salafranca, who said that the election passed the credibility test, even if it listed irregularities. &nbsp;In Paris the French government noted that they took place &lsquo;calmly and without major incident&rsquo;, while in Washington Hillary Clinton made a statement of measured optimism.&nbsp; She welcomed the elections as a &lsquo;step in Algeria&rsquo;s progress towards democratic reform&rsquo;, underlining that nearly a third of the deputies, some 145, were women.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In contrast the opposition shouted fraud. One Green Alliance leader Bouguerra Soltani claimed that malpractices was widespread and condemned the results as &lsquo;illogical, unreasonable and unacceptable&rsquo;; a perspective that was corroborated to some extent by the EU team.&nbsp; It noted the addition of 4 million new names since 2007 that they not allowed to validate, leaving the suspicion this was a mechanism for massaging the figures.&nbsp; The elections repressive aspect was also very clear.&nbsp; When a young blogger Tarek Mameri posted a series of video clips on the internet telling people not to vote, he was arrested on 2 May and subsequently given an eight month suspended sentence.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Such an attack on the freedom of speech did not deter the FLN general-secretary Abdelaziz Belkhadem from striking a triumphant note though.&nbsp; Brushing aside criticism, he called on the Islamists to accept the vote. And this reminds us that in the midst of the Arab Spring Algeria continues to be different.&nbsp; Unlike Egypt, Libya and Tunisia the status-quo remains in place.&nbsp; But, if Algeria seems out of step, the Algerian example still haunts the Arab World, namely the terrible consequences that followed the cancellation of elections in 1992.&nbsp; The memory of the Algerian option is one reason why the military in Egypt have allowed elections to run their course.&nbsp; There the immediate future is about the inclusion of Islamist parties in government.&nbsp; For the time being at least the military wishes to share power rather than embark upon anti-Islamist repression.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Algeria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics middle east Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Arab Awakening: violent transitions Martin Evans Wed, 11 Jul 2012 20:46:06 +0000 Martin Evans 66943 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria and the Arab Awakening: Pasts, Presents and Futures https://www.opendemocracy.net/martin-evans-natalya-vince/algeria-and-north-africa-west-asia-pasts-presents-and-futures <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We want to open up a public conversation which will situate the country’s history, society and politics within the wider context of the Arab World; one that will be finely attuned to specificities and generalities as we explore what Algerians aspire to for them and their country in the twenty-first century.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On July 5, 1962, Algeria achieved independence from France after an eight year conflict launched by the Front de Lib&eacute;ration Nationale (FLN) in November 1954 and 132 years of colonisation.&nbsp; Without doubt this was a major event in international affairs; the end to one of the bloodiest wars of the post-1945 decolonisation process, whose longevity was due to the presence of one million settlers (as against a nine million Arabo-Berber population in 1954) and the fact that Algeria, invaded in 1830, was an integral part of France, in theory no different from Normandy or the Haute-Savoie.&nbsp; No French politician could countenance withdrawal and this is why Algeria brought down the Fourth Republic in May 1958, opening the way for the return to power of War Two Resistance hero General Charles de Gaulle.&nbsp; Initially de Gaulle hoped to solve the crisis within a new Fifth Republic, but after three years of never-ending violence de Gaulle came to the conclusion that Algeria was an expensive anachronism, telling a press conference in April 1961: &lsquo; Algeria is costing us, this is the least one can say, much more than it brings us&rsquo;. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Fifteen months later France had left; a departure that caused most of the one million Europeans to leave.&nbsp; In terms of losses the historian Gilbert Meynier has calculated that the conflict led to anything between 250,000 and 300,000 Algerian dead which, out of a 9 million Algerian population, is equivalent to the percentage of French losses during World War One.&nbsp; &nbsp; By contrast, independent Algeria has talked about the blood sacrifice of one and half million victims &ndash; 500,000 killed and disappeared and 1 million wounded and injured; a figure that would be officially inscribed in the 1963 Constitution.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The &lsquo;one and a half million martyrs&rsquo; narrative endowed Algeria with a moral legitimacy on the international scene throughout the 1960s and 1970s. &nbsp; The Algerian War was seen to be <em>the </em>measure of colonial evil which gave the post-independence FLN regime an heroic status within large parts of Africa, Asia and the Latin America. Algeria became a beacon of the on-going anti-imperialist struggle as the country, firstly under Ahmed Ben Bella and then Houari Boumedi&egrave;ne, fashioned a future based upon &lsquo;socialism&rsquo;, &lsquo;agrarian reform&rsquo;, &lsquo;pan-Arabism&rsquo;, &lsquo;revolution&rsquo; and &lsquo;non-alignment&rsquo;. &nbsp;</p> <p>Boumedi&egrave;ne died in 1978. &nbsp; By this point Algerian socialism was already under pressure, but it really began to unravel in the 1980s.&nbsp; The high hopes of independence gave way to bitterness as the country was wracked by an economic crisis that hit the young, post-independence generation very hard.&nbsp; Within Algerian popular culture the 1980s have assumed the status of the &lsquo;Black Decade&rsquo;, the moment when younger Algerians, blighted by unemployment, lost confidence in the system&rsquo;s ability to deliver a better future.&nbsp; This anger exploded into street violence in October 1988.&nbsp; Yet, as Algeria moved towards a multi-party system, many Algerians turned towards the Front Islamique de Salut (FIS), a party established in 1989 out of various Islamist groups, which denounced the FLN as having betrayed the &lsquo;authentic&rsquo; values of the anti-colonial struggle.&nbsp; Promising an Islamist future, the FIS was poised for election victory in January 1992, at which point the army moved in to cancel the electoral process. Within one year Algeria had descended into unbelievable violence as armed Islamists took on the army.&nbsp;</p> <p>On April 14, 1999, the sixty-two year old Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected president in dubious circumstances after the other six contenders withdrew in protest at electoral fraud. War veteran, prot&eacute;g&eacute; of Boumedi&egrave;ne, former ambassador to the United Nations: Bouteflika used all of his political acumen to turn the country away from what, in popular terminology became known as the &lsquo;Red Years&rsquo;.&nbsp; Looking back to what many older and middle aged Algerians saw as the &lsquo;golden years&rsquo; of Boumedi&egrave;ne, when Algerians felt more secure about their future, Bouteflika also initiated a process of peace and reconciliation and in the following years the violence subsided. Thus, although the economic problems, and the resultant undercurrent of tension, have endured, Bouteflika did stabilise the system, and, to this end, he received valuable external support from the US which, in the wake of 9/11, looked to Algeria as a crucial ally in the &lsquo;war on terror&rsquo;.&nbsp; For this reason President Bush&rsquo;s administration warmly welcomed Bouteflika&rsquo;s re-election in April 2004 despite accusations of irregularities.&nbsp; Similarly, the US said little when the Constitution was amended in 2008 to allow Bouteflika to run for a third term.&nbsp; This he duly did in April 2009 winning a further five years, although once again the victory was mired in reports of large-scale fraud.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In these ways Algeria encapsulates many of the key problems in the Arab World: corruption, the role of the military in politics, the gulf between a closed political class and the younger population, the relationship between ruling elites and the US and issues of democratic transparency. &nbsp; But although there were protests in Algeria at the beginning of 2011, these quickly petered out, partly because the government swiftly reduced the prices of basic food stuffs, but also because Algeria lacks credible opposition leaders that can channel this anger.&nbsp; Equally, given the memory of the &lsquo;Red Years&rsquo; when up to 200,000 Algerians died, circumspection prevails.&nbsp; Nobody wants a return to the instability of the &lsquo;Red Years&rsquo; and the Bouteflika regime has skilfully exploited this feeling. &nbsp;</p> <p>So, despite enduring anger Algeria has experienced nothing like the tumultuous events in the rest of North Africa: a particularity which the political class is keen to underline.&nbsp; The talk is of a managed transition and on this basis Bouteflika called upon Algerians to vote &lsquo;massively&rsquo; in the 10 May parliamentary elections. With this aim in mind, addressing a rally on 6 May 2012, Ahmed Ouyahia, the prime minister, appealed to Algerian nationalism, telling supporters that Algeria was different and needed no lessons from the Arab Spring: &lsquo;The Arab Spring for me is a disaster.&nbsp; Our spring is Algerian: our revolution of 1 November 1954.&nbsp; We don&rsquo;t need lessons from outside&rsquo;. &nbsp;</p> <p>Equally Ouyahia played the anti-imperialist card, telling the audience that the revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia were orchestrated by &lsquo;Zionism and NATO&rsquo; and that NATO countries were granting, &lsquo;visas to young people to train them in new technologies to create unrest&rsquo;; anti-western rhetoric that always strikes a chord within the Algerian populace. Yet, most electors refused to respond to this language.&nbsp; Instead there were large-scale abstentions as the ruling coalition, dominated by the FLN, held onto power.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Taking the intersection of these elections, the first since the &lsquo;Arab Awakening&rsquo;, with the fiftieth anniversary of independence, we want to reflect upon the connections between Algeria&rsquo;s pasts, presents and futures.&nbsp; We want to open up a public conversation which will situate the country&rsquo;s history, society and politics within the wider context of the Arab World; one that will be finely attuned to specificities and generalities as we explore what Algerians aspire to for them and their country in the twenty-first century.&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Natalya Vince Martin Evans Fri, 25 May 2012 10:00:00 +0000 Martin Evans and Natalya Vince 66004 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria and the Arab Spring: a roundtable https://www.opendemocracy.net/miloud-barkaoui-jean-pierre-s%C3%A9r%C3%A9ni-hamza-hamouchene-sami-bensassi/algeria-and-arab-spring-roundtable <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Endemic socio-economic difficulties&nbsp; have made Algeria a candidate <em>par excellence</em> for the domino effect of the so-called ‘Arab Spring.’&nbsp;But, despite largescale discontent with the <em>status quo</em>&nbsp;for many years now, the iconic slogan “the people want to topple the regime” has been remarkably absent from the protests. This round-table sifts the internal and external reasons for this. See our <em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a><em></em></em><em> </em>page for more</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>This roundtable took place on March 16, 2012 at the University of Portsmouth as part of an international conference organised by the Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR) entitled: &lsquo;Algerian and Arab Revolutions: An International and Comparative Perspective&rsquo;. The roundtable was chaired by Ed Stoddard from the University of Portsmouth whose research focuses on the European Union within a global context. The four panellists were: <a href="#Barkaoui">Professor Miloud Barkaoui</a> (Professor of American politics at Badj Mokhtar-Annaba University, Algeria); <a href="#Sereni">Jean-Pierre S&eacute;r&eacute;ni</a> (a journalist with <em>Le Monde Diplomatique, </em>France); <a href="#Hamouchene">Hamza Hamouchene</a> (an activist and member of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign based in London); <a href="#Bensassi">Dr. Sami Bensassi</a> (an economist who works on North Africa at the University of Portsmouth). </p> <p>Below we have the initial reflections of each panellist on the complex relationship between Algeria and the ongoing revolutions in the Arab World. <span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></p> <p>1.<em><a href="#Barkaoui"> Winds of change: the Arab Spring and the &ldquo;Algerian Exception&rdquo;</a></em> (Miloud Barkaoui)</p> <p>2. <a href="#Sereni"><em>Contrasted overtures to the Arab Spring in Algeria and Tunisia</em></a> (Jean-Pierre S&eacute;r&eacute;ni)</p> <p>3. <a href="#Hamouchene"><em>Algeria and the Arab Spring</em></a> (Hamza Hamouchene)</p> <p>4. <a href="#Bensassi">The Tunisian revolution: a second decolonization? </a>(Sami Bensassi)</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h3><strong><a name="Barkaoui">Winds of change: the Arab Spring and the &ldquo;Algerian Exception&rdquo;</a></strong></h3> <p><strong>Miloud Barkaoui</strong></p> <p>Algeria suffers from the same endemic socio-economic difficulties&nbsp;which set off the recent Arab street revolts, setting in motion a new regional paradigm shift from which the country&rsquo;s political reality cannot be impervious. Such difficulties have made Algeria a candidate <em>par excellence</em> for the domino effect of the so-called &lsquo;Arab Spring.&rsquo;&nbsp;But, against all predictions and prophesies, it has been missing from the media coverage and from the radar screens of the domino theorists, ideologues, and analysts.<em> </em>A brief reading of the internal and external reasons helps understand why this Maghrebi state has so far been spared the domino effect of recent revolts in the region.</p> <p>The Algerian situation is quite paradoxical. Largescale discontent with the <em>status quo</em>, including demonstrations, strikes, and sit-ins, has played a part in the country's daily socio-political culture for many years now. The demands have been centered on social justice and equality (employment, housing, participatory governance, ending corruption and nepotism). Yet, apart from a host of committed political and human rights organizations spearheading the protest movement, those engaged in the struggle for change push for reform short of demanding the overthrow of the current regime or the replacement of the incumbent president. Interestingly, the iconic slogan &ldquo;the people want to topple the regime&rdquo; has been remarkably absent from the protests.</p> <p>Such protests were commonplace across Algeria well before the Tunisian revolt (10,000 in 2010 alone). There have even been a number of self-immolations by individuals protesting their precarious social conditions in the four corners of the country, well ahead of Bouazizi&rsquo;s desperate act. However, in the absence of organizations capable of mobilizing people, the protests have remained sporadic, disorganized, and without a real impact on the authorities&rsquo; agenda. This is mainly due to the disjointed nature of Algerian civil society, the polarization of the political elite, and the government's flair for playing one activist group off against the other. The quasi absence of consequential protest is also due to the official instrumentalization of the traumatic memories of both the Algerian war of independence and the &ldquo;Red Decade&rdquo; of the 1990s. <a href="#1">[1]</a>Such lingering effects have played a major part in curbing Algerians&rsquo; drive to rally to the Arab street revolts.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has also invested enormous energy in the exploitation of the tragic shift taken by events in the Arab-Spring countries. The fear of a potential Libyan scenario of chaos and of foreign meddling has played a large part in people&rsquo;s reticence to rally behind those who seek regime change. Algerians are wary of the Arab Spring and its unknown ramifications, especially with the still vivid legacy of civil strife and bloodshed of the 1990s. What is more, there is a wide popular conviction that the events shaking the region are nothing but an orchestrated plot by the big powers to reconfigure the regional geopolitical map along self-serving lines.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Although Algerians may fear and perhaps loathe the regime in place, what they fear most is the insecurity and instability of a Libyan or Syrian-style outcome. This wariness of a potential leap in the dark comes from what is viewed as the lack of a viable alternative to the existing system as the political parties are largely mistrusted and deemed unfit to govern. It must be borne in mind that most of such parties have been discredited and weakened by the government either through repressive measures or through smart ways of winning their leaders over.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has also largely succeeded in appeasing the wrath of a big segment of the population. Swiftly and cannily responding to what was unfolding in the neighbouring countries, it used energy revenues to buy off social peace (hefty pay rises to public-sector workers, benefits to different social groups, and generous loans for business start-ups to unemployed youth). This is in addition to raising subsidies on basic commodities, and relaxing regulations on street vending to keep unwaged youngsters away from the protests.<a href="#2">[2]</a></p> <p lang="fr-FR"> In stark contrast to the former autocracies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the Algerian government has generally been tolerant of social protests; violent police crackdown on protestors is quite uncommon. However, when they fear rallies might serve as potential political platforms for revolt, the authorities do resort to heavy-handed repressive measures short of using firearms. Opposition rallies, which have so far been limited to Algiers, particularly, are met with a heavy police deployment. Security agents sometimes outnumber participants by ten to one.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has gone to great lengths to delegitimize the organizers of anti-government rallies such as the one led by the <em>Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la D&eacute;mocratie</em> (CNCD) in February 2011.<a href="#3">[3]</a> The CNCD was already handicapped by the presence of controversial political figures like Said Saadi (leader of the secularist <em>Rassemblement pour la Culture et la D&eacute;mocratie</em>) and Ali Belhadj (one of the former leaders of the Islamist <em>Front Islamique de Salut</em> that was banned in 1992); a presence which in the eyes of many Algerians endorses the foreign plot theory. In parallel, the government took a plethora of steps towards appeasing the country&rsquo;s civil society. It repealed the 19-year-old state of emergency laws <a href="#4">[4]</a>; promised to end state monopoly of television; and transferred the task of supervising elections from the Interior Ministry to a commission of judges. As a guarantee of transparency, Algiers invited a number of international organisations and institutions<a href="#5">[5]</a> to send observers to monitor the recent legislative elections. Meanwhile, scores of new political parties have been authorized to take part in the elections. In fact, this is the first time since President Bouteflika took office in 1999 that new parties have been legalized, including several moderate Islamist ones.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The authorities have deployed considerable efforts to mobilize the people for a high turnout in the elections, which they consider a panacea against foreign interference, and to persuade opposition parties to be part of the process. The participation of parties like the <em>Front des Forces Socialistes </em>(FFS) will certainly lend credence to the elections. Boycott by major opposition parties and a low voter turnout, however, has undermined the whole process of political reform promised by the authorities. Part of the opposition already suspects that the coming elections are merely meant for foreign consumption and that the authorities are dancing to the tunes of the big powers.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Part of the opposition considers that these powers are striving to uphold the Algerian exception, for geostrategic considerations. The stability of Algeria is seen in the west as pivotal to the continuation of the process of change in the whole Maghreb. Washington, Paris, and Brussels seem to have opted for a low-profile support for a relaxed &ldquo;processual&rdquo; change in the country. Algeria has always been a reliable energy supplier to Europe and the US; a consideration that is weighing heavily on the Euro-American stance, especially as conditions in Libya are still unsettled.<a href="#6">[6]</a></p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Algeria has also become an indispensable ally of the west in the fight against international terrorism, organized crime, and illegal immigration to Europe. Security cooperation between the two sides has been intensified following the security spill-over of the Libyan crisis, unleashing a threatening wave of weapon trafficking that could render the operational capabilities of al Qaida&rsquo;s North Africa branch (AQIM) and its allies in the Sahel region more ominous.<a href="#7">[7]</a> The current explosive situation in Northern Mali has made western cooperation with the Algerian security services even tighter.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has so far skillfully exploited the internal socio-political configuration and the favourable regional/global geostrategic climate to ward off the Arab Spring shockwaves. Will it be skilful enough to find the right panaceas for the country&rsquo;s profound socio-economic and political ills in order to bring stability and prosperity to its wearied population? This can only be through genuine structural reforms directly addressing the political sources of tension in order to make people identify with those who govern them. Or, will it instead remain bogged down in the conceited and stubborn claim that the crisis is simply social, clinging to time-buying cosmetic ploys which can only offer a dawn without a noon? Only time will tell! </p> <p><a name="1"></a>[1] The 1963 Algerian Constitution cites the figure of one and a half million victims &ndash; 500,000 killed and disappeared and 1 million wounded and injured. On the historical controversy of losses during the Algerian War see Martin Evans, <em>Algeria: France&rsquo;s Undeclared War, </em>Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.335-338. The crisis of the 1990s claimed the lives of over 100,000 people and billions of dollars in economic losses.</p> <p><a name="2"></a>[2] The youth unemployment rate in the country is currently estimated at 25%.</p> <p><a name="3"></a>[3] The CNCD comprised the Human Rights League, a number of independent trade union organizations, some political parties, and a host of youth groups.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="4"></a>[4] Those laws were designed to prevent gatherings in public places and to give security services unchecked powers for the detention of opponents.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="5"></a>[5] These included the EU, the UN, and independent organisms like the Carter Center and the American National Democratic Institute.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="6"></a>[6] Algeria, which is the world's sixth-largest producer of natural gas, is an OPEC member, and a supplier of about one fifth of Europe&rsquo;s gas imports. It covers about 3.6 % of American oil imports. </p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="7"></a>[7] The Algerian army intercepted in February of this year a large quantity of shoulder-launched missiles which are capable of bringing down commercial airliners (commonly known as man-portable defence systems- MANPADS-) smuggled from Libya.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h3><strong><a name="Sereni">Contrasted overtures to the Arab Spring in Algeria and Tunisia</a></strong></h3> <p><strong>Jean-Pierre S&eacute;r&eacute;ni</strong></p> <p>Wednesday, January 5, 2011, two neighbouring countries in North Africa, Algeria and Tunisia, experienced widespread political agitation. In Algiers, the unrest began right in the centre and quickly spread to other important towns such as M&rsquo;Sila, Boumerdes, Tizi-Ouzou, Annaba, Tipaza ou Tlemcen. Usually violence, very frequent, rests at the level of one locality, rarely two, for purely local reasons (cutting of the water supply, problems over housing, car accidents). In the evening, an official communique listed three dead and 400 injured. For the first time, this movement was verging on the national scale.</p> <p>In Tunisia, the day was marked by the burial attended by 5000 people of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation on 17 December 2010 provoked demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid, one of the poorest parts of the country. The responses of the exiled opposition in Europe were cautious: &lsquo;there is no possible alternative to the regime for the moment, that will take years&rsquo; was the view of the activist, Adel Ghazala, a refugee in Paris. In London, the daughter of the leader Ennadha, Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamist party that will win the elections less than a year later, spoke of &lsquo;agitators&rsquo;. Nobody envisaged the fall of the regime. </p> <p>Three days later, Saturday 8 January, calm reigned in Algeria, the authorities had taken control of the situation. In contrast, in Tunisia, the youth of Tala, a small mountain town near to the Algerian border, attacked a police station which led to four deaths. In the evening the rioting spread to Kasserine, a neighbouring town with a population of nearly 100,000. This rioting did not stop, spreading to the whole country; less than a week later the regime of Pr&eacute;sident Zineddine Ben Ali fell. </p> <p><strong>Their&rsquo; version of events </strong></p> <p>How can one explain such a different train of developments in two countries ruled by equally authoritarian regimes confronted with social and political explosion? The handling of the crisis by the authorities, the financial and police resources at their disposal and their capacity to impose on national opinion &lsquo;their&rsquo; version of events, was markedly different in the two countries. </p> <p>Tunis reacted slowly to the events: the President had left the country and his subordinates were late in warning him of the gravity of the situation, believing that this was local violence such as Tunisia experienced in 2008 in Redeyef and the following year in Ben Gardane. The decision-making process is long and complicated, the government manages security issues in an opaque manner and then measures take a long time to be carried out by the police divided into several bodies which in theory take orders from the Minister of the Interior. Algiers reacted rapidly, on 8 January the government took the necessary measures while the police has a unified command structure. </p> <p>The second difference, the Algerian police, 140,000 strong, is well equipped for maintaining order, with water canons and light tanks, the anti-riot police are well trained and very quickly repressed the riots without too much bloodshed. In comparison, in Tunisia the police force is smaller in number (barely 50,000), the specialised units for maintaining order skeletal and their equipment obsolete. In Kasserine on 8 January the police did not have any of the most up to date tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Ben Ali was controlling the country through a small secret police force that relied upon 4,000 local committees in charge of spying on their neighbours. But this time, the committees did not feed through the intelligence that is indispensable for preventative repression. The populace attacked police stations which then opened fire and killed more than 140 demonstrators. </p> <p>Algerian financial resources allowed the authorities to make concessions from 8 January onwards: VAT was abolished on a series of primary products, subsidies were given the rioters and the wages of civil servants were dramatically increased. Algeria, a rich petrol country, has the means to buy social peace.</p> <p>Nothing like that in Tunisia. It was only three days before his fall that Ben Ali promised measures to alleviate economic hardship and announced the immediate creation of 300,000 jobs. But this had no credibility given that average job creation schemes had never gone above 70,000 new posts a year. The promises, late and mean-minded, fell flat. </p> <p>Above all, the Tunisian regime lost the &lsquo;street opinion&rsquo; shortly after the immolation of Mohammed Bouzizi on 17 December. The story that spread quickly within Tunisian opinion was deadly for its credibility. This can be summarised as follows: this young unemployed student who was selling goods on the black market was the victim of a policewoman who slapped him in the face. Humiliated he set fire to himself. This version, concocted by a small groups of lawyers and trade unionists of the UGTT (l&rsquo;Union G&eacute;n&eacute;rale des Travailleurs Tunisiens) which had kept a certain autonomy under the dictatorship &ndash; won out as the dominant version in public opinion and attracted the support of several important components of Algerian society: firstly, many thousands of qualified people without employment and the innumerable poor who lived off an informal economy once they are made redundant by a company or the state. And finally the traditionalists who were indignant at the spectacle of a woman laying a hand on a man. </p> <p>After Ben Ali&rsquo;s fall, it emerged that the policewoman had not slapped Bouazizi. But the Qatar satellite channel <em>Al-Jazeera</em>, followed throughout the country, took this narrative on the basis of reporting by a Tunisian journalist who works clandestinely for the channel through the internet. </p> <p>The Algerian authorities imposed their version of the riots of the beginning of January 2011: hooligans who were paid by speculators who wanted to turn public attention away from the increase in prices on foodstuffs and accuse the government in their place. No group contradicted this official discourse on the &lsquo;olive and sugar revolution&rsquo; and soon opinion turned to other things, notably the political reforms. <em>Al-Jazeera</em>, much less followed in Algeria than Tunisia, had nobody on the ground and covered the event much less </p> <p>Without giving an explanation, it is necessary to underline the paradox; on the one hand on 5 January in Algeria a movement seemed able to spread for the first time to the whole of the country while in Tunisia the day was marked by the peaceful burial of a victim who became famous in a provincial backwater, while the rest of the country remained calm. To the contemporary historian that is a journalist, the fall of the Algerian regime seemed far more likely than that of Tunisia. But by the beginning of the following week, the balance of forces had been reversed. The Arab spring took off in Tunisia, while Algeria would finish the year in political terms as the country had started it, with the status-quo intact. &nbsp; &nbsp; </p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h3><a name="Hamouchene">Algeria and the Arab Spring</a></h3> <p><strong>Hamza Hamouchene</strong></p> <p>A year ago, waves of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa swept away western-backed tyrants one after the other - first Tunisia&rsquo;s Ben Ali, then Egypt&rsquo;s Mubarak... It seemed the list of toppled dictators was bound to go on and on. These uprisings were unforgettable historical events and the emancipatory experience was so contagious that people all over the world were inspired. Occupiers from London to Wall Street were proud to &ldquo;Walk like an Egyptian&rdquo;.</p> <p>These revolts had echoes in other countries because they shared the same detonators of the explosion: authoritarianism, inegalitarian development, high unemployment, poverty, endemic corruption and nepotism, a suffocated political life, repression, human rights abuses, a frustrated educated youth without horizons and parasitic bourgeoisies who continue their protected robbery, exploitation and self-enrichment. </p> <p>The peoples of this region were long confined to racist stereotypes and contemptuous clich&eacute;s of the like: &ldquo;Arabs and Muslims are not fit for democracy and they are incapable of governing themselves&rdquo;. </p> <p>The Arab Spring shattered these stereotypes and debunked these myths. The wind of revolution has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman. Algeria at the vanguard in the 1960s, a nation that inspired the entire world with its heroic revolutionary war against the French colonialists, paradoxically seemed preserved from these aspirations. The western media portrayed Algeria as being at the margin of the Arab spring, of being the exception. Of course this is an optical illusion.</p> <p>Not at the centre of the media spotlight, nevertheless the country in 2010 and 2011 saw an unprecedented number of demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and clashes with the police. In 2010 alone, the authorities counted 11,500 riots, public demonstrations and gatherings across the country. The year 2011 started with the implementation of fiscal measures introduced by the government to counteract the informal economy. These had dire consequences on the already-difficult life of the population: a substantial increase in basic food staples (30% for sugar for example). For the networks that controlled the informal market, these measures were bound to cause huge financial losses. </p> <p>The reactions converged into violent riots between January 4 - 10 in several cities. These of course were contained by a bloated police force. &lsquo;Algiers the White&rsquo; became &lsquo;Algiers the Blue&rsquo; in reference to the uniform of 140,000 policemen who successfully suppressed all the marches and demonstrations organised by political parties and by figures of the civil society in the following weeks.</p> <p>All this indicates that Algeria has not been spared from the wind of revolution, and like their counterparts in other Arab countries, Algerians have expressed the same aspirations to freedom and dignity. The rapidity with which the flames of revolt spread &ndash; thanks to <em>Al Jazeera</em> - gave the illusion that change will happen overnight and regimes will fall one after the other like a house of cards. That did not happen!</p> <p>Why is Algeria not following in the footsteps of Egypt and Tunisia in toppling dictators? A revolutionary experience along the lines of the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios will be very difficult to reproduce in Algeria, but that does not mean that Algeria is immune or protected from the wind of change. </p> <p><strong>Why such a task is hard to achieve</strong></p> <p>Despotism in Algeria is collegial. It is shared and not concentrated in the hands of one person/one family that focuses all the hatred and grudges. A diffuse dictatorship like the Algerian one is harder to dislodge than those that offer a precise target to popular resentment like the Shah in Iran, Suharto in Indonesia or Ben Ali in Tunisia, just to cite a few examples. The oligarchic coalitions have a larger base than personalised dictatorships, which makes them less fragile. They are also more resistant because they conceded some power to the people, especially to the large and complex networks.</p> <p>On top of that, the oil rents contribute significantly to regime longevity and stability by pacifying the population and delaying any radicalisation of the popular anger, especially with the recent redistribution of the petro-dollars &agrave;<em> la Bouteflika</em>. </p> <p>The Algerian ruling elite likes to repeat that Algeria had its democratic revolution in October 1988 when the regime was forced by weeks of riots to open up to political pluralism and allowed an independent press. These gains in civil liberties were diluted and the democratic transition aborted in the civil war of the 90s that left the nation wounded, traumatised and less disposed to rise up against a regime that triumphed over radical Islamism at the expense of hundreds of thousands of deaths.</p> <p>This fratricidal war has divided democrats, seriously damaged civil society and left a political vacuum in the face of the ruling parties. There is almost no opposition with a proper base that can take the demands of the people forward. </p> <p>The spectre of the civil war and the fear of bloody violence have been exacerbated by the Libyan drama, and what&rsquo;s currently happening in Yemen and Syria. The intervention in Libya was a war of regime change and was perceived as an imperialist plot in Algerians&rsquo; minds, reviving their anti-colonialist feelings. I have been told by many friends and family members: &ldquo;Algeria is fine, we don&rsquo;t need to go down the route of the Libyan disaster, and we don&rsquo;t want the France we expelled in 1962 to come back to our country&rdquo;. </p> <p><strong>Algeria Solidarity Campaign</strong></p> <p>What is to be done to achieve a genuine democratic change? The conjunction of social discontents that we have seen in the last year seems insufficient to threaten a regime that has always repressed revolts in blood. There is a crying urgency for an authentic democratic opposition to revive itself and politicise the legitimate demands of the people that currently find only confused expression.</p> <p>Some people say that democratic change will come from above, i.e. from the citadels of the regime. But as long as the masses do not exercise pressure from beneath, struggle to radically change the status quo will be unfulfilled and the interests of the profiteering cast will be maintained. </p> <p>This year, Algeria will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of a thwarted independence, an anniversary that bears witness to the deception and disappointments that followed, a celebration tainted with bitterness as Algerians feel cheated of the fruits of independence and realise that the corrupt <em>pouvoir </em>betrayed the revolution. It is time for Algerians in Algeria and abroad to revive that revolutionary fervour that was admired all over the world, to renew our struggle for a true liberation and a meaningful democratic change, and to build a dynamic civil society and a strong mass-movement against authoritarianism and any form of oppression and injustice. </p> <p>In that spirit, some Algerian friends and I, inspired by the historic events of the &ldquo;Arab Spring&rdquo;, have founded Algeria Solidarity Campaign, an organisation based in London, which is campaigning for peaceful democratic change and the respect for human rights in Algeria. We are striving to build a platform for debate and an exchange of ideas regarding the challenges that face the Algerian people.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><h3><strong><a name="Bensassi">The Tunisian revolution: a second decolonization? </a></strong></h3> <p><strong>Sami Bensassi</strong></p> <p>The fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Algerian War gives us the opportunity to analyse the link between the first successful modern Arab uprisings during the 1950s and 1960s against their rulers and the current ones. In particular, is it possible to consider the 2011 Tunisian revolution as a second round of decolonization following independence from the French in 1956?<a class="sdendnoteanc" href="#sdendnote1sym"><sup>i</sup></a></p> <p>One of the striking facts of the post revolution period is that, for the first time, a large number of the new Tunisian government have not been educated in the French higher education system. On the contrary, their educational networks have grown outside Tunisia, in London and in the Arabic peninsula: the beginning of a shift towards new set of connections no longer centred on a Paris-Tunis axis but on a Qatar - Tunis - Washington triangle. </p> <p>This might be a temporary shift. After all, many in the Tunisian government still have close connections with French political leaders. But here the distinction between the short and long-term trend is essential. Already during the Ben Ali era the use of the French words in state TV programmes was considered inappropriate. Now, even in the French educated elite, the fashion is to send children to schools proposing early language classes in English. State sponsored high education institutions like the Tunis Business School offer academic tutelage only in English. Generally the Tunisian elite (conservative or liberal) seem to have acknowledged that better perspectives are offered to an English/Arabic educated labour force (particularly when the difficulty of emigrating to France is contrasted with the attractiveness of the Gulf States and North America).</p> <p>From decolonization to the end of the 1980s, Arab states were showing multiple signs of the adoption of western modernity (westernized clothes, leisure, technologies, and education system or government formal organization) with two exceptions: westernized freedom of press and westernized democracy. At the start of the 1990s, the creation of <em>Al Jazeera</em> transformed the first element: by challenging most (but not all) incumbent governments through the Arab World it has laid the fist foundation stone of Arab modernity, adopting the code and the objective of a free press but with a distinctive Arab content and tone. Towards the end of 1990s came the second step towards the elaboration of an Arab modernity, namely the acceptation of democracy by the Turkish and Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi &ndash; AKP) as a legitimate way to organize political life, and its victory through the electoral process. In this way the Turkish example has taken centre stage in Tunisia and Egypt. However, unlike Turkey, Arab countries still have to make a choice: is it religious or elected legislators who will have the last word in shaping their political systems? </p> <p>Finally some remarks about the social and economic context of the Tunisian revolution. The urban, educated, upper middle class were fed up with the Ben Ali clique which they viewed as corrupt. Thus, in contrast to Syria, this section of society chose to support the 2011 revolution which started in the midst of the poor Tunisian interior, and their support was pivotal. Equally, the demand for more jobs and opportunities from the majority of the population has not yet been fulfilled. Despite the migration of young Tunisians to Libya, and the promises of investment from the US, Qatar and the EU, the economic prospects stay bleak. In addition to this demand, increasing inflation has put in doubt the capacity of the new government to manage the economy. Here the economic situation in Europe - the main trade partner of Tunisia &ndash; will play an important role in the stability of Tunisia and its neighbours. Economic difficulties and injustices triggered the Tunisian revolution, but this unrest may return if the elected government fails to deliver a better economic future. </p> <p>So, to conclude, should we talk about a second decolonization? Tunisia is surely becoming more Arab and Muslim, looking more eastward and less across the Mediterranean. At the same time it may succeed in creating its own model of development, integrating and adapting westernized values to its own historical and cultural background. By doing so Tunisia will definitively step out of the age of colonization.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Miloud Barkaoui; Jean-Pierre Séréni; Hamza Hamouchene; Sami Bensassi Fri, 25 May 2012 08:00:00 +0000 Miloud Barkaoui; Jean-Pierre Séréni; Hamza Hamouchene; Sami Bensassi 66039 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Winds of change: the Arab Spring and the “Algerian Exception” https://www.opendemocracy.net/miloud-barkaoui/winds-of-change-arab-spring-and-%E2%80%9Calgerian-exception%E2%80%9D <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This Maghrebi state has so far been spared the domino effect of recent revolts in the region. The iconic slogan, “the people want to topple the regime” has been remarkably absent from the protests, and the stability of Algeria is seen in the west as pivotal to the continuation of the process of change in the whole Maghreb.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Algeria suffers from the same endemic socio-economic difficulties&nbsp;which set off the recent Arab street revolts, setting in motion a new regional paradigm shift from which the country&rsquo;s political reality cannot be impervious. Such difficulties have made Algeria a candidate <em>par excellence</em> for the domino effect of the so-called &lsquo;Arab Spring.&rsquo;&nbsp;But, against all predictions and prophesies, it has been missing from the media coverage and from the radar screens of the domino theorists, ideologues, and analysts.<em> </em>A brief reading of the internal and external reasons helps understand why this Maghrebi state has so far been spared the domino effect of recent revolts in the region.</p> <p>The Algerian situation is quite paradoxical. Largescale discontent with the <em>status quo</em>, including demonstrations, strikes, and sit-ins, has played a part in the country's daily socio-political culture for many years now. The demands have been centered on social justice and equality (employment, housing, participatory governance, ending corruption and nepotism). Yet, apart from a host of committed political and human rights organizations spearheading the protest movement, those engaged in the struggle for change push for reform short of demanding the overthrow of the current regime or the replacement of the incumbent president. Interestingly, the iconic slogan &ldquo;the people want to topple the regime&rdquo; has been remarkably absent from the protests.</p> <p>Such protests were commonplace across Algeria well before the Tunisian revolt (10,000 in 2010 alone). There have even been a number of self-immolations by individuals protesting their precarious social conditions in the four corners of the country, well ahead of Bouazizi&rsquo;s desperate act. However, in the absence of organizations capable of mobilizing people, the protests have remained sporadic, disorganized, and without a real impact on the authorities&rsquo; agenda. This is mainly due to the disjointed nature of Algerian civil society, the polarization of the political elite, and the government's flair for playing one activist group off against the other. The quasi absence of consequential protest is also due to the official instrumentalization of the traumatic memories of both the Algerian war of independence and the &ldquo;Red Decade&rdquo; of the 1990s. <a href="#1">[1]</a>Such lingering effects have played a major part in curbing Algerians&rsquo; drive to rally to the Arab street revolts.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has also invested enormous energy in the exploitation of the tragic shift taken by events in the Arab-Spring countries. The fear of a potential Libyan scenario of chaos and of foreign meddling has played a large part in people&rsquo;s reticence to rally behind those who seek regime change. Algerians are wary of the Arab Spring and its unknown ramifications, especially with the still vivid legacy of civil strife and bloodshed of the 1990s. What is more, there is a wide popular conviction that the events shaking the region are nothing but an orchestrated plot by the big powers to reconfigure the regional geopolitical map along self-serving lines.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Although Algerians may fear and perhaps loathe the regime in place, what they fear most is the insecurity and instability of a Libyan or Syrian-style outcome. This wariness of a potential leap in the dark comes from what is viewed as the lack of a viable alternative to the existing system as the political parties are largely mistrusted and deemed unfit to govern. It must be borne in mind that most of such parties have been discredited and weakened by the government either through repressive measures or through smart ways of winning their leaders over.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has also largely succeeded in appeasing the wrath of a big segment of the population. Swiftly and cannily responding to what was unfolding in the neighbouring countries, it used energy revenues to buy off social peace (hefty pay rises to public-sector workers, benefits to different social groups, and generous loans for business start-ups to unemployed youth). This is in addition to raising subsidies on basic commodities, and relaxing regulations on street vending to keep unwaged youngsters away from the protests.<a href="#2">[2]</a></p> <p lang="fr-FR"> In stark contrast to the former autocracies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the Algerian government has generally been tolerant of social protests; violent police crackdown on protestors is quite uncommon. However, when they fear rallies might serve as potential political platforms for revolt, the authorities do resort to heavy-handed repressive measures short of using firearms. Opposition rallies, which have so far been limited to Algiers, particularly, are met with a heavy police deployment. Security agents sometimes outnumber participants by ten to one.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has gone to great lengths to delegitimize the organizers of anti-government rallies such as the one led by the <em>Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la D&eacute;mocratie</em> (CNCD) in February 2011.<a href="#3">[3]</a> The CNCD was already handicapped by the presence of controversial political figures like Said Saadi (leader of the secularist <em>Rassemblement pour la Culture et la D&eacute;mocratie</em>) and Ali Belhadj (one of the former leaders of the Islamist <em>Front Islamique de Salut</em> that was banned in 1992); a presence which in the eyes of many Algerians endorses the foreign plot theory. In parallel, the government took a plethora of steps towards appeasing the country&rsquo;s civil society. It repealed the 19-year-old state of emergency laws <a href="#4">[4]</a>; promised to end state monopoly of television; and transferred the task of supervising elections from the Interior Ministry to a commission of judges. As a guarantee of transparency, Algiers invited a number of international organisations and institutions<a href="#5">[5]</a> to send observers to monitor the recent legislative elections. Meanwhile, scores of new political parties have been authorized to take part in the elections. In fact, this is the first time since President Bouteflika took office in 1999 that new parties have been legalized, including several moderate Islamist ones.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The authorities have deployed considerable efforts to mobilize the people for a high turnout in the elections, which they consider a panacea against foreign interference, and to persuade opposition parties to be part of the process. The participation of parties like the <em>Front des Forces Socialistes </em>(FFS) will certainly lend credence to the elections. Boycott by major opposition parties and a low voter turnout, however, has undermined the whole process of political reform promised by the authorities. Part of the opposition already suspects that the coming elections are merely meant for foreign consumption and that the authorities are dancing to the tunes of the big powers.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Part of the opposition considers that these powers are striving to uphold the Algerian exception, for geostrategic considerations. The stability of Algeria is seen in the west as pivotal to the continuation of the process of change in the whole Maghreb. Washington, Paris, and Brussels seem to have opted for a low-profile support for a relaxed &ldquo;processual&rdquo; change in the country. Algeria has always been a reliable energy supplier to Europe and the US; a consideration that is weighing heavily on the Euro-American stance, especially as conditions in Libya are still unsettled.<a href="#6">[6]</a></p> <p lang="fr-FR"> Algeria has also become an indispensable ally of the west in the fight against international terrorism, organized crime, and illegal immigration to Europe. Security cooperation between the two sides has been intensified following the security spill-over of the Libyan crisis, unleashing a threatening wave of weapon trafficking that could render the operational capabilities of al Qaida&rsquo;s North Africa branch (AQIM) and its allies in the Sahel region more ominous.<a href="#7">[7]</a> The current explosive situation in Northern Mali has made western cooperation with the Algerian security services even tighter.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> The government has so far skillfully exploited the internal socio-political configuration and the favourable regional/global geostrategic climate to ward off the Arab Spring shockwaves. Will it be skilful enough to find the right panaceas for the country&rsquo;s profound socio-economic and political ills in order to bring stability and prosperity to its wearied population? This can only be through genuine structural reforms directly addressing the political sources of tension in order to make people identify with those who govern them. Or, will it instead remain bogged down in the conceited and stubborn claim that the crisis is simply social, clinging to time-buying cosmetic ploys which can only offer a dawn without a noon? Only time will tell! </p> <p><a name="1"></a>[1] The 1963 Algerian Constitution cites the figure of one and a half million victims &ndash; 500,000 killed and disappeared and 1 million wounded and injured. On the historical controversy of losses during the Algerian War see Martin Evans, <em>Algeria: France&rsquo;s Undeclared War, </em>Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.335-338. The crisis of the 1990s claimed the lives of over 100,000 people and billions of dollars in economic losses.</p> <p><a name="2"></a>[2] The youth unemployment rate in the country is currently estimated at 25%.</p> <p><a name="3"></a>[3] The CNCD comprised the Human Rights League, a number of independent trade union organizations, some political parties, and a host of youth groups.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="4"></a>[4] Those laws were designed to prevent gatherings in public places and to give security services unchecked powers for the detention of opponents.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="5"></a>[5] These included the EU, the UN, and independent organisms like the Carter Center and the American National Democratic Institute.</p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="6"></a>[6] Algeria, which is the world's sixth-largest producer of natural gas, is an OPEC member, and a supplier of about one fifth of Europe&rsquo;s gas imports. It covers about 3.6 % of American oil imports. </p> <p lang="fr-FR"> <a name="7"></a>[7] The Algerian army intercepted in February of this year a large quantity of shoulder-launched missiles which are capable of bringing down commercial airliners (commonly known as man-portable defence systems- MANPADS-) smuggled from Libya. </p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Miloud Barkaoui Fri, 25 May 2012 07:00:00 +0000 Miloud Barkaoui 65981 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Contrasted overtures to the Arab Spring in Algerian and Tunisia https://www.opendemocracy.net/jean-pierre-s%C3%A9r%C3%A9ni/contrasted-overtures-to-arab-spring-in-algerian-and-tunisia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Algeria, a rich petrol country, has the means to buy social peace. In Algiers, the government took the necessary measures, while the police has a unified command structure. But above all, the Tunisian regime lost ‘street opinion’.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Wednesday, January 5, 2011, two neighbouring countries in North Africa, Algeria and Tunisia, experienced widespread political agitation. In Algiers, the unrest began right in the centre and quickly spread to other important towns such as M&rsquo;Sila, Boumerdes, Tizi-Ouzou, Annaba, Tipaza ou Tlemcen. Usually violence, very frequent, rests at the level of one locality, rarely two, for purely local reasons (cutting of the water supply, problems over housing, car accidents). In the evening, an official communique listed three dead and 400 injured. For the first time, this movement was verging on the national scale.</p> <p>In Tunisia, the day was marked by the burial attended by 5000 people of Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation on 17 December 2010 provoked demonstrations in Sidi Bouzid, one of the poorest parts of the country. The responses of the exiled opposition in Europe were cautious: &lsquo;there is no possible alternative to the regime for the moment, that will take years&rsquo; was the view of the activist, Adel Ghazala, a refugee in Paris. In London, the daughter of the leader Ennadha, Rachid Ghannouchi, the Islamist party that will win the elections less than a year later, spoke of &lsquo;agitators&rsquo;. Nobody envisaged the fall of the regime. </p> <p>Three days later, Saturday 8 January, calm reigned in Algeria, the authorities had taken control of the situation. In contrast, in Tunisia, the youth of Tala, a small mountain town near to the Algerian border, attacked a police station which led to four deaths. In the evening the rioting spread to Kasserine, a neighbouring town with a population of nearly 100,000. This rioting did not stop, spreading to the whole country; less than a week later the regime of Pr&eacute;sident Zineddine Ben Ali fell. </p> <h3>&lsquo;<strong>Their&rsquo; version of events </strong> </h3> <p>How can one explain such a different train of developments in two countries ruled by equally authoritarian regimes confronted with social and political explosion? The handling of the crisis by the authorities, the financial and police resources at their disposal and their capacity to impose on national opinion &lsquo;their&rsquo; version of events, was markedly different in the two countries. </p> <p>Tunis reacted slowly to the events: the President had left the country and his subordinates were late in warning him of the gravity of the situation, believing that this was local violence such as Tunisia experienced in 2008 in Redeyef and the following year in Ben Gardane. The decision-making process is long and complicated, the government manages security issues in an opaque manner and then measures take a long time to be carried out by the police divided into several bodies which in theory take orders from the Minister of the Interior. Algiers reacted rapidly, on 8 January the government took the necessary measures while the police has a unified command structure. </p> <p>The second difference, the Algerian police, 140,000 strong, is well equipped for maintaining order, with water canons and light tanks, the anti-riot police are well trained and very quickly repressed the riots without too much bloodshed. In comparison, in Tunisia the police force is smaller in number (barely 50,000), the specialised units for maintaining order skeletal and their equipment obsolete. In Kasserine on 8 January the police did not have any of the most up to date tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Ben Ali was controlling the country through a small secret police force that relied upon 4,000 local committees in charge of spying on their neighbours. But this time, the committees did not feed through the intelligence that is indispensable for preventative repression. The populace attacked police stations which then opened fire and killed more than 140 demonstrators. </p> <p>Algerian financial resources allowed the authorities to make concessions from 8 January onwards: VAT was abolished on a series of primary products, subsidies were given the rioters and the wages of civil servants were dramatically increased. Algeria, a rich petrol country, has the means to buy social peace.</p> <p>Nothing like that in Tunisia. It was only three days before his fall that Ben Ali promised measures to alleviate economic hardship and announced the immediate creation of 300,000 jobs. But this had no credibility given that average job creation schemes had never gone above 70,000 new posts a year. The promises, late and mean-minded, fell flat. </p> <p>Above all, the Tunisian regime lost the &lsquo;street opinion&rsquo; shortly after the immolation of Mohammed Bouzizi on 17 December. The story that spread quickly within Tunisian opinion was deadly for its credibility. This can be summarised as follows: this young unemployed student who was selling goods on the black market was the victim of a policewoman who slapped him in the face. Humiliated he set fire to himself. This version, concocted by a small groups of lawyers and trade unionists of the UGTT (l&rsquo;Union G&eacute;n&eacute;rale des Travailleurs Tunisiens) which had kept a certain autonomy under the dictatorship &ndash; won out as the dominant version in public opinion and attracted the support of several important components of Algerian society: firstly, many thousands of qualified people without employment and the innumerable poor who lived off an informal economy once they are made redundant by a company or the state. And finally the traditionalists who were indignant at the spectacle of a woman laying a hand on a man. </p> <p>After Ben Ali&rsquo;s fall, it emerged that the policewoman had not slapped Bouazizi. But the Qatar satellite channel <em>Al-Jazeera</em>, followed throughout the country, took this narrative on the basis of reporting by a Tunisian journalist who works clandestinely for the channel through the internet. </p> <p>The Algerian authorities imposed their version of the riots of the beginning of January 2011: hooligans who were paid by speculators who wanted to turn public attention away from the increase in prices on foodstuffs and accuse the government in their place. No group contradicted this official discourse on the &lsquo;olive and sugar revolution&rsquo; and soon opinion turned to other things, notably the political reforms. <em>Al-Jazeera</em>, much less followed in Algeria than Tunisia, had nobody on the ground and covered the event much less </p> <p>Without giving an explanation, it is necessary to underline the paradox; on the one hand on 5 January in Algeria a movement seemed able to spread for the first time to the whole of the country while in Tunisia the day was marked by the peaceful burial of a victim who became famous in a provincial backwater, while the rest of the country remained calm. To the contemporary historian that is a journalist, the fall of the Algerian regime seemed far more likely than that of Tunisia. But by the beginning of the following week, the balance of forces had been reversed. The Arab spring took off in Tunisia, while Algeria would finish the year in political terms as the country had started it, with the status-quo intact. &nbsp; &nbsp; </p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Jean-Pierre Séréni Fri, 25 May 2012 06:00:00 +0000 Jean-Pierre Séréni 65990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria and the Arab Spring https://www.opendemocracy.net/hamza-hamouchene/algeria-and-arab-spring <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Algeria’s fratricidal war has divided democrats, seriously damaged civil society and left a political vacuum in the face of the ruling parties. There is almost no opposition with a proper base that can take the demands of the people forward.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A year ago, waves of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa swept away western-backed tyrants one after the other - first Tunisia&rsquo;s Ben Ali, then Egypt&rsquo;s Mubarak... It seemed the list of toppled dictators was bound to go on and on. These uprisings were unforgettable historical events and the emancipatory experience was so contagious that people all over the world were inspired. Occupiers from London to Wall Street were proud to &ldquo;Walk like an Egyptian&rdquo;.</p> <p>These revolts had echoes in other countries because they shared the same detonators of the explosion: authoritarianism, inegalitarian development, high unemployment, poverty, endemic corruption and nepotism, a suffocated political life, repression, human rights abuses, a frustrated educated youth without horizons and parasitic bourgeoisies who continue their protected robbery, exploitation and self-enrichment. </p> <p>The peoples of this region were long confined to racist stereotypes and contemptuous clich&eacute;s of the like: &ldquo;Arabs and Muslims are not fit for democracy and they are incapable of governing themselves&rdquo;. </p> <p>The Arab Spring shattered these stereotypes and debunked these myths. The wind of revolution has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Oman. Algeria at the vanguard in the 1960s, a nation that inspired the entire world with its heroic revolutionary war against the French colonialists, paradoxically seemed preserved from these aspirations. The western media portrayed Algeria as being at the margin of the Arab spring, of being the exception. Of course this is an optical illusion.</p> <p>Not at the centre of the media spotlight, nevertheless the country in 2010 and 2011 saw an unprecedented number of demonstrations, strikes, occupations, and clashes with the police. In 2010 alone, the authorities counted 11,500 riots, public demonstrations and gatherings across the country. The year 2011 started with the implementation of fiscal measures introduced by the government to counteract the informal economy. These had dire consequences on the already-difficult life of the population: a substantial increase in basic food staples (30% for sugar for example). For the networks that controlled the informal market, these measures were bound to cause huge financial losses. </p> <p>The reactions converged into violent riots between January 4 - 10 in several cities. These of course were contained by a bloated police force. &lsquo;Algiers the White&rsquo; became &lsquo;Algiers the Blue&rsquo; in reference to the uniform of 140,000 policemen who successfully suppressed all the marches and demonstrations organised by political parties and by figures of the civil society in the following weeks.</p> <p>All this indicates that Algeria has not been spared from the wind of revolution, and like their counterparts in other Arab countries, Algerians have expressed the same aspirations to freedom and dignity. The rapidity with which the flames of revolt spread &ndash; thanks to <em>Al Jazeera</em> - gave the illusion that change will happen overnight and regimes will fall one after the other like a house of cards. That did not happen!</p> <p>Why is Algeria not following in the footsteps of Egypt and Tunisia in toppling dictators? A revolutionary experience along the lines of the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios will be very difficult to reproduce in Algeria, but that does not mean that Algeria is immune or protected from the wind of change. </p> <h3><strong>Why such a task is hard to achieve</strong></h3> <p>Despotism in Algeria is collegial. It is shared and not concentrated in the hands of one person/one family that focuses all the hatred and grudges. A diffuse dictatorship like the Algerian one is harder to dislodge than those that offer a precise target to popular resentment like the Shah in Iran, Suharto in Indonesia or Ben Ali in Tunisia, just to cite a few examples. The oligarchic coalitions have a larger base than personalised dictatorships, which makes them less fragile. They are also more resistant because they conceded some power to the people, especially to the large and complex networks.</p> <p>On top of that, the oil rents contribute significantly to regime longevity and stability by pacifying the population and delaying any radicalisation of the popular anger, especially with the recent redistribution of the petro-dollars &agrave;<em> la Bouteflika</em>. </p> <p>The Algerian ruling elite likes to repeat that Algeria had its democratic revolution in October 1988 when the regime was forced by weeks of riots to open up to political pluralism and allowed an independent press. These gains in civil liberties were diluted and the democratic transition aborted in the civil war of the 90s that left the nation wounded, traumatised and less disposed to rise up against a regime that triumphed over radical Islamism at the expense of hundreds of thousands of deaths.</p> <p>This fratricidal war has divided democrats, seriously damaged civil society and left a political vacuum in the face of the ruling parties. There is almost no opposition with a proper base that can take the demands of the people forward. </p> <p>The spectre of the civil war and the fear of bloody violence have been exacerbated by the Libyan drama, and what&rsquo;s currently happening in Yemen and Syria. The intervention in Libya was a war of regime change and was perceived as an imperialist plot in Algerians&rsquo; minds, reviving their anti-colonialist feelings. I have been told by many friends and family members: &ldquo;Algeria is fine, we don&rsquo;t need to go down the route of the Libyan disaster, and we don&rsquo;t want the France we expelled in 1962 to come back to our country&rdquo;. </p> <h3><strong>Algeria Solidarity Campaign</strong></h3> <p>What is to be done to achieve a genuine democratic change? The conjunction of social discontents that we have seen in the last year seems insufficient to threaten a regime that has always repressed revolts in blood. There is a crying urgency for an authentic democratic opposition to revive itself and politicise the legitimate demands of the people that currently find only confused expression.</p> <p>Some people say that democratic change will come from above, i.e. from the citadels of the regime. But as long as the masses do not exercise pressure from beneath, struggle to radically change the status quo will be unfulfilled and the interests of the profiteering cast will be maintained. </p> <p>This year, Algeria will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of a thwarted independence, an anniversary that bears witness to the deception and disappointments that followed, a celebration tainted with bitterness as Algerians feel cheated of the fruits of independence and realise that the corrupt <em>pouvoir </em>betrayed the revolution. It is time for Algerians in Algeria and abroad to revive that revolutionary fervour that was admired all over the world, to renew our struggle for a true liberation and a meaningful democratic change, and to build a dynamic civil society and a strong mass-movement against authoritarianism and any form of oppression and injustice. </p> <p>In that spirit, some Algerian friends and I, inspired by the historic events of the &ldquo;Arab Spring&rdquo;, have founded Algeria Solidarity Campaign, an organisation based in London, which is campaigning for peaceful democratic change and the respect for human rights in Algeria. We are striving to build a platform for debate and an exchange of ideas regarding the challenges that face the Algerian people.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Hamza Hamouchene Fri, 25 May 2012 05:00:00 +0000 Hamza Hamouchene 65992 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Tunisian revolution: a second decolonization? https://www.opendemocracy.net/sami-bensassi/tunisian-revolution-second-decolonization <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The urban, educated, upper middle class were fed up with the Ben Ali clique which they viewed as corrupt. Thus, in contrast to Syria, this section of society chose to support the 2011 revolution which started in the midst of the poor Tunisian interior, and their support was pivotal.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Algerian War gives us the opportunity to analyse the link between the first successful modern Arab uprisings during the 1950s and 1960s against their rulers and the current ones. In particular, is it possible to consider the 2011 Tunisian revolution as a second round of decolonization following independence from the French in 1956?<a class="sdendnoteanc" href="#sdendnote1sym">i</a></p> <p>One of the striking facts of the post revolution period is that, for the first time, a large number of the new Tunisian government have not been educated in the French higher education system. On the contrary, their educational networks have grown outside Tunisia, in London and in the Arabic peninsula: the beginning of a shift towards new set of connections no longer centred on a Paris-Tunis axis but on a Qatar - Tunis - Washington triangle. </p> <p>This might be a temporary shift. After all, many in the Tunisian government still have close connections with French political leaders. But here the distinction between the short and long-term trend is essential. Already during the Ben Ali era the use of the French words in state TV programmes was considered inappropriate. Now, even in the French educated elite, the fashion is to send children to schools proposing early language classes in English. State sponsored high education institutions like the Tunis Business School offer academic tutelage only in English. Generally the Tunisian elite (conservative or liberal) seem to have acknowledged that better perspectives are offered to an English/Arabic educated labour force (particularly when the difficulty of emigrating to France is contrasted with the attractiveness of the Gulf States and North America).</p> <p>From decolonization to the end of the 1980s, Arab states were showing multiple signs of the adoption of western modernity (westernized clothes, leisure, technologies, and education system or government formal organization) with two exceptions: westernized freedom of press and westernized democracy. At the start of the 1990s, the creation of <em>Al Jazeera</em> transformed the first element: by challenging most (but not all) incumbent governments through the Arab World it has laid the fist foundation stone of Arab modernity, adopting the code and the objective of a free press but with a distinctive Arab content and tone. Towards the end of 1990s came the second step towards the elaboration of an Arab modernity, namely the acceptation of democracy by the Turkish and Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi &ndash; AKP) as a legitimate way to organize political life, and its victory through the electoral process. In this way the Turkish example has taken centre stage in Tunisia and Egypt. However, unlike Turkey, Arab countries still have to make a choice: is it religious or elected legislators who will have the last word in shaping their political systems? </p> <p>Finally some remarks about the social and economic context of the Tunisian revolution. The urban, educated, upper middle class were fed up with the Ben Ali clique which they viewed as corrupt. Thus, in contrast to Syria, this section of society chose to support the 2011 revolution which started in the midst of the poor Tunisian interior, and their support was pivotal. Equally, the demand for more jobs and opportunities from the majority of the population has not yet been fulfilled. Despite the migration of young Tunisians to Libya, and the promises of investment from the US, Qatar and the EU, the economic prospects stay bleak. In addition to this demand, increasing inflation has put in doubt the capacity of the new government to manage the economy. Here the economic situation in Europe - the main trade partner of Tunisia &ndash; will play an important role in the stability of Tunisia and its neighbours. Economic difficulties and injustices triggered the Tunisian revolution, but this unrest may return if the elected government fails to deliver a better economic future. </p> <p>So, to conclude, should we talk about a second decolonization? Tunisia is surely becoming more Arab and Muslim, looking more eastward and less across the Mediterranean. At the same time it may succeed in creating its own model of development, integrating and adapting westernized values to its own historical and cultural background. By doing so Tunisia will definitively step out of the age of colonization.</p> <p align="center"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/EP%20Year%20of%20Algeria%20Editorial%20Partnership.png" alt="" hspace="5" width="150" /></a></p> <p></p> <p><em>This article is part of the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/algeria-and-arab-revolutions-pasts-presents-and-futures">Algeria and the Arab Revolutions: Pasts, Presents and Futures</a> partnership, funded by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex. Read more about openDemocracy's <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/info/how-to-become-editorial-partner-of-opendemocracy">editorial partnerships</a> programme.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> Algeria Algeria and the Arab Revolutions Sami Bensassi Fri, 25 May 2012 04:00:00 +0000 Sami Bensassi 65993 at https://www.opendemocracy.net