This is a translation of the original article in French by the author: Davut Pasa.
Liberation for some, massacres for others.
May 8, 1945 is the symbol of French repression with the massacres of Setif in Algeria. It was the drop of hatred that overflowed a vase already filled with the blood of Muslims. Before the events of Sétif, it was a whole genocidal policy spanning more than a century that was set up by “the Emissaries of Civilization.”
At a time when France, the so-called country of the Enlightenment and Human Rights, is stubbornly trying to have the Armenian genocide recognized by Turkey, the former has not yet granted the status of genocide to what it did in Algeria. And yet: concentration camps, gas chambers (home-made), unannounced massacres… all the ingredients are there.
A Genocidal Will
Contrary to popular belief, the massacres of “indigenous people” did not begin with the massacres of Setif, but they did take place as soon as the French soldiers of “civilization” set foot on Algerian soil.
The French policy was supposed to be based on the commitment of General de Bourmon at the time of the capture of Algiers on July 5, 1830. The policy stipulated that,
“The exercise of the Mohammedan religion will remain free, the freedom of all classes of inhabitants, their religion, their property, their businesses will not be infringed. Women will be respected.”
None of these promises were upheld.
Two months after the fact, the newly invested General Clauzel inaugurated new policy, breaking the promises given to the Muslims. This betrayal gave rise to the revolt of the betrayed, which thus began the “pacification” of Algeria. Thus began the massacres/
The first massacres began in the 1830s.
A French officer and diplomat, Edmond Pellissier de Reynaud, stated:
“All that was alive was doomed to death; all that could be taken was removed, no distinction was made as to age or sex. However, the humanity of a small number of officers saved a few women and children. Returning from this fatal expedition, several of our horsemen carried heads at the end of their spears and one of them served, it is said, at a horrible feast. “
The testimonies of officers are numerous, each one more appalling than the next.
Beyond the crimes against humanity, these testimonies attest to the genocidal will of the conquerors and the systematic character of the French exterminating enterprise. Thus, La “Manhunt” (“Chasse à l’homme”) was the title of the work of the Comte d’Hérisson. In his Letters, the lieutenant-colonel de Montagnac clearly demonstrates his extermination project:
“All the good soldiers that I have the honor of commanding are warned by myself that, if they happen to bring me a live Arab, they receive a volley of flat saber blows.”
Faced with Algerian resistance, annihilation and deportation were the solutions proposed by Montagnac:
“Here, my good friend, is how to make war on the Arabs: kill all the men up to the age of fifteen, take all the women and children, load them onto ships, send them to the Marquesas Islands or elsewhere; in a word, finish them off, annihilate everything that won’t crawl at our feet like dogs…”
As early as 1842, the genocidal character of the French colonial project was recognized by the Governor General of Algeria himself, Bugeaud, who justified all the exactions committed by the French troops, stating:
“There is no other way to reach and subdue this extraordinary people.”
Speaking of the war of extermination waged in Algeria by the French army, Colonel de Saint-Arnaud stated:
“This is the war in Africa; one becomes fanaticized in turn and it degenerates into a war of extermination.”
Far from being limited to the military, the will to exterminate was also a phenomenon among the colonists. Thus, Doctor Bodichon published the following lines in an article in 1841:
“Without violating the laws of morality, we will be able to fight our African enemies by gunpowder and iron joined to famine, internal divisions, war by brandy, corruption and disorganization […] without shedding blood, we will be able, each year, to decimate them by attacking their means of feeding.”
The genocide of the Algerians was even legitimized by so-called Republican thinkers. Victor Hugo commented in 1841 on the actions in Algeria with the following, in the form of a response to Bugeaud who seemed to lack colonial enthusiasm:
“I believe that our new conquest is a happy and great thing. It is civilization that marches on barbarism. It is an enlightened people who will find a people in the night. We are the Greeks of the world, it is up to us to illuminate the world. Our mission is accomplished, I sing only Hosanna. You think differently than I do, it’s quite simple. You speak as a soldier, as a man of action. I speak as a philosopher and thinker.”
Like Bernard-Henri Levi (i.e., the French philosopher responsible for France’s involvement in Libya during the fall of Ghaddafi) preaching chaos in the Arab world, Alexis de Tocqueville also expressed himself on the subject in these terms in 1841:
“I have often heard in France men whom I respect, but whom I do not approve of, find it wrong to burn the harvests, to empty the silos and finally to seize unarmed men, women and children. These are, in my opinion, unfortunate necessities, but any people who wants to make war on the Arabs will be obliged to submit to them. […] I believe that the law of war authorizes us to ravage the country and that we must do so either by destroying the harvests at harvest time, or at all times by making those rapid incursions which are called raids and which have as their object the seizure of men or herds.
De Tocqueville sees such genocidal actions as legitimate because the natives were not fully human in his eyes.
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To get an idea of the scope of the Algerian massacres, one must refer to the demographic study made by Dr. Ricoux, who noted in his Démographie figurée de l’Algérie that the “inferior” and “degenerate” race of “natives […] are threatened with inevitable disappearance, soon.”
“When we arrived, in 1830, the indigenous population was estimated at three million inhabitants. The last two official censuses, which are more or less regular, give in 1866: 2,652,072 inhabitants, and in 1872: 2,125,051; the waste in 42 years was 874,949 inhabitants, that is to say an average of 20,000 deaths per year. During the period 1866-72, with typhus, famine, insurrection, the decrease was even more frightening: in six years there was the disappearance of 527,021 natives; this is an average not of 20,000 annual deaths but of 87,000!”
If one believes the figures, France would have taken the lives of almost a million Algerians with impunity in just over 40 years of occupation. Other figures state that from 1830 to 1856, the Algerian population dropped from about 5 to 3 million to about 2.3 million. Thereafter, it rose to 2.7 million in 1861 before experiencing its sharpest drop to 2.1 million in 1872. The Algerian population only recovered its level of about 3 million in 1890.
Based on these figures, we can establish that Algeria lost between 30 and 58% of its population during the first forty-two years (1830-1872) of French colonization. Such a human disaster, provoked and executed by deliberate political action can only be described as genocide.
As a comparison, it is claimed the Nazis exterminated about 46% of the European Jewish population and 33% of the gypsy population (about 250,000 out of a population of 750,000). So when François Hollande (ex-French president) says that France recognizes all genocides, François Hollande is lying.
The period of genocidal conquest gave way to a period of generalized oppression of the Algerian people that took the form of destruction of cultural and civilizational identity. Thus, the French authorities attacked Islam in Algeria and the Arabic language, which was declared a foreign language in its own country. The teaching networks that made up the mosques were largely destroyed.
The Setif massacres of May 8, 1945 marked only the resumption of this butchery, with a new scope: Massacres, mass rapes, systematic torture or internment of civilians in “regroupment” camps, etc.
In his letter of resignation addressed to Robert Lacoste, the minister resident in Algeria, the secretary general of the Algiers police, the former resistance fighter Paul Teitgen, who had been tortured by the Gestapo, did not hesitate to compare the actions of the French military to those of the secret police of the Third Reich.
In total, one hundred and thirty-two years of French colonization in Algeria (1830-1962) would have resulted, according to the historian Mostafa Lacheraf, in approximately 6 million Algerian deaths.
Today, the only country asking for this genocide to be recognized is Turkey, through its president Recep Tayep Erdogan, in response to Nicolas Sarkozy who was very insistant on the issue of the Armenian “genocide.”
Will France ever recognize its crimes?