Past in Perspective

“As for the third Official Reason: exposing Western Hypocrisy - how much more exposed can they be? Which decent human being on earth harbours any illusions about it? These are people whose histories are spongy with the blood of others. Colonialism, apartheid, slavery, ethnic cleansing, germ warfare, chemical weapons - they virtually invented it all.”

Arundhati Roy


Seventy-five years ago today, as the end of the war was celebrated in Europe, French colonial forces began brutal repression against the nationalist movement in Algeria that would result in the deaths of tens of thousands. Anti-French sentiment and the anti-colonial movement had been building across Algeria for months, leading to protests prior to 8 May. Some 4,000 protesters took to the streets of Setif, a town in northern Algeria, to press new demands for independence on the colonial government and greater rights.

Many organisations joined the protest where they held up placards including “End to occupation” and “We want equality”. When a 14-year-old member of the Muslim Scouts, Saal Bouzid, held an Algerian flag, the French on orders from General Duval, opened fire on the unarmed protesters killing Bouzid and thousands of others.

The massacre by the French provoked the anti-colonial movement and nine years later Algeria began its War of Independence in November 1954 – a fight that would claim the lives of 1.5 million Algerians until independence was declared in 1962. The 8 May is the official day of mourning in Algeria, which contrasts heavily with the celebratory anniversary around Europe.

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