Farid Boudjellal: An Algerian Exception

Sixteen years after the French conquest in 1830, unlike Morocco and Tunisia, Algerian independence from France was achieved 50 years ago. Self-determination occurred after a gruesome and bloody war lasting eight years until 1962, the year in which over a million Français d’Algérie (French Algerians or Pied-Noirs) fled the ountry. Among them were indigenous Jews and Muslim Harkis, (from the ArabicHaraka or movement), the generic name defining Muslim Algerians involved, in any way, with the French army. These men and women, often through no fault of their own, found themselves re-classified by the victors as traitors to the nationalist cause and were forced to take flight. Subsequently, the ‘repatriates’ often came into contact with waves of Algerian economic migrants upon arrival in the infamous, marginal, outer and inner city suburbs (banlieues) of urban France. So, whilst today Algeria celebrates the 50th anniversary of liberation, France continues to struggle under the weight of its colonial past. Algeria had become an integral, legal and administrative part of metropolitan France. The seating of French colonial power and the terrible scars born of the ethnic hierarchy (implicit to the French colonial-settler model) ran and still run extremely deep historically, linguistically and psychologically on both sides of the Mediterranean.

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