ALGERIA 1830 2023
Didier Bertin – September 20, 2023
Algeria's obsessive reproaches towards France to justify its failures since 1962 and the March of Algerian Jews towards the West
Algeria is the only country to include in its national anthem (Qassaman) insult and threat against another country: France. “O France! The day has come when you must be held accountable. Get ready!"
France's action in Algeria, which was initially justified in 1830, allowed Algeria to make unexpected progress and above all to create the Algerian nation. This did not exist under Ottoman domination and the indigenous population was then tiny and composed of disparate and multi-ethnic tribes.
France made mistakes from 1881 onwards with regard to the indigenous population, which was experiencing very strong demographic growth, although with much less immorality than other colonial powers such as Turkey, Great Britain or the Netherlands, whose main goal was the economic plunder of their colonies.
The assessment of France in Algeria must include the benefits as well as the errors but does not justify the insulting remarks against France included in the Algerian national anthem. This insult can only encourage the refusal of integration into France by many French Muslims of Algerian origin and having left Algeria and even fuels hatred of France among some of them.
A national anthem must be a call for the union of a people and not for the hatred of another. The Anthem of France does not call Algeria to account for having terrorized the population on the French coasts and in the Mediterranean for three centuries while living on the profits of piracy, pillaging, ransoming, kidnappings and of slavery under the protection of the dominating Turks in Algiers.
The Jewish community of Algeria cannot forget its liberation from Muslim dhimmitude thanks to France then its accession to the widely desired “French Citizenship” in 1870 by accepting the predominance of French laws over religious laws.
France allowed the Jews of Algeria to continue their march towards the West as this is the title of the doctoral thesis of André Chouraqui, French from Algeria and Israeli who became vice mayor of Jerusalem and died in 2007.
Accession to French citizenship was possible on an individual basis for all natives from 1865, but the renunciation of the predominance of religious laws was a blockage for most Muslims. Jews preferred a collective accession to French Citizenship and accepted the predominance of French laws on religious laws. In 1870 the Crémieux decree harmonized the status of all Jews living on French soil (mainland and overseas) as Jewish citizens. This decree was ultimately nothing more than a collective application of the law.
The current aging Algerian regime clings to both power and the past to justify its failures by not offering promising future to its very young population whose median age is 28.9 years. Thus 40% of the population prefers to abstain from voting because no hope of change seems possible with the few candidates imposed by this regime.
Since its independence, the management of Algeria has been chaotic and led to a civil war from 1991 to 2002 against the Islamists which left nearly 150,000 dead, or half the number of victims of the independence Algerian war from 1954 to 1962. The repression of the “Hirak” weekly protest movement against Bouteflika and the dominant regime resulted in the election of the candidate of the current regime (FLN) Abdelmadjid Tebboune with only 20% of registered electors. The Army had set the date for the presidential election and nominated the candidates in 2019.
Recently Algeria even increased its hatred towards France by moving closer to Russia and President Tebboune described “Putin” as a great humanist despite his murderous actions in Georgia, Chechnya, Transnistria, Syria, and Ukraine. France's efforts to move closer to Algeria at the expense of its relations with Morocco are regrettable and yet democracies generally recognize the legitimacy of Moroccan territorial demands.
The opinion on France's action in Algeria should be based on (1) the causes of France's intervention in Algeria, (2) the effective distribution of available land, (3) the options offered to Algerians, (4) health progress and (5) of course also the unfair restrictions imposed on Algerian Muslims from 1881.
PERIOD 1830-1881- PROGRESS - NATIONALITY – CITIZENSHIP AND DEMOGRAPHIC GROWTH
1-Special case of the city of Oran: From 1505 to 1790 the city of Oran was Spanish and only became Ottoman from 1790 (due to an earthquake which discouraged the Spanish) to 1830 when it became French. After the departure of Spanish population, the Turks preferred to establish the capital of the region of Oran in the small city of Tlemcen. Oran was the most European city in Algeria till independence in 1962.
2-Algeria: The end of coastal plundering, ships, kidnappings, ransoming, slavery and dhimmitude in Algeria
The Ottoman Algeria had enslaved Europeans and Africans and imposed dhimmitude on the Jews. According to the work of Fathia Loualich, two million black slaves were transported from Africa to Maghreb per century.
Putting an end to piracy and the European and African enslavement was already a highly civilizing action. Furthermore, due to the act of capitulation of the Dey of Algiers in 1830, the Jews were no longer inferior to the Muslims (dhimmitude).
3-French nationality and French citizenship:
Access to French nationality and/or French citizenship (two different conceptions) were offered to all natives of Algeria from 1865:
Napoleon III promulgated on July 14, 1865 (5 years before the Crémieux decree) a senatus-consulte according to which: “The Algerian natives are French subjects”, but governed by the “laws of their religions”. This conferred on Algerians, Muslims or Jews, civil rights (access to administrative functions and military ranks) and political rights (right to vote and eligibility for local elections in civilian territory).
This Senatus-consulte allowed on an individual basis all natives of Algeria to acquire “French citizenship” subject to accepting the predominance of French laws over religious laws, that is to say the abandonment of sharia, repudiations and polygamy for Muslims.
The Jews made a collective request for citizenship which resulted in the Crémieux decree in 1870; they deeply aspired to be part of the French community and accepted the predominance of French laws on the religious laws. In addition, it was necessary to standardize the status of Jews as French citizens on French soil of mainland France and overseas, despite the Judeophobic reluctance of certain Muslims and French people living in Algeria.
It should be noted that this decree also attracted a “particularly dynamic” polyglot Jewish community: Spanish, French and Arabic from the Spanish Presidios and Morocco. The Jewish community largely participated in the economic development in Algeria and then in France after 1962 and was involved alongside France in all its battles: the Moroccan War and the two world Wars.
Accession to French citizenship for indigenous Muslims was difficult due to their refusal to abandon the predominance of the rules of Islam, as is still the case in 2023 for many French people of Algerian origin who hide the bright integration of other Muslim citizens of Algerian origin.
Despite its supposed revolutionary ideology, the FLN has made Islam the state religion of Algeria and heavily punishes proselytism. 99% of Algerians identify with Islam. “Proselytism carries a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of up to the equivalent of 70,000 euros (2015).”
The Algerian state was ranked in 2021 by “The Economist Intelligence Unit” as the 113th most authoritarian dictatorship out of 167 countries analyzed.
4-The social and civilizing action of the Arab Military Bureaus until 1871
The Arab military French bureaus in which the French officers spoke and read Arabic, ruled Algeria until 1871 and were "in particular" concerned with freeing slaves or improving their lot when they no longer knew even the region of Africa from which they had been taken; these Bureaus constituted an essential bridge between the French and the Arabs until 1871.
They were responsible for applying “Napoleon III’s policy favorable to the natives”. The action of the Arab offices is very well illustrated by Commander Bissuel's book on the Sahara published in 1891.
Commander Bissuel of the 1st Zouave regiment was formerly head of an Arab Bureau and his book does honor to Tuareg literature and poetry. Commander Bissuel spoke Arabic, Berber and read Arabic and Tifinagh scripts.
5-Medical progress and galloping growth of the Algerian population from 1830 to 1961
In 1830, the Muslim population was around 2 million inhabitants spread over an area “outside the Sahara” of 381,000 km2, i.e., a density of only 5 inhabitants per km2. Around 1900 the European population amounted to approximately 553,000 inhabitants and the Muslim population to 3,600,000 inhabitants.
From 1840 to 1901 the Algerian population increased from 2.3 million to 3.6 million or +56% and during the same period the population of mainland France increased from 33.6 million to 40.7 million inhabitants or +21%.
The progress of French medicine probably allowed the strong increase in the Algerian population from 1901 to 1961 which went from “3.6 million to 9.0 million inhabitants” or +150%, while the “metropolitan” population practically stagnated on the same period, going from 40.7 million to 45.9 million, or +12.8%.
6-The distribution of Ottoman lands and the duly sale of lands by the natives to the Europeans
It is useful to recall the terms of the senatus-consulte of April 22, 1863 of Napoleon III: “France recognizes to the Arab tribes the ownership of the territories of which they have permanent and traditional enjoyment…”. To guarantee this right it was ordered to take a general census. This census was not going fast enough, Napoleon III made a second visit to Algeria in 1865 to speed it up and it was completed in 1872 (2 years after the end of the second Empire). There was no longer any free distribution of land after this census. The lands distributed to Europeans were those belonging to the Ottoman Empire and not those of indigenous tribes.
On May 5, 1865 Napoleon III declared to the Muslims of Algeria: "I have irrevocably assured in your hands the ownership of the lands that you occupy... I have honored your leaders, respected your religion, I want to increase your well-being, and involve you more and more in the administration of your country…”.
However, in 1873 a new law allowed Europeans to buy land from the natives against the spirit of the Senatus-consulte which provided for “incommutability” and this marked a clear decline in indigenous agricultural activity.
From 1872 to 1892 the land cultivated by the natives decreased by 20% in the region of Constantine, by 30% in the region of Algiers and by 40% in the region of Oran: that is to say in the three French administrative regions in Algeria. The decline in indigenous land was "approximately" 30% and led to long-term discontent among Muslims, although this decline in cultivated land was the subject of private and duly agreed sales.
PERIOD 1881 -1962 – INDIGENAT CODE
IMPOSSIBLE COHABITATION: ROOT OF INDEPENDENCE
- The unacceptable indigenous code of 1881 made Muslims inferior subjects to others and deprived them of the freedom to move.
The fall of the Second Empire in 1870 marked the end of Arab military Bureaus, welcomed by Europeans who found the military too favorable to the natives. The Muslims came under the control of civil authority’s hostile to Muslims and who confined them to the strict status of natives.
From 1881 the code of indigenousness was established in Algeria and then applied to the other colonies. Until 1881 France had fulfilled its civilizing role recognized by Victor Hugo and Jules Ferry, “but things changed substantially on that date”.
The native code included 27 conditions whose non-application could result in prison sentences and fines convertible into forced labor. Among these conditions we can note the delay or omission of declarations of births and deaths, disrespectful acts according to the opinion of the colonial administrator or the justice of the peace, departure from a commune without authorization to travel, participation in unauthorized religious meetings, the false complaints according to the colonial authorities.
This code was unacceptable to any individual and established a sort of dhimmitude towards Muslims as they had done towards Jews.
Furthermore, Muslims were largely under-represented in local institutions where the French, although in a very small minority, exercised unchallenged power.
2-The under-representation of Muslims in Algerian institutions during the French period
The laws of 1898 and 1900 gave Algeria a civil personality, a special budget and an elected assembly. This assembly, made up of three colleges (settlers, urban taxpayers and natives), gave the preponderance to the French people who had 48 seats against 21 for the Muslims (i.e., only 30% for the Muslims). A governor general, dependent on the French Ministry of the Interior, held all the powers.
Ultimately the 1947 law on the status of Algeria maintained the status of Algeria from 1900 and opened the way to the war of independence.
In 1960, the Muslim population had reached 9 million inhabitants while that of the French population was around 1.2 million, or approximately 12% of the total population of Algeria. The demographic growth of Muslims highlighted more and more their insufficient representation in institutions. All these elements made Algerian independence inevitable in 1962.
Situation after independence
From 1962 to 2022 the population of Algeria increased from 9 million to 46 million inhabitants and “could” reach at this rate a number similar to that of the entire aging French population in 2040 (excluding French Muslims of Algerian origin already living in France).
Democratization was attempted in 1979 in Algeria which led to the Islamist Salvation Front coming first in the elections (47% of the vote). This Islamist process was stopped by the army and by President Bouteflika during his 4 mandates of 5 years despite his serious health problems during his last mandate. The idea of an additional fifth mandate for Bouteflika led to weekly “Hirak” protest demonstrations which finally were weakened by military repression and the appearance of Covid making seek the population.
Finally, Abdelmadjid Tebboune won in 2019 with only 20% of the votes of registered voters. The abstention was 40% as a way protest against the fact that the army both determined the date of the elections and only authorized candidates from the regime in place.
Algeria in fact went from the status of an Ottoman colony to that of a French territory then in 1962 to that of an independent dictatorial state among the harshest in the world. It should be noted that Algerian dictator Tebboune signed an in-depth partnership agreement with dictator Putin on June 15, 2023 and told he saw in him a great humanist.
French colonization brought a certain number of advantages to Algeria but the code of indigeneity and the blatant under-representation of Muslims in French institutions of Algeria, amplified by an unprecedented galloping demography of the Muslim population, could only lead to decolonization as was the case for most colonies in the world during the 20th century.
The main remaining colonial empire still existing in the 21th century is the Russian federation of which many Oblasts and Republics alien to the Russian world or wishing to choose democracy, must be allowed to achieve their independence. The freedom of nations is above the desire for global stability of any power, at the cost of their rights