Algeria, in contrast to many other North African countries, had engaged in a distinct Arabization policy after its disastrous war of liberation from France. The guiding idea for the victorious rebels was to turn back the clock, and reverse the impact of over 130 years of enforced French language and cultural training on a captive and sometimes not so captive population. The Algerian war of liberation bequeathed to Algeria the dubious title of “The Country of a Million and a Half Martyrs.”
After the war of independence ended with the Evian Accords in March of 1962, and culminated with the French President Charles de Gaulle proclaiming Algerian independence on July 3, of that year. The Algerian conflict was considered to be the birthplace of systematic torture techniques used by French counter insurgency forces against a civilian population. It has been further alleged that special operatives from the French Army formed a so-called “French School,” whereby French Intelligence agents taught their Chilean and Argentinean counterparts on the finer points of torture and disappearances, which were expansively used during those countries’ dirty wars against leftists. In Algeria, torture was utilized, not to gain short term intelligence, but to systematically break the morale of the populace.
The fissures that the Algerian conflict caused in French society have been blamed for everything from the riots in the North African banlieues (suburbs) outside of Paris during 2005, and torture techniques directed against suspected insurgents in Abu Gharib. Even President Bush has been keen to pick up on analogies with the Iraq war. There is still much study that needs to be conducted to fully understood the migration paths of torture techniques emanating from Algeria to South America, and the alleged role that they had in the formation of the then named School of the Americas, now the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.”
Roger Trinquier, the principal French Theorist of modern counter-insurgency warfare, made his imprint on the French Army in its Algerian operations. The influence of Trinquer’s theories on modern warfare techniques cannot be understated. His robust support of stripping prisoner of war status from those who are accused of terrorist actions, and the right to subject them to torture, has had a not insignificant impact on modern Western armies.
The Algerian conflict defined a whole generation, presaging the introspection that the Vietnam war induced in many American students and young people. Many notables such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Franz Fanon cut their literary teeth on the Algerian conflict. In fact, Fanon developed his psychopathology theory of colonialism based on his time in Algeria during this tumultuous period.
After the French departed, the Algerian revolutionary leadership sought to erase the vestiges of French rule by orienting the culture to the Arab world, and Islam. This process was called Ta’reeb (lit. to become Arab or Arabization). However, Algeria did not have enough local teachers to teach Arabic or Islam, so the leadership imported many teachers from Egypt and many other Arab countries that supported the more austere form of Islamic belief, which was something new to Algerian culture. Add to that potent mix, high unemployment, and a geriatric and autocratic leadership, the stage was set for the Algerian civil war to break out in 1991 after the Government canceled the first election round when the Islamist backed parties made a particularly strong showing. The conflict is still festering in the hinterlands despite the surrender of the main opposition group, the Islamic Salvation Front, in 2002. In this conflict between government forces and various Islamist factions, up to 200,000 lives have been estimated to have been lost. The article explains the creation of two Algerias, and how these two Algerias have split the society. One looks towards France, and is militantly secular; the other gazes to Saudi Arabia, and seeks to return to its Arab/Islamic origins. The Algerian leadership, in attempting to undercut the allure of the radical element to the young, is introducing some elements of French education into the society and educational system.