Algeria: after 70 years, France pays homage to Setif victims

20 April, 17:01

    Ceremony of the massacre of Setif (archive) Ceremony of the massacre of Setif (archive)

    (by Diego Minuti)

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - In Algeria's collective memory, the city of Setif (300 km from the capital) has a very important place as it was there that, for the first time, the French - who actually considered Algeria as part of France itself - behaved as occupiers, cracking down with unprecedented violence on a revolt that turned into an insurrection.
    Seventy years have gone by and, up until now, France had regarded what occurred in Setif as something to forget or an event that was part of a war and not the beginning of a rebellion as considered by the Algerians.
    Now France appears to have changed position and the French secretary of State for veterans, Jean-Marc Todeschini, laid flowers in the mausoleum dedicated to Saal Bouzid, who was killed on May 8, 1945.
    Todeschini's gesture was simple and not a given - bringing a step closer France and Algeria which, each for its side and with different intensity, suffer from the same wounds that have never recovered.
    The massacre of Setif - as those of other martyr cities like Guelma and Kherrata - in the hagiography of independence, registered 45,000 Algerian victims - a death toll not backed by all with some French historians reducing the number to 15,000 victims. Nevertheless, the toll is proof of how strongly this event is felt and how actually it is constantly remembered. Saal Bouzid was an Islamic scout who, on May 8th of 70 years ago, marched with thousands of Algerians, taking advantage of demonstrations called by France to celebrate the end of the war to claim independence. A police officer shot at Bouzid, possibly only because he was carrying an Algerian flag.
    The death marked the beginning of the revolt and of the violent French repression. Todeschini, who was together with Tayeb Zitouni, the Algerian minister for fighters, said important things, talking about friendship, respect and excellent relations between France and Algeria.
    But the memory of Setif is still alive, not only among Algerians because hundreds of French nationals and other Europeans were killed in the violence.
    Contemporary Algeria has no intention of ''normalizing'' its past to forget death and the incidents that took place. And it is no coincidence that today a number of Algerian media outlets stressed with explicit satisfaction that The Battle of Algiers by Gillo Pontecorvo was listed by a prestigious British magazine among the 50 most important movies in history. (ANSAmed).

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