History of Islam/Modern period/Algeria

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Algeria[edit]

On the pretext of a slight to their consul, the French invaded Algiers in 1830. In contrast to Morocco and Tunisia, the conquest of Algeria by the French was long and particularly violent since it resulted in the disappearance of about a third of the Algerian population. According to Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, the French pursued a policy of extermination against the Algerians.

The French conquest of Algeria was slow due to intense resistance from such as Emir Abdelkader, Ahmed Bey and Fatma N'Soumer. Indeed the conquest was not technically complete until the early 1900s when the last Tuareg were conquered.

Meanwhile, however, the French made Algeria an integral part of France, a status that would end only with the collapse of the Fourth Republic in 1958. Tens of thousands of settlers from France, Italy, Spain, and Malta moved in to farm the Algerian coastal plain and occupy significant parts of Algeria's cities. These settlers benefited from the French government's confiscation of communally held land, and the application of modern agriculture techniques that increased the amount of arable land. Algeria's social fabric suffered during the occupation: literacy plummeted, while land confiscation uprooted much of the population.

Starting from the end of the nineteenth century, people of European descent in Algeria (or natives like Spanish people in Oran), as well as the native Algerian Jews (typically Sephardic in origin), became full French citizens. After Algeria's 1962 independence, they were called Pieds-Noirs. In contrast, the vast majority of Muslim Algerians (even veterans of the French army) received neither French citizenship nor the right to vote.

In 1954, the National Liberation Front (FLN) launched the Algerian War of Independence which was a guerrilla campaign. By the end of the war, newly elected President Charles de Gaulle, understanding that the age of empire was ending, held a plebiscite, offering Algerians three options, resulting in an overwhelming vote for complete independence from the French Colonial Empire. Over one million people, 10% of the population, then fled the country for France in just a few months in mid-1962. These included most of the 1,025,000 Pieds-Noirs, as well as 81,000 Harkis (pro-French Algerians serving in the French Army).

As feared, there were widespread reprisals against those who remained in Algeria. It is estimated that somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis and their dependents were killed by the FLN or by lynch mobs in Algeria, sometimes in circumstances of extreme cruelty.

Algeria's first president was the FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella. He was overthrown by his former ally and defence minister, Houari Boumédienne in 1965. Under Ben Bella the government had already become increasingly socialist and dictatorial, and this trend continued throughout Boumédienne's government. However, Boumédienne relied much more heavily on the army, and reduced the sole legal party to a merely symbolic role. Agriculture was collectivised, and a massive industrialization drive launched. Oil extraction facilities were nationalized. This was especially beneficial to the leadership after the 1973 oil crisis. However, the Algerian economy became increasingly dependent on oil which led to hardship when the price collapsed in the 1980s.

In foreign policy, Algeria was a member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. A dispute with Morocco over the Western Sahara nearly led to war. While Algeria shares much of its history and cultural heritage with neighbouring Morocco, the two countries have had somewhat hostile relations with each other ever since Algeria's independence. This is for two reasons: Morocco's disputed claim to portions of western Algeria (which led to the Sand war in 1963), and Algeria's support for the Polisario, an armed group of Sahrawi refugees seeking independence for the Moroccan-ruled Western Sahara, which it hosts within its borders in the city of Tindouf.

Within Algeria, dissent was rarely tolerated, and the state's control over the media and the outlawing of political parties, other than the FLN, was cemented in the repressive constitution of 1976.

Boumédienne died in 1978, but the rule of his successor, Chadli Bendjedid, was little more open. The state took on a strongly bureaucratic character and corruption was widespread.

The modernization drive brought considerable demographic changes to Algeria. Village traditions underwent significant change as urbanization increased. New industries emerged, agricultural employment was substantially reduced. Education was extended nationwide, raising the literacy rate from less than 10% to over 60%. There was a dramatic increase in the fertility rate to 7-8 children per mother.

Therefore by 1980, there was a very youthful population and a housing crisis. The new generation struggled to relate to the cultural obsession with the war years and two conflicting protest movements developed: left-wingers, including Berber identity movements; and Islamic 'intégristes'. Both groups protested against one-party rule but also clashed with each other in universities and on the streets during the 1980s. Mass protests from both camps in Autumn 1988 forced Bendjedid to concede the end of one-party rule. Elections were planned to happen in 1991. In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of the country's first multi-party elections. The military then intervened and canceled the second round, forced then-president Bendjedid to resign, and banned all political parties based on religion (including the Islamic Salvation Front). The ensuing conflict engulfed Algeria in the violent Algerian Civil War.

More than 160,000 people were killed between 17 January 1992 and June 2002. Most of the deaths were between militants and government troops, but a great number of civilians were also killed. The question of who was responsible for these deaths was controversial at the time amongst academic observers; many were claimed by the Armed Islamic Group. There can be no doubt however that the vast majority of this massacres were carried out by the Islamic Terrorist rather than the security services, or security services infiltration of the terrorist groups (see Algerian Civil War).

Elections resumed in 1995, and after 1998, the war waned. On 27 April 1999, after a series of short-term leaders representing the military, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the current president, was elected.

By 2002, the main guerrilla groups had either been destroyed or surrendered, taking advantage of an amnesty program, though sporadic fighting continued in some areas.

The issue of Berber language and identity increased in significance, particularly after the extensive Kabyle protests of 2001 and the near-total boycott of local elections in Kabylie. The government responded with concessions including naming of Tamazight (Berber) as a national language and teaching it in schools.

Much of Algeria is now recovering and developing into an emerging economy. The high prices of oil and gas are being used by the new government to improve the country's infrastructure and especially improve industry and agricultural land. Recent overseas investment in Algeria has increased.