Presidential Funeral for Remains of Algerian Anti-Colonial Fighters
Algeria buried on Sunday the remains of 24 resistance fighters whom Paris has repatriated after more than a century and a half.
The skulls of the fighters, shot and decapitated in the early years of the French occupation, were laid to rest during an emotional presidential ceremony at El Alia cemetery.
The ceremony was attended by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, government officials, and army leaders.
The skulls were buried in the martyr's square of Algeria's largest burial ground, alongside national heroes such as top revolt leader and founder of the Algerian state Emir Abdelkader and deceased Algerian presidents.
They had been stored since the 19th century in the vaults of the Musee de l'Homme in Paris, which specializes in anthropology.
Algeria had officially asked for their return in 2018, as well as requesting the handover of colonial archives.
However, they were repatriated on Friday and buried on July 5, which marked the 58th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France after a long and bloody war.
Grandchildren of the martyrs arrived from far places to attend this historic moment, which has been awaited by their families for generations and for more than 170 years.
For sanitary reasons, authorities prevented hundreds of people from entering the cemetery, as they remained outside to follow the ceremony.
Officials yet wore masks and took all the social distancing measures imposed by the state as part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
It is noteworthy that a large number of participants in the liberation war, most aged 80s, stood at the entrance to the cemetery to receive the coffins, at the request of officials in the National Organization of Mujahideen.
“By handing over the remains of our martyrs’ skulls, French President Emmanuel Macron wanted to assert opening a new page with Algeria and folding a black page from the history of France,” Mohammed Shodar, head of the Organization’s office in Mohammadia neighborhood, where El Alia cemetery is located, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“But, as Algerians, we don’t see this initiative as enough,” he stressed, noting that people want France to declare that it committed a crime against humanity in Algeria.
In an interview with France 24 channel on Saturday, Tebboune said an apology was necessary to “face the problem of memory that jeopardizes many things in the relations between the two countries, which had often been frosty.”
He said Algeria wants a calm relationship with France. “It is possible between two independent countries, each with sovereignty”.