Algeria’s war for independence: 60 years on

Amira Toureche, a 29-year-old Algerian PhD student living in the United Kingdom, was never able to meet her grandfather.

He was killed by French colonial forces in Algeria when Toureche’s father was only six years old.

“My granddad and his brother used to have a large amount of land in Ouled Hamla,” Toureche told Al Jazeera, referring to a town in northeast Algeria. “They used this large farm to help the Algerian independence fighters hide, wash their clothes and hide their weapons and belongings.”

French colonial rule in Algeria lasted 132 years, beginning in 1830 with the invasion of the capital, Algiers, and continuing until the war for independence, which concluded with the signing of the Evian Accords in March 1962.

The treaty marked the end of a bitter war. Between 1954 and 1962 up to 1.5 million Algerians are believed to have died. French forces repressed any form of resistance, particularly those fighting for independence, known as mujahideen.

“My grandad and his two brothers worked as informants, they transmitted messages to the mujahideen,” Toureche explained. French occupation forces eventually discovered the operation, which led to the arrest, and then death, of Toureche’s grandfather.

“He didn’t die on the same day he was arrested, he was tortured. But because of the brutality of the torture methods that the French soldiers used – he was hung upside down for prolonged periods with his head and body in a barrel of ice-cold water, and his lungs collapsed.”

The torture methods the French used in Algeria are well-documented, with France admitting in 2018 that it carried out systematic torture in its former colony in an attempt to crack down on the independence movement.

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