With fireworks flaring and cannons firing, I was privileged to be in Algiers on November 1st, National or Revolution Day in Algeria. According to sources, “the Algerian War, also known as the Algerian War of Independence or the Algerian Revolution [ الثورة الجزائرية ] was a war between France and the Algerian independence movements from 1954 to 1962, which led to Algeria gaining its independence from France. An important decolonization war, it was a complex conflict characterized by guerrilla warfare, maquis fighting, terrorism, the use of torture by both sides, and counter-terrorism operations.
Effectively started by members of the National Liberation Front [FLN] on November 1, 1954, during the Toussaint Rouge or “Red All Saints’ Day”, the conflict shook the foundations of the weak and unstable French Fourth Republic [1946–58] and led to its replacement by the Fifth Republic with a strengthened Presidency, with Charles de Gaulle acting in the latter role. Although the military campaigns led against Algerian nationalists were complete successes, with most prominent FLN leaders killed or arrested and terror attacks effectively stopped, the brutality of the methods employed failed to win hearts and minds in Algeria, alienated support in Metropolitan France and discredited French prestige abroad.
In 1961, President Charles de Gaulle decided to give up Algeria, although it was regarded as an integral part of France, after conducting a referendum showing huge support for Algerian independence. The planned withdrawal led to a state crisis, to various assassination attempts on de Gaulle, and some attempts of military coups. Most of the former were carried out by the Organisation de l’armée secrète [OAS], an underground organization formed mainly from French military personnel supporting a French Algeria, which committed a large number of bombings and murders in both Algeria and the homeland to stop the planned independence.
Upon independence, in 1962, 900,000 European-Algerians (Pieds-noirs) fled to France, in fear of the FLN’s revenge, within a few months. The government was totally unprepared for the vast number of refugees, causing turmoil in France. The majority of Algerian Muslims who had worked for the French, were disarmed and left behind as the treaty between French and Algerian authorities declared that no actions could be taken against them. However, the Harkis in particular, having served as auxiliaries with the French army, were regarded as traitors by the FLN and between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis and family members were murdered by the FLN or lynch-mobs, often after being abducted and tortured. About 91,000 managed to flee to France, some with help from their French officers acting against orders, and today form a significant part of the Algerian-French population.”