Algeria’s Martyrs’ Memorial & Their Bloody War Of Independence

On February 21, 2015 by Tim Newman
Algeria Independence Martyr Monument
“Monument aux Martyrs” by prise par un touriste inconu – algerie. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

As part of my long term project to write a short article on a beautiful monument or location in every single country of the world, here is Algeria’s turn. Their larger than life Martyr’s Memorial, or Maqam Echahid was opened in 1982 on the 20th anniversary of Algeria’s independence.

Algeria Independence Martyr Monument 2
Alger Memorial-du-Martyr IMG 1137” by Poudou99Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Martyr’s Memorial is a representation of three palm leaves standing together. At the edge of each palm leaf there is a stone soldier standing guard. Underneath the dramatic stone fronds is an “eternal flame”.

Algeria Independence Martyr Monument - view
MNBA” by YellesOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Built on the site of an ancient fort, the striking monument is a tribute to the soldiers that lost their life in the Algerian War of Independence which raged from 1954 – 1962.

Algeria Independence Martyr Monument Soldier
Monument of the Martyrs 05 Algiers” by David BjorgenOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Algerian War of Independence was a messy affair which tore the country in two. Half of the country were raging to get shot of their imperialist French masters, but some Algerians still wanted to stay with the French, so the war became a civil war as well as a guerrilla war against French military.

Algeria Independence Martyr Monument Soldier 2
Monument of the Martyrs 04 Algiers” by David BjorgenOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Both sides in the war used torture and terrorism. The French had the upper hand and successfully destroyed anti-French factions within Algeria. But the French’s methods were so brutal that they became unanimously unpopular within Algeria and further afield. Eventually France held a referendum to decide whether they should keep the country or not and the French people (embarrassed by their country’s conduct) decided to set them free.

Algeria Independence War - female FLN bombers

Female FLN bombers

This wasn’t the end of the suffering though. When Algeria’s independence was declared in 1962 more than 90,000 pro-French Algerian refugees turned up at France’s doorstep causing the country some large scale beefs. The deserters feared that once the Algerian rebels were in full charge there might be violent ramifications for those who had supported French rule. The deserting Algerians were right to be worried.

Algeria Independence - Harki - 1961

Harki soldier in summer gear – c.1961

Harki-j” by User:Poussin jeanOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Harkis (above), who had helped the French but been left unarmed when their troops exited were considered traitors by The National Liberation Front (FLN). With the help of unofficial lynch mobs the FLN tortured then murdered between 50,000 and 150,000 Harkis.

So, on paper, the Algerian War of Independence was a victory for Algeria, the truth is a lot more complicated and bloody. The death toll stats tell the story really:

  • Algerian resistance forces including the FLM: 1.5 million dead
  • French Army and pro-French forces: 25,700 dead

So this 92 metre tall Marty’s Memorial must bring out some pretty raw emotions for the folks that went through the war. It symbolises their freedom but also reminds them of the crushing losses they sustained.

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