Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Algiers’ Martyrs Monument

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 31st July, 2010

Though many younger Algerians are marked by the horrors of the 1990s, when many thousands perished in terrorist attacks and fighting between Islamic fundamentalist groups and government security forces, there is a deeper, older scar in the country: that of the long and bloody war of independence from France. Appalling atrocities were commited on both sides as the French tried to maintain their hold over what they considered to be an integral part of the the Motherland through the 1950s and into the 1960s. The most striking public monument in the capital Algiers is a memorial to the Martyrs of that independence struggle, a beautiful soaring structure (sometimes rudely likened to an open banana skin) built with help from the Canadians. People still flock to see it and the Army Museum nearby, but incongruously there is a large, ugly high-rise housing estate alongside, the roofs of the buildings festooned with hundreds of satellite dishes. It’s known as a dodgy area even during the day and it prompted my companion there today to muse on whether this was what the independence fighters had fought for. Certainly, given the huge riches the country gets from oil and gas, one cannot help but wonder why more of that bounty does not filter through to the large body of dispossessed and unemployed.

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