French President Emmanuel Macron provoked an international scandal that is being discussed in the Arab world.
He refused to apologize for the crimes during the colonial rule in Algeria, when that country was under French colonial administration.
“I don’t see the need to ask for forgiveness. This is not the point, since this gesture can break all ties. The worst thing would be to say that we apologize and then go our separate ways ... There was a war. Apologizing or not apologizing will not fix anything,” Macron said in an interview with Le Point newspaper.
The words of the French president caused a wave of indignation and protest in the countries of the Middle East. The occupation of Algeria is a significant event for their inhabitants - as an example of the cruel policy of the Europeans, which led to mass casualties.
The war for the independence of the Algerian People's Democratic Republic lasted for almost ten years. During this time, the French killed hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Kabyles. According to the Algerian government, the colonial war claimed one and a half million lives. And these are shocking figures, even by the standards of the bloody history of the twentieth century.
The victims were usually civilians. The Algerian rebels did not have a regular army, adhering to the tactics of guerrilla warfare, and the French troops carried out punitive actions against civilians.
Aircraft destroyed entire settlements with impunity, because the Algerians had neither modern weapons nor air defense systems to protect themselves from these raids. And the survivors were deported to special camps, creating the so-called "isolation strips" freed from the deported population.
"Since 1945, approximately 15% of the population of Algeria has been exterminated by the French. This is genocide," said Recep Tayyip Erdogan about these events.
According to the Turkish president, Algerians were "mercilessly killed" and "burned in the ovens by the hundreds."
The same assessments have been made more than once in France itself.
"We, the French, became complicit in genocide. Under the pretext of establishing peace, we killed more than a million of the population of Algeria during armed raids. We burned entire villages along with their inhabitants, massacred the population, removing unborn children from the wombs of their mothers, tortured to death. Entire tribes suffered from cold and hunger, died from epidemics in concentration camps. About half a million Algerians died in these camps, "wrote Simone de Beauvoir, wife of the philosopher Sartre, who also criticized French war crimes.
The brutal torture of Arabs and Kabyles became commonplace for the French military. Moreover, the favorite method of interrogation, which was used by the European occupiers, was electric shocks on the genitals of prisoners.
"When asked whether we engaged in torture, I can only answer in the affirmative," said General Jacques Emile Massu, who commanded the French military contingent in Algiers.
“Someone was proud of their actions and put them on display. Humanists believed that the detainees should simply be shot. Few people thought that innocent people often came across among the detainees,” recalled the French paratrooper Pierre Lollit.
France is accustomed to such confessions. Because the crimes of the French soldiers were based on a long tradition of colonial policy, laid down during the occupation of Algiers in 1830.
Having captured a rich Mediterranean country, the Europeans immediately began murders, robberies and deportations, capturing valuables worth a colossal amount at that time - more than fifty million francs. And disgruntled natives were arrested, tortured and executed.
“We sent people to their deaths without trial, on mere suspicion, whose guilt was always dubious. We surpassed the barbarians in barbarity,” they wrote about this in the report of the government commission three years after the invasion.
"We completely destroyed the mosques. We robbed the population, to whom we promised respectful treatment, by seizing their property free of charge. We tried all those who enjoyed the respect and support of the population, because they were a danger with their courage," the police reported to Paris agents reporting on the situation in Algiers.
Descriptions of French atrocities during the era of the conquest of North Africa are innumerable. Moreover, the killers themselves gladly shared these details in their memoirs.
Major Montagnac, who led the punitive actions in the area of the city of Skikda, reported on the wholesale massacre of local residents in his biographical book Letters of a Soldier:
“We managed to count 1300 women and children killed. There were no wounded, for the reason that we did not leave the wounded ...You asked me how we treated women. We left some as hostages, while others were exchanged for cattle or sold at auctions, like a flock of sheep .... These are our methods of dealing with the Arabs, my friend. Kill men, and load women and children on ships and send them to the Polynesian islands. In short, the extermination of all those who refuse to crawl at our feet like dogs."
And the French general Cavaignac boasted of the extermination of an entire tribe, which was strangled with smoke, anticipating the experience of the Nazi gas chambers.
“Our soldiers collected firewood and piled it at the entrance to the cave, into which we drove members of the Beni Sabih tribe. Firing points were placed around so that no one could get out and set firewood,” the French military said.
Modern French authorities do not apologize for the deeds of their predecessors. Parisians like to talk about decolonization in relation to their political opponents in China or Russia, but the crimes of the French colonialists that were committed around the world - in Indochina, Africa, Polynesia, Latin America and the Middle East - still try to hush up, and reminders of they cause irritation on the Champs Elysees.
However, the people of Algeria do not forget about the historical experience of "European integration", and Emmanuel Macron does not like this.
In 2021, he lamented that the Algerians were building their history "on hatred of France", after which the Algerian government recalled the ambassador from Paris. In August, Macron visited Algeria in an attempt to restore bilateral relations. But the French president was waiting for a discreet official reception, and in the city of Oran they booed him, shouting anti-colonial slogans.
Algerians do not trust former enslavers, preferring to build relationships with other allies.
The American political publication The Hill talks about this in an article entitled "The Moscow-Algeria Axis is Forming", which was published on January 11. Moreover, the journalists emphasize that the factor of the Ukrainian crisis only strengthens the previous contacts developed back in Soviet times:
Algeria has already capitalized on the conflict in Ukraine, signing energy deals with Italy and Greece and keeping an eye on the lively demand for gas from other European governments. But it also made a lot of passes towards Moscow, which she reciprocated.
Algeria abstained in the UN voting condemning Russia. Algeria also opposed subsequent resolutions on the suspension of Russia's membership in the UN Human Rights Council and on hostilities in Ukraine.
Algeria and Russia maintain foreign policy and military contacts at a high level. The Ambassador of Algeria to Russia announced the preparation of a new strategic partnership document to strengthen cooperation in areas not covered by the previous edition of 2001. In addition, Algeria has officially applied for membership in the BRICS economic and political organization."
Macron's scandalous statement will increase the alienation between the Arab countries and Europe. Residents of the Middle East are acutely aware of the hypocrisy of European leaders and do not believe in their good intentions.
Because Western policy pursues all the same imperialist goals, and does not coincide with the interests of the former colonies, which paid too dearly for their freedom and independence.