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Commemorations to mark 1961 Paris massacre of Algerians

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Commemorations were held on Oct 17 to mark the 60th anniversary of a bloody Paris police crackdown on a demonstration by Algerians that occurred during the final year of the struggle for independence from the colonial power France.

Human rights and anti-racism groups as well as Algerian associations staged a tribute march in Paris on Sunday and called on authorities to recognize France's responsibility for the "tragedies and horrors" related to Algeria's independence war.

Participants at the commemoration called on authorities to open up the archives on the bloodshed in France's capital that day. "It's high time on this 60th anniversary that a strong statement be made at the highest level of the state," historian Naima Huber Yahi told Al Jazeera.

On October 17, 1961, protesters held a peaceful demonstration against a discriminatory night-time curfew targeting Algerians in the Paris region. About 12,000 Algerians were arrested and dozens were killed, their bodies thrown into the Seine River.

Speaking at the event, Macron told relatives and activists the crackdown on the protest under the command of notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon was an "unforgivable crime". Yet, he stopped short of giving a public speech and issuing a formal apology. He simply has never recognized the state's responsibility in this massacre.

Rebuffing controversial statements by France's president about the colonial period in Algeria, the nation's parliament Saturday said that on a single day in 1961, some 300 peaceful Algerians were massacred by the French police.

A special session of the National People's Assembly, the lower house of Algeria's parliament, was held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Oct. 17, 1961 massacre in Paris.

The massacre, according to Parliament Speaker Ibrahim Boughali, remains a shameful stain on France, because crimes against humanity do not expire.

Algerian Muslim scholars refute Macron's claims on Ottomans

Meanwhile, the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema has rejected French President Emmanuel Macron's recent claims that the Ottoman presence in Algeria amounted to colonization.

In a bid to palliate its atrocious colonial past, Macron claimed that "there was a colonization before the French colonial rule" in Algeria, alluding to the Ottoman presence in the country between 1514 and 1830.

"The Ottomans who came to Algeria did not come as colonial occupiers, rather (they came) at the invitation of the Algerians... to help them defeat the Spanish Crusader aggression," Abdul-Razzaq Qassoum, the association's chairperson, said in a column by the Al-Basair newspaper. The newspaper is affiliated with the association.

According to Qassoum, the Ottomans, unlike France, did not kill Algerians, destroy their land or plunder their wealth. Algerians "possessed a lot of wealth (under the Ottomans)," the Algerian scholar said.

He also noted that the Ottomans neither imposed their language on Algerians nor fought their beliefs.

"They (Ottomans) did not fight our belief, not even our Madhab (Islamic school of law)."

On the contrary, Qassoum said the French colonial forces brought "tragedy" to Algeria and "misery" to its people.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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