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Building statue of Algeria emir in France rejected by family members 

February 13, 2021 at 12:04 pm

A memorial statue of historic Algerian leader Emir Abdelkader in Algiers, Algeria on 28 January 2021 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP/Getty Images]

The family of Emir Abdelkader El-Djazairi, a leader of the Algerian resistance movement, rejected France’s endeavour to build a statue of him, according to the recommendation of a report issued in Paris last month regarding the colonial era in Algeria.

Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883), considered the founder of the Algerian state, was a writer, poet, politician, military commander and one of the leaders of the Algerian resistance movement against the French colonialism in the nineteenth century.

In 1847, the emir was imprisoned in France and remained in prison until 1852. He settled in the Turkish city of Istanbul, and then in Damascus until he died in 1883 at the age of 76. In 1965, his remains were transferred to Algeria and buried in a cemetery in the capital.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Friday, Mohamed Boutaleb, a grandson of the emir and head of an institution bearing his name, said: “We reject the construction of a statue of the emir in France, where he was imprisoned and held hostage.”

On 20 January, the French historian Benjamin Stora delivered a report on the colonial era in Algeria to Emmanuel Macron, in which he recommended building a statue of Emir Abdelkader in France.

Boutaleb added: “We have released an online petition to collect signatures against the proposal mentioned in the French report because it serves France, not Algeria.”

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He continued: “The name of Emir Abdelkader is known internationally, and his political and militant achievements do not need a statue to be built in a country that occupied Algeria for 132 years.”

“Paris claims that Emir Abdelkader went to France for tourism, but the truth is that he was imprisoned, held hostage and was subjected to assassination attempts with other prisoners in this country,”  explained Boutaleb.

The Algerian prince’s grandson called on his country’s authorities to intervene to stop what he called a “French manoeuvre” to falsify the history of one of the most prominent symbols of the Algerian resistance movement.

Petition rejecting

A week ago, Emir Abdelkader’s granddaughter, Atika Boutaleb, launched an online petition against building a statue of her grandfather in France, entitled “No to the desecration of the name and achievements of Emir Abdelkader by the French state that has broken all covenants”.

The petition stated: “Emir Abdelkader’s life is not a legacy that has no heir. He is the property of Algeria, the Algerian people and all peoples that resisted colonialism,” stressing that the French proposal constitutes a “new hijacking attempt”.

More than 1,600 historians, researchers, journalists and politicians have signed the petition.

The Algerian authorities claim that the French colonial era (1830-1962) witnessed the murders of nearly five million people, extensive displacement campaigns, plundering of wealth, and the theft of thousands of documents and historical and archaeological artefacts, including pieces that date back to the Ottoman era (1515-1830).

Last July, French President Macron and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune agreed to appoint two historians, representing the two countries, to discuss the file. Stora was chosen by the French side, while Algeria nominated Abdel Majid Sheikhi for the task.