Algerians remember their own Hebdo outrage

Algerians remember their own Hebdo outrage
3 min read
12 January, 2015
The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris have been condemned by Algeria, a nation with close links to its former colonial master, and its own history of outrages against journalists.
Algeria is often reminded of its 'Black Decade' [Getty]

On the streets of Algiers, a small group of protesters came together to condemn last week's attacks on Charlie Hebdo. For Algeria, the massacre in Paris was a reminder of the country's own Hebdo outrage, and the 17 journalists killed in the "Black Decade" of civil war in the 1990s.

On March 20, 1994, gunmen armed with assault rifles walked into the offices of Hebdo Libere, a weekly magazine based in Algeria, and shot dead two people - Madjid Yacef, a photojournalist, and driver Rachid Benhaddou - and seriously injured three others. The magazine's editor was at the funeral of another murdered journalist, Djamel Benzaghou, at the time of the attack.

The similarities of the Paris and Algiers attack are striking. But in this former French colony, the outrages continue: the Committee to Protect Journalists says a total of 58 journalists have been killed in Algeria since 1992, many of them during that Black Decade simply for doing their jobs. But Algeria's pain is largely forgotten outside its borders.

At the rally on Sunday in Algiers, protesters expressed their solidarity with all who had died in France and Algeria.

"I came here today not just in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo's victims, but mainly for our Algerian journalists who have also been victims, a long time ago, while the world kept silent about them," said 40-year-old Leila.

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"At that time, there was neither a worldwide rally nor anything else in support of them," she said. "It's sad what is happening nowadays, indeed, but today it's mostly in a tribute for our journalists."

The Paris attacks hold another meaning for Algeria - the men who stormed the French magazine's office, Cherif and Said Kouachi, were reportedly the sons of Algerian migrants to France.

One of the Kouachis' victims was proofreader Mustapha Ourrad, a French-Algerian from the province of Tizi-Ouzou, 120km east of Algiers. Samir Leslous, a journalist with Liberte covering the province, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that many in the region condemned what had happened in France.

"A feeling of condemnation is strongly expressed here," he said.

"It's a high-immigration region, and people are also afraid of what could the consequences be for their family members and relatives living in France."

Journalist Madjid Yacef ws killed in Algeria in 1994 [AFP]

But while there was much condemnation of the Kouachis, some Algerian youths took to Twitter to justify the attacks in Paris and mock France.

Talking about the way Algeria's youth reacted to the attack, Adlene Meddi, the deputy editor of El-Watan Weekend, wrote last week that it was "terrifying to see that young people in Algeria or elsewhere, educated, legitimise the killing of Charlie Hebdo's journalists and cartoonists.

"Hate messages relayed by social networks or those heard while passing by in front of the buildings in Algiers or Dubai chill the blood and reflect our inability to assume the historical process that Islam should have taken."