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Algeria says 5.6 million died under French colonialism

Algeria says 5.6 million people died under French colonialism
2 min read
04 October, 2021
One historian believes the total death toll from the French occupation of Algeria could have reached up to 10 million.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed during Algeria's war for independence from French rule [Getty]

Algeria said on Saturday that millions of Algerians were killed during the French colonial period after a diplomatic dispute with France erupted.

The presidency said in a statement that over 5.6 million Algerians were killed during the French occupation of Algeria between 1830 and 1962, when the country gained independence.

It comes after French President Emmanuel Macron claimed Algeria's "official history" was "not based on truth" but "on a discourse of hatred towards France", according to reports, leading to an angry rebuke from Algiers.

"Macron's statements carried an unacceptable insult to the memory of 5,630,000 martyrs... Algeria expresses its categorical rejection of unacceptable interference in its internal affairs," the Algerian Presidency's statement read.

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The figure announced includes 1.5 million killed during Algeria's fight for independence between 1954 and 1962, along with victims who died from mine remnants and radiation following French nuclear tests in the Algerian desert, reported The New Arab's sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Historian Mohammed Al-Amin told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that as many as 10 million Algerians - "martyrs" according to Algerian authorities -  could have been killed during the 132 years of French occupation.

French historians say that 400,000 people died from both sides during the war, while Algerian scholars believe around 1.5 Algerians were killed.

Authorities officially recognise a "martyr" as any individual who died during the Algerian War of Independence and the government gives monthly grants to their families alongside material and legal privileges.

"No one or anything can forgive the colonial forces and their crimes," the presidential statement read.

The dispute follows France's decision last week to cut the number of visas open to Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians - all at one time occupied by France.

On Wednesday, the Algerian foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador over the visas issue.