Algerians march to mark 65th anniversary of massacre

8th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of people marched in the Algerian city of Setif Saturday to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of pro-independence demonstrators by French forces.

They silently followed the route that ill-fated protesters took through the eastern city on May 8, 1945, to call for an end to French colonial rule in Algeria -- the same day as Europe feted the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

French forces quickly stepped in to crack down on the Setif demonstration, leaving 45,000 people dead, according to Algerian historians. Western researchers put the death toll at between 8,000 and 18,000.

"The celebrations for the victory of the Allies against Nazism were turned, from May 8 for a month, into a bloodbath," said Mohammed-Cherif Abbas, the minister for war veterans.

He said the anniversary was not just a day for grief but also a reminder of when the Algerian people had to "take up arms", he said at a seminar late Friday.

Former French equal opportunities minister Azouz Begag, who attended the seminar, said it was "time for Algeria and France to reconcile their memory" over one of the most painful chapters in their shared history.

Begag, whose family originally comes from Setif, said it was "necessary to admit that French forces committed atrocities, killings by the thousand."

The anniversary comes just days after a film about France's colonial past in Algeria sparked a row ahead of its Cannes film festival screening, with calls for it to be banned for rewriting history.

"Outside Of The Law" by Rachid Bouchareb, a filmmaker who was born in France to Algerian parents, tells the story of two brothers who join the struggle for Algerian independence after surviving the Setif massacre.

Critics have branded the film an attempt to rewrite history.

Bouchareb was quoted by the Algerian newspaper El Watan as saying that the film sought to "shed light on this part of history common to both countries".

© 2010 AFP

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