In search of the missing from the Algerian war

Sixty years ago, the Evian Agreement was signed by representatives of the French Government and those of GPRA, the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic. The next day, the ceasefire was established, eight years after the start of the war, and the balance sheet for this war is still very uncertain, perhaps up to 150,000 dead. The safest figure is the French victims, 25,000 soldiers and more than 2,700 civilians. Impossible to be more precise because the forced disappearance and torture of the French army was common. A shadow that still hovers, 60 years later, over the following generations.

Zoubida Zaidi has few memories of her father, Mohand Arezki Azzi. She is 6 years old when he disappears. On November 30, 1957, French police appeared at the door of the family home.

“Those who came to fetch him were people who knew him. My father was stationmaster. At that time it was ‘someone.’ he left in his railway uniform and we waited seven, eight, nine hours. We waited until the next day, then the next day and then nothing. “

That day, in this small town in Kabylie, 15 other men were arrested. All notables. For Zoubida’s family, the absence of poverty is exacerbated. Without a death certificate, no pension is paid to him until he becomes independent. “The prison doors were opened and we started making all the prisons in Algeria. We searched, we searched … We had none of them, none. They were eventually declared “martyrs”. It was over, there was nothing left “, Zoubida Zaidi remembers anxiety. It is the absence of my father, that I do not know what has become of him, that is the most serious”, she adds.

► Listening too: Algeria, living memories

Looking for some clues Zoubida Zaidi and his siblings have followed all sorts of clues to find traces of their father. A group of wandering men, reported in one village, a mass grave discovered in another, in vain. A whole new hope, the French government’s announcement of the opening of legal archives linked to the war.

“If you open the archives, there’s probably something there. My other daughter jumped in and said, ‘I’ll see.’ She wrote the name. [sur Internet] and found information. A little thread that can serve us … “

This thread,this is the website Originally, the discovery of the historian Fabrice Riceputi disappeared from an archive containing complaints from the families of the missing. The website is an invitation to witnesses to give back an identity to all these anonymous people.

“Crimes were denied, darkened” The historian and Zoubida Zaidi meet for the first time in a Parisian café. “Some time ago, I found, among other things, a letter written by [sa] mother of General Salan, who commanded all the armies in Algeria, explains Fabrice Riceputi. “And Madame’s mother asked to tell her if her husband was still alive. We are facing a case of disappearance – I do not know what other word to use – almost ‘normal’ at that time for most Algerians. This is “A kind of collective raid in your city. We are really dealing with a systematic modus operandi of the French army at that time, which is what is today called in international law,” forced disappearance “. The bill is impossible,” he explains to Zoubida Zaidi.

► Also listening: Disappeared from Algeria: “This leaves families in an impossible grief”

“I thought, when the president said we would open the archives, there were archives that had never been opened to the public …”, the woman replies. But the historian tempers: “You must realize that the truth was never written at that time. We hid it, systematically. The crimes were denied, covered by the military hierarchy. We should not have too high hopes for the truths contained in these archives.

“Now, when I listen to all this, I think the satisfaction is to make this story famous in France. There is a monument, there is everything you need … But it is not enough …”, thinks Zoubida Zaidi. She and Fabrice Riceputi have planned to meet again, so that the story of Mohand Arezki Azzi, Akbou’s stationmaster, is known and passed on.

►Read also: In Marseille, the world of memory after the Algerian war carried by young people

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