Repatriating Militant Algerian Bodies: The Heritage of El-Alia Cemetery in Algiers

Submitted to Session P4729 (The Preservation of Historic Architecture in North African Cities, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
In France during the Algerian War of Independence, several hundred FLN militants were condemned to death and approximately two dozen executed in various prisons such as Paris, Lyon, Metz, Lille and Dijon especially between 1958 to 1961. These FLN militants, known by Algerians as moudjahid were members of the strike forces (« Groupes de choc », political branch of the FLN) and the Special Organization (« Organisation spéciale », military branch of the FLN). Although French law slowly recognized their status as political prisoners, nonetheless they were treated as common criminals (droit commun). Famously they fought against several opponents in France: Algerian collaborators with the French authorities in France, Messali militants, and the French police. They were guillotined and their bodies first buried anonymously in the section of those condemned to death in French cemeteries.
Since Algeria became independent in 1962 and primarily between 1969-1972, the Algerian government rapatriated the bodies of these Algerian militants who has been guillotined in France during the Algerian War. France and Algeria signed a secret treaty of repatriating these bodies. This presentation will track the itineraries of these separated bodies in which the guillotined heads were not buried with their body. I present the chronology of burials in the nameless graves, the exhumations, and the new inhumation in El-Alia cemetery of Algiers from the point of view of Algerian heritage and patrimony. I examine their locations in the new martyrs’ cemetery established after independence, the cenotaphs, sculptural styles and associated ceremonies of commemoration and mourning. Included in my discussion are revived debates by the Algerian Association of the Death Row militants during 2012 concerning the actual integrity of the reburied corpses.