France announced Friday that it would soon declassify some of the most secret sections of its national archives concerning the Algerian war of independence, opening the door for citizens to explore some of bloodiest parts of the country’s history.
The Algerian war of independence lasted from 1954 to 1962, as the National Liberation Front fought against France for independence in a violent conflict that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Algerians. Over the course of the war, historians have found that French forces and their proxies used torture against their enemies.
French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said that opening the records to the public was necessary to increase transparency surrounding the country’s history, according to Reuters.
“We need to have the courage to look the historical truth in the face,” Bachelot said.
The war in Algeria had serious political repercussions in France, prompting a failed coup attempt against former President Charles de Gaulle to prevent him from terminating French rule in the colony.
Although the war ended almost 60 years ago, it is still a sensitive subject within French society.
Chain of ‘repressive measures’
Reuters quoted Benjamin Stora, a top French historian on Algeria, who said the records will shed light on aspects of the war that have long been hidden, such as many unexplained deaths.
“You can know which people were under surveillance, followed, arrested,” Stora said. “It’s the whole chain leading up to repressive measures that can be unveiled.”
The Anadolu news agency reported that an Algerian presidential adviser, Abdelmadjid Cheiki, said the records’ declassification was “positive and important.”
A former representative in the Algerian Parliament, Kamal Belarbi, was hesitant to fully welcome France’s decision. Belarbi said it was difficult to accept that the country would completely expose the nature of its colonial rule, given that it has kept it secret for so many years.
“France will continue to tamper with the archives. The most important thing is that we remain committed to our demands to hold France accountable for crimes it committed in Algeria for 132 years,” he said.
The records’ declassification will likely have major repercussions for both nations and their citizens.
France’s announcement came two days after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s trip to Algiers. While there, he conducted talks with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to revive the two countries’ rocky relationship.