In Paris, in the city of light, nearby the Great mosque…in the prestigious Muséum National d’Histoire Naturel…in the darkness of the basement, are held in captivity, the tormented remains of Algerian heroes. Their skulls, hidden in old boxes tagged and stored like mere objects, are waiting for more than a century to be freed and repatriated to Algeria.
This Museum’s shameful collection was revealed to the world by the Hisotrian Ali farid Belkadi in 2011 (link to his blog) who found the skulls while documenting his research on the martyr Mohamed Lamjad Ben Abdelmalek known as Boubaghla. The shocking discovery concerns sixty-eight human remains of Algerians dating back to the early years of colonization. Among this macabre collection, the historian found the skulls of highly respected insurgent leaders who revolt against French colonisation in the 19th century such as Mohamed Lamjad Ben Abdelmalek, Cheikh Bouziane, Moussa Al-Darkaoui, Al-Hammadi, Mohamed Ben-Allel Ben Embarek.
Their story follows the same French colonial crimes narrative in Algeria during the conquest war. The French colonial army attacked and sacked Algerian cities and villages and massacred all those who dare revolt making no distinction between fighters and civilians, men and women, elders and children. While French soldiers executed and decapitated local insurgent leaders; French “scientists” collected, sorted and tagged their skulls and sent them to the museums of civilized France…la France des lumières.
So is the story of Sheikh Bouziane, leader of the revolt of the Zaatcha village in Biskra. In 1844, and after a 30 days long epic resistance against colonial french army’s assaults, all Zaatcha’s inhabitants were massacred. The village was simply razed by the french army and.. has never been rebuilt. The chief insurgent Sheikh Bouziane and his son were decapitated and their head displayed in the market of Biskra as a trophy head to signify the victory of France, the subjugation of Algerian insurgents.
This barbarian practice of beheading enemies and displaying their head as a trophy for victory is supposed to have disappeared in this day and age yet, the so called civilized west still hold many of such trophy heads. It is worth mentioning that while not a single African museum possesses skulls of Europeans in their collections, European museums, in contrast still keep hundreds of skulls of decapitated African people in their collections in UK , Germany or France.
Ironically, la France des lumières, which keeps boasting over its “mission civilisatrice” in Algeria, still refuses to return those human remains. Such a disgrace for France to maintain this barbarian and savage practice of keeping skulls as a war trophy heads…Especially when it is a trophy of a shameful war it has lost fifty years ago.
Now that Algeria is free…and after more than a century of captivity… it is more than time to bring our martyrs back home…to finally bury them with great respect and honor in the land they bravely fought and died for.
May they rest in peace…May they forgive us.