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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 13:46 GMT Algeria's decade of bloody conflict

Islamists won popular support in the 1992 vote By the BBC's Heba Saleh

It is exactly 10 years since the Algerian army intervened in an election to prevent an Islamist party from winning.

Algerians had voted massively for the Islamic Salvation Front, but high-ranking generals cancelled the second round of the parliamentary election and then banned the group.

The move launched a bloodstained chapter in Algerian history that has yet to be closed. In the last decade at least 100,000 Algerians have been killed in political violence involving armed Islamists and the security forces.

The violence has declined in the last three years, but killings continue to be reported almost on a daily basis.

The Islamic Salvation Front or FIS was formed in 1989 when Algeria started its experiment with pluralist politics.

Algerians were galvanised by the mixture of religion and populism preached by the FIS.

They were tired of what they saw as an arrogant and corrupt regime. After the first round of parliamentary elections in December 1991, a FIS landslide victory looked inevitable until the generals stepped in and put an end to the process.

Popular leader

To provide a veneer of legitimacy, they appointed as president Mohammed Boudiaf - one of the heroes of the independence war against France.

Mr Boudiaf was extremely popular, but within six months he had been assassinated. An Islamist member of his guard was convicted, but it is widely believed in Algeria that the killing was ordered by powerful military and intelligence figures.

Whatever the case, that killing seemed to set the tone for much of what came later. Doubts surrounding responsibility for particular acts of violence have resurfaced time and again in the last decade.

There have been allegations, some from regime insiders, that certain political assassinations and even some of the massacres against civilians blamed on Islamists were indeed the work of elements of the security services.

Experts say the secretive army clique which holds power in Algeria has often been involved in internal power struggles which account for some of the violence.

The killing of President Boudiaf also accelerated Algeria's descent into chaos.

A military regime that lacked legitimacy battled ferociously against radical Islamists who had taken up arms.

Both sides committed atrocities against civilians who were caught in the middle. Human rights groups have accused the two sides of killings, kidnappings, disappearances and massacres.

Western reaction

Some in the legal Algerian opposition such as Hocine Ait Ahmed, leader of the Socialist Forces Front, have repeatedly called for Western pressure to force a democratic solution.

But Europe and the United States have been disinclined to heed such calls.

Algeria provides a large proportion of the natural gas consumed by Europe and it has benefited from the protection of France - the former colonial power - whenever its human rights record came up for scrutiny.

Algeria's senior generals have managed to remain the real powerbrokers behind a façade of institutions erected after carefully controlled elections.

They installed their latest president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April 1999. He offered an amnesty to Islamic militants who laid down their arms.

It was eventually taken up by the armed wing of FIS. The amnesty was welcomed abroad where it was instrumental in improving the image of the Algerian authorities and ending the country's diplomatic isolation.

But Mr Bouteflika's offer was rejected by two militant groups.

The Salafist Group for Predication and Combat (GSPC) is led by Hassan Hattab and operates mainly in eastern Algeria. It focuses its attacks on military targets, and is not believed to be implicated in the killing of civilians.

The other faction to reject the offer is the shadowy armed Islamic group or GIA. It has been accused of most of the atrocities against civilians.

Analysts and some defectors from the security forces allege that it has been manipulated, at least some of the time, by Algerian intelligence.

Discontent

In the last 10 years, popular discontent has risen, as the authorities manipulated elections and maintained a heavy grip on society.

Long-standing social and economic problems have deepened causing anger to boil over last summer in the Berber speaking region of Kabylia and in other parts of the country.

Demonstrations in Kabylia were ruthlessly put down by the security forces who shot dead scores of youths protesting against abuses by local and military officials.

Human rights groups continue to agitate unsuccessfully for pressure on the Algerian regime. But now in the wake of 11 September, the country's military-backed rulers are riding high.

They argue that their actions against the Islamists 10 years ago have been vindicated.

Judging from the recent warm diplomatic exchanges between Algiers and Western capitals, it seems that Europe and the United States agree.

Friday, 7 December, 2001, 16:33 GMT Ramadan massacre in Algeria Suspected Algerian Islamic militants have killed 17 civilians and wounded four others in the worst attack so far during this year's Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Algerian security sources said the attack occurred late on Thursday night in the area of Cadat in the province of Ain Defla, about 130 kilometres (81 miles) south west of Algiers.

According to the official APS news agency, the security forces have launched "a vast operation to look for the criminals." No details on the identity of the victims have been given.

The month of Ramadan normally sees an escalation of violence in Algeria, where more than 100,000 people have been killed in 10 years of violence between Islamic militants and the military-backed government.

Soaring violence

The violence brought the number of people killed since the start of Ramadan, which began on 16 November, to 48.

Violence erupted in Algeria after authorities cancelled a general election in January 1992 which Islamic fundamentalists were poised to win.

Since then according to official figures more than 100,000 people have been killed - although independent sources put the death toll at 150,000.

Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 11:15 GMT Many injured in Algiers blast

Algiers: Scene of frequent bombings in the mid-1990s A powerful bomb has exploded at a busy bus station in the Algerian capital, Algiers, injuring 18 people.

Three students, two women and a man, are reported to have had their legs blown off by the blast, which ripped through the Tafourha bus station at about 0845 local time (0745 GMT) when many people were heading to work or university.

Police were deployed across the city, and rushed to the scene along with emergency teams.

The attack, on the fourth day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, has raised fears of an upsurge of violence by Islamic rebels.

The bomb attack was the first in Algiers in nearly three months. In late August, 34 people were injured when a bomb exploded in the city.

Attackers unknown

"I was waiting for the bus when I was blown off my feet by a powerful blast. My legs hurt," said one survivor, law student Chahira Guechou, 21, from her hospital bed.

Interior Minister Nourredine Yazid Zerhouni visited the scene, where a small crater in the blood-stained pavement was littered by sheets blown from the students' textbooks and notebooks.

No-one has admitted carrying out the attack.

A police officer at the bus station said a homemade bomb had been hidden in a satchel and suggested the attacker had probably been dressed like a student.

Algiers had been calm for two years until August this year when a bomb explosion killed two people and injured 32.

During the height of the Islamic insurgency in the mid-1990s, the capital was rocked by car bombs which killed hundreds of civilians.

But in the past few years, the violence has taken place mostly outside Algiers.

More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in politically-related violence since 1992 when the army cancelled elections that the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) seemed certain to win.

Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 15:24 GMT Top Islamist militant 'killed' in Algeria

Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict The head of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), one of two main extremist groups in Algeria's brutal civil war, is reported to have been killed by security forces near Algiers.

Antar Zouabri, who had led the GIA since 1996, was killed late on Friday along with two colleagues in a gunfight at a house in his hometown of Boufarik, south of Algiers, the Algerian Government said in a statement.

He has been reported dead by newspapers several times in the past, but this is the first time the government has announced his death.

The GIA has taken a leading role in the civil war, costing tens of thousands of lives, which began after an Islamic party was prevented from taking power in Algeria following elections in 1992.

Statement

"Antar Zouabri and two other terrorists were shot dead by security forces on Friday at Boufarik," the statement said.

It added that police had been given the tip-off that Mr Zouabri was in a safe house near Boufarik's main stadium.

"Security forces were deployed in the area. A clash took place, leading to the neutralisation of the three terrorists, among them Zouabri," it said.

The authorities blamed Mr Zouabri for his part in a series of massacres and for encouraging GIA soldiers to kidnap thousands of girls to use as sex slaves in mountainous tunnels and caves.

Algerian intelligence said he evaded police and army manhunts by travelling with hundreds of fellow rebels, often through rugged mountains and thick forests.

The leader of hardline Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat, Hassan Hattab, is now thought to be the only other major rebel leader still alive in Algeria.

Antar Zouabri: A violent legacy

Whole families have been killed by Zouabri's group By the BBC's Hebeh Saleh in Cairo

For many years, the name of Antar Zouabri - the head of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) who has been reportedly killed by the Algerian security forces - has been synonymous with the most horrific violence against the country's civilians.

Mr Zouabri came to the helm of the GIA in the summer of 1996, shortly before it started a campaign of slaughter in the countryside.

He is said to have been killed along with two colleagues in a house in his hometown of Boufarik, near Algiers.

"Subversive documents" and weapons were found in the house, officials said.

Mysterious figure

Whole families, including children and even babies, had their throats slit in attacks attributed to the GIA.

Throughout, Mr Zouabri and his organisation have remained shrouded in mystery with very little known about their motives or strategy.

Some Islamists outside the GIA say it relies on extremist interpretations of religion which allow it to target civilians it suspects of siding with the authorities.

Mr Zouabri himself has been quoted as saying that whoever was not with the group was renegade.

Massacres

Algerian opposition sources allege that the group may have been manipulated at times by elements within ruling military and intelligence circles.

A series of massacres in the summer of 1997 - in which many hundreds of people were killed - took place near Algerian army barracks, but no-one came to the help of the victims.

The attackers left after hours of slaughter without the slightest attempt to apprehend them.

The GIA is one of two Islamist groups still fighting in Algeria.

It has probably been weakened in recent years after hundreds of members gave themselves up under an amnesty offered by the authorities.

Nonetheless, it is still active in parts of the countryside and there is no certainty that the loss of Mr Zouabri means the end of its activities.

Last week 22 people were killed in western Algeria in attacks blamed on the GIA. They include nine people who were ambushed on a country road, and 13 members of the family of an armed civilian guard.

Significance

It is difficult to gauge the extent of the blow which the killing of Mr Zouabri represents to the GIA.

He is the longest serving of eight leaders which the group has had in its 10-year history. The organisation, believed to be a loose structure of groups operating in different parts of the country, has always managed to replace slain leaders, even when they have been killed in factional infighting.

The other group still active in Algeria is the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) headed by Hassan Hattab.

It is a splinter from the GIA, and its actions are confined to attacks against military and police targets. It said it broke away from the GIA because it did not agree with its policy of indiscriminate killings of civilians.

Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 08:19 GMT Algeria puts dead militant on show

Zouabri (r) was blamed for many massacres Algerian officials have shown reporters the body of a top Islamist militant, who was killed during an assault by security forces.

Antar Zouabri, who led the extremist Armed Islamic Group (GIA), was shot dead late on Friday in a gunfight at a house in his home town of Boufarik, south of Algiers.

Military officials, who displayed his body and two other men killed with him, said Mr Zouabri was identified through fingerprint records.

The GIA - one of Algeria's two main extremist groups - has played a leading role in Algeria's brutal civil war, which began after an Islamic party was prevented from taking power following elections in 1992.

"We have just eliminated a criminal of the purest sort," regional army commander General Fodil Cherif Brahim told reporters.

Mr Zouabri had been wrongly reported killed several times in the past, but Saturday's announcement by the Algerian Government that he had been shot dead marked the first official statement.

"Antar Zouabri and two other terrorists were shot dead by security forces on Friday at Boufarik," the statement said.

Pursuit continues

It added that police had been given the tip-off that Mr Zouabri was in a safe house near Boufarik's main stadium.

General Brahim said the government would pursue the rebels until it had wiped out every one.

The authorities blamed Mr Zouabri for his part in a series of massacres and for encouraging GIA soldiers to kidnap thousands of girls to use as sex slaves in mountainous tunnels and caves.

Algerian intelligence said he evaded police and army manhunts by travelling with hundreds of fellow rebels, often through rugged mountains and thick forests.

The leader of hardline Group for Salafist Preaching and Combat, Hassan Hattab, is now thought to be the only other major rebel leader still alive in Algeria.

The Torn Heart Algeria
Warriors of the Prophet
The Struggle for Islam
Mark Huband 1999 ISBN 0-8133-2781-4 Westview Press.

"THE CRISIS THAT EXISTs is a crisis for everyone, because the Algerian personality was stolen. For years they uprooted that personality. It's that which has plunged us into this. The struggle is to find the Algerian personality." Bentounes Kehm Mourad, a member of the Sufil Muslim community at the Zaouia Alaouia Sufi center, watched the sun sink at the end of the street at Mostaganem in western Algeria, where we stood talking.' The town was silent. The Sufi center was on a dusty backstreet. A heavy wooden door hid a cloistered courtyard where a fountain trickled. We had eaten sweet cakes and drunk hot tea in the cloister. For a few hours the hell of Algeria had seemed to recede. Outside, silent people moved along the silent streets. In doorways, inside dark shops, leaning from windows, people watched and waited, without speaking. The battle for the heart of Algeria, the war launched to find the Algerian personality, which has left 70,000 people dead, was characterized more by silence than by the clamor of fighting. An all-pervasive fear had silenced the town. The years of bombs, ambushes, and slitting of throats interrupted the silence, a silence spent awaiting the violence. "In the end we are all looking for that same thing. The Algerian personality," said Bentounes. The question hanging in the air was whether there had ever been such a personality. Was it not founded on conflict with all those who had disrupted the country's evolution-the armies that, since the consolidation of Arab power in the region in 7 1 0, had imposed their will, brought their religion, their culture, their class system, their own myths and rites? From within their cloister, the Sufis could see an entire country searching for itself. Their historical perspective was bound up in their understanding of their own role and that of their religious predecessors, who had in the past entwined Sufi religious practice with resistance to foreign domination.' The crisis in Algeria has now, in 1998, reached a point where the history from which the conflict stems appears increasingly disconnected from the conflict itself. Whereas those with historical knowledge choose to believe that the Algerian personality can be found in the chapters of a history that has already been written, their opponents view the past as a compromise, history as a crime, and the future as an empty page that the past cannot be allowed to blemish. Although Algerians may be looking for their country's personality, the war has torn the past to shreds. Algeria's evolution, which in 1962 saw an end to 133 years of French colonial rule after a vicious 6-year civil war, followed by almost 30 years of one-party totalitarian rule and finally the creation of a democratic system in 1991, has ground to a halt. The crisis in part stems from a determination to relight old battles. But to what end? The Islamists say that it is to free Algeria from the legacy of colonial domination, which they view as ongoing through the influence of a political and military elite that even now remains bound to French business and political interests. This elite, protected by the security forces that seized power in 1992, views the Islamist movement as a manifestation of the negative effects of past failures. The movement itself has brought together anti-French intellectuals, the unemployed, militant veterans of the Afghan war, and Islamic leaders determined to reverse the French colonial practice of co-opting religion to bolster the power of the secular political establishment. The war should be seen as being fought between the conflicting legacies of foreign domination, all of which have formed part of the country's modern identity. Algeria is fighting itself because it does not like what it is.

"Algeria Is My Country'

French colonialists viewed Algerian Islam as a scourge that had to be neutralized, diluted, co-opted, and allowed to wither. At a famous debate at the Sorbonne in 1883, the French writer Ernest Renan asserted that anybody with even a limited knowledge of current affairs could see that Islam was clearly an inferior religion that had produced decadent rule and a narrowness of vision that he claimed was caused by a liming of iron about the head rendering Muslims absolutely closed to scientific advances, and incapable of either learning or opening themselves up to new ideas."' The Grand Mosque of Algiers was converted into the Cathedral of Saint-Philippa. A cross and a French flag replaced the crescent moon on its minaret.

The Islam with which the French colonialists in Algeria were to contend was at its heart a popular version of the religion, varying widely with Arab orthodoxy through its widespread veneration of Muslim saints' and the Sufi mystics whose living presence among Algerians had invested the religion with a strong local flavor. just as important, the Sufi leaders had, through many generations, acted as mediators between the population and the succession of foreign rulers who had incorporated the Maghreb into their empires, particularly during the three hundred years of Ottoman rule, which drew to a close when the French arrived in 1830.

This popular Islam, which did not explicitly dissent from orthodox Is lam, ranged from the variety of Sufi brotherhoods and orders (tariqas) present in the Maghreb through to the more unorthodox marabouts' or "living saints." The Sufis, with their emphasis on the more mystic ex pressions and experiences of Islam, and maraboutism, which involved veneration of the lives and deeds of certain individual Muslims suppos edly blessed with divine grace (baraka), together gave a less scripturalist and orthodox dimension and hue to Islam in the Maghreb.'

French attempts to co-opt the Muslim establishment in urban Algeria during the colonial period were partially successful. But this policy alienated many rural Algerians, swelling the membership of the Sufi sects, as the establishment came to be associated with the colonial power. Over time, however, the colonial administrators succeeded in neutralizing the political impact of even the rurally based Sufi sects. The medium and long-term effect of this process was startling and was mirrored elsewhere in the Islamic world. As Muslims saw their religion confronted by the awesome power of the colonial occupiers, their response became increasingly inward looking. But far from attempting to strengthen the popular religion, they sought to clarify and reform it from within. The unorthodoxy of the Sufi brotherhoods and the marabouts was addressed and ultimately condemned by the organization that emerged out of this period of introspection-the reformist Association of Algerian Ulama (AUMA),' founded in 1931 with the motto "Islam is my religion, Arabic is my language, Algeria is my country." The organization stressed its preoccupation with "moral education" and stayed out of politics. It turned on what it viewed as the unorthodox religious practices then prevalent in Algeria, arguing that maraboutism and the veneration of mystic saints denied the individual a direct relationship with God, which is a central pillar of Islam. The AUMA sought a return to Islamic orthodoxy as the centerpiece of its reformism. Although it avoided clashes with the French colonial power, its aim of reestablishing Arabic as the primary language of education had, by 1933, convinced the French that the group's demand for orthodoxy "hides a pernicious orientation."9 The French took measures to stem its growing influence. Between 1937 and 1940, the group's leaders were arrested, its organization placed under close scrutiny, and its educational establishments subjected to closures. Consequently, the AUMA began coordinating its activities with other organizations, notably the Algerian Communist Party, and by the outbreak of World War II had shed its apolitical stance. The effective coordination of Algerian anticolonial organizations, and the weakness of the colonial administration following the occupation of France by Germany in 1940, meant that by the end of World War Il the ground had already been laid for the liberation struggle that would, in 1962, bring about Algerian independence. The alliance of politics and religion in colonial Algeria between 1940 and 1962-an alliance that had been anathema to the once rigidly apolitical AUMA-was a clear and vital sign of how the experience of colonialism had contributed to the politicization of the Islamic movement there. The collision between the cultural and educational agenda of the AUMA, and the "mission to civilize" that lay at the heart of French colonialism, was inevitable. Despite having advocated noninvolvement in politics, the AUMA!s leader, Abd al-Hamid Ibn "Ben" Badis, who died in 1940 before the organization's political activities became overt, understood this when he wrote in the movement's newspaper, Shihab, in 1936:

History has taught us that the Muslim people of Algeria ... have their history, illustrated by noble deeds; they have their religious unity and their language; they have their culture, they have their customs.... The Muslim community is not France; it cannot be France; it does not want to be France. Its population is very far from France in its language, its life and its religion; it does not want to incorporate itself into France. It pos sesses its fatherland whose frontiers are fixed, and this is the Algerian fatherland.10

The article was written as a rebuttal to another article that had been written by a leading campaigner for Algerian assimilation into French culture, Ferhat Abbas, who had denied the existence of an Algerian identity and promoted the view that only the paternalistic protection of the French could facilitate the slow emergence of an Algerian identity. The outbreak of the war of independence in 1954, and the establishment of the National Liberation Front (FLN) as the embodiment of Algerian anticolonial aspirations, led to the absorption of the Islamic reform movement by the political-military resistance movement. Consequently, the FLN, which was essentially a socialist movement, adopted a religious guise conferred upon it by the authority of the AUMA, depicting its fighters as Mujahideen and declaring as its aim "the restoration of the sovereign, democratic and social Algerian state within the framework of Islamic principles."" Younger members of the AUMA took the lead within the organization. In April 1956, Tewfik Madani declared the AUMA!s formal support for the FLN in Cairo and disbanded it as a separate organization in 1957. In view of colonialism's impact on all areas of Algerian life, it inevitably remains at the heart of the debate over the country's identity, which is today raging as virulently as it did during the war of independence. Algeria's history is a history of exposure to extremes: colonialism, war, totalitarianism, and more war. Its national characteristics have all emerged during periods of conflict, either political or military. The Islamic agenda has emerged out of this uncertainty as consistent with the reformist religious trend, which rooted itself in the disbanded AUMA and reintroduced religious orthodoxy as a way of strengthening Islam in the face of colonialism. But the question remains as to whether Islam would ever have emerged onto the political scene at all had the colonialists not attempted to eradicate the indigenous culture of which it was so clearly a part. Although Islamists argue that political Islam has its roots in the religion itself, the Islamist movements of the twentieth century are the product of colonial history. Throughout the twentieth century, the consequence of colonial policy was the reform, refinement, and politicization of Islam. Far beyond Algeria, the imperialist West sought, to varying degrees during the nineteenth century, to rule the Islamic world, which had, according to Edward Said, "come to symbolize terror, devastation, the demonic, hordes of hated barbarians.

Empires of the Orient

Algeria's war of independence (and the fury that has been unleashed since the early 1990s as a legacy of that failed liberation) brought together movements within the French colony whose separation the colonialists regarded as essential in order to guarantee European primacy. What was or was not "Algerian" came to be regarded as such because of the divisive presence of the colonialist. Islamists, nationalists, tribalists: the war of independence brought them together. By combining these movements, the advocates of independence shook a central pillar of colonial rule, which had always been the assumption that the subject population, through its disunity, through its weakness, through its general inferiority, could not unify and therefore had no credible aspiration to political power. European colonial policy toward the Islamic world, the entirety of which came to fall within the imperial aspirations of one European power or another between the early nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, evolved as the nature of the contacts between the two worlds altered. European awareness of the Orient" had its historical roots in the myths, legends, and folk memories of the medieval Crusades, which characterized the Mohammedan 14 as a sly and fiery warrior determined to subject the peoples of Europe to military conquest. But during the European renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans celebrated the intellectual achievements of the Islamic world, in particular its science and architecture. Meanwhile, trade, travel, and political alliances across the Mediterranean brought familiarity that inevitably diluted earlier prejudices. By the eighteenth century, the English diarist Samuel Johnson was able to write: "There are two subjects of curiosity-the Christian world, and the Mahometan world. All the rest may be considered barbarous."'I in 1700 the first accurate translation of the Koran was published in English, and English writers portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as highly intelligent, well-bred, and undoubtedly inspired by genuine piety. Inevitably, variations developed within the European intellectual community as it sought to understand Islam. Albert Hourani portrays the academic world's study of Islam as varying along lines often dictated by the writers' attitudes toward Christianity: "There was a tendency to use the career and mission of Muhammad as an oblique way of criticizing Christianity, at least in the form in which the churches had taught it. Muhammad could be shown as an example of the excesses of enthusiasm and ambition, and his followers as examples too of human credulity; alternatively, he could be seen as preaching a religion which was more rational, or nearer to a purely natural faith, than Christianity. 1116 But Hourani also concludes that, over time, the European academic understanding of Islam, which Edward Said views as having in a largely cynical manner served to underpin the European colonial adventure, broadened. Hourani concludes that the academic study of Islam, which was subsumed in the broader discipline of orientalism, generally accepted "that Islam, as articulated in laws, rituals and institutions, has provided a norm which affects societies where it has been the dominant religion, but the nature of any particular society can only be explained in terms of the interaction between this norm and the specific traditions and situation of that society, and even the norm itself changes in different times and places."" Hourani broadly rejects the idea that in their pursuit of the academic discipline of orientalism, European scholars helped create the conditions within which politicians were then able to frame their colonial policies. He uses the examples of German and Austrian academics, whom he regards as having been the leaders in the orientalist field during the nineteenth century but whose countries had little or no imperial interest in the Islamic world. However, the purpose of orientalism is not explained by a rebuttal of its alleged political role. Edward Said views the entire discipline as embodying the assumption that it is the study of a world that has ceased to evolve. By implication, such a world could be made at least to appear ripe for colonization:

Of itself, in itself, as a set of beliefs, as a method of analysis, orientalism cannot develop. Indeed, it is the doctrinal antithesis of development. Its central argument is the myth of the arrested development of the Semites. From this matrix other myths pour forth, each of them showing the Semite to be the opposite of the Westerner and irredeemably the victim of his own weaknesses. By a concatenation of events and circumstances the Semitic myth bifurcated in the Zionist movement; one Semite went the way of Orientalism, the other, the Arab, was forced to go the way of the Oriental. . . . Each time tent and tribe are solicited, the myth is being employed; each time the concept of the Arab national character is evoked, the myth is being employed. The hold these instruments have on the mind is increased by the institutions built around them. For every Orientalist, quite literally, there is a support system of staggering power, considering the ephemerality of the myths that Orientalism propagates. The system now culminates in the very institutions of the state. To write about the Arab Oriental world, therefore, is to write with the authority of a nation, and not with the affirmation of a strident ideology but with the unquestioning certainty of absolute truth backed by absolute force."

Although individual scholars may not have delivered their conclusions to the various colonial governments of nineteenth-century Europe with the conviction that their work should be used to expand the borders of Christendom, the British empire, or the French-speaking world, Hourani responds to Said by portraying the orientalists more charitably, asserting that Said "makes the matter too simple when he implies that this [orientalist] style of thought is inextricably bound up with the fact of domination, and is indeed derived from it."'9 The study of religion and language was facilitated by the orientalists' examination of Islam, Hourani writes, allowing history to be pieced together into phases, in which the rise of Islam played a part. The prejudice-racial, religious, and cultural-that Said sees at the heart of Western views of Islam evolved, over the course of several radical turning points, as the relationship between Europe and the Orient shifted. Fred Halliday does not believe that it is accurate to view early medieval "anti-Muslimism" as having been sustained from the time of the Crusades throughout the succeeding centuries." Equally, orientalism "in Said's usage acquires an almost metaphysical power to pervade very different epochs and genres of expression; in so doing it loses analytic or explanatory purpose."Il Halliday attributes greater strength to the Arab and Islamic worlds than Said, investing the region with its own dynamism that refuses to allow Western stereotypes to prevail. Historically, it is impossible for Western medieval prejudice to prevail in modern times: "The thesis of some enduring, transhistorical hostility to the Orient, Arabs, the Islamic world, is a myth, albeit one . . . which many in the region and in the West find it convenient to sustain. 1122 The myth has been sustained. Historical circumstances have ensured as much. Halliday himself provides sufficient evidence of this, citing examples from the postcolonial era that reveal the extent to which this prejudice has festered and found its voice in the nationalist wars that have characterized the conflicts of the post-Cold War era.' Equally, Said demonstrates that this prejudice-myth or not-is renewable, depending on circumstances, but that it has a common root across the centuries:

One aspect of the electronic, postmodern world is that there has been a reinforcement of the stereotypes by which the Orient is viewed. Televi sion, the films, and all the media's resources have forced information into more and more standardized moulds. So far as the Orient is concerned, standardization and cultural stereotyping have intensified the hold of the nineteenth-century academic and imaginative demonology of the "mys terious Orient." This is nowhere more true than in the ways by which the Near East is grasped. Three things have contributed to making even the simplest perceptions of the Arabs and Islam into a highly politicized, almost raucous matter: one, the history of popular anti-Arab and anti Islamic prejudice in the West, which is immediately reflected in the his tory of Orientalism; two, the struggle between the Arabs and Israeli Zion ism, and its effects upon American Jews as well as upon both the liberal culture and the population at large; three, the almost total absence of any cultural position making it possible to identify with or dispassionately discuss the Arabs or Islam.'14

Beyond the academic study of Islam, honed by nineteenth-century European academics into the discipline of orientalism, the progress of history-perhaps, as Hourani sees it, placing the rise of Islamic civilization as the post-Roman, premodern European phase-tiriied the arrival of orientalism as an academic discipline to coincide with the decline of Islam as a political force. The heyday of Islamic empires had long disappeared by the time the Koran was translated into English. Islam, in the eyes of Europeans as much as in the eyes of those who would reform it from within, was weak. "The degree of stagnation of official Islam can be judged by the fatwa issued by the Mufti of Cairo's Al-Azhar early in the nineteenth century," says Dilip Hiro, referring to a demand by the leader of Egypt's Muslims to abide by the dictates of the religious hierarchy. According to Hiro, the fatwa was as follows:

The four orthodox schools are the best results, the finest extraction of all schools, because they count among their partisans many men dedicated to the search for truth and blessed with vast knowledge. Deviation from these four schools shows the desire to live in error.... No one denies the fact that the dignity of iitihad" has long disappeared and that at the pres ent time no man has attained this degree of learning. He who believes himself to be muitahid would be under the influence of his hallucina tions and of the devil.11

The Mufti was asserting the primacy of the status quo at a time when Islamic societies had rarely been weaker. Hiro regards the infiltration of Western "secular ideas and practices" and political models into the political makeup of the Islamic world as responsible for its "dilution and corruption."Il His view echoes that of the most influential Islamist thinkers who emerged during the rise of European colonialism, who sought to reform and strengthen Islam in the face of imperial expansion.11 The politicization of Islamic reformism as experienced in Algeria, is widely regarded as having its source in specific colonial policies. Secular government, as practiced by the colonial powers, was regarded by Muslims as a tool of repression rather than as a guarantee of rights: "[Secularism] more than anything else served to guarantee the rights of outsiders brought in [by the colonialists], or those non-Muslim minorities, Christians or Jews, upon whom the foreigners leaned to establish their domination," writes Burgat.11 Even where the Algerian assimilationists sought to benefit from the French education they had enthusiastically received, the colonial power denied them the fruits of their effort, discrediting the indigenous secular movement by refusing to make any greater concessions to them than to the Islamists." The French policy of appropriating large tracts of land, and the centralization of the administration in towns, heightened the importance of urban centers, in which the reformist trend of the AUMA became strongest, thereby greatly expanding popular exposure to the Islamic reformers at the expense of the rurally based popular Islam. "There can be no doubt that, however profound the Islamic identity of the individual and community level remained, it was the disruptive nature of French colonial policy that ultimately provoked the aggressive reassertion of an indigenous Algerian identity with strong ties to native Islamic culture. 1131 As Islam reformed from within and colonialism reached the peak of its power, the Islamic world regarded the arrest of its own decline as an essential turn of events with which to seize the political initiative. The first stage was the reversion to Islamic orthodoxy. The second stage, which I shall look at more closely in Chapter 4, saw Muslims who favored assimilation with European culture overshadowed by those who realized that such accommodation was impossible while the political reality of colonialism prevailed in all its inequality. The third stage saw Islamists take the political path-in defense of culture, in defiance of assimilation-along which they have been traveling ever since.

The Road to Catastrophe

The airport police were suspicious. They had not known of my arrival in advance. They expected to know everything in advance, to plan, to control, to observe, to influence. All for my own safety, they would tell me later. Embassy officials in Rabat, the city where I lived in 1995 and 1996, had said that I should give them my flight number before I left Morocco for Algiers, so the authorities could be ready for me when I arrived at the airport. Instead, I made my own way, keen to avoid falling into anybody's hands for at least the first few hours after my arrival. The police yelled into their radios, angry at this lapse in their organization. I waited for half an hour. The other passengers from the Royal Air Maroc flight passed into the sun outside the airport terminal. I told the police I would find my own way to Algiers, but they told me to wait. In a gloomy office filled with cigarette smoke a telephone rang on a desk littered with empty tea glasses. Still nobody from the foreign ministry was available to meet me. I said I was leaving for the city. There was nothing they could do but instruct me that I must stay at the Hotel Aurassi. I walked out into the morning sun and found a taxi parked beyond the giant concrete blocks intended to deter car bombers from approaching the building, which had been bombed in August 1992. "You should sit in the front of the car," the cabdriver told me. "Because when the French were here they would always sit in the back. So, if you sit in the front, from a distance it will look as though you may be Algerian. That'll look [email protected] if there's a terrorist checkpoint."

With this advice heeded, I asked him to take me to the Hotel Saint Georges. "The freedom fighters will not allow there to be an election."" The words of the Islamic Salvation Front resonated as I drove out onto the motorway that morning in early November 1995, three weeks before the presidential election. I could only wonder if this threat would be carried out, reconciling it with the reality of the tortured nation unfolding beyond the window of the Peugeot as it sped beneath pedestrian walkways daubed with the fading letters: FIS." Three months earlier, the military government had begun preparations for the election, scheduled for 16 November, by which it hoped to legitimize the coup that had brought it to power. More than five years earlier, on 12 June 1990, the flrst stage of Algeria's move away from oneparty rule under the FLN had revealed the extent of Islamist influence. The FIS had seized control of 853 of Algeria's 1,539 communal councils as well as 31 of the 48 Mlayas, or district councils, in the first multiparty local elections to have been held since protests had forced the government to lift a 30-year ban on multiparty politics.' Eighteen months later, on 26 December 1991, in the flrst ballot of elections for the national legislature, the FIS confounded the expectations of the army, the government, and the other opposition parties by capturing 47 percent of the vote, giving it outright victory in 188 of the 231 seats in which there would be no second ballot.31 This compared with 16 seats for the ruling FLN. The remaining seats, in which no candidate had achieved 50 percent of the vote, were to be subject to a second ballot between the two leading candidates in each constituency. As the results of the first ballot emerged '36 it became clear that the FIS was within 5 percent of an overall majority in many of the seats that would be contested in the second ballot, scheduled for 16 January 1992 .37 The intervening three weeks saw Algeria's senior military officers come to the realization that they could soon be at the behest of an FIS-led government. It was a prospect they were determined to avert. Using a selective understanding of the constitution as their weapon, the officers convinced President Chadli Benjeddid-who had made it clear that he was prepared to work with the FIS if they won control of the parliament-that he should resign. The officers, led by the defense minister, General Khaled Nazzar, secured Chadli's resignation on 10 January 1992, only after Chadli had also been convinced that he should dissolve the national assembly. The army's aim was to prevent its Islamist-leaning president, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, from becoming interim president after Chadli's resignation, as the constitution allowed. The military had intended that a politician less tolerant of the FISthe president of the constitutional council, Abdelmalek Benhabyles would become interim president. They had understood this to be constitutionally correct in the event of the president's resignation if, as they planned, the national assembly were suspended. Benhabyles refused the post, however, on the grounds that he could only assume it if the president died. Such was the military's confusion that Chadli eventually handed power to the High Council for Security," (HCS), also a constitutional body, but one limited to providing the president with advice on security issues and certainly not invested with the power to run the country. The HCS gave itself the power to appoint a president, and on I 1 January President Chadli publicly announced his resignation made the previous day. On 12 January tanks rolled out onto the streets of Algiers. The HCS canceled the second ballot for the legislative elections on the grounds of the "impossibility of continuing the electoral process until necessary conditions were achieved for the normal functioning of institutions. "" A five-man collective leadership was appointed as the public front of the military regime, under the name of the High Committee of State (HCE). This group was headed by a former hero of the war of independence, Mohamed Boudiaf, who had long been in exile and could perhaps project an image not tainted by the corruption of the former one-party regime. By the end of January, the FIS's key leaders had been arrested. The army began replacing the imams of the 8,000 FIScontrolled mosques in the country, and on 8 February the interior minister began moves to have the FIS dissolved on the grounds that it had attempted "insurrection against the state."" On 17 February the regime established five detention centers in the Sahara desert, housing up to 30,000 FIS activists (according to the FIS);12 the group was formally dissolved as an organization on 4 March. The rise of the FIS had begun four years earlier, in 1988. Social unrest had been building up as far back as 1985. In 1986, as many as 75 percent of all Algerians between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five were reckoned to be out of work.' Several factors contributed to this. The high birth rate had led to the population increasing from 18.3 million to 21.6 million between 1980 and 1984. 14 By the end of the decade, 70 percent of the population was under thirty,41 a vital factor in turning deprivation into militancy. Although President Chadli had attempted to introduce economic liberalization during the 1980s, his aim of using oil and gas revenues to cushion the blow of rising unemployment failed when a price slump caused energy revenues to fall in 1985-1986, leaving national income $5 billion below projections. The FIS drew its ethical inspiration from the Koran, but its real role during the late 1980s was as a social movement able to articulate the discontent among the rapidly growing section of the population that was bearing the brunt of the worsening economic hardship. "The FIS is not a religious movement, strictly speaking. Rooted in the social discontent that has been expressed in urban violence since 1985, the FIS gives political form to an emergent social movement."Il The FIS, as the local election results of 1990 and the first legislative ballot showed, enjoyed massive support. Its role as a social movement contributed to this. However, its ability to provide welfare depended, before 1990, on the financial support provided to it by individuals. Until it took control of local councils, it did not have a state budget to spend on social projects. Nevertheless, it was able to assist thousands of deprived people by dispensing funds raised through donations. just as important, in particular to the thousands of people of the older generation who provided the FIS with its financial backing, was the role it played as a source of credibility for the Algerian state. "The state is perceived as a political entity that confiscated independence by reappropriating for itself the historic role of the 'real people' to establish its power. Placed in the position of a contestant, the state cannot function as the regulator of social conflicts," Meriem Verges writes. The FLN, which by the late 1980s had become a corrupt mutation of the liberation movement that had, largely voluntarily, subsumed all other interests-including the Islamist movement in the form of the AUMA-in the pursuit of independence during the 1954-1962 war, simply became an elite, incapable of forging genuine social cohesion. "Support for the FLN in the 1950s and the FIS in the 1980s rests on similar foundations: an identity defined by religious belief, an organic representation of society, and demand for social justice. . . . The FIS, by inserting itself into this troubled structure, was able to represent a large group of atomized individuals."Il Meanwhile, Algerian lay civil society never met the challenge that the crisis required of it, as the FIS emerged in the late 1980s. The Union G6n6rale des Travailleurs Alg6rien, once the sole trade union in Algeria, was barely able to mobilize people on the scale it had managed during the early 1980s, when it had claimed 3 million members. The military wanted to mount a broad campaign against the Islamists, but in fact tightly controlled the means by which lay society could do so, by controlling the press. The Algerian intellectual class used the French press to communicate: "There it was, the entire problem: the opportunity for that class to see that the degree to which they could communicate with their own society was close to nil."Il Meanwhile, the social role pursued by the FIS formed only part of its agenda, as its power increased and the ambitions of its supporters grew. "Between 1988 and 1992, around a thousand Algerians returned home from Afghanistan, even before the crisis started," said Karim Omar, the Syrian ex-Mujahideen who established close ties with the Algerian Islamist movement after the 1992 coup.'9 These returnees accounted for around half the Algerians who had originally gone to Afghanistan during the 1980s. The return of the Arab Afghans injected several elements into the Algerian Islamist political scene. Despite the FIS having secured the largest share of votes in all the elections it had contested, the possibility that it would have to seek support from other parties to secure a majority of parliamentary seats still remained. "The FIS would have to share leadership with other, nonIslamic parties, which would work together to destroy the Islamic element in the FIS program, and then there would be another election," said Karim. "This fear led to a new strategy among the militants. The militant leaders took several thousand people from the FIS, and took them to the desert," where they underwent military training. Even before the January coup, armed Islamist groups had begun forming outside the auspices of the FIS, which had retained its commitment to the democratic process that had brought it to power. After the coup, the disparate groups that emerged drew on several Islamist strands. First were the remnants of the Takfir wa Hijra, literally "Expiation and Rejection," a movement that had been active in Algeria during the mid-1980s and evolved into what became known as the Mouvement Islamique Arm6e or MIA." Second were the remnants of the FIS who had remained at large following the arrests of January and February 1992. Third were the Arab Afghans, several of whom were already to be found within the FIS in early 1992. By 1993, the Islamist organizations that had retained a commitment to the democratic process curtailed by the military coup saw their influence increasingly overshadowed by the appearance of a new organization that from the outset rejected the democratic path followed by the FIS and sought power purely through armed struggle. This was the jaamat Islamiyya Mousalaha, the Armed Islamic Group or GIA."

Battle fOr the Soul of a Nation

Narrow streets wound up the hill upon which Algiers rose out of the Mediterranean Sea. Even during the bright mornings the sun failed to breach the cool gloom thrown by the shadows of the tall, elegant townhouses with their intricate iron balcony railings. The city swept dramatically around its bay, a mass of roofs evoking the clutter of Paris, though the gentle swaying of palm trees was a constant reminder that one was far from Europe. The roads twisted and turned through the city, past government buildings draped with barbed wire, surrounded by meter-high concrete blocks to prevent car bombers parking their wired vehicles unnoticed. Spirals of razor wire were slung over the jagged spikes of fences encircling the ministries, their entrances staked out by meter-high clusters of metal spikes along the roads, the entries turned into chicanes patrolled by security men with masked faces, their fingers on the triggers of their Kalashnikovs. Past them, people went to work, accompanied their children to school, carried their heavy shopping bags, even chatted in the street. Shop entrances were open, people came and went, there were traffic jams and buses picking up passengers who waited in queues on the pavement. War and peace existed alongside each other among the cool streets. The calm was broken by the sound of sirens, and a convoy sped past. Three unmarked cars, all Renault 20s painted a green-blue color, forced a path through the traffic. Men in dark suits hung out of the car windows with pistols in their hands, yelling and gesticulating at other drivers for the street to be cleared so that the convoy could pass. The sirens' wail echoed among the townhouses until it faded into the distance. "The politics followed up until now, and throughout the period from 1992, has been the politics of force," Abdelhamid Mehri, the secretary general of the FLN, the defeated former ruling party, had told me." Following the resignation of President Chadli and the 1992 coup, the FLN had become alienated from power and its leadership had sought dialogue with the FIS. Six months later, on 29 June, Mohamed Boudiaf was assassinated. His death is generally believed to have been planned by senior establishment figures worried that the head of state they had chosen to legitimize the coup was going too far in exposing official corruption as part of his effort at regaining popular confidence in government." Boudiaf was replaced as president of the HCE by Ali Kafi, who was replaced in January 1994 by General Liamine Zeroual. In November 1994 and January 1995, the FLN and other parties, including the FIS, met in Rome and issued a joint communiqu6 outlining plans for a solution to the crisis." Their efforts came to nothing, owing largely to the government's refusal to participate in the talks. "There's no willingness to change that politics. It's failed to bring a solution because the regime has always presented a dialogue that is one removed from the real power. They simply want to use the opposition to apply their politics, while not wanting to discuss the politics itself," Mehri said. Both the FLN and the FFS boycotted the 1995 presidential election, while the FIS remained banned. "Only the candidates who don't really stand a chance of winning a full election have put their candidates forward," Mahiou Mebarak, a member of the FFS executive, told me. "The conflict in Algeria is more complex than just a battle between the government and the Islamists. That's why it's necessary to have a national conference which will oversee the running of an election. Then an election would be held which would see all the different political currents represented. All the currents-including the Islamists," he said." Meanwhile, the FIS itself was operating in different forms, as an armed group in the form of the Islamic Army of Salvation (AIS), while facing increasing factionalism. In Germany, the official responsible for political affairs, Rabeh Kebir, vied with the Washington-based spokesman of the exiled FIS parliamentarians, Anwar Haddam. Both claimed to speak for their leaders imprisoned in Algiers, Ali Belhadj and Abassi Madani. The war against the security forces was by 1995 being conducted by several Islamist groups. The blurring of identities, despite real differences, intensified as the government abandoned hope of a negotiated solution" and increasingly followed the hard line of those officials known in Algeria as the eradicateurs, the eradicators," owing to their wish to eradicate the Islamist movement altogether. The taxi driver pulled up at the entrance of the Hotel Saint Georges, which had officially changed its name long ago-to the Hotel Alg6rie. So why did everybody call it the Saint Georges? "That's what it was always called," he said. Who called it that? "The French." But the name was changed thirty years ago. "Well, it takes a long time for these traditions to change." He asked me if I wanted to hire his taxi to go around the city. I looked at him. Where could he take me? "All over the city, and outside it if you want to go." We agreed on a price, and an hour later we left the hotel. He lulled me into a sense of security. Forty Algerian journalists had been assassinated during the previous three years of conflict. 18 They had been targeted by the GIA beginning soon after that organization's foundation. Sid Ahmed Mourad, known as Djaffar Afghani, had taken over the leadership of the GIA in July 1993 and had issued a statement that said: "The journalists who fight against Islamism through the pen will perish by the sword."19 For the GIA, most journalists were legitimate targets, while foreigners in general-Muslims and non-Muslims alike-were targets due to the assumption that they did not share the GIA!s perspective. "The GIA moved from the idea that democracy is kufr, or against Islam, to the point where they believed that anybody who believed in democracy is kufr," Karim Omar explained to me in London. From 1993 he had seen his own influence within the GIA grow. His message, drawing on his experience elsewhere, had spread widely throughout Algeria among the activists, whose main source of organizational cohesion was the internal publication al-Ansar. This evolution of opinion within the GIA was, despite growing tension between the two Islamic groups, reflected within some areas of the FIS, as it became clear that the government's basic negotiating position would never allow an Islamist party to take power in Algeria. "There are people within the government who are opposed to any political solution, and we are trying our best to undermine their efforts," Anwar Haddam, who though an FIS spokesman had established close ties with the GIA in 1993-1995, had said.1 For the GIA, democracy was kufr; for the eradicateurs there was only one way of dealing with the Islamists: "The best way of relaunching the crisis is to talk more to those responsible for it," the former prime minister and hard-line antiIslamist Redha Malek 61 told me. "What has dialogue achieved? Nothing. These militant groups have refused to involve themselves in the process of power. Instead they use terrorism like a business, and it is necessary to confront them. 1161 The taxi driver drove quickly to the Foreign Ministry. We wove through the maze of barriers. On an upper floor, an official in a quiet rage couldn't contain his anger at the fact that I had not announced my arrival in Algiers in advance and that I had, according to him, ignored the airport police when they had said they would drive me into the city. There was no question that this offer had not actually been made. The official told me I would have to move from the Saint Georges to the Hotel Aurassi for my own protection. I nodded, then left. At 5:00 A.M. the next day I left on a small plane from the Algiers airport on the campaign trail. We flew west to oran and then drove in a convoy to Mostaganem. Fading graffiti sprayed in red paint on a wall was a reminder of a previous period in Algeria's crisis: "FIS: [email protected] Nationale, 1161 it said. FIS posters flapped, torn in the slight breeze. Said Sadi, one of the four presidential candidates, waved and smiled as he walked through the town. Nobody waved back. "In the streets nobody wants to show who they might favor, so they keep quiet and just watch," the spokesman for Sadi's Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party told me." Sadi made his way to the town's cemetery. "I can tell you nothing. just bring us peace," said the mother of Ayachi Chaoudi. The woman, in her mid-fifties, was sitting among the graves as Sadi arrived with his entourage. She was staring at a photograph of her seven-year-old son. His grave was one of seven, with the large photograph standing at its head. At the center of the graves was a memorial. in handwritten script it commemorated the deaths of seven boy scouts-among them the son of Ayachi Chaoudi-a year earlier. "He was standing near the memorial in the cemetery at Sidi Ali, our village. Somebody had put a bomb in an empty grave just beside the boy scouts, as they were marking the First of November, the start of the liberation war."

Mrs. Chaoudi wrung her hands. Said Sadi touched the memorial. His party moved on. The bomb had appalled the people of Mostaganem and the surrounding villages. Among those arrested for the crime was the imam of the local mosque. The marking of liberation day with a bomb had a resonance that Algeria's Islamists had made the central thrust of their message. "In 1991 the Islamists started to say that the Algerian war [of liberation 611 needed to be refought, that it had not brought liberation, because the people who took over the running of Algeria after independence were a French-speaking cultural minority of Algerians," said Yves Lacoste, 16 a leading French writer on North Africa.

The Islamists in Algeria are essentially the adversaries of the Algerian Francophones, and the current conflict within Algeria is between the Islamists and those they consider to be bad Muslims, who are viewed as supported by France. Equally, the Islam of the armed groups expresses its anti-Western sentiment by attacking its most obvious target-France, and by fighting the agent of France, which [for them] are the Algerian army, the intelligentsia and the professionals.

Said Sadi represented the anti-Islamist groups as overtly as President Zeroual, even more among the professional class. His political career began falteringly when it was discovered that his spoken Arabic was poor, as he practiced his profession as a psychiatrist using French or the Berber language of his native Kabylie region. He took Arabic lessons but remained the candidate most closely identified with what the Islamists call the Hizba Fransa, the Party of France. "The Islamists are young, and they are essentially an economic problem," Sadi told me. 61 "It's necessary to respond to their demands. But as armed groups they are finished and their terrorist campaign has been a failure in terms of winning support," he claimed, as we drove then walked to the Zaouia Alaouia Sufi religious center. In 1958 the former French president Charles de Gaulle visited Mostaganem and asked to meet with the Sufi leader in the town. The Sufis refused on the grounds that it would have compromised their image in the light of the war of independence that was then being fought. Thirty-seven years later, France, its war with Algeria, and the legacy of colonialism were still able to pierce the skin of the presidential election and the regime's efforts to present the contest as a selfconfident reassessment of the country's independent identity. President Zeroual appeared to seek official and public French support for his candidacy when he timed a meeting with the French president Jacques Chirac to effectively mark the launch of his presidential campaign.11 Algerian responses to the planned meeting, which was later canceled by Zeroual after Chirac refused to allow it to take place in the presence of television cameras, revealed the lurking influence of France." "We regard this [French support for Zeroual] as a mistake," said Abdelhamid Mehri of the FLN. "It is an attempt to justify a democracy of formalities and an appeal to the Algerians to accept a second-class democracy. We demand nothing, either from the French government, or from the French president. We demand nothing from France. It knows the situation in Algeria."" France still lingered as an influence, as the embodiment of Algeria's past, as the only model of secularism to which the country could refer. The Sufis had refused De Gaulle an audience while Algeria was still a colony. But President Zeroual had sought the backing of the former colonialists in the form of Chirac, the leader of France's Gaullist Party. What had independence really brought, if such gestures, laden with symbolism, could be engineered by key figures in the Algerian political scene in their search for lost legitimacy, at a time when the process of building the future depended so strongly upon exhibiting proof of ones' Algerianness? De Gaulle was refused, but the most Francophile of Algeria's election candidates, Said Sadi, was welcomed. The Sufis, themselves viewed by the Islamists as having strayed from religious orthodoxy, suited Sadi's secularist politics. Though involved emotionally, the Sufis did not seek political power. "It's fifteen centuries since Islam came to Algeria, and the people who support me do so because they don't want the FIS to come to power," Sadi said. "It's necessary to protect religion from political Islam, and I am the only one who says this."" From Mostaganem we flew south toward the Saharan Atlas mountains surrounding the military base at Djelfa. Handguns and Kalashnikovs were loaded into a sports bag by the security officers provided to each candidate at state expense, in addition to the 13 million Algerian dinars each candidate had received for election expenses. We set off in a convoy of twenty cars along a desert road that looped through rocky hills and across plateaus. For two hours we drove, eventually arriving in the midafternoon at Laghouat. Sadi addressed a rally in a conference hall near a large mosque. The oppressiveness of Algiers, even of Mostaganem, diminished as the open space of the Sahara loomed on the edge of the town. "Religion is a belief. It's a principle. A conviction," Imam Mesaudi Yaya told us over tea and cakes in his small house near the mosque, where he entertained Said Sadi and his entire entourage, who sat at low tables arranged on four sides of the room. "Religion is like the palm of the hand. We feel its fingers, through different tendencies. But people have to return to the palm of the hand to be in control of the fingers."Il To know the core belief-religious, political, personal-was the issue, but the process of discovery was what had brought chaos. "People are rediscovering their nationality. But this has been coupled with the rediscovery of religious extremism," said Sadi, as we talked while night fell and the aircraft bore us north toward Algiers. "Now, a minimum of legitimacy is required by the government. To bring that it's necessary to change the regime. For the Islamists, they are young. It's necessary to respond to their demands. But if people vote for me, it will be because they don't want the FIS to come to power," he said, knowing that even though the FIS was banned and not participating, the election would still reveal much about its continued support. The Islamic identity remained at the heart of the election.

 

Travels with a Sheikh

"The Algerian people are Muslim, and their origins are Arab." The voice of Sheikh Mahfoud Nahnah boomed out across the neat square of Ain Temouchent. The rallying cry of Abd al-Hamid Ibn "Ben" Badis, the leader of the AU@, raised a few cheers among the thousand people who were there to hear him. But mostly they remained silent and attentive. Nahnah was a curiosity. A former schoolteacher and leader of the Hamas party, he had led the creation of an Islamic group during the early 1960s that was closely modeled on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, with whom he has close ties. He promoted a pan-Islamic strategy that was in marked contrast to the nationalism prevailing in Algeria following independence. During the 1980s, when differences within the Algerian Islamist movement first developed over the question of an armed struggle, Nahnah was among those opposed to violence, as were Islamists such as Abassi Madani, the future leader of the FIS. in December 1990, when the ban on multiparty politics was lifted in Algeria, Nahnah turned his association into the alIrchad wal'Islah, known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, the Movement of the Islamic Society, which was officially launched as a political party on 29 May 1991. In 1995, in response to its moderation and the army's assumption that Sheikh Nahnah could not win the election, Hamas was allowed to contest the presidential election as the legal Islamic party. Nahnah sought to represent himself as the inheritor of Algeria's Islamic past: "Islam is the religion of all Algerians, and it alone can reunite the country, and November 16 is the hour of total change," he told a crowd of supporters as we sat in the art deco cinema in Ain Temouchent." In a long convoy guarded by well-armed state security officials, we drove for four days through the rolling hills of western Algeria. In the town square of Mascara, Nahnah held up a newly printed 1,000-dinar banknote, recently introduced by the government. Until 1995, the 1,000-dinar note had depicted the religious leader of Algeria's early anticolonial resistance movement, Emir Abd al-Qadir, who had led the opposition to the French between 1832 and 1847. The military government had decided to replace the head of Abd al-Qadir with the head of a buffalo, Nahnah told the crowd, who booed the decision. Mascara had been Abd al-Qadir's home. As with Zeroual's attempts to secure overt French backing for his campaign, the ambiguous attitude toward the past, from which the Islamists drew so much of their program, again seemed to be falling into the hands of those seeking a new beginning. Nahnah, the apparently acceptable face of Islamism, seemed to represent the failure to find that new beginning: "I'm not a danger," he told a thousand people at Tlemcen. "I have come to destroy the Mafia which controls the country's finances. This clan must disappear. Algeria is for everybody, not just for certain groups. And they say I am a danger. Am I a danger?" He was not a danger, because the movement he leads lacks the credibility of the FIS. Hamas, with its historic links to the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood, 14 represented a religious movement with a strong intellectual base but lacking the social credibility born of the attitude of defiance toward the past encapsulated by the FIS. But in the absence of the FIS:

The most noteworthy candidature of all was that of Mahfoud Nahnah. The participation in the regime's plans by one of the leading figures of the Algerian Islamist movement since the 1960s was seen by most Algerians as marking a final stage in the transition of the Sheikh" from subversive opponent of the regime in the 1960s and 1970s to reliable ally. . . . Nah nah saw himself as a "middle way" between the discredited regime and the excesses of the armed groups.11

The radical Islamists accused Hamas of opportunism, even though the party's program included the introduction of the Islamic sharia as the basis of the legal system and other elements that barely distinguished it from the FIS's program. But these Islamist parties differed in more profound ways. The FIS had organized a social network that, during the 1980s, and particularly after the 1990 municipal elections when its control of local councils accorded it a state budget in many towns, made a difference in peoples' lives. The FIS stood for action, power, and mobilization. Hamas was a well-oiled party machine that intoned religion as the national identity in a way that did not mobilize people as the FIS had done, because at heart the Islamic identity did not have the power to mobilize in the way that political grievance and social deprivation did. The FIS party organization, coupled with its defiant articulation of grievances, lay at the heart of its power. Nahnah relied only upon rhetoric. "In meeting these young [FIS] people, one is struck by their great discipline and by the organization of their local cells," writes Rabia Bekkar, who studied the rise of the FIS in Tlemcen during the 1980s. She continues:

At the same time, as a woman, as a democrat, I find it terrifying that an institution this well organized can do so much. In the [1990 and 19911 electoral campaign[s], we saw this same efficiency and mobilization. They were everywhere. Islamists came into a completely empty field. You had a society that was morose, mired in a kind of lassitude, where people were completely burned-out, in despair-and [the FIS] suggested something. In the electoral campaign, the FIS brought up questions of honesty, of justice. The FLN had a program: housing, work, education. But the FIS said: we won't promise you anything. We'll have a state where we apply Islam, where honesty and justice will reign. It's a moral contract, not an electoral program."

The FIS had grasped the march of history by confronting outright the authority that had dragged Algeria into disillusionment. Hamas, meanwhile, had played the regime's game and could not represent the same attitude of defiance toward the past as that of the FIS, even though a large proportion of FIS supporters eventually voted for Hamas in 1995 and the subsequent parliamentary election in 1997. Signs of the crisis did not litter the red-brown earth and olive tree OTChards of the countryside. The signs were in peoples' minds. "The election has brought people out of themselves, 1171 said the local correspondent for one of the Algerian national newspapers as we stood on one of Tlemcen's elegant streets watching Nahnah and his entourage walk through the town along a tree-lined boulevard toward the imposing walls of the al-Mechouar castle. "It means that they can go out on the street and scream and yell, and nobody will tell them they cannot. And they can make a choice, and the choices are quite real ones. Even so, it's premature. The people have spent thirty-three years in the dark. They need time to be politicized. Perhaps three years would do it. The police are always summoning journalists, not because of what they write, but because they just want us to say that everything is fine," he said, as a rally in a sports hall convened, Nahnah delivered his message, and we drove out of the fine town. We drove quickly through villages, across wide plains ending at rolling hills. At Ain Tellout somebody had painted words on a wall:

"je vote donc je suis," I vote therefore I am, an appeal to be allowed to have significance. In four days we traveled a thousand kilometers, through deserted land punctuated by towns, villages, and rural military checkpoints where armored cars and heavily armed troops peered at the passing spectacle of democracy. At Saida, a windswept hilltop village, I asked a man whether he would vote for Nahnah. "Well, I don't know," he replied. So, why had he come to listen? "Well, it's something to do on a Friday after prayers." For miles the roads were deserted, except for the occasional bus packed with passengers who stared ahead out of the windows, watching for the faux barrages, checkpoints resembling those of the army but in fact thrown up by the Islamists, who would order people onto the roadside and murder them there and then before fleeing into the hills. Danger was palpable in the emptiness. As we drove from Tlemcen along a tree-lined road, the convoy became disjointed until the slow car in which I was driving fell behind the rest of the pack. Then the car juddered to a halt with an engine problem, slowing until it stopped. A car coming up from behind, the driver having failed to see that we had slowed, crashed into the back of us. We were alone, surrounded by hills and trees, in an area where hundreds of people had been killed in the previous months. The damage to the cars was not too serious. Birds whistled in the trees. The fields, mostly orchards, were empty. Ahead of us the convoy had disappeared. We waited as the long minutes passed, watching the empty fields, the empty road. The drivers, both in a state of panic, fumbled with the engines of their damaged cars, until they started and we could set off, straining to get up to speed. We chased the lost convoy, catching it at the roadside village of Oued al-Djamaa. Troops armed with bayonets pushed back a crowd of curious onlookers as Nahnah led Friday prayers on the main road while one of the national television journalists, his mouth full of figs and mechouil exhausted by the travel, quietly told me: "It's true that we are being told to be biased. We're forced to do it, because the people that are running the television station are not professionals. They are worried about what will happen to them if President Zeroual does not win."l' After a rally in Oran, Nahnah flew to jijel, a small seaside town east of Algiers. We arrived at the airport, to be told that a bomb had been defused beneath a bridge our convoy was to pass over. The silence of the Islamists, who had threatened to prevent the election from taking place but who had stopped the killing throughout the election campaign, had become inexplicable. Had they come to a deal with the government, which throughout the conflict had been accused of infiltrating the organizations and even conducting some of the Islamists' worst atrocities in an effort to besmirch their name? On the way to the town we crossed the bridge under which the bomb had been placed and then defused. iijel was sinister. It was in the grip of the Islamists' campaign, having been the scene of numerous acts of violence. After soft drinks at the town hall, Nahnah insisted on walking to a rally at the cinema. The streets were almost deserted. Men peered suspiciously at Nahnah and his entourage. The bomb scare had raised the level of anxiety. The security officials were on hyperalert. Nobody waved, nobody responded to Nahnah's gestures. In the cinema, a few hundred people cheered the Hamas leader. The tension was intolerable. The cold welcome in the town, the bomb, the fact that this was Nahnah's last rally, all these elements meant that it was the militants' last chance to carry out their threat. The rally was cut short, after about ten minutes. Nahnah was rushed to a car; I was thrust into another. We left for the airport at great speed. Nobody said why. Nobody explained anything. And we returned to Algiers.

 

'The Hour of Total Change'

"We had our revolution in 1954 to liberate our country from the French. But now our country is again in danger, and we're making war again to save it.1110 Omar Sadi stood with thirty other armed men at the village crossroads in Ammouche, seventy miles east of Algiers, high in the hills of the Grand Kabylie, the heartland of Algeria's Berber region. In 1994 the government had begun arming civilian militias to provide security in rural areas. In Ammouche the group had been formed after an attack by Islamists had left two villagers dead. "My father was one of those killed," said Ahmed Diwani. "Now there's nothing on offer except the election, as a way of finding a solution to the crisis. And I have taken up arms to make sure there is an election," he said, a new Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. The village administrator, who refused to give his name, pointed to the hills from where this village and others had been attacked. He even knew which villages the attackers had come from. All the vilual security, creating a force lages had banded together to provide mut of 250 people under arms. "Algerians have a tendency to watch and observe," he said, as we drank tea and ate fried meat in the village cafeteria. "But now the time for waiting has finished, and it has become the time to react." Next day, election day," people queued early at the polling stations in Tizi-Ouzou, the capital of the Kabylie region. "We can't live like this forever. We can't live in fear," said a woman waiting outside the Ecole Dali, one of several polling stations in the town. "We hope there will be change," said another. "We women simply can't go out anymore. This morning I told my mother that I was going to vote, and she asked me if I didn't have fear of doing so. She stayed at home, but for me I hope that very soon after the election there will be a great effort to change things for women," she said, adding that she and her husband were voting for different candidates, a sign perhaps of an unquenchable wish for change. The road from Tizi-Ouzou to Algiers was once tree-lined, but the stately eucalyptus had been chopped down to prevent their being used as cover for ambushes. By midday Algiers had not experienced even a murmur of violence. Deep in the heart of Bab el-Oued, the city stronghold of the GIA, people lived up to the instruction to "watch and observe." Graffiti on the wall of a narrow alley proclaimed: "VIVA GIA." The claws of a mangy cat tore at rubbish thrown on a tip as gendarmes, their faces covered by balaclavas, drove by slowly, staring through the windows of their bulletproof Toyota Land Cruisers. ,,i don't think it's going to change anything, this election. We really need a miracle to bring change," said a twenty-year-old woman standing in the shadow of Sekardji prison, where the government has held many FIS prisoners since 1992. "This district where I live is dangerous. There are people here checking out everybody who goes to vote, because they want people to boycott the poll. The armed groups are surveilling everybody. I am sure they are watching me, but I voted anyway," she told me. 12 At a mosque nearby, men bowed to pray. "A lot of the threats are rumors," said a man on his way home from shopping. "Personally, I voted for President Zeroual, because he is the man of the FLN, the old ruling party." He was apparently unaware that the incumbent president was no longer part of the FLN, which, along with the FIS, had called for a boycott of the poll. "My father was FLN, and so am 1, even if I live in an area where there's supposed to be only fundamentalists," he said, disappearing into the gloomy hallway of a once-elegant tenement building. Few were surprised when Zeroual was elected.'-' But the "hour of change" never came. A demand by election observerSI4 that the government explain why the electoral register had grown in size by 4 million names since the FIS's victory in the parliamentary contest of 1991 was ignored. Several months after the election, a leaked French intelligence report suggested that Nahnah had been only 6 percentage points behind Zeroual, not the 36 percent the government had reported.11 Nahnah claimed massive electoral rigging but also called upon the government to use its victory to good purpose: "The authorities should now open themselves up to all political forces within Algeria, without exception and including the armed groups, and should initiate true dialogue to set the conditions for a truly pluralist democracy."Il The Islamists also took the opportunity to push Zeroual toward forging a turning point in the crisis. Rabeh Kebir, the FIS's leader in exile, wrote to Zeroual acknowledging his victory. The strategy of Kebir, as well as that of the FLN and the FFS, was directed more by the obvious failure of their boycott call than by the mathematics of the victory. In view of this, Kebir told Zeroual: "We confirm our permanent willingness to engage in dialogue, consultation, and cooperation with the ruling power and the opposition."Il By contrast, Anwar Haddam, the spokesman for the exiled FIS parliamentarians, issued a statement that reflected the deep divisions within the organization:

Algeria is definitely sending a painful message to Muslim people around the world. If any credibility is given to such Algerian presidential elec tions, Muslims all over the world will question their leaders' willingness in the future to participate in the electoral process. . . . The FIS calls on the sincere members of the Algerian army and security forces to get rid of those among the military-security establishment who are responsible for the suffering of the Algerian people.11

This overthrow of the central government did not happen. Instead, the Islamist organizations found themselves in chaos. The lull in violence during the election period stemmed from differences between the FIS's armed wing, the AIS, which advocated a cessation of violence during the poll; and the GIA, which wanted to step up the slaughter. Both groups needed to know which way public opinion had really evolved since 1992. The election turnout had been high. Rabeh Kebir responded on behalf of the FIS's jailed leaders by offering an olive branch, while Anwar Haddam condemned the election. Meanwhile, the GIA became wracked by division. One of its military commanders, Abou Abderrahmane Amine, issued a statement declaring war on the FIS because it had opted for "democracy, elections, and the ballot boxes ... It is a duty to fight them. "19 Feuding within the GIA reached a climax soon after the election when a faction led by Djamel Zitouni executed two leaders of the jazara Islamic group," Mohammed Said and Abderazak Redjam, and twenty of their supporters following their growing criticism of the random nature of GIA violence. Said and Redjam had joined the GIA in 1994 in an effort to moderate it from within. In August 1994 Said had been appointed supreme leader of the GIA, and his appointment had been announced in a statement signed by Zitouni, who had been second in command to Said's predecessor, Gousmi Cherif. But Zitouni's suspicions of the moderates did not take long to surface. Their murders began the process of clarifying the differences between the groups that have subsequently determined the course of Algeria's search for a solution. Said and Redjam were accused by Zitouni (correctly, as it turned out) of infiltrating the GIA in order to soften it. Meanwhile, the FIS began to reorganize its military wing in response to the growing threat from the increasingly extremist GIA. Anwar Haddam, who had retained contacts with the GIA while operating as a spokesman for the FIS, broke off links with the GIA after the killings of Said and Redjam. But he also accused the FIS political leadership, particularly Kebir, of seeking compromise with the government. Haddam hoped that a new Islamist military organization would emerge, capable of pursuing the war against the government while attempting to win popular support by avoiding terrorism against civilians. The divisions within the Islamist movement have contributed as much to the spiraling violence that continues to plague Algeria as the determination of the government to crush the Islamist movement. On 21 September 1997 the AIS, the armed wing of the FIS, declared a unilateral truce and committed itself to exposing the excesses of the GIA. The divisions within the Islamist armies are deeply rooted, in terms of both strategy and philosophy. The severity of Algeria's crisis stems from the virulence of belief in aspects of its cultural, religious, and political identity, which have all, at various points along the road, been stunted by the emergence of alternative trends. Islamism, republicanism, and democracy have been subsumed by colonialism, dictatorship, and conflict. A solution to the internal battle would revitalize Algeria's Islamist movement and perhaps move it away from the atrocities with which it is now associated. Such a solution would have a marked impact throughout the Islamic world, as this battle dawned many years before Algerians even saw their independence on the horizon. Like Algeria's identity crisis, the battle was spawned by colonialism and its legac)k and has its origins in the foundation and effects of the first party of political Islam, the Muslim Brotherhood, which appeared in Cairo in the 1920s.