Abdelkader Hachani, a senior leader of the banned Algerian Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), was assassinated in Algerian capital, Algiers, on November 22. Hachani was shot in the chest several times as he was leaving a dentist’s clinic. His assassin was not captured. Thousands of Algerians attended his funeral two days later.
Hachani was appointed interim leader of the FIS after the imprisonment of this Muslim party’s leaders Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj. He led his party to a resounding second victory in the elections for Algeria’s legislative assembly in December 1991. He was imprisoned after the pro-French military coup of January 1992 vetoed the people’s choice, and the FIS - overwhelmingly the most popular political group in the country ï was banned.
The Algerian government and press, instinctively secular and pro-French, unanimously accused the shadowy so-called Islamic Armed Groups (GIA), of Hachani’s assassination. These groups have been blamed for all the massacres of civilians since 1994, which most Algerians believe to have been carried out by the Algerian government’s French-trained counter-insurgency commandos in order to punish the Algerians for giving their votes to an Islamic party.
Hachani was released from jail two years ago, as part of the process by which the Algerian government has tried to restore the facade of normal politics in the country. However, FIS has remained banned, and Hachani was subjected to harassment and intimidation. In a letter to Algeria’s Interior Minister on October 28, 1999, Hachani complained that he has been shadowed closely by agents of the Algerian political police, the notorious SEcuritE Militaire. FIS sources say that the full text of the letter will be published soon, along with other evidence of the dirty activities of the Algerian regime.
Abdelkader Hachani was outspoken about the situation in Algeria and was constantly harassed for his views by the generals--the holders of ‘real power’ behind President Bouteflika, whom they had brought to power to cover up for them. Hachani had voiced support for an international commission of inquiry into the still on-going massacres of civilian populations, but the generals have consistently rejected the idea of an international inquiry, supported in so doing by France and other western governments. He also refused to deal with the military authorities; about a month before his death, he was summoned by the political police to ‘start a dialogue’ with them; this he refused to do, saying that any dialogue would have to be with Algeria’s political leaders.
In contrast to the FIS demands that the fate of the ‘disappeared’ should be investigated and those genuinely responsible for the atrocities of recent years identified, Algerian president Abdul Aziz Bouteflika has been hinting publicly that they should be forgotten. Mr Hachani was also outspoken in support of a genuine national reconciliation that would involve all Algerians, in constrast to the repressive “Law of Civil Concord” pushed through by the generals, which blames the massacres and violence on the Islamic activists who took up arms to fight those who interrupted the people’s choice in 1992.
Few in Algeria doubt that Abdelkader Hachani was shot down by the the Algerian political police, not the Islamists whom he represented. The Algerian military’s aim was to force him into submission just as they did successfully with others; but he withstood the pressure and continued to voice his views, albeit in moderate and very mature way. It was this, no doubt, that led to his assassination.
The ‘eradication’ of Algeria’s pro-Islamic elite- including many of the country’s educated and professional people, capable of providing Algeria’s people with an alternative to the secular Francophile leadership- has been a feature of the recent conflict; the secular generals have been popularly dubbed ‘eradicationists’ for this reason.
The whole conflict in Algeria has been one of a cultural nature. Abdelkader Hachani, may Allah accept his soul, is the latest of a whole generation of Algerian Muslim intellectuals who have been assassinated one way or the other-their only sin was to think differently from the unrepresentative, tiny francophile elite in power which has been bent on de-Islamizing Algerian society in the post-independence period.
Since the 1992 coup, such leaders and activists have been subjected to horrific tortures at the hands of the secret police, broken down psychologically in inhuman detention in the Sahara concentration camps, pushed into exile or physically eliminated. This has been part of a conspiracy that has aimed to defeat the Islamic renaissance movement all over the Maghreb, on the very soil of Islam. It was an enterprise begun by France during the colonial period in the name of a “civilizing mission”. In the post-independence era, it hasbeen championed by France and executed by its Algerian offspring.
Full details of the Algerian generals’ atrocities may never be known. However, Hachani’s commitment to exposing the truth as far as possible is shared by all Algeria’s people, and more details are emerging, despite the authorities’ best efforts. The literature on the subject has recently been augmented by the substantial report of a private investigation by Algerian academics, lawyers and human rights academics in Algeria, Europe and the United States. Their findings, published in Geneva last month under the title An Inquiry into the Algerian Massacres, with forewords by western human rights champions Noam Chomsky and Lord Avebury, is likely to provide the framework for future investigations into this tragic period of Algeria’s history.
This report is particularly scathing on the true role of the GIA and its links with the Algerian generals. Few have any doubts about who was really responsible for the martyrdom of Abdulkader Hachani.
Muslimedia: December 1-15, 1999