A four-month siege
In 1847, after the surrender of Abd-el-Kader, the French soldiers believe this is the end of fighting in Algeria after over ten years of a war of conquest of unprecedented savagery. But while the danger was mainly in the west, it reappears east early 1849 in southern Constantine, near Biskra, where Sheikh Bouziane takes over the resistance. After the clashes, he is hiding in the « oasis » of Zaatcha, a real fortified city where, besides entrenched combatants, live hundreds of people of all generations.
July 17, 1849, French troops sent in haste begin a siege, which lasted four months. After an unsuccessful assault, the staff takes the resistance measurement and sends a reinforcement column of more than 5000 men, commanded by General Emile Herbillon (1794-1866), commander of the province of Constantine, followed another, the Zouaves led by Colonel François Canrobert (1809-1895). Two senior officers, several thousand men against a town in southern Algeria, two decades after the fall of Algiers: Algerian resistance was of a magnitude and exceptional efficiency.
On November 26, the besiegers, exasperated by the length of the seat, seeing many of their comrades die (fighting and cholera), informed the fate that some French prisoners had been (torture, beheadings, émasculations …), rush to assault the city. Each house becomes a fortress, each terrace a place of ambush against the attackers. After fierce fighting, during which the French suffered heavy losses, the tricolor flag flies on the highest point of the oasis.
Two years later, Charles Bourseul, a « former officer of the Army of Africa » who participated in the assault, will publish his testimony: « The houses, terraces are overgrown everywhere. platoon fires sleep on the floor all groups of Arabs encountered. All that remains standing in these groups immediately falls under the bayonet. Which is not reached by the fire perished by iron. Not one of the defenders of Zaatcha seeks its salvation in flight, not one implore the mercy of the winner, all die with weapons in hand, selling dearly in their lives, and their arms will stop fighting when the death made them immobile. « . These were combatants.
Engraving from the book The Army of Africa since the conquest of Algiers, 1888 by Dr. F. QUESNOY, former medical inspector of the health service of armies. Mohamed Ben Abdelmalek Lamjad, Sheik Bouziane Ben Amar Bou Kedida, Si Moussa Al-Derkaoui, Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Titraoui Al-Aissa Al-Hamadi, six resistance who fought against the French expeditionary force in Algeria in the nineteenth century.
But Oasis also housed women, old men, children, adolescents. The destruction of the city was complete, methodical. The houses were still standing mined, all the torn vegetation. « Natives » who were not buried were put to the bayonet.
In his book War and the government of Algeria, the journalist Louis Baudicour recount in 1853 have seen the Zouaves « rush furiously upon the unfortunate creatures who had managed to escape, » then strive « Here a amputated soldier jokingly breast of a poor woman who asked as a favor from complete, and expire after a few moments in suffering; there, another soldier took her by the legs a little kid and broke his brains against a wall; Moreover, these were other scenes that can only be degraded and understand that an honest mouth can not tell. Processes as barbarians were not necessary, and it is very unfortunate that our officers are not more masters in shipping their elite troops, a hunter is a pack of hounds when it arrives before him on his prey. »
According to the lowest estimates, there was that day eight hundred Algerians massacred. All the people killed? No. General Herbillon felt obliged to provide this clarification: « A blind man and a few women were alone spared. » The worst is that the French press then resumed this cynical report.
Shot and then beheaded
There were three other « savings » … temporarily. The French wanted to capture alive – in order to make an example – the leader of the resistance, the Sheikh Bouziane. At the end of the fighting, he was taken prisoner. His son, aged fifteen, accompanied him, as well as Si-Moussa, presented as a marabout. What of them? These « savages » had no right to the honors due to the combatants.
General Herbillon ordered them to be shot on the spot, then decapitated. Their heads at the end of pikes, were taken to Biskra and exposed on the market place in order to increase the terror of the people. One observer, Dr. Ferdinand Quesnoy, who accompanied the column drew this macabre staging he published in 1888 in a book testimony promised a future …
What became of spare heads of the bodies of Algerian fighters? Who had the idea to keep them current practice then? Where were they and how? When was their sordid transfer « metropolis »? It remains to be established, although some sources indicate the date 1874, other decade 1880. It seems certain they were first exposed to the Anthropological Society of Paris and transferred to the Museum of man. They are still there today.
The question is why France supposedly civilized country, arrives to commit such barbaric and inhuman acts against the Algerian resistance that fought colonialism only to defend their land; France has put naked and shows the degree of the monstrosity of French colonialism … the question remains why the Algerian government is officially time to request the repatriation of 36 cranes in their country, to give them a dignified burial for these brave fighters . Cherif Boubaghla Sheikh Bouziane, Moussa El-Derkaoui, Si Mokhtar Ben Kouider Al-Titraoui, the mummified head of Aissa Al-Hamadi and even the integral molding of the head of Mohamed Ben Allel Ben Embarek, a lieutenant of the Emir Abdelkader … and many other … glory to our brave martyrs.