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The Years of Black Decade in Algeria

    The black decade is referred to as the years of blood, barbarism, savagery and terror. It is the darkest phase in the Algerian history .It is the conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist groups in 90’s which lead Algeria to sink in murderous dementia; attacks, ambushes, kidnappings, car bombs, sabotage, bombs in public places and mass killings .All these actions caused the death of 150 000 civilians and the number of missing varies between 4,000 and 20,000 and tens of thousands of exiles. The first victims are mainly soldiers and police. The Islamist militants and extremists have also attacked members of the military and government as well as individuals expressing secular or non-Muslim views, including journalists, teachers, writers, artists, intellectuals, foreigners, and both Muslim and Christian clerics. Extremists also resorted to indiscriminate car bombings. Algeria reeled from savage atrocities in the second half of the 1990s, especially from mid-1997 to early 1998.

    The conflict began on December 1991; conflict between the Islamist FIS and the military-backed FLN, when the government immediately canceled the parliamentary elections after the results of the first round, anticipating a victory of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), fearing to lose power and that it put in place an Islamic Republic. After the ban on the FIS and the arrest of thousands of its members (Abbassi Madani and Ali Benhadj...), various Islamist guerrilla groups emerged quickly and began an armed struggle against civilians, the ultimate aim of which was to terrorize them and punish them in case of support to the Algerian government. They have formed into several armed groups, the main ones being the Mountain-Based Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) and the City-Based Armed Islamic Group (GIA). The Islamists initially targeted the army and the police, but some groups attacked civilians quickly. GIA committed a series of mass village-level killings, peaking in 1997 around the parliamentary elections, which were won by a newly-created pro-military party, the National Democratic Rally (RND). Benjedid was forced to resign. Military and civilian officials established an executive High Council of State (HCS) with Muhammad Boudiaff, an exiled FLN hero of the war of independence, as President.

   Boudiaff was assassinated in 1992, and fighting escalated between government forces and Islamist militants. Although the FlS had lost its legal status, it quickly mobilised its military wing and began a campaign of assassinations and bombings.

    Defence Minister Liamine Zeroual, a former diplomat and career soldier, was named President in early 1994. The following year, he won election in Algeria's first successful multiparty Presidential elections since independence. Zeroual began to gain international support. International lenders rescheduled the country's foreign debt, a move that helped the beleaguered Algerian government. Another revised Constitution came into effect in 1996. Most notably, this Constitution banned political parties based exclusively on religion, language, race, gender, or region. In addition, the constitution created a new bicameral legislature, composed of the National People's Assembly and the Council of the Nation. The widespread victory of the National Democratic Rally (RND), a newly formed pro-government party, in parliamentary elections in 1997 prompted allegations of election. 

   In 1999, the election of a new president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was followed by a new law amnesty for the fighters to return to normal life. Bouteflika presented a "Civil Concord" calling for national reconciliation, allowing Islamist fighters not guilty of murder or rape to escape prosecution if they surrendered. It was enthusiastically endorsed in a referendum. Bouteflika offered amnesty to Muslims militant, and thousands of them laid down their arms. The violence diminished, but did not disappear completely, and calm returned to Algeria. Islamist terrorism ended with the victory of the government, followed by the surrender of the Islamic Salvation Army and the defeat of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in 2002.

    Algeria has suffered greatly from its civil war and its people were traumatized by this period and did not want to be told anything. Before, the black decade is a taboo and painful subject but today, all Algerian and even filmmakers are ready to face it on the big screen. Salem Brahimi aptly evokes the civil war in Algeria in his third feature film "Now They Can Come". He said "Barbarism cannot be explained," at the premiere of his film, Now They Can Come, at the Toronto Film Festival. 

Written by ARAB Sabrina

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