European Nationalities Did Not Escape The Contempt Of Brutal Colonialism In Algeria
The Algerians were not the only ones to suffer greatly from the brutal French colonialism, but it turned out that there were European nationalities, or the so-called “black feet”, who were recruited by the occupying army to change the demographic structure of Algeria. They were also victims of discrimination and contempt during the first decades, according to testimonies by Europeans themselves.
Among the European communities that occupied Algerian lands and served colonialism, but suffered discrimination, were the black feet of Spanish origin, most of whom settled in Oran and the capital.
This category of Europeans is considered to be the most numerous after the French, according to a study by Professor Juan Bautista Villar, entitled “The Spaniards in French Algeria”, published in the Spanish newspaper “El Debate”, which talks about the violent resistance of the Algerians to colonialism, which aimed to control the territory.
The study says: “After the defeat of Emir Abdelkader in the battle of Isli in 1844, one of the main objectives of colonialism was achieved, which was the control of agricultural land in order to settle Europeans, sometimes considering it unowned (common land) so as to ignore the rights of the tribes, and sometimes by direct confiscation. This situation forced the Algerians to work as employees of the settlers, as Sartre had already pointed out, and to move to lands in the south which were of inferior quality. To occupy these lands, it was necessary to bring in European settlers”.
The study talks about the discrimination suffered by the black people of Spanish origin under the French occupation authorities in Algeria, and one of the manifestations of this discrimination, according to the source, is the refusal to allow them to carry weapons, which led to the liquidation of hundreds of them at the hands of the Algerian resistance fighters, as happened in 1881 at the hands of the then sheikh of the Algerian resistance, Sheikh Bouamama.
The study also says: “The Spaniards, who made up the largest group of foreigners in the country, suffered some forms of discrimination and contempt that can still be found in French colonial literature, and the ban on carrying weapons led to the massacre of Spaniards in Saida, in western Algeria, in 1881, by the leader of the resistance, Bouamama, who forced the Spanish government to intervene after two hundred Spaniards had been killed. The warship Numancia was sent, which initially carried about four hundred survivors”.
And only 18 years after the French occupation of Algeria, in 1848, the number of Spanish settlers exceeded thirty thousand, before rising dramatically to 150 thousand Spanish settlers in 1866, distributed between about ninety thousand in Oran and sixty thousand in the capital, coming from Spanish cities such as Valencia, Alicante, Murcia, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands, and preferring the western Algerian region because of its proximity to Spanish soil, the study adds. The deportations affected around ten thousand frightened Spaniards who had lost everything.
In 1870, in order to bring about the demographic change that the French state wished to see in Algeria, it issued the Crémieux decree, which provided for the naturalization of Jews in order to increase the number of people with French nationality, after the colonial authorities had realised that many Europeans, especially Spaniards, were not enthusiastic about acquiring French nationality.
The study further shows that at the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Spanish settlers in Algeria rose to more than 581,000, of whom 421,000 had French nationality, while 160,000 chose to retain their Spanish nationality, most of them living in the western part of Algeria, where they make up the majority of settlers. In fact, in a town like Sidi Bel Abbes, 20,000 of its 32,000 inhabitants were born in Spain.
There were also Spanish neighborhoods in Algiers, the majority of whose inhabitants worked in agriculture, before they “tragically left”, according to the study, with Algeria’s hard-won independence in July 1962, along with the vast majority of Europeans of other nationalities, including French.