Book Review: Les Enfant des Frontières

Two weeks ago I was at a conference about the “refugees crisis” in Europe. The talk was given by a geographer researcher specialised in migrations, one who could have been among the 19 who signed the contribution in Le Monde refuting Kamel Daoud’s article in the same newspaper. A “bien-pensant” intellectual as Daoud’s friends would have called her (cf. this article in El Watan and a reaction to it in Le Matin) or simplistically a jealous person as prodigy Daoud himself would have called her had she been Algerian.

So there were maps, statistics and graphs with some geopolitics putting things back in their context. It was very interesting and informative. People should get access to such information to, at least, try to avoid situations such as having some former refugees who do not want their new country to take in new ones. Especially when a “renowned” journalist and writer implies that the new refugees come with a cultural sickness which makes them prone to violence and “that the disease is spreading to their own lands.”

The same happens in Algeria with the sub-Saharan refugees who either stay in the South or move farther to the Northern cities (dying, for some, while crossing the Sahara). In Bejaia (and elsewhere), you can see them, men, women, children and babies turned into street beggars or very low-cost workers in construction/farming fields. They rely on the locals’ generosity and also suffer from their animosity (some in Algeria say they’d spread their diseases – yes, it’s the bell ringing that you hear.)

So I though I’d write a very short review of a beautiful book on the times when our people were themselves refugees, pushed out by the French occupier’s policies and seeking refuge in neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia if not farther. Continue reading


Book Review: Avec tes mains

Lhyza Libertad reviews a book she read and, I believe, liked. I had never heard of this author before so thanks Lhyza for letting us (me) know about him and for your contribution to Patriots on Fire.
As this is (only) the second guest-post we’ve got on the blog, I take this opportunity to remind our readers that the blog is open to all guest-posts on topics related in a way or another to Algeria.

Here is Lhyza’s text.

avec tes mainsIn August 2013 I went on a trip to France and my last stop was in Paris. You know this town, that people either love for its romanticism or hate for its rudeness. This town, which has thousands of streets filled with book shops. As a book lover I spent almost all my free time in these book shops if I was not meeting my friend Ingrid or watching a film with my hosts near Telegraphe in the 19ème. My hosts were really artistic and open-minded, they recommended me to go to the Arab World Institute to see an interesting exhibition there. Of course I followed their recommendation and went there. As in all museums or exhibition centres you have a book shop with various objects that they also sell, as souvenirs you know.

I am coming to the point. Be patient. Continue reading

Nidhal Guessoum

guessoumYou may have noticed that most of the people in the Noteworthy Algerians section are dead. The ratio so far is 25 dead to 6 alive. Perhaps a whole life is needed before someone can be considered noteworthy. This post about Dr. Nidhal Guessoum is an attempt to balance things.

Nidhal Guessoum is an Algerian astrophysicist. He received his BSc in theoretical physics from the University of Algiers (USTHB), his MSc in physics and theoretical astrophysics PhD in 1988 from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). Continue reading

Book Review: The Algerians of Bilad al-Sham

BouchamaSeveral Syrians came to Algeria these past years fleeing the war in their country. The few Syrians I used to meet were either teachers who came after Algeria’s independence and stayed or traders selling Syrian textile products. It was therefore unusual to see these men, women and children refugees begging at mosques’ gates. War has very sad and ugly consequences.

I wondered what happened to the Algerian community in Syria. Tourists and businessmen stopped going there but what about those living there, or even those Syrians of Algerian descent? How involved are they in the conflict? Did they take sides?
These are some questions I have and to which I found no answers. The press has reported about Khaldoun Mekki Elhassani, one of the Emir Abdelkader’s great sons, jailed by the Assad regime. And unlike what happened in Iraq, Bosnia or Chechnya, we didn’t hear of many Algerians who would be gone to fight in Syria.

Kamel Bouchama’s book attempts to answer other questions as to who these Syrians of Algerian descent were. Continue reading

PoF Leak: African animals in Paris

I have always considered French apology or repentance for what it did in Algeria as a strictly French affair. This is why I haven’t written about Francois Hollande’s visit to Algeria and his recognition of Algerian suffering during the colonial era. Also, the fact everyone I follow on Twitter kept mentioning it that day saturated me.

During that visit and besides the disgraceful walkabouts in Algiers and Tlemcen, Bouteflika offered the French president a painting by Baya Mahieddine and two Barb horses (Samy and Sedja). Hollande’s present included an old book written by Jean-Joseph Léandre Bargès and a Sevres Porcelain sculpture of an Arabian horse. I should add the new Renault plant and the shale gas exploration agreement (to be confirmed) to the list of presents Hollande had received but some of you may disagree.

Anyway, I am writing this today to share with you a new PoFLeak information which I just received. Continue reading

Ya Babor!

In a previous post I wrote about how musical taste could be connected to where a person comes from. And a few days ago, while I was looking for something on YouTube, I found a video of an old song from that nice post-October 88 period. The song’s title was “Alash ya babor“, sung by Cheb Aziz, and it dealt with emigration (ghorba), and the babor (boat) as the way to leave the country was used as a symbol.

I don’t know where the word “babor” comes from and why it is used to mean “boat” in Algeria. This link provides some insights; it apparently means “train” in Egypt and some “oil lamp” in Jordan. Though this is not the topic, it again gives an example of how the different Arabic dialects can differ.

So back to the topic. Continue reading

Gunman no longer on the loose in Toulouse

The recent shootings in Toulouse, which were perpetrated by French alleged former jihadi fighter Mohamed Merah, have been turned into a national tragedy in France. The Jews as usual have gone nuts over the incident (Merah had shot a rabbi and three Jewish children). The usual anti-Semitism brigade came out in force with the usual mission to persuade the world that Israel can do no wrong. EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, drew criticism in Israel over what Israeli leaders said was an attempt to make the massacre of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers engaged in Continue reading

French national identity: torn between the beret and the burqa

Good old Europe is growing worried about the potential consequences of its immigration policies. Old habits die hard: ancient, refined, aristocratic Europe cannot digest well the proliferation of the immigrant hoi polloi who seem to mostly originate from Muslim countries and from the lowest socio-economic classes of these countries on top of that! What’s with those odd looking people who talk in a funny way and whose women wear black overalls and hide their faces! Some alien race is taking over Europe! France is one European country which takes these issues very seriously indeed as proven by current president Sarkozy’s recent initiative to relaunch the debate on what it really means to be French. Apart from the disturbing fact that the French themselves have realized via this ‘national debate’ that even they do not all agree on what it really means to be French (some say it’s about wearing berets and buying baguettes, whereas others hint or sometimes openly threaten that it’s about reconciling being Muslim with the values of the Republic), this initiative seems to have backfired and upset many committed voters who now are not really sure if they’re French or not. Oh mon Dieu! Given that you cannot prove a negative, it is now up to the French to prove they’re French! It would appear that a beret-less head is prone to all sorts of headaches and wind-chills!

Continue reading

Is the Algerian brain-drain really decreasing?

The Algerian minister of higher education and scientific research, Mr. Rachid Haraoubia, proudly announced yesterday that 100% of the Algerian students and university teachers who received a state sponsorship during the past five years have returned to Algeria at the end of their studies.
He unfortunately didn’t give any details on these  people. What specialities they followed, how long they stayed abroad, etc.? But I believe most of them were university teachers as this has been the trend for the past years. And this might explain the high (perfect) return rate.

Bouteflika decided in 2005 to stop sponsoring the top Algerian students in the baccalaureate exams since only a tiny minority returned home after they graduated. These students were indeed sent to the UK, France and Tunisia with annual costs going up to £20k/year/student in the UK. The laureates are now directed to the newly created Preparatory Classes for the National High Schools (a copy of the famous French CPGE) where they prepare admission exams to the transformed National High Schools. This system does also exist in Tunisia and Morocco with the difference that the Moroccan and Tunisian students are allowed to take the French High Schools exams.

Continue reading

Survey about Algerian immigrants in the UK

Les Algériens d’Angleterre expertisés: there seems to be a bit of a confusion about the sense of identity of Algerian immigrants in the UK (even those who were born and bred in Algeria). The terrorism decade has traumatized us as a nation, even Algerians who are living in Algeria exhibit the same identity schisms. It will take forever to mend what has been shattered, but I suspect we will have to start by fixing the past before contemplating the future. We desperately need to have a serious look at our history pre- and post- revolution. We also need to have a frank and critical discussion about it.

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