Algeria, The Islamist Beginning
Algeria 1988….. President Chadli Bendjedid was deeply resented by the Algerian youth and it’s embittered religious minority. The National Liberation Front (FLN) was the predominant party, led by Nationalist idealists such as Bendjedid and former President, Houari Boumédiène, with Boumediene forming Algeria into a more dedicated government infused with Westernized society and away from its more traditional, religious background. However the economic strife, foreigners in the country began to live more fluidly and profited off their expertise, the Algerians were beginning to take heed of the warnings signs which saw them becoming dismissed from their very own government.
The start of the Nationalist bloc began with Boumediene’s foreign policy decisions in the early 1950’s. With most of the FLN maintaining good relations with both the communist bloc and the capitalist nations, and promoting third-world cooperation. After the Evian Accords which saw the country dissolves into a one party system, the structure of government became much more insular and also without threat of opposition. In 1978, Boumediene passed away, this led to the country to find a successor, one in which was Colonel of the Algerian People’s National Army. A relative unknown but respected amongst his commanders. The only problem was Boumediene was not as strict as his previous administration with the religious sector. This minor flaw would have resounding consequences later on.
October 5th 1988. The riots began as a boiling pot, fervent dissidents such as Abdelhak Layada and Abdelkader Chebouti, both men serving in the governments private sectors and military. In the Northern hills of the country, the imams would invoke the youth to rise up against the corruption shown to it’s citizenry. The riots began in the nation’s capitol, Algiers. Thousands of vigorous young men and even women began the most aggressive protest since the countries independence in 1962 from the French. The protest then turned into riots against the Algerian military. The police and the civil administration were put under military control.
The protest were marred with insults towards the police, many of the Algerians taunted them as they policed curfews in the relatively quiet towns as they passed they were called “Jews”, in reference to the Intifada in Israel. One of the more polarizing antagonists in the riots, was Ali Benhadj. An imam who was born in Tunisia and became the imam at the Al-Sunna mosque in Bab al-Oued, a district in Algiers. The riots would slowly die down, Bendjedid took action and reformed the countries constitution. The riots led to the constitution being amended to allow a multi-party system. Thus for the first time since the countries independence, a multi party voting system took place on June 12th 1990.
The results would stun not only the National Liberation Front, but also the country as whole as well as the outside world watching it’s history unfold. The majority of the citizenry wished for a new form of government one that would be led by not only Ali Benhadji, but also from Abbassi Madani a political careerist and also a one time member of the FLN. Both men would form a new party, the Armed Islamic Front (FIS). The final results were unanimous, the FIS won by a landslide. Almost immediately the FIS began implementing its goals for Shariah Law, as outlined by both of its founders, Benhadji and Madani, the finite goal for Algeria was an absolute Islamic State.One of the goals of its fiercely devout religious imam, Benhadji, was to finally oust the cause of economic disparity in the country by banning all French residents of Algeria from the country. Before its national radio Benhadji declared:
“My intention to ban France from Algeria intellectually and ideologically, and be done, once and for all, with those whom France has nursed with her poisoned milk.”
The more devout FIS members began to implement its version of Shariah Law by taking down satellite dishes from homes and replace them with Arab satellite dishes receiving only Saudi broadcasts these were concentrated in the rural areas of the its Northern sector. The Salafis were making headway, Boumediene and many within the FLN began noticing the social change towards a more radical society. Even the educational systems were noticing rapid change from the French speaking to more Arabic languages involving the sciences and technology areas.
The FIS wanted to change the entire countries narrative towards an Islamic one, where anything else was considered “haram” or prohibited. The FLN took immediate action. By 1991, after peaceful and productive protests, the Algerian military under orders from Boumediene arrested FIS president Abassi Madani, who was arrested and jailed on charges of threatening state security. Benhadji would also be arrested shortly there after, condemning the actions of the Algerian military.
“ There is no democracy in Islam and If people vote against the Law of God… this is nothing other than blasphemy. The ulama will order the death of the offenders who have substituted their authority for that of God!”.
Then on January 11, 1992 the Algerian military cancelled the electoral process and forced President Bendjedid to resign in turn bringing in the exiled independence fighter, Mohamed Boudiaf, to serve as a new president. However it was short lived. On June 25, 1992, Boudiaf was assassinated by an FIS party member. Many in the FIS were arrested and jailed, this led to civil unrest in the Northern parts of the country,. The government then began to dissolve the FIS, from top on down. Many in the country took this as not only an unjustified military coup, but a declaration if war against Islam. By March 1993, many in the fields of science, education etc were assassinated by members of the FIS who saw them as “French occupiers”.
The atmosphere for violence saw rapid increases toward the extremes, as the Algerian airport was bombed and many people were beheaded for being an associate of the Nationalist part of the FLN. Many insurgent groups began to form one of which was the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA) led by a former military soldier, Abdelkader Chebouti who was also a devout Islamist. The acts of violence was beginning to spread, and the FLN waged its war against the FIS and other Islamist insurgent groups ….the civil war inn Algeria had begun.