Algeria saw it’s population grow exponentially between 1962–1977 while the economy was slowly tanking. The ability to supply jobs, housing, food and urban infrastructure was incomplete. While Algeria itself was run by a single-party state ostensibly based on socialism, anti-imperialism, and popular democracy, but ruled by high-level military. Corruption was widespread, and the people became more desperate. Chadli Bendjedid, who became the third president of Algeria, was considered a “reformer” one who reduced the state’s role in the economy and eased government surveillance of citizens. However tensions arose between elements of the regime who supported Bendjedid economic liberalization policies, and those who wanted a return to the statist mode. The Islamists of the country took immediate notice.
Bendjedid was not as “harsh” as his predecessor was against the religious sector. Despite the new liberal reforms under Bendjedid, the people wanted change, and with the influence of the local mosques members in the South, they would witness a change not for the better…..but for the unseen worse. During and after the 1988 October Riots Islamists “set about building bridges to the young urban poor”. The riots “petered out” after meetings between the President Chadli and Islamists Ali Belhadj and members of the Muslim Brotherhood
June 12th 1990, the first election held since Algeria’s independence would witness Bendjedid party National Liberation Front (FLN) challenge the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The FIS were a political party run by two men, Abbassi Madani a local businessman and Ali Belhadj an Islamic activist. When the elections were over, the FIS had completely shocked the Algerian government by winning the election by gaining the majority of the seats. The FIS party had won with 54% of votes cast, almost double that of the FLN and far more than any of the other parties involved.
The French class who resided in the sciences and in areas of municipality were afraid that since they were seen as the “outsiders” to Algerian citizens they would be first to be cast out and evicted from the country under this new strict, ultra-orthodox group. Co-leader of the FIS Ali Benhadj declared his intention in 1990, “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.”
Activists started their expungement of anything that was considered “haram” (sinful), which included, satellite dishes which received European broadcasting, this was changed to Arab broadcasting. Books and magazines that were not Arab oriented were also banned. All women were required to wear a full veil along with the Arabization of the educational system. However when the Algerian Army saw what was taking place they decided to revolt against the FIS. On January 11, 1992, the Army forced President Chadli Bendjedid to resign and bringing in the exiled independence fighter Mohammed Boudiaf to serve as a new president. It began a harsh crackdown on those with the FIS and deterred them in the Sahara desert. Many in the FIS were arrested, over 7,000 members. In 1992 those who were considered too “militant” took to the mountains of northern Algeria.
The FIS had dissolved however, when other more aggressive militant groups began taking part in the crackdowns. One of those groups The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) took part in numerous atrocities later on. Thus the civil war began. The insurgents began taking the hills and mountainous regions along with rural districts. Some militant groups engaged in banditry, other settling scores with the patriots or others, some enlisting in the services of landowners to frighten illegal occupants away. Abdelkader Chebouti, a longstanding Islamist, who once served in the military created an Islamic Army and called it the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA).
The group were well organized and structured under Chebouti. During the mid 1990’s, the war saw numerous massacres which numbered 27. Many journalists, poor and non-Algerians were killed, they included women and children. Many were decapitated and left their remains in the streets. After a long and battered number of years, the Algerian public would lean back to a new form of government.
On September 11, 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected President. The FIS was losing its strength under the constant barrage of the Army and losing its popularity amongst the people. Soon after his election he began contacting the Islamist groups. With Madani and Benhadji already in jail, the new leadership began the exodus of militants returning to normal life. On January 2000, many Islamic fighters were given amnesty. The civil war would end in 2002 officially. The Algerian army would be responsible for the clear defeat of radical Islamism which would also be one of the few Arab countries that would not witness an Arab Spring.