The story of Abd el-Kader:
In 1830, Algeria was part of the Turkish Empire.
-at its head was a king, elected by the aristocracy, who had under him 3 "beys", at Oran, Médéa & Constantinople.
-The population consisted of Berbers & Arab, all Muslim, as well a Jewish minority.
At this time, France possessed few colonies:
-Iles de St Pierre et Miqueon, La Martinique* & la Guadeloupe* in the Antilles
-La Guyane in South American
-several sections of Sénégal
-5 cities in India
-the island of Bourbon (now La Réunion*)
* the richest: France bought their sugar & coffee, & sold them food & manufactured products.
France was seeking primary materials for industry, as well as the opportunity to create civil & military careers. This led the French to look at the Ivory Coast, Mayotte & Nessibé (near Madagascar), as well as Tahiti & the Marquises.
Then they decided to seize Algeria for colonization. A French fleet arrived in Algiers 5 juillet, 1830.
Abdel El-Kader was born in the Mascara region (near Oran) in 1808.
His father was Mahi ed-Din, a holy man who claimed descent from a prophet.
Very early, Abd knew the Koran by heart. Thanks to his mother, he learned to read, & weave, & to act like a modest & pious man. He studied theology, philosophy, history, geography, astrology, math & poetry. He spent much time reading & meditating, when he wasn't riding a horse through the countryside. (He once rode 150 kilometers through the night on his horse because he'd heard his mother was dying, but she eventually survived.) His countrymen knew him as elegant, brave, & considerate. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca with his father from 1826-1838
Two years later, in July 1830, the French had a "restrained occupation" in Algeria, occupying Oran, Bougie, Bône & Mostaganem, all on the coast.
The Arab chiefs rapidly organized a resistance in the region of Oran, & because of his prestige, chose Abd as their émir (military leader). He was 24 years old when he took command of a "guérilla meutrière".
In 1834, the occupied territories became French possessions in North Africa, & the new governor general, Bugeaud was named. He signed the treaty of Tafna with Abd 30 May, 1837.
The treaty stated that the émir had to recognize the power of King Louis-Philippe 1er over the coastal regions of Algeria. Wanting to escape the heavy load of administering the entire county, the treaty recognized Abd as possessing the provinces of Algiers & Oran. Then, the French turned towards eastern Algeria & took Constantinople, which gave them the port of Philippeville. They consolidated the already occupied regions by founding military posts, establishing colonies, constructing roads & drying out the marshes.
Abd tried hard to unify Muslim Algeria. He became head of all the tribes, succeeding in assembling 2/3 of the Algerian territory into a new hierarchy, the Lhalifas (8 direct lieutenants of the émir). The tribes furnished soldiers & paid taxes on their harvests & their animals.
He also created a true state administration, assured order, levied taxes, developed schools, had money made, & founded a capital, Tagdempt. But the Abd did not travel there. He ran his kingdom with his "Smala" , a huge mobile city with thousands of tents, his family, his faithful, & his treasures.
The French government decided to take away the power of Abd, & conquer all of Algeria. In 1839, Abd & the French went to war. General Bugeaud, who had earlier signed the treaty with Abd, became the French governor, & was tasked to eliminate Abd's power.
Bugeaud had an army of more than 100,000 men (French, Zouaves, & indigenous fighters & horsemen), using new techniques to try to stop Abd's mobility. Abd roamed the country with his Smala in hopes of attacking by surprise. Bugeaud responded with angry destructive "razzias" (ferocious attacks & burning villages). One government worker said "we are more barbaric than the Barbares we came to civilize".
In 1843, after a long & bloody war, the Duke of Aumalie (a son of Louis-Philippe) & his 500 soldiers, annihilated the Abd's Smala, along with his family, his servants, & his troops. The French were so proud of this massacre that they had a huge painting created, more than 21 meters long & 100 square meters in all.
Abd obtained the help of the Sultan of Morocco, but in 1844, the Moroccans were beaten by Bugeaud on the banks of the Isly, while the French bombarded the Moroccan ports of Tanger & Magdor.
After several years, Abd finally surrendered to General Lamoricière in 1847. Abd was taken to the duke of Aumalie who ratified the promises made by Larmorcière.The next day, Abd left with his family for Oran. When they arrived, they were shipped as prisoners to Toulon & Pau, France. Abd & his entourage were confined in the Cháteau d'Amboise from 1848-1852.
Sentinels were posted at each door of the complex. They didn't allow him to learn French, & he couldn't go outside the château's park. The cold & humidity of the château's walls created disease, & ¼ of the entourage died. The émir spent his time studying, praying & meditating, which impressed his guards.
In 1851, the French government allowed him to leave the château & even to visit the town of Amboise. He could also receive visitors, who came in big numbers. He held a sort of "Salon littéraire et philosophique" among the wise people, the church heads & merchants of the town, as well as the military leaders.
In 1852, the Prince Louis Napoléon Bonaparte came to Amboise to announce the end of his captivity. The 2 men were friends for years.
The people of Amboise were so proud of Abd that they erected a mausoleum in the château's park for those who had died in captivity. The monument, with a golden crescent, symbolizes the alliance between the Christian & Muslim religions. They also created the Oriental Garden, a magnificent garden of meditation which was renovated in 2005.
Right after his liberation, Abd left for Damascas, where he taught theology, & devoted 28 years of his life to works on well-being, meditation, & the study of scientific & sacred texts. He corresponded with hundreds of people all over the world.
During the course of a radical Muslim uprising, the émir intervened to save hundreds of Christians & Europeans. He said: "What we did to help the Christians was what we were supposed to do by being faithful to our Muslim faith by respecting the laws of humanity." He received the French "Grande Croix de la Légion d'Honneur".
Abd el-Kader died 26 May, 1883, at Damascas. He left a legacy of a resisting anti-colonial & a wise man, fighting for tolerance among religions & civilizations.
Algeria, the French Colony:
After the conquest, a law divided the country into 3 provinces: Algiers, Oran, & Constantine. Each was in itself :
-a civil territory (administering the French civil servants)
-a mixed territory (administered by officers)
-& an Arab territory (the indigenous kept their laws)
Between 1850 & 1857, the mountain people of Kabylie were conquered.
From 1852-1860, the Oasis' of the south (Laghouat, Ouargla& Touggourt) were progressively occupied.
This led to colonization on a grand scale. From 1830-1871, nearly 500,000 hectares of land were given away, after having been confiscated from the Algerians. 60 years later, in 1930, the French occupied 2,300,000 hectares.
The inhabitants of Algeria from then on were 2 classes:
The French colonists, benefitting from all the rights of citizens, & the Muslims, maintained in an inferior economic, social & legal situation—a true racial discrimination, which lasted until independence in 1962.