French torture survivor in Algeria Henri Alleg dies

This video says about itself:

Oct 3, 2007

Renowned French journalist Henri Alleg discusses his experience of waterboarding, when he was tortured by the French army.

From ANSA news agency in Italy:

France: journalist Henri Alleg, dead at 91

His 1958 book revealed French torture in Algeria

PARIS, JULY 18 – Former Algerian independence fighters saluted French journalist Henri Alleg, who in the 1950s was the first to denounce French torture in Algeria and who died today in Paris aged 91, as a man who ”always fought the good fight”. Born in London in 1921 of Russian and Polish parents, Alleg became a French citizen when his family emigrated to Paris. His father, who escaped famine and pogroms to become a successful tailor, destined him to become a pharmacist, but instead Henri read, traveled, studied literature at the Sorbonne, and became involved in politics.

In 1940 he moved to Algiers, where he lived on odd jobs and got to know the locals as well as refugees from the German invasion and Algerian independence militants.

He joined the Communist Party and became director of its Alger Républicain newspaper, which also published Albert Camus.

Targeted by French authorities, the newspaper was often raided and ultimately banned.

Branded as subversives, its employees went underground: it was 1957, the year of the battle of Algiers, of violent repression and arbitrary detention.

One January morning, Alleg was arrested while visiting a Communist friend and taken to Barberousse prison, where he experienced first-hand the treatment French colonial police reserved for independence fighters: interrogation via torture, with beatings, water-boarding, cigarette burns. His attorney Leo Matarasso, who was also counsel for the Algerian National Liberation Front, exhorted him to ”do that which illiterate others cannot do”. Alleg took up the challenge, writing an account of his detention. Matarasso smuggled the manuscript out of Barberousse and into Paris, where Editions du Minuit published it in February 1958 under the title ‘La Question‘.

It was banned and taken off the shelves less than a month later, but not before it was read by 60,000 people who began to debate it, share it, and question the role of France in Algeria.

From Middle East Online:

Born Henri Salem to a Jewish-Polish family in London in 1921, Alleg was raised in Paris and set off in his late teens for Algeria, then one of France’s key overseas territories. …

Alleg was arrested in 1957, at the height of Algeria’s war of independence from France, tortured and sentenced to 10 years of forced labour on the French mainland.

He later recalled spending a month being tortured in a villa outside Algiers, where he was subjected to beatings, electric shocks and waterboarding.

“The worst thing was the cries of the Algerians who were suffering the same as I was. This is the memory that lingers,” he told a Paris court in 2001. …

In a statement, President Francois Hollande said Alleg had “alerted our country to the reality of torture in Algeria” and hailed the journalist for “fighting for the truth”.

“La Question” was made into a French film by director Laurent Heynemann, released in 1977.

40 thoughts on “French torture survivor in Algeria Henri Alleg dies

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  5. Les Algériennes 50 ans après.


    Cinquante ans après, qu’en est-il des Algériennes ? Soumia Salhi, militante féministe fait le point sur le formidable boulversement survenu dans la vie des femmes algériennes. Nous sommes loin du discours néocolonial, démultiplié par internet qui dit que rien n’a changé et qu’il existe, dans les pays du Nord opulent, une espèce humaine supérieure au sein de laquelle les femmes auraient échappé à toute oppression.


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