The government of Algeria wants its French counterpart to return the skulls of Algerian independence fighters that are currently displayed at a museum in Paris. These demands were made on Wednesday by the Algerian Mujahedeen Minister Tayeb Zitouni in an interview with El Moudjahid.
Mr. Zitouni revealed that his office is currently negotiating with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the return of the skulls. He wants the commission previously mandated to review and monitor the case to be reconstituted immediately.
“The negotiations on this issue, suspended at the will of the French side, have been delayed because of the French presidential elections,” the Algerian Minister said.
Zitouni first raised the issue earlier this year during his official visit to France. Among the issues he want resolved include the return of the skulls, recovery of archives, and compensation of victims of the deadly nuclear tests carried out by France after the struggle for independence.
More than five decades after the 17 nuclear tests were carried out in the Algerian desert, leaving at least 42,000 people dead and thousands more with chronic illnesses, the French government has refused to admit to the crimes.
Accept and Compensate
Recently, the French government committed to resolving the “thorny issues”, noting that Zitouni’s visit to France was in the spirit of the Algiers Declaration on friendship and cooperation, according to the Middle East Monitor.
On Wednesday, November 1, Algeria marked its 63rd anniversary since its declaration of the struggle for independence from France following 132 years of colonial rule. The war lasted close to eight years, resulting in about 1.5 million deaths of Algerians.
After independence in 1962, French authorities took away an unknown number of skulls belonging to some of the Algerian martyrs, many of which were displayed at the French National Museum of National History in Paris.
“The work of the Algerian-French commission set up to discuss these issues is not yet complete. Algeria will not abandon these files claimed to France including the one relating to the restitution of the skulls of the martyrs of the popular resistance,” Zitouni was quoted by the Middle East Monitor.
He reiterated that France must admit to the crimes perpetrated against Algerians during the colonial rule in order to foster better relations with Algeria.
Many Algerians are now eagerly waiting to see if the newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently referred to France’s imperialism in Algeria as a “crime against humanity”, will return the skulls and compensate victims of the nuclear tests.