Investigating the history of the 1990s in Algeria through the issue of repression – a talk by Dr Saphia Arezki

Investigating the history of the 1990s in Algeria through the issue of repression:  the case of internment camps (1991-1995)

Dr. Saphia Arezki, Associate researcher (IREMAM and CHERPA ,Aix-en-Provence)

When: 4-5:30pm, Wed. Jan. 22, 2020

Where: Queens building MR2+3, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter 


Having completed a thesis on the role of Algerian officers in the construction of a national army between 1954 and 1991, the focus of my postdoctoral research shifted to the 1990s in Algeria. Over the course of this decade, nearly 150,000 Algerians died, and the 1990s have come to be known as Algeria’s “black decade”. The precise nature of what took place remains a matter of debate. Was it a civil war? A war against civilians? Was it a fight against terrorism? While the term civil war is discussed but far from agreed upon, this broad descriptor perhaps best describes the reality that the country went through during the decade in question. The jurist Mouloud Boumghar justifies the use of this terminology in a way that seems convincing: “The term ‘war’ is used here in a non-legal sense of armed struggle between social and/or political groups with a goal of imposing by force a determined will on the adversary. It is described as civilian in order to mark its character as a non-international war between an established government and an insurrectional movement that challenges the former for the power of the state”[1]. Political scientists Adam Baczko and Gilles Dorronsoro propose a definition of civil war “as the coexistence on the same national territory of different social orders maintaining a violent relationship”[2] which is relevant in the Algerian context.

It is on this civil war that I have concentrated my research for almost three years. More precisely, I have chosen to investigate this period through the issue of repression. My research concerns the internment of thousands of men in the Sahara between 1992 and 1995. My work is structured around two main axes: the first aims to retrace the trajectories of internees and the second focuses on the experience of daily life in the context of internment. This work is part of a more global project that deals with the experiences and geographies of the civil war.


[1] Mouloud Boumghar, « “Concorde civile” et “réconciliation nationale”… art. cit., p. 352.

[2] « Pour une approche sociologique des guerres civiles », Revue française de science politique, 2017/2, vol. 67, p. 310.