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Neil Macmaster

2 The origins of the emancipation campaign, November 1954 to May 1958 The military coup of 13 May 19581 was marked by demonstrations of ‘fraternisation’ when Muslim women unveiled en masse on the Algiers Forum. This has been widely seen as a quasi-revolutionary moment that dramatically initiated the emancipation campaign. However, as will be seen in chapter 3, the illusion of a revolutionary break in May 1958 was successfully created by the propagandists of the psychological warfare bureau. Emancipation, far from springing forth perfectly formed as a triumphant

in Burning the veil
Open Access (free)
The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62
Author: Neil Macmaster

In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.

Army wives and domesticating the ‘native’
Neil Macmaster

attempt to form Muslim women in a particular mould. During the last two decades there has been much research on the process of ‘domesticating the empire’, the methods by which British, Dutch, Portuguese and French imperial regimes attempted to intervene in, regulate or remake indigenous family life in its own image.1 This chapter aims, in part, to investigate the overt and implicit meanings of the model of family life, companionate marriage and gender roles that underpinned the emancipation campaign. The paternalistic origins of domesticity are complex and varied from

in Burning the veil
Neil Macmaster

directive Action sur les milieux féminins en Algérie of March 1960, noted, ‘The evolution of the female milieu is a long-term project since it involves a transformation of deeply rooted customs. It will be the fruit of the work of several generations’.3 However, the time-scale of the emancipation campaign was at most a mere six years (1957–62), during the final two years of which the French were merely treading water and preparing for withdrawal.4 The one exception to this pattern of minimal or superficial impacts of French ideology concerns the numerically very small

in Burning the veil
Neil Macmaster

tyranny which is not based on the Koran’.94 The ALN inside Algeria was quick to recognise the very real propaganda dangers presented to its own position among both the rural and urban inhabitants by the French emancipation campaign that could offer not only rhetoric, but very real material rewards such as medicines, food supplies and clothing to a desperately poor population. FLN anxieties were revealed in detail in an internal directive, Propagande et contre-propagande à mener vis-à-vis de la femme musulmane, which was found by the French army on the body of an

in Burning the veil
Neil Macmaster

particularly prominent in the emancipation campaign and the Fifth Bureau, through endless portrayal of the General as the father-figure who entered into a direct appeal to, and moral relationship with, each Algerian woman, believed that such a personalisation of male authority would be in rapport with the values of patriarchal society and the Muslim ‘mind’. The women’s petitions reflect this position: some were decorated with the tri-colour or pasted in pictures of de Gaulle cut from magazines while one from Hammam-bou-Hadjar was drawn up by, ‘I, Talbia Kaddour, née Naoum

in Burning the veil
The origins of the Algerian women’s movement, 1945–54
Neil Macmaster

1 From the Sétif Massacre to the November insurrection: the origins of the Algerian women’s movement, 1945–54 The centre of gravity of this study lies in the French emancipation campaign from 1956 to 1962, but to understand the extent to which this was innovative or marked a break with the past requires some idea of that which preceded it. This chapter explores a number of issues: first, it provides a brief background sketch of the overall social, economic and political situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade. The triple colonial oppression of

in Burning the veil
Open Access (free)
The ‘revolutionary journées’ of 13 May 1958
Neil Macmaster

raised Malika as a Catholic rather than as a Muslim,79 and as will be seen later emancipation did indeed involve the attempted social and cultural transformation of Algerians into Europeans. How the FLN and the Algerian population, and in particular women, responded to the overall army emancipation campaign will be treated in chapters 9 and 10, but here I look at the more specific reactions to the ‘13 May’ unveiling parades. There is some evidence from intelligence reports that the FLN leadership was disconcerted by the ‘fraternisation’ demonstrations,80 which

in Burning the veil