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Sculpture of Algerian hero vandalised in France

Vandals in central France damaged a sculpture of an Algerian military hero who resisted France's colonisation of the North African country, just hours before it was inaugurated Saturday, AFP journalists reported.

Amboise Castle
Amboise Castle, where Emir Abdelkader was held under guard in the 19th century. The statue of the Algerian military hero in Amboise was vandalised before its inauguration on Saturday. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

The lower part of the steel sculpture in the town of Amboise, where Emir Abdelkader was imprisoned from 1848 to 1852, was badly damaged in the attack which comes in the midst of an election campaign dominated by harsh rhetoric on immigration and Islam.

Amboise mayor Thierry Boutard said he was “ashamed” of those responsible and decided to proceed with the inauguration ceremony regardless.

“I was ashamed that someone would treat an artwork and an artist in this way,” he told AFP.

“My second sentiment is of course one of indignation. This is a day of harmony and unity and this kind of behaviour is unspeakable,” he said.

The sculpture was commissioned to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France, won after a brutal eight-year liberation war that continues to poison relations between the two countries.

It was proposed by historian Benjamin Stora, who was tasked by President Emmanuel Macron with coming up with ways to heal the memories of the war and 132 years of French rule in Algeria.

The silhouette of the Islamic-scholar-turned-military-leader, who resisted French rule but was later feted as a hero in France for his defence of Christians in the Middle East, looks across the Loire river at the castle where he was imprisoned.

Amboise police said they were investigating the incident, which comes two months ahead of a presidential election in which an upstart far-right candidate, Eric Zemmour, has repeatedly grabbed headlines with a campaign bashing Islam and immigration from Africa, including Algeria.

‘Nauseating atmosphere’ 
Algeria’s ambassador to France Mohamed Antar Daoud, who attended the inauguration, condemned the attack as an act of “unspeakable baseness”.

“We have to get beyond that,” he said, assuring that attempts to mend fences between France and Algeria would continue because “there is momentum and a desire on both sides to move forward.”

Ouassila Soum, a 37-year-old French woman of Algerian background who attended the inauguration, said the vandalism left her “with a knot in my stomach.”

“It’s a shame and yet it’s not surprising with the rhetoric of hate and the nauseating current atmosphere,” said Soum, hailing the sculpture as “a symbol of the reconciliation between peoples and civilisations.”

Dubbed “France’s worst enemy” in the late 19th century, Emir Abdelkader is considered one of the founders of modern-day Algeria for his role in mobilising resistance to French rule.

The rebellion he led failed however and he surrendered to French forces who shipped him to France, where he and his family spent four years under guard in Amboise castle.

He later moved to Syria where he won international acclaim for defending Christians during sectarian attacks.

He was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award for his role in trying to end the persecution.

Stora, the historian behind the idea of the sculpture of Abdelkader, slammed the “ignorance” of those who vandalised it.

“Emir Abdelkader had several lives. He fought France but he was also a friend of France. Those who committed this act know nothing about French history,” he told AFP.

Member comments

  1. It is dreadful this act of vandalism occurred, French authorities should take a harsh approach to such anti social behaviour.

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POLICE

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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