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Algeria recalls French massacre at Ottoman-era Ketchaoua Mosque

Written by The Frontier Post

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The Ketchaoua Mosque, which is a piece of Ottoman heritage that Adm. Hayreddin Barbarossa had commissioned in Algeria, witnessed the crimes committed by the French colonial administration in the country and stands as one of the symbols of its independence.

In an interview with local media on Oct. 11, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune gave an official account of the French massacre of nearly 4,000 worshipers early on during the colonial era that spanned 1830-1962.

An interior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)
An exterior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)

“France colonized us for 132 years, years which saw heinous crimes that cannot be erased with fine words. There are families and tribes that were completely wiped out such as the Zaatcha (southeastern Algeria), and not even babies were spared,” said Tebboune.

He added that in Ketchaoua “they killed 4,000 worshipers, who were martyred after being surrounded by cannons and exterminated.”

The Ketchaoua Mosque was commissioned in 1520 by Hayreddin Barbarossa, then-Ottoman ruler of Algeria, in the famed Casbah quarter of the capital Algiers.

An exterior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)
An exterior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)

Algerian historical accounts show that the French ruler of Algeria in the early colonial days, Anne Jean Marie Rene Savary, the Duke of Rovigo, decided at the end of 1832 to storm the mosque to turn it into a church.

When the city’s residents camped inside the building in protest, Rovigo demolished the mosque, massacred those inside and burned copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

A view from the minaret of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)
A view from the minaret of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)

The Ketchaoua Mosque on the Mediterranean coast, an important symbol of Algerian independence, was first used as a military depot during the French occupation and later as a residence for the archbishops of Algeria. After the mosque’s demolition in 1844, a large church was built, and the building remained a cathedral until Algeria gained independence in 1962. With the country’s independence, Algerians performed their first Friday prayer here.

The mosque was closed in 2008 due to damage from a 2003 earthquake.

In April 2018, the mosque was reopened following its restoration by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), Turkey’s state-run aid agency. The mosque was restored in line with the original Ottoman architectural plan according to historians and researchers from both Algeria and Turkey.

An interior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)
An interior view of the Ketchaoua Mosque, Algiers, Algeria, Oct. 16, 2021. (AA Photo)

Algerian historian Amir Rahile also told Anadolu Agency (AA) that France promised to respect the teachings of Islam after entering Algeria in the 19th century, but the French did not keep the promise. Reiterating that France committed a crime against the Ketchaoua Mosque and Algerians on Dece. 18, 1832, Rahile said: “The French army decided to turn this place into a cathedral. Algerians marched to the capital and held a sit-in protest in the mosque to deter the colonialists from implementing this decision. But the French killed them when they were defenseless.”

Rahile also noted that the Ottomans were in Algeria within the framework of the Islamic caliphate and emphasized: “Ottomans did not eliminate the Algerian identity, unlike the French, who did. If the Ottomans had not come and liberated Algeria from the Crusades in 1515, France’s colonization of the country would not have been delayed until 1830 and the country would have been shared between Italy, France and Spain.”

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