Europe

Paris opts to forget 1958 Tunisia massacre anniversary

61 years ago, French aircraft bombed Tunisian border town, killing scores, including women, children

Mahmoud Barakat   | 11.02.2019
Paris opts to forget 1958 Tunisia massacre anniversary

Tunisia

By Mustapha Dalaa

ISTANBUL

Algeria and Tunisia last week both marked the anniversary of a massacre perpetrated by the French air forces that left scores dead more than six decades ago.

On Feb. 8, 1958, French military aircraft bombed Tunisia’s northwestern town of Sakiet Sidi Youssef, located near the Algerian border.

According to witnesses, 27 French aircraft bombarded Sakiet Sidi Youssef for more than an hour, killing almost 80 people, including a number of women and children.

The town was populated mainly by Tunisians and Algerians, many of whom had fled their homes during the conflict that began in 1954 between the French occupation and the Algerian resistance.

In an effort to whitewash the atrocity, the French military announced that it had destroyed a resistance stronghold roughly 1.5 kilometers from Sakiet Sidi Youssef.

But when local and foreign journalists converged on the area, all they found was the flattened town, with the local school and marketplace lying in ruins.

And they found no trace of the alleged “resistance stronghold”, thus revealing the lies of French military propaganda.

While the international press managed to document the atrocities perpetrated against unarmed civilians, France tried to portray the bombing as an operation waged against Algeria’s armed resistance.

In response, Tunisia lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council on Feb. 12, 1958, demanding that the world body formally register its condemnation of the French attack.

Following an international outcry, both the U.S. and the U.K. intervened to mediate between Tunis and Paris.

The massacre in Sakiet Sidi Youssef helped draw global attention to Algeria’s fight against colonialism despite France’s best efforts to suppress the affair.

And France does not appear to have learned much since then.

On the massacre’s 61st anniversary last Friday, Paris -- instead of issuing a formal apology -- decided to set April 24 as a “national day” marking the so-called “Armenian genocide” of 1915.

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