Biography of Algerian anarchist Saïl Mohamed
north africa |
anarchist movement |
opinion / analysis
Friday November 18, 2005 21:22 by unknown
Saïl Mohamed Ameriane ben Amerzaine joined the Union Anarchiste (UA) after World War one. In 1923 he founded the Committee for the Defence of Indigenous Algerians. In the late 20's he he created the Section of Indigenous Algerians in the CGT-SR. After the Francoist uprising in Spain, Saïl joined the Sebastian Faure Century, the French-speaking section of the Durruti Column. At the start of the Second World War, he was arrested again and put in a concentration camp at Riom. From 1944 he worked with others for the reconstruction of the anarchist movement.
SAïL MOHAMED, 1894-1953:
LIFE AND REVOLT OF AN ALGERIAN ANARCHIST
Saïl Mohamed Ameriane ben Amerzaine was born on 14 October 1894
at Tarbeit-Beni-Ouglis in the Berber region of Kabylie, Algeria. Like
many Algerians, he recieved little schooling. A driver-mechanic by
trade, all his life he thirsted for culture and took great pains to
educate himself. From a Muslim Berber background, he became a
convined atheist. During the First World War he was interned for
insubordination and then desertion from the French Army. His
sympathies for anarchism were already developing.
At the end of the War, with the rebuilding of the anarchist
movement, he joined the organisation Union Anarchiste (UA). In 1923,
with his friend Sliman Kiouane, a singer, he founded the Committee
for the Defence of Indigenous Algerians. In his first articles he
denounced the poverty of the colonialised people and colonial
exploitation. He became an expert on the North African situation. He
organised meetings with the anarchist groups of the 17th
arrondissement of Paris on the exploitation of North Africans, which
were delivered both in Arabic and in French. Saïl set up an
anarchist group in Aulnay-sous-bois and became one of its most
In 1929, he became secretary of a new committee: the Defence
Committee of Algerians against the Centenary Provocation (France were
preparing to celebrate the centenary of the conquest of Algeria on 5
July 1830). All the tendencies of the anarchist movement, the UA, the
anarcho-syndicalist union Confederation Generale du Travail
syndicaliste-revolutionnaire (CGT-SR) and the Association de
Federalistes anarchistes (AFA) denounced "Murderous colonialism,
bloody masquerade". They put forward the statement "Civilisation ?
Progress ? We say, Murder !"
Following this, Saïl joined the CGT-SR, in which he created
the Section of Indigenous Algerians. The following year, with the
Colonial Exhibition in Paris, the anarchist movement restarted its
campaign against colonialism. Sail was in the forefront of this
In January 1932, he became the director of "L'Eveil Social, le
journal du peuple" ("Social Awakening, the journal of the people").
Following an anti-militarist article he was prosecuted for
"provocation of the military to disobedience". The Secours Rouge
International, a satellite organisation of the Communist Party, lent
him their support, which he rejected in the name of the victims of
In 1934, the "Saïl Mohamed Affair" burst onto the scene. The
demonstration of the fascist and anti-Semitic Leagues on 6 February
1934 set off a chain reaction throughout the workers' movement.
Saïl collected arms and hid them. On 3 March he was arrested for
"carrying prohibited arms". The workers' movement gave him their
support, except for the Communist Party, which denounced him as an
agent provocateur. Condemned to a month in prison, then another for
"retaining weapons of war" he ended up serving four months in jail.
He resumed the struggle.
"L'Eveil Sociale" merged with "Terre Libre" ("Free Earth", the
monthly paper of the Alliance Libre des anarchistes du Midi - see
Paul Rousenq). Saïl was responsible for bringing out the North
African edition of "Terre Libre". He attempted to set up an Anarchist
Group of Indigenous Algerians, with various appeals in the anarchist
press. At the same time he continued to be active with the Union
The Spanish Revolution
After the Francoist uprising in Spain, Saïl joined the
Sebastian Faure Century, the French-speaking section of the Durruti
Column, the anarchist militia unit in September 1936, and was elected
its commander. Wounded in the hand during November 1936, he returned
to France, after having sent out many letters describing the
situation of the Spanish anarchist movement.
After his wound was healed, he took part in many rallies organised
by the Union Anarchiste on Spain. Immediately after this tour, he
participated at a meeting organised by revolutionaries in Paris to
protest against the banning of the "Etoile Nord Africaine" ("North
African Star") newspaper edited by Messali Hadj and against the
repression of demonstrations in Tunisia, which had resulted in 16
dead. Again arrested for "provocation of the military" he was
condemned to 18 months in prison in December 1938.
At the start of the Second World War, he was arrested again and
put in a concentration camp at Riom. His large library was broken up
after a raid. He escaped from there, forged false papers and went
underground during the Occupation.
From 1944 he worked with others for the reconstruction of the
anarchist movement. With the Liberation [veteran anarchist militia of
the Spanish Revolution were the first troops to liberate Paris], he
set up the Aulnay-sous-bois group again, and tried to reform the
Committee of Algerian Anarchists. In "Le Libertaire", weekly paper of
the Federation Anarchiste [the descendant of the Union Anarchiste],
he wrote a column on the situation in Algeria. He produced a series
of articles on the "Calvary of the Indigenous Algerians".
He died in April 1953. George Fontenis delivered an address in his
honour in the name of the anarchist movement at his funeral on 30