Themes and Key Words:
Algeria / Canada
Argus Film, by Carmen Garcia
In Algeria, the first reported immolation case dates back to the year 2004, when a street vendor in Djelfa set himself on fire in front of the press house in Algiers to protest the seizure of his goods by local police. Since then, regularly, newspapers have been reporting cases of immolation throughout the country, but these events are being treated as simple local news.
If in Tunisia the gesture of Mohamed Bouazizi triggered the famous “Jasmine Revolution”, in Algeria, the many cases of immolation provoke some riots at best, then we plunge back into the silence of the day.
In 9 out of 10 cases, immolation takes place in the public square, most often in front of an official building. Those who inflict this ordeal use against themselves all the violence that they have undergone, but they also wish by this ultimate gesture to try to shake the order of things.
“It is when there no longer are any interlocutors nor legitimate framework to make their case and seek reparation, that death becomes a possible outcome to the endless repetition of misfortune. This act is political, through and through, because it states in its manner, both spectacular and radical, the absurdity of the social situations“, explains the researcher Smaïn Laâcher in a column of the Algerian newspaper El-Watan.
Candidates for immolation are not lacking, those who survive must face not only physical and psychological suffering but also the condemning stare of people around who consider suicide as a sin.
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Algeria is the largest country on the continent and undoubtedly the richest of the MAGHREB, Algeria cannot escape from a strange paradox: a rich country for a poor people. However, experts do not agree on the causes of this situation. Corruption is obviously at the forefront, but there is also the incompetence of leaders and a political system that is misleading among other reasons.
The Algerian population is confronted in its daily life with many obstacles: unemployment, slow-running administrations, a poor education system, a health system in total bankruptcy… Everyday life is a permanent headache that takes all its energy and a general resignation has gradually gained the society.
To be Algerian is also to cultivate paradoxes and contradictions, it is to want to be a good Muslim, to claim it and at the same time to be attracted by all that the religion bans.
To be Algerian is to be condemned to a cultural trap, with all kinds of references imported from the outside, stuck in the middle between the Middle East and Europe.
Being Algerian today means, above all, being jaded, discouraged, worn out, disoriented and moronic by the many daily constraints.
FOUAD – 29 years, graphic designer, photographer – Khenchla
“That we want to commit suicide yes, but to burn themselves to die… It’s to tell us something.”
Fouad witnessed an immolation. Being a witness, he has a real reflection on the subject. Fouad is a young person who lives in a disadvantaged region of deep Algeria, very involved in associative life and in the struggle of identity and culture. He carries out actions on the ground for the preservation of the language and the promotion of civil rights. Unlike the majority of young people, Fouad does not intend to leave the country.
SAID – 35 years, graphic designer – Jijel
“Fortunately there were young people not far away, it was one of them that saved me…”
Said has been to the end of the experiment because he survived his own immolation. After several months of hospitalization, he found little by little the way of life.
He lives in a small coastal town 400 km from Algiers. The sea is beautiful but the lack of prospects and freedom, and the high unemployment poses a heavy and sad atmosphere on the city and its inhabitants.
Said tells us his extreme experience, the reasons that prompted him to make this gesture, as well as the footprint left in him by this descent to the underworld. Said is the survivor in the film, his word is precious and unpublished.
Anise – 24 years, medical student – Constantine
“We talk about immolations as a banal fact.”
Anis is a young union activist. Rare in his generation, he is waging a political fight in a left-wing party.
Anis has witnessed an immolation. He is present in the film with some friends, all students. They embody the youth, living a monotonous daily routine, hanging out at café’s and on the benches of the university.
SEIF – 23 years, student in political science – Constantine
“I understood that when we get to immolate it is that we reached a point of no return.”
Seif is a friend of Anis. He witnessed an immolation that took place during a demonstration of unemployed people in Constantine, a large city in the east of the country.
He reverts to this experience, while recounting his daily life, that of young people like him. Three places where young people take refuge are universities, café’s and football stadiums, which are true forums of protest.
Tan – 33 years, night watchman and mechanic – Khenchla
“My brother died in slain for selling olives.”
Tan is an angry youth. His brother died in slain four years ago. Tan returns to the circumstances of this tragedy, feeling trapped in a country deaf to their aspirations and distress.
Lakhdar – 52 years, security guard – Algiers
“When I go out of my house I feel a strange world. I saw the dead in afterlife.”
Lakhdar is a family man who tried to immolate himself with his handicapped daughter, but in the end he did not commit the act. Lakhdar talks about the psychological state of mind in which he found himself when he decided to immolate himself.
He lives in a slum dwelling with a modest salary and five children. His unsuccessful attempts to secure decent housing and the hardships of daily life have prompted Lakhdar to consider killing himself as a solution to put an end to his misery.
SAÏDA – 64 years old, retired – Khenchla
Saïda is the mother of Raj, a 23-year-old man who committed suicide by fire in Khenchela in 2011. Since the death of her son she has lost the will to live and suffers from insomnia. She relives frequently that day in July when she received a call announcing the terrible news.
Saïda always cries for her son. She mourns the injustice and the situation of the country that pushes young people to violence and suicide. Nothing soothes her, a permanent sensation of emptiness inhabits her. As a result she shelters herself in household chores and prayer.