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Sadi, Saïd

By:
Jeremy Rich
Source:
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Sadi, Saïd

(1947–),

politician, was born on 26 August 1947 in the town of Aghribs in the Kabylie region of Algeria, where he attended primary school. When the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) launched the Algerian war for independence against France on 1 November 1954, Sadi supported the rebels. French troops occupied Sadi’s village in 1959 as part of the military strategy organized by General Maurice Challe. In the same year, when French authorities celebrated the killing of Colonel Amirouche Aït Hamouda, a prominent FLN military commander, Sadi publically expressed his disgust, and the French government jailed him despite his young age. Once Algeria gained its independence from France through the Evian Accords of 1962, Sadi returned to school. After completing his secondary education, he enrolled at the University of Algiers, qualifying as a psychiatrist.

Like many other members of the Kabyle ethnic minority, Sadi became disillusioned with the single-party FLN regime led by Algerian president Houari Boumediène between 1965 and 1978. One of Sadi’s biggest concerns about the FLN was its efforts to make Arabic the principal language of instruction, and denying the importance of the Kabyle culture and language. By the early 1970s he had joined different organizations that promoted Kabyle theater and music which did not submit to direct control from the government. He joined Kabyle intellectuals such as the musicians Lounès Matoub and HAMID CHERIET (better known as Idir) in the late 1970s—who promoted Kabyle culture, demanding it receive more respect from the Algerian government and the public education system. In 1978 Sadi joined forces with FLN veteran and longtime opposition politician Hocine Aït Ahmed in calling for cultural autonomy for Kabyles. Around this time Sadi was assigned to a hospital in the city of Tizi Ouzou, and soon became the head of Aït Ahmed’s Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS) party inside Algeria. Sadi was a guiding force in the 1980s of Kabyle protests for a multiparty democracy and Kabyle autonomy which became known as the “Berber spring.”

Sadi organized a major protest against the Arabization policies of the government in Algiers on 7 April 1980 and the general strike that paralyzed Kabylie in the same month. As a result he was jailed for several months, but was released in June 1980. Following this, he continued to face police harassment, was arbitrarily transferred from his job, and quit the national medical service.

In 1982 Sadi had a falling out with Aït Ahmed and quit the FFS. He set up the clandestine newspaper Tafsut which promoted Kabyle autonomy, and established a human rights organization in 1983. He was put on trial for his human rights activism and political opposition in 1985, and used the trial as an opportunity to denounce the failures of the FLN regime.

Imprisoned for nearly two years, Sadi regained his freedom in April 1987. He cofounded the first Algerian chapter of the international human rights organization Amnesty International in the following year. The formation of multiparty democracy in 1989 allowed Sadi to create the Rassemblement pour la Culture et la Démocratie (RCD), an opposition political party. The RCD became the target of both the Algerian government and Islamic militants in the Front Islamique de Salut (FIS) opposition political party. FIS members contended Sadi and the RCD opposed Islam and the Arabic language, and FIS members mocked the RCD as the “Rassemblement Contre Dieu” (“Movement Against God”). Sadi called for an alliance against the FLN and the FIS, and after the banning of the FIS in early 1992, strongly opposed Salafi Islamic radical rebels. Members of the rebel Groupe Islamique Armée (GIA) were suspected to have set a bomb to try to kill Sadi in Algiers on 29 June 1994.

Sadi denounced the 1995 presidential election of Liamine Zeroual as fraudulent, after he ran as a candidate and officially won 10 percent of the vote. In 1998 he charged the French newspaper Le Monde with libel for claiming the RCD was not a real political party. He decided to boycott the 1999 presidential elections on the grounds that the military had fixed the election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Sadi remained a very active member of the political opposition for the next fifteen years. He resigned as president of the RCD in 2012. Sadi was a major figure in the struggle for rights for the Kabyle minority in Algeria.

Bibliography

  • Mammeri, Achira. “Entretien avec Saïd Sidi.” TSA-Algerie.com, 26 March 2014. archives2014.tsa-algerie.com/2014/03/26/entretien-avec-said-sadi
  • Saïd Sadi.” Vitaminedz.org. www.vitaminedz.org/biographie-de-said-sadi/Articles_18663_296662_6_1.html
  • Sadi, Saïd. Algérie: L’heure de vérité. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.
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