The Arab Spring Versus the Bitterness of Experience
I spoke last night to Sabrina about the Arab Spring. Of Berber descent, she grew up in Algeria in Batna, a relentlessly ugly city of endless cheap apartment blocks in the heart of the Aurès mountains, south of Constantine. Batna was constructed by the French in 1844 as a military camp in order to protect the roads running into the Sahara. Military officers from Batna controlled the army and by extension state power after independence; Batna’s residents were consequently targeted by the FIS for particular cruelty. Of Sabrina’s childhood classmates, she is the only survivor. All of the others were executed in FIS massacres, their throats slit. Her father was a military officer (he died some years ago in exile in Paris), and her family fled to France not to profit from its economy, but to save themselves from slaughter.
And what did she expect of the Arab spring, I asked her?
Il sera le même, she said. Mais pire. It will be the same. But worse.