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The Touching Story Of How The Algerian National Anthem Was First Written In Blood By A Poet – Moufdi Zakaria On A Prison Cell Wall

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The Touching Story Of How The Algerian National Anthem Was First Written In Blood By A Poet - Moufdi Zakaria On A Prison Cell Wall
Moufdi Zakaria

The Touching Story Of How The Algerian National Anthem Was First Written In Blood By A Poet – Moufdi Zakaria On A Prison Cell Wall

During the colonial era, France ruled Algerians for 130 years. From 1954 to 1962, Algerians fought against their colonial masters for their independence and during the struggle,  the French took the lives of about 1.5 million natives.

The Algerian War of Independence which was initiated by members of the National Liberation Front (NLF) saw brutality and torture meted out to Algerians by the French. 

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It took a lot of demonstrations, mass killings, the collapse of the French government, and a UN resolution recognising the right to independence before the French agreed to a referendum for Algeria’s independence in 1962. It was during the Algerian War of Independence that “Kassaman”, the national anthem of Algeria, was written and officially adopted right after independence. 

The Touching Story Of How The Algerian National Anthem Was First Written In Blood By A Poet - Moufdi Zakaria On A Prison Cell Wall

Its lyrics were written by the Algerian nationalist poet Moufdi Zakaria while in prison in Barberousse Prison during the war. According to a widespread version, Zakaria wrote the lyrics of “Kassaman” or “Qassaman” with his blood on the walls of his prison cell where he was imprisoned by the French colonial forces. Born on June 12, 1908, Zakaria was a key member of the nationalist movement in Algeria and due to his beliefs, he was imprisoned and tortured on several occasions between the 1920s and 1962.

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It was during one of these torture moments while in jail in April 1955 that he wrote a poem called “Qassaman” or “The Pledge”. Without having access to paper or writing materials in prison, Zakaria resorted to using his blood. The words of this poem, which various accounts say are reflective of a war song, became his country’s national anthem shortly after independence on July 5, 1962. 

The Touching Story Of How The Algerian National Anthem Was First Written In Blood By A Poet - Moufdi Zakaria On A Prison Cell Wall

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The first musical portion of the anthem was composed by an Algerian named Mohamed Touri, followed by a Tunisian Mohamed Triki in 1956, then by the Egyptian composer Mohamed Fawzi. Fawzi’s composition remains today, the music of the Algerian anthem. Zakaria died in 1977 in Tunisia.

However, his body was buried in Algeria. “I am neither a Muslim nor a believer nor an Arab if I do not sacrifice my being, my property, and my blood to free my beloved homeland from the chains of slavery and bring it out of the darkness of ignorance and misery towards the light of knowledge, prosperity and a happy life,” Zakaria, who has postage stamps issued in his honour as well as an airport named after him, was quoted to have said in 1931. Read his poem, the “Qassaman”, which became the Algerian national anthem (English translation):

1

We swear by the lightning that destroys,

By the streams of generous blood being shed,

By the bright flags that wave,

Flying proudly on the high mountains,

That we are in revolt, whether to live or to die,

We are determined that Algeria should live,

2

We are soldiers in revolt for truth

And we have fought for our independence.

When we spoke, nobody listened to us,

So we have taken the noise of gunpowder as our rhythm And the sound of machine guns as our melody,

We are determined that Algeria should live,

So be our witness – be our witness – be our witness!

3

Ô France!

Past is the time of palavers

We closed it as we close a book

Ô France!

The day to settle the accounts has come!

Prepare yourself! Here is our answer!

The verdict, our Revolution will return it

We are determined that Algeria should live,

So be our witness – be our witness – be our witness

4

From our heroes, we shall make an army come to being,

From our dead, we shall build up a glory,

Our spirits shall ascend to immortality

And on our shoulders, we shall raise the Standard.

To the nation’s Liberation Front we have sworn an oath,

We are determined that Algeria should live,

So be our witness – be our witness – be our witness

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5

The cry of the Fatherland sounds from the battlefields.

Listen to it and answer the call!

Let it be written with the blood of martyrs

And be read to future generations.

Oh, Glory, we have held out our hand to you,

We are determined that Algeria should live,

So be our witness – be our witness – be our witness

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