Biography of Abd el-Kader (1808-1883)

Muslim Emir, religious and military leader regarded as the founder of Algeria, born in Guetna, a town near Mascara (Algeria) September 6, 1808 and died in Damascus (Syria) on 26 May 1883; his full name was Abd al - Kader Ibn Muhiy Al-Deen IBn Mustafa Al - Hassani al - Jazairi. Faced in a long holy war against the claims of France by settling in the area and colonize the central Maghreb.

Member of a family of marabouts whose origins dated back to the Fatimid (descendants of Muhammad by the daughter of Fatima), was educated by his father, the santon Muhiy Al-Deen, in Kachron, near Oran. Due to his early intelligence, excellent knowledge of the Koranic laws that possessed and his great skill in the art of weapons, Abd el-Kader soon acquired great prestige among the Algerian Berber tribes, and got this inspire misgivings to the bey of Algiers, Governor of the region on behalf of the Ottoman Empire, to the point that it sent several Hitmen to assassinate so promising young. Together with his father, Abd el-Kader fled Algeria and visited Mecca pilgrimage.

He returned from Algeria in 1830, at the very moment in which the Algerian bey was expelled by the French and the coast was being occupied by French colonies. This period of chaos and vacuum of power it was tapped by his father to be at the forefront of the Berber tribes eager to obtain independence, as France still had only a few populations of coastal and hesitate to undertake or seriously the conquest of all the interior of the country, Algerian, and the Turks had been rejected in the region and forced to retreat to the East. When Abd el-Kader helped his father to take over Mascara, this delegated to his son the proposal of tribes Algerian proclaimed him Amir; Abd el-Kader was solemnly proclaimed emir of Algeria in November 1832, after which was installed in the capital mask.

Thereafter, Abd el-Kader embarked on a holy war against the French, who had already invaded the city of Algeria and they began to penetrate into the inland areas. In front of 10,000 riders willing to follow him in his company until death, Abd el-Kader inflicted several significant defeats on the unsuspecting French troops and forced to retire to general Boyer. Two years later, in 1834, Abd el-Kader general Desmichels forced to sign a peace treaty before the continued support and membership Berber leader was found by the most important tribes of the Algerian Kabyle. Signed the Treaty provisions granted to Abd el-Kader free possession of an immense territory and authority than the victory achieved by him near the river Macta, against the troops of general Trézel, it grew even more, in 1835. The preponderance of Abd el-Kader began to greatly disturb the Government of Paris, who instructed the General area Clauzel and Bugeaud in command of the best French troops of the moment, which defeated Abd el-Kader and seized mask, which were evacuated after it ravaged and burnt down mercilessly.

These first French successes could not help the French defeat near Sidi-Jacub, on the banks of river Tafna, where general D´Arlangues was besieged by Abd el-Kader. The general Bugeaud, new in Africa, came to his aid and defeated Abd el-Kader again, on June 6, 1836, on the banks of the river Sikak. Nevertheless, France signed with Abd el-Kader the Treaty of Tafna, May 30, 1837, by which French rule was limited to the vicinity of Algeria, and Oran, while the rest of the territory passed into the hands of Abd el-Kader, become the owner and master of a large State, with capital in Mascara, who in 1838 extended from the edges of the Kabylie in the North, to the South, between the Biska oasis to the East, to the Moroccan border to the West. Abd el-Kader organized their domains in eight provinces, which brought together the different tribes led by a cadi. Apart from contingents provided by tribes, the Algerian emir built a regular national army made up of 8,000 Marines, 2,000 horsemen and 240 Gunners. In anticipation of future clashes with France, he/she commanded to fortify and to build arsenals of weaponry, purchasing price of gold in Britain and Morocco, in a number of cities in the interior such as Sebbou, Saida, Tiaret, Cup and Boghar. He/She also created a modern and centralized administration, a body of civil servants paid by the State. Abd el-Kader was concerned about instilling his people between two fundamental concepts: the independence and nationalism. Not having people professionally qualified to lift a country, Abd el-Kader protected and encouraged Jewish class and a good number of Europeans to settle in the country.

Franco-argelian war again broke out in 1839, when the Duke of Orleans crossed the iron gates Gorge the refusal of Abd el-Kader to rectify several points of the Treaty of Tafna. Abd el-Kader returned to proclaim holy war to France with the destruction of the French settlements in the Mitidja plain. France reacted quickly and sent the country to its best military, this time with much more experience to deal with a fight without quarter in North African lands. Bugeaud adopted a completely new military tactic consisting of dividing all the French forces quartered in Algeria in small extremely mobile and well-armed, cavalry columns that combed across the country and gradually managed to take control of much of the territory lost or transferred to the Algerians in the earlier treaties. Finally, forced to Abd el-Kader and a small group of followers to take refuge as fugitives in the mountains of the interior of the country. On May 16, 1843, Abd el-Kader and his men were surprised by the forces of general Lamoricière and Duke of Aumale. Abd el-Kader managed to narrowly escape, but more than 3,000 of their best men fell into French hands, circumstance that ended up minus the support hitherto enjoyed by the vast majority of the country.

Abandoned by the tribes of the Kabylie, Abd el-Kader was forced to seek refuge in Morocco to escape the harassment of Bugeaud, where excited the fanaticism of the Moroccans to the end to the alawite emir Muley Abderrahman force to provide support and set out to his country in a war against France. Declared war between Morocco and France, in the spring of 1844, the Paris Government reacted harshly to occupy the easternmost city of the country, Oujda, and bombarding Tangier and Mogador (Essaouira today), cities that were literally destroyed by French artillery fire. Finally, general Bugeaud defeated at the battle of Isly on 14 August of the same year, the troops joint Muley Abderrahman and Abd el-Kader, forcing the Moroccan emir to abandon support to the Algerian cause. Abd el-Kader does not give up and continued by exciting the tribes of the Kabylie. In a last attempt to take back the country, Abd el-Kader managed to fall over the troops of Colonel Montagnai, when this was a routine reconnaissance along the coast of Sidi-Braihim, in which perished the Colonel and many of his soldiers. Subsequently, obliged to surrender to the French Garrison stationed in Ain-Temuchent, who did kill after six months of captivity by lack of food. In the month of July of the year 1846, Abd el-Kader tried to take refuge in Morocco, but was expelled by the emir, so it was left with no choice but to return to Algeria and surrender with dignity to the French forces, which gave ended a conflict that had acquired a few impressive bloody dyes by both sides. On 23 December, Abd el-Kader gave his sword as a sign of submission to the son of the French King Luis Felipe de Orléans, Duke of Aumale, substitute of Bugeaud at the head of the Algerian colony, under the promise of being exiled somewhere in Eastern Islamic.

Abd el-Kader was first held at the Toulon Lamalgue Fort, to be held in April of the following year, in the castle of Pau, in the region of Béarn, where he/she came in contact with Freemasonry, and then in the Amboise. In 1852, with the advent of Napoleón III, Abd el-Kader was released and moved to Damascus, where he/she lived until his death entirely away from politics or any nationalist attempt thanks to a generous pension granted by the French Government, where he/she wrote several works.

From his exile, Abd el-Kader showed its appreciation and gratitude to France for the generosity with which it had been treated. In the year 1860, when massacres of Syria, he/she won from great lace of gold of the Legion of Honor for his noble behavior for Christians, who put under its shelter and protection from the fury of the murderous mobs. Deeply French in their customs as to time, exploded when the Franco-Prussian War, in the year 1870, he/she volunteered to be at the forefront of the Zouaves. In 1871, he/she went to the indigenous Algerian revolt against France a letter that urged them to lay down his belligerent attitude, step that did not produce any effect. To his death, occurred in 1883, he/she left 24 recognized children of his three wives. Today is considered by the Algerians, deservedly, as the founder of the modern State of Algeria.


GUIRAL, Pierre: Les militaires à la conquête de l´algerie, 1830-1857. (Paris: Ed. Criterion. 1992).

LAFFOUT, Pierre: L´algerie des Français. (Paris: Bordas. Ed. 1981).

MONTAGNON, Pierre: La conquête de l´algerie, 1830-1871. (Paris: Ed. Pygmalion. 1986).

Carlos Herraiz García.