The skulls of 24 Algerian anti-colonial soldiers, beheaded by French forces during colonial France’s conquest of the North African country that had been lying in storage in a Paris museum, were formally buried on Sunday.
The skulls were received from France on Friday in an elaborate ceremony attended by the Algerian President, “Abdelmadjid Tebboune” and senior army officials, with a 21-gun salute sounding as the military plane carrying the bodies landed in Algiers.
Army chief Said Chengiha said it was a special day for Algeria.
“The valiant resistance fighters who refused the colonisation of their country by imperial France were displayed immorally for decades, like vulgar objects of antiquity, without respect for their dignity, their memory,” he said in a speech.
“That is the monstrous face of colonisation,” he added.
Historians welcomed the return of the remains, but say they are just part of Algeria’s history that is still in French hands.
“We have recovered part of our memory,” historian Mohamed El Korso told The Associated Press news agency.
“But the fight must continue, until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution.”
The skulls were laid to rest on Sunday on the 58th anniversary of Algerian independence from France.
The ceremony on Sunday was rich with symbolism marking the country’s 58th anniversary of independence.
Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algeria’s president, said he was hoping for an apology from France for colonial-era wrongs.
“We have already received half-apologies. There must be another step,” he said in an interview with France 24 television.
The 24 soldiers fought French colonial forces who occupied Algeria in 1830 and took part in an 1849 revolt. After they were decapitated, their skulls were taken to France as trophies.
Among the remains were those of revolt leader Sheikh Bouzian, who was captured in 1849 by the French, shot and decapitated, and the skull of resistance leader Mohammed Lamjad ben Abdelmalek, also known as Cherif Boubaghla.
The return of the remains, viewed as war trophies by French colonial officers, comes amid a worldwide reexamination of the legacy of colonialism since the May 25 killing of 46-year-old African American George Floyd by a white police officer in the United States. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to make amends for “centuries of violence and discrimination”.