Algiers — Algeria could reconsider its position on the former leaders of the now disbanded Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) if they were to admit they were wrong for resorting to violence, according to one Algerian official.
"As time goes by, things can change, and so can opinions. Everything can be re-evaluated," Farouk Ksentini, President of the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), said September 29th.
He made the remarks at an event marking the seventh anniversary of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.
"I personally think that the text of this chart was primarily aimed at the leaders of the ex-FIS, not at the troops, meaning the members. As far as the ex-FIS leaders are concerned, it's a different story. I think we can reconsider our position if they in turn reconsider theirs and make amends. If it's in the best interest of the nation, we'll make it a priority," Ksentini added.
The announcement had public opinion somewhat divided. For the historic leaders of the party, Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, they consider themselves to be the victims.
But followers of the radical Islamist group are looking forward to having the FIS once again on the political scene.
"If the government was sincere, they would have allowed the FIS to participate in the elections and trusted the voters. But the government won't give an inch; they know the FIS could take over," alleged union activist Hamid Sahli.
On the other hand, families of the terrorist victims do not share these views and want nothing to do with a party they hold responsible for a tragedy that has shaken their nation.
Merouad Kaddouri, an accountant at a construction company, used to be a FIS activist. He was imprisoned when he was 20 years old. Today, he wants nothing to do with the FIS.
"I'm 40 and still single because I'm homeless and my salary just covers the basics (food and clothing) whereas the FIS leaders have become billionaires and are worry-free. So if they want to return to politics, have them send their kids to jail and go into hiding. Leave the young people alone," Kaddouri said.
Teacher Saleha Khoudir, who witnessed her brother get his throat slit by terrorists and who has herself received death threats, is nowhere near ready to forgive the FIS and welcome them to politics.
"These people have made our lives a living hell. Even if the state forgives them, we as the victims of the families, never will," Khoudir said. "We've suffered too much from all the fatwas, the bans, the chaos and the terrorism to have them come back a second time."