In an interview with AzTV during his visit to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, President Ilham Aliyev criticized France's attitude towards the Military Trophy Park in Baku, saying that there is a museum in France where the skulls of Algerian soldiers are displayed.
"This ugly campaign against Azerbaijan regarding the Military Trophy Park must end. The skulls of the killed leaders of the Algerian National Resistance Movement are on display in the French Museum," Aliyev said.
Fakt Yoxla examined whether the President's claim was true.
The Military Trophy Park displays some of the military trophies seized during the 44-day war with Armenia.
Among the exhibits in the park, the demonstration of helmets belonging to Armenian soldiers killed during the war attracted the attention of the international media.
In response to the criticism, Aliyev noted that the skulls of Algerian fighters were displayed in a museum in France.
The history of the events voiced by the President dates back to the 19th century. Such that after 1830, France began to occupy the lands of modern Algeria within the framework of colonial policy. During the colonial years, the local population in Algeria revolted several times.
The heads of 24 rebels, including Sheikh Ahmed Bouzian, one of the leaders of the Ziban uprising that began in the east of the country in 1849, were taken to France as a trophy.
Sherif Boubaghla (5940), Sheikh Bouzian (5941), Si-Moussa Al-Derqawi (5942), Mokhtar Al Titraoui (5944). Photo: Ali Farid Belkadi
The skulls of 37 Algerians were taken to France in the 19th century. They were housed in the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l'Homme) in Paris until 2020.
In total, there are 18,000 exhibits of human remains collected as anthropological and historical artifacts in the basement of the museum. It is said that they were collected mainly as a result of archeological excavations. Among these exhibits is the skull of the philosopher Rene Descartes.
Although the history of the museum dates back to 1882, it was founded in 1937. The purpose of the museum was to collect and protect objects that are in danger of extinction as a result of evolution and colonization.
The Museum of Mankind is a branch of the French National Museum of Natural History (Muséum national d'histoire naturelle). In addition to the Museum of Mankind, it has branches such as the Botanical Garden, the Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy, and the Gallery of Evolution. The museum and its branches have a scientific and historical nature.
The photo was taken from the Twitter page of the Museum of Mankind.
Fifty years after Algeria gained independence in 1962, the issue of returning the skulls of the leaders of the National Resistance Movement to Algeria has come to the fore. In 2011, Algerian historian Ali Farid Belkadi launched a campaign in this direction.
According to the program of France24 TV channel, which aired in 2016, the skulls of Algerian fighters were kept in a separate room after the dispute broke out, separate from other exhibits in the basement.
Henri-Pierre Godey, the spokesman for the Museum of Mankind, told Fakt Yoxla that the museum did not show the skulls of Algerian rebels to the public: "They are not exhibited and are kept in anthropological research facilities for purely scientific research."
Henri-Pierre Godey said that on July 3, 2020, as a result of negotiations between the two countries, the skulls of 24 rebels were returned. Such that in January 2018, Algeria officially appealed to France to return the skulls. Earlier, during his visit to Algeria in 2017, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, said that the colonialism was a "grave mistake" and a "serious fault" made by the French Republic and promised to return the skulls. The remains of 24 people, including Sheikh Ahmed Bouzian and Sherif Boubaghla, were returned to Algeria and buried in accordance with Muslim customs.
Pauline Striegler, the museum's public relations officer, told Fakt Yoxla that the Algerian government did not demand the skulls of the remaining Algerians because they did not belong to the uprising.
Thus, although the skulls of the leaders of the Algerian National Resistance Movement were taken to France as a military trophy, they were later included in the museum's 1,800 exhibits. They were open only to researchers until 2011, together with other exhibits kept in the basement of the museum.
When the issue of returning the remains of the fighters came up, the skulls of the Algerian fighters were separated from other exhibits and placed in another room. Access to these skulls was further restricted. Of the 37 Algerian skulls kept in the museum, the remains of 24 fighters were returned to their homeland in 2020.
Fakt Yoxla concludes that President Ilham Aliyev's claim is a Manipulation of Facts.