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Algerian Civil War /
From French: Front Islamique du Salut

Crest of FIS

Crest of FIS.

FIS: Abdelkader Hachani.
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Abdelkader Hachani.

FIS: Ali Belhadj (left) and Abassi Madani (right).
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Ali Belhadj (left) and Abassi Madani (right).

Algerian Islamist political party, illegal since 1992. The FIS was central in the militant opposition to the regime in Algeria in the 1990's, and instrumental in the build-up to the Algerian Civil War.
FIS emerged from the wave of renewed focus on Islam in Algeria through the 1980's, in which numerous mosques were built, often offerign the best social meeting places for the young, and a Saudi-backed message of conservative values, and the all-encompassing vallues of Islam were spread throughout the country.
From first on, FIS was headed by a teacher in high school, Ali Belhadj and a professor in psychology, Abassi Madani and an oil engineer, Abdelkader Hachani.
The organization of FIS was controlled by a council, Majlis as-Shura, with between 30 and 40 members. The Majlis ash-Shura consisted of two main groups, labelled Salafis and the Jaza'irs. The Salafis wanted to create a society after the regulations of the Sharia, while the Jaza'irs were slightly more pragmatic, wanted to apply Sharia according to modern time's values and society. It was the Jaza'irs that became the strong party of the two, yet this didn't help them much from being outlawed by the government.
With the factions, the proposed politics of FIS was equally divided. Yet, FIS appeared to support free market trading and competition, but backed up with an Islamic bank system (no interests). The plan economy of Algeria was strogly criticized.
Madani even expressed support for multi-party democracy, but the more conservative groups clearly expressed their support for a society ruled all in all according to Sharia and goverened by a Caliph. Ali Belhadj was clear in his views, rejecting democracy and alloting women a clear, secondary position in society and family. He even defended the right to define secular Muslims as non-believers (see takfir), because they did not follow the rule of God. FIS was hastily put together, and never reached a final platform before the party was outlawed. Yet, FIS came in position after the local elections in 1990, and the FIS representatives could govern their municipalities as if they were ulama (learned theologians), by which little concern was shown for individual rights.
FIS was especially popular in large urban areas, and in the north.
With the emergence of the Algerian Civil War, AIS, the military branch of FIS, became involved in many actions against the government troops, but also in a conflict with more extreme Islamist groups, like GIA.

1988 October: Rebellion among the youth of Algiers, which soon spread to other cities like Oran, Mostagenem and Blida.
1989 February 18: FIS is founded in Algiers with Abbas Madani and Ali Belhadj as front figures.
September: FIS is officially legalized.
Large demonstrations in favour of a society governed by Muslim law, Sharia, and for the arabization of the society.
1990: More demonstrations for the introduction of Sharia.
June 12: FIS participates in local elections receiving 55% of the votes, taking control of 853 municipalities, including Algiers, Oran and Constantine, plus 32 of the wilayat.
1991 May: FIS calls for a general strike, protesting against the change of electoral districts, which it feared would reduce their influence in coming elections.
June 30: Madani and Belhadj are arrested.
July 4:: Abdelkader Hachani becomes new leader of FIS.
?: Said Mekhloufi and Kamareddine Kherbane are expelled from FIS, for advocating direct action against the government.
November: FIS "Afghans" kill 3 police officers in an attack.
December 26: FIS wins 188 of the 232 seats decided in the parliamentary elections. A large number of the seats were still undecided, calling for a second round of elections.
1992 January 11: Algeria changes from civilian rule to military control, the president is forced to resign and the parliamentary elections are called off.
January 22: Hachani is arrested.
February 9: A state of emergency is declared.
March 4: FIS is officially dissolved by the Algerian authorities, Belhadj and Madani are imprisoned. Still, some FIS members were still free, and started to regroup.
July 12: Belhadja and Madani are sentenced to 12 years prison.
Late year: FIS builds an underground network, establishes also a radio station.
1994: New president, Liamine Zeroual, starts talks with imprisoned FIS leaders.
March: Zeroual's talks with FIS ends unsuccessfully. Yet, secret talks would continue.
1995 January 14: Exiled leaders of FIS participates at negotiations in Italy, agreeing upon basic human rights (see Human Rights in Islam), democracy, pluralism in culture and language, yet clearly putting Islam in the centre. Several of the most important groups participated in the negotiations, but not the government or GIA.
September 13: Madani and Belhadj are moved from prison to house arrest after speaking out in favour of a multi-party democracy and agreeing to seek solutions with the government.
July 11: GIA assassinates, Abdelbaki Sahraoui, one of FIS' co-founders.
1996: Algeria introduces a new constitution banning parties that define themselves with religious or ethical terms. As a result, Algeria acquires the chance for a democratic framework, while keeping the FIS outside political life. At the same time, the FIS appears to have been effectively suppressed.
1997: The FIS' Rabah Kebir responded to the apparent shift in popular mood by adopting a more conciliatory tone towards the government, but was condemned by some parts of the party and of the AIS.
June: Abdelkader Hachani is freed, Abbassi Madani is moved to house arrest
1999 November 22: Abdelkader Hachani, then the effective leader of FIS, is assassinated.
? 2000 January: FIS disbands their armed wing, and a large number of the militants gave up their fight as a result of a governmental amnesty program.
2003 July 2 Belhadj and Madani are released, but FIS remains banned.

By Tore Kjeilen