The construction of the forbidden zones and the defensive line called Ligne Morice along the Algerian border with Tunisia, October 1959 ©Beauvais, Gérard / Service Cinématographique des Armées / Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense.
French forced displacement of the Algerian population in Catinat El Alia, Region of Constantine, Algeria, June 1957 © Cuny, Claude / Service Cinématographique des Armées / Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense.
The French military authorities ordered the emptying of forbidden zones, forcing civilians to leave their homes, villages, and arable lands. This operation not only damaged countless existing villages and uprooted numerous Algerian peasants, but also engendered the establishment of what the French army termed the centres de regroupement (regrouping centers) in Algeria under French colonial rule. In reality, these spaces were confinement camps established to oversee the daily activities of the population. The exact numbers of these camps are still disputed to this day. One estimate for 1960 counted 2,157,000 such forcibly relocated persons. Another evaluation from 1961 considered that at least 2,350,000 people had been concentrated into military-controlled camps, and that an additional 1,175,000 people had been coerced to leave their original homes due to constant and violent military operations, meaning that altogether over 3.5 million people had been forcibly displaced. Another figure for 15 February 1962, just a few weeks before Algeria’s independence, reported that 3,740 camps had been built in colonized Algeria since the outbreak of the Algerian Revolution in 1954.
French Colonel Marcel Bigeard discussing the military strategy of “regroupement,” operational sector of Saïda, Algeria, 1959 © Flament, Marc / Service Cinématographique des Armées / Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense.
With the issuing of the first centralized military policy of 1957, under the command of General Raoul Salan, official documents stamped “secret” or “secret-confidential” or “top-secret” began to regulate the creation of the forbidden zones and to “normalize” the forced resettlement of the civilian populations; this was particularly the case with the construction of the defensive perimeter known as the Morice Line. Named after French Minister of National Defense André Morice, the Morice Line sealed off Algeria’s eastern and western borders with neighboring Tunisia and Morocco in order to prevent human movement and material exchanges. Running approximately 450 km along the border with Tunisia and 700 km along the border with Morocco, the Morice Line triggered a rapid and massive expansion of the camps. In 1958, the military Plan Challe fortified the Morice Line with additional electrified wire, minefields, barriers, and checkpoints—systematic counterrevolutionary measures that intensified the imposed evacuation of civilians from the forbidden zones. The number of the camps thus continued to increase throughout the course of the Algerian Revolution.
Camp de regroupement in Taher El Achouet, Region of Constantine, Algeria, July 1957 @ Cuny, Claude / Service Cinématographique des Armées / Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense.
Central to the French military doctrine of the construction of the camps were the Sections administratives spécialisées (SAS, or Specialized Administrative Sections). These extraordinary army units were deployed in rural areas in order to carry out both military and civilian assignments. In one sense, the SAS officers’ military missions entailed the gathering of intelligence, the diffusion of propagandistic information, the ensuring of law and order, and the direct control of the civilian population. By contrast, their civil functions were to provide social, economic, educational, sanitary, and medical facilities, as well as to organize and build the militarily controlled camps. Their civil-military activities—today called counterinsurgency operations—were possible because the colonial regime declared a state of emergency in April 1955.
Camp de regroupement in Cheria, Algeria, May 1959 © Unknown photographer / Service Cinématographique des Armées / Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense.
In February 1959, Michel Rocard, a young Inspector of Finances in French Algeria—who later served as Prime Minister from 1988 to 1991 under President François Mitterrand—submitted a confidential report to Paul Delouvrier, the newly appointed Delegate General of the French Government in Algeria, denouncing the outrageous conditions of the French camps. The document was leaked to the French media, who belatedly revealed their existence that was kept secret until then. In the aftermath of this media scandal, planning “technicians,” as the military officers called them, became directly involved in transforming the camps into what the army termed “villages.” Under the authority of General Charles de Gaulle and in prompt reaction to the public outrage, Paul Delouvrier launched an emergency resettlement program dubbed the Mille villages (“One Thousand Villages”). In reality, these spaces were again confinement camps.
 Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmalek Sayad, Le déracinement : La crise de l’agriculture traditionnelle en Algérie (Paris : Edition de Minuit), 13.
 Michel Cornaton, Les camps de regroupement de la Guerre d’Algérie (Paris: L’Harmattan), 122–123.
 Ibid., 121