France marks World War One on Bastille Day

Soldiers from 69 countries gather in Paris for Bastille Day celebrations that also commemorate the centenary of WWI.

More than 3,700 soldiers paraded in Paris [AFP]
More than 3,700 soldiers paraded in Paris [AFP]

Soldiers carrying the flags of 69 countries have walked down the Champs-Elysees in Paris as France’s Bastille Day military parade commemorates the start of the French Revolution, and this year, the centenary of World War One.

France invited all the countries that were involved in the conflict, with former allies and enemies participating together in Monday’s ceremony as a symbol of peace.

But not all the visiting troops recieved a warm welcome. One nation in particular, Algeria, has become the target of criticism. 

France’s increasingly popular right wing demanded that Algeria be barred from the parade, citing the bloody conflict between France and Algeria 50 years ago, which resulted in Algeria’s indepenence.  

“We don’t understand why we are allowing Algerian soldiers to march on the Champs-Elysees while the wounds of the past haven’t completely healed and while there are still people alive who have lost sons fathers and mothers,” one right wing politician told Al Jazeera’s Neev Barker. 

Over 20,000 Algerian soldiers died fighting for France in World War I. The French government said that their sacrifice must be recognised. 

“Thousands of people from different territories that were not yet independed nations died on French soil.  We owe them our respect,” a government offical told Al Jazeera. 

President Francois Hollande said in a message ahead of the march: “Ten million soldiers were killed or died of their injuries on countless battlefields. We owe them gratitude.”

Along with international guests, more than 3,700 soldiers, 50 aircraft, 280 military vehicles and 240 horses of the French national guard are to parade in Paris.

At night fireworks, to be fired from the Eiffel Tower, will be dedicated to the theme of war and peace.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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