Mahfoud Bennoune died on May 17, succumbing finally to amyloidosis, an auto-immune disease he had battled since 1990. Mahfoud authored numerous pieces on colonial and post-colonial Algeria and Maghribi workers in Europe for Middle East Report (then MERIP Reports) beginning in the mid-1970s. He was selected as one of the first contributing editors of the magazine, in 1977, and served in that position for 15 years.
Mahfoud was born in April 1936 in rural Algeria and fought French colonial forces with the armed wing of the National Liberation Front (FLN). During five years he spent as a prisoner of war, Mahfoud learned to read from fellow prisoners. He also endured torture at the hands of his captors, and though he seldom spoke about that experience he did recall its horror in his last weeks, reacting to the reports of torture by US jailers in Iraq.
After the war of Algerian independence, he helped to establish the Parti de la Revolution Socialiste (PRS), but he soon left Algeria to pursue an education, first in Paris and London, and earned a doctorate in anthropology from Wayne State University, in Detroit, in 1976. He taught for several years in the United States before returning to Algeria in 1981 to take a faculty position at the University of Algiers. He lived there until shortly before his death, despite the fact that he was targeted for killing by armed Islamist groups, whose agenda he vigorously criticized.
Mahfoud always demonstrated a fierce commitment to struggle for political change and tolerance, first of all in his homeland but also in the Arab world. His dedication to learning and teaching in the service of justice inspired all of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. A Mahfoud Bennoune Endowment Fund has been set up in his memory at the University of Michigan to reward outstanding student theses on North Africa. Contributions can be mailed to: Mahfoud Bennoune Endowment Fund, University of Michigan, c/o LS&A Development, 524 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-2921.