MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Organisations
Biribi is the name given in France to the punishment battalions in Algeria. Every young man who has been in prison before he begins his military service, is sent to such a battalion. Many soldiers, for want of discipline, undergo the same punishment. The treatment in these places is so horrid that no Englishman would believe it possible. A very few years ago, the pear shaped hole in the ground, where men were left for weeks, and some were actually devoured by vermin, was an habitual punishment. At the present time, it is quite habitual to let a man, handcuffed and chained, lay for a fortnight on the ground, covered by a bit of cloth, under the scorching sun of Algeria and through the bitterly cold nights, compelled to eat his food and to lap his water like a dog. Scores of the most terrible facts became known lately, since Georges Darien published his book "Biribi" (Paris, 1890, Savine publisher) based on actual experience, and full of the most horrible revelations. One of my Clairvaux companions had to spend two years of military service in such a battalion-his condemnation at Lyons, as the editor of an Anarchist paper, being already a reason to be transported to Algeria.
Peter Kropotkin Anarchism: Its Philosophy and ldeal.