French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday apologized on behalf of France to the Algerians who fought alongside the French in the Algerian War of Independence in 1954-1962. Harkis, as the French soldiers of Arab origin were called, were forced to fight against their own people. “We will never forget you,” Macron said. He admitted that France had failed to fulfill its obligations to the harkis.
– On behalf of France, I address the harkis and their children in a loud voice. The republic owes them a debt. I would like to express our gratitude to the combatants, Macron said. “We will never forget you,” he added. He also addressed the soldiers who had been “abandoned” by Paris, their families who ended up in camps and prisons, and all those who were disowned by the French authorities. – Please forgive me. We will not forget you, said Macron.
As he said, “harkis honor must be engraved in national memory.” He announced that “the government will draft legislation before the end of the year to commemorate and redress harkis” and called for “healing wounds” that must be healed through “words of truth, gestures of remembrance and acts of justice”.
Monday’s speech by Macron is another bow of the French president to the Algerians recently. In March, the government in Paris officially admitted that more than 60 years ago, the French army tortured and killed a prominent Algerian independence activist. Macron estimates that these gestures will improve relations between the two countries, which have remained tense since Algeria’s independence in 1962.
Abandoned by Paris
Harkis are Arab soldiers who fought alongside the French in Algeria during the war against the National Liberation Front at a time when Algeria was not an independent state, but a French department. The term harkis is used to describe the Algerians who were against independence and for their country to remain within France. In Algeria, they were treated like traitors.
According to the BBC, it is estimated that up to 200,000 harkis could have served on the French side in the war in Algeria. However – adds the station – only 42,000 of them were allowed to come to France after Algeria gained independence. Tens of thousands of harkis remaining in Algeria were declared traitors and killed.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / STEFANO RELLANDINI / POOL