Harkis: a justified “pardon”, in the name of France

Editorial of the “World”. Almost sixty years after the end of the Algerian war, the ordeal of the harkis, these auxiliaries of the French army abandoned to the reprisals of the victorious FLN after independence, or transferred to France in unworthy conditions, remains one the most shameful pages in the history of our country. Emmanuel Macron took a new step, Monday, September 20, in the recognition of their release by the highest authorities of the Republic and their long oblivion by French society.

“To abandoned combatants (…), I ask forgiveness “, he said during a reception at the Elysee Palace, in the run-up to the National Day of Homage to the Harkis celebrated every September 25 since 2003.

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Seven months before the presidential election, the electoral dimension of the speech of the Head of State, and his announcement of the presentation of a bill “of recognition and reparation”, escapes no one. The electoral weight of the harkis greatly exceeds that of the families concerned – about 450,000 people – because their story resonates with both the Pieds-Noirs and the veterans. However, Emmanuel Macron’s gesture cannot be reduced to its political dimension. Because it is part of a long-term strategy of reconciling memories of the Algerian war, it must be welcomed.

While the President of the Republic, following the recommendations of the historian Benjamin Stora, has ruled out a general “repentance” regarding the role of France in the Algerian war, he is right to take a reverse position about harkis, and ask them ” sorry “ on behalf of France.

Conflicting memories

Enlisted alongside France in a war that did not speak its name, these Muslims in Algeria were doubly and directly victims of official decisions: that of repatriating to France as few of them as possible, then that of parking the survivors. in France, in transit camps or forestry hamlets where, withdrawn from the rest of society, some were in fact under house arrest until 1975. These terrible images – harkis trying to hang on to trucks soldiers leaving Algeria in 1962; abandoned families, in France, in closed camps, subject to curfews and guarded by former soldiers – are part of the history of France.

Emmanuel Macron, drawing the consequences of the difficulty of reaching reciprocal gestures on the Algerian side – recognizing the tragedy of the harkis would force Algiers to admit that the war of liberation was also a civil war and that the FLN was committed to it. refrain from any act of reprisal – deploys a coherent policy intended to heal, in France itself, the memories of colonization and the Algerian war. Belonging to a generation born long after, he seems to grasp the need to go beyond this time without forgetting it.

Because the conflicting memories, shared by millions of French people, continue to ooze, fueling racism and discrimination which perpetuate the wounds, but also the speeches locking the descendants of the colonized into the status of eternal victims. Civil peace in France and new relations with the Maghreb and Africa presuppose that speeches of truth be made. Mr. Macron’s “forgiveness” towards the harkis must be followed by other strong words. In particular about the massacre, by Parisian police officers, of Algerian pro-FLN demonstrators, on October 17, 1961, whose sixtieth anniversary is approaching.

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