Harkis (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
In 2003 there were approximately 500,000 Harkis living in France. At present Harkis is a generic term referring to the Algerians who fought alongside the French army during the Algerian war from 1954 until 1962. They became Harkis for assorted reasons: for the regular pay, out of loyalty to a French army officer, to be on the side of the likely winners, to avenge a member of their family killed by the National Liberation Front (FLN), to obey their chief (bachaga), because they were Francophiles, or because, following the French army's tricks, they were perceived as traitors to their own people.
In 1962 French President Charles De Gaulle decided to quickly resolve the Algerian crisis: He ordered the French army to disarm the Harkis before departing and to prevent them from fleeing to France. After the cease-fire on March 19, 1962, tens of thousands of abandoned Harkisome claim 150,000ere vengefully massacred by their victorious fellow countrymen.
From 1962 onwards the estimated 45,000 Harkis who had reached France were lodged either in Harki settlements near existing urban centers, such as Dreux, or in isolated hamlets in the rural south built for that purpose or in so-called temporary camps, such as Bias. Some of these camps had formerly housed refugees and political prisoners of various sorts. They were run in military fashion, with curfews, barbed wire, and watch-towers. Inside the Harkis had very few, if any, contacts with French natives. In 1974 more than 14,000 Harkis remained in such camps. All these emergency measures alienated the Harkis.
Some French viewed the Harkis' presence in France as a reminder of a war France had lost and of the failure of the ian Agreements, which stipulated no reprisals would be taken against those who had supported France. The FLN fighters as well as some French nationalsspecially those from the Left and the porteurs de valises (suitcase carriers), whose major activity was to smuggle the funds collected from Algerians in France for the FLNegarded the Harkis as collaborators in French colonialism and traitors to their own people.
In 1975 the Harkis protested publicly for the first time against what they described as years of official amnesia, neglect, and marginalization by the French authorities. Since then the Harkis' offspring have sporadically and violently expressed their resentment toward France over such treatment, and have claimed they are owed a debt for their fathers' past loyalty. With regularity they have attempted to force France to publicly acknowledge its responsibility for the death of many Harkis after March 19, 1962. These actions culminated in their August 2001 lawsuit against the French government for crimes against humanity.
On September 25, 2001, the Harkis ceased to be "the archetype of official nonmemory" (Rosello, 1998, p. 170). President Jacques Chirac paid special tribute to the Harkis in a national ceremony and on December 5, 2002 inaugurated a memorial to the Algerian war. Its electronic message boards scroll the names of those 22,959 who died for France during the Algerian war,010 of whom were North Africans.
Over the years the French authorities have financed housing, education, and employment programs for the Harkis. The feeling that these positive measures of discrimination have had a negative side effect and resulted in the Harkis' ethnicization is shared by a significant number of Harkis and French academics.
SEE ALSO Algeria
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Rosello, M. (1998). Declining the Stereotypethnicity and Representations in French Cultures. Hanover: University Press of New England.
Shepard, T. D. (2002). "Decolonizing France: Reimagining the Nation and Redefining the Republic at the End of Empire." Ph.D. diss. New Brunswick: State University of New Jersey.
Sutton, H. B. (1996). "Postcolonial Voices: Vindicating the Harkis." Contemporary French Civilization 23139.
Tocqueville Connection (2000). "President Chirac Shocked by Remarks of Algerian Leader." Available from .
Wihtol de Wenden, C. (1993). "The Harkis: A Community in the Making." In French and Algerian Identities from Colonial Times to the Present: A Century of Interaction. Edwin Millen Press.
Géraldine D. Enjelvin