Paris – Sixty years after the end of the Algerian war of liberation, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a “compensation” law for the Algerian activists – who cooperated with France against their country during colonialism – and asked for a “pardon” from them, in a historic meeting at the Elysee Palace on September 20, 2021.
The term “harkis” means agents or traitors, and it is called the Algerians who fought in the ranks of the French army against the liberation revolution in their country from 1954 to 1962, and as a legislative translation of Macron’s speech, the French Parliament approved a bill, last Thursday, that includes symbolic and practical steps to recognize “services” The Harkis, and recalls the recruitment of about 200,000 of them as assistants to the French army during the war.
Commemorative dimension and compensation
The law, which was voted on in the first session of the National Assembly, by 46 votes (1 against and 6 abstentions), calls for “amnesty and the pursuit of redressing the injustice suffered by the activists and their families.”
This law combines the memorial dimension and compensation, and recognizes that about 90,000 Harkis lived in inappropriate conditions after fleeing Algeria after its independence, as nearly half of them were deported to camps and small villages.
Representatives such as David Habib and Alexis Korber, whose constituency includes many descendants of the Harkis, participated in the parliament session.
“The war is over, and woe to those who reinvigorate the conflict to infinity,” Corbert said, implicitly targeting far-right activist Eric Zemmour.
In the same context, the parliamentary right played a major role in re-igniting the burning memory fires related to French colonialism, by passing the law of February 23, 2005, which formalizes an “apologetic vision of this date.”
This law recognizes the suffering and sacrifices suffered by the returnees and former members of the formations that cooperated with the French authorities in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and the rest of the regions to which they were subject.
320 million euros
The bill put forward by Parliament provides for recognition and compensation for damages caused to the Harkis and their families by receiving a lump sum, taking into account the length of stay in the places of deportation.
Accordingly, the maximum cost of this right to compensation has been set at 302 million euros for several years, including the addition of 50 million euros in the 2022 draft budget to supplement the compensation fund and fund the start of implementation of the bill, which will cover 6,000 cases.
The Minister Delegate to the Ministry of the Armed Forces in charge of Memory and Veterans’ Affairs, Jennifer Dariusek, indicated in an interview with Al Jazeera Net, that “50 thousand of the Harkis were sent to 69 villages and 6 camps and other centers that reflect their deprivation of freedom, which is in flagrant contradiction to the principles of the Republic, We have archives to prove it.”
“It is true that this project is a good step for the movement, but the challenge is to reach the point where truth and honor meet, to turn one of the darkest pages of history,” Dariusek added.
Fairness or provocation?
Although the implementation of President Macron’s speech on the ground carries some fairness to this category, it brings the Algerian-French crisis back to the fore.
To understand what happened in Parliament, it is necessary to go back to last January 20, when historian Benjamin Stora presented Macron his report on “colonialism and the Algerian war”, and suggested looking into with the Algerian authorities the possibility of facilitating the movement of the Harkis and their children between France and Algeria.
Despite the reservations that accompanied the Stora report by not including the term “war crime,” for example, or using the term “crime against humanity” only once, the report marks the beginning of a series of actions taken by the Macron administration.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, historian and academic Olivier Lacourt Grandmaison said, “If the Algerian authorities consider the harakis to be traitors, this is a relatively legitimate opinion, but this does not change the fact that France must recognize the help of the harakis for the French army in Algeria, or their tracking of members of the National Liberation Front (FLN). ) on French soil.
Grandmaison adds that if Macron wants to calm the diplomatic crisis, he must recognize the war crimes in the Algerian regions of Sétif, Msila and Kherrata in May 1945, as well as the massacre of October 17, 1961 in Paris.
This was confirmed by the French historian Tramore Keminor, saying that “one memory should not be preferred over another because there are many painful memories in the story of the Algerian war, and wounds that have not yet healed.”
Kiminor added that the Algerian government may carry out political reactions, but the Algerian people may consider this law only a French affair.
Public opinion in France has always treated “the inheritors of colonial immigration, the post-colonial class, and working-class neighborhoods” with a kind of contempt and lack of equality in civil, legal and other rights.
In 1983, citizens of Algerian origin and other activists demonstrated, side by side, in a march to denounce racism and discrimination.
The head of the “Young Harkis” association in France, Fatima Rubio Mokrani, told Al Jazeera Net that the activists were not “protected” under the law, and that the authorities announced in several statements that they provided financial aid and privileges in work and education, but they did not implement any of that.
“The draft law is a great disappointment, it cannot erase the injustice we are subjected to. France has abandoned us and we feel that we do not belong to it or to Algeria. We – the descendants of the Harkis – are literally between them, in the sea. We bear the history and tragedies of the two countries daily.”
In turn, the opposition welcomed the bill’s move but criticized its timing, accusing Macron of giving the Harkis many advantages in the context of an early election campaign.
Olivier Lacour says that the initiatives of the President of the Republic are not independent of the electoral campaign, and they are political considerations that were not presented for the massacre of 1961, for example, which reveals a duality between the real consideration of historical events and the recognition of facts and crimes.
Indeed, the closer the elections are, the more criticism there is among the candidates, especially since the extreme right is sensitive to everything related to the issue of immigration or immigrants.
The leader of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen, refers to Macron’s “electoral generosity”, although she did not fail to extend her gratitude and salute to the activists on all occasions. The irony is that her star rose in the political center because of her anti-immigrant statements.
It announced last week that it will not grant visas to Algerians if it wins the presidency if Algeria does not accept the return of its “undesirable” citizens in France.
She also criticized the agreement reached by the European Union countries on the issue of asylum and immigration, and considered that it would lead to “a flood of Europe with migrants.”
For her part, Mokrani says that the activists are aware of Macron’s attempt to win their votes through legislation and financial aid, but she stresses that this political courtship will not affect their choice during the upcoming elections.