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France’s Macron seeks ‘forgiveness’ from Algerian Harkis

PARIS

In a diplomatic move toward reparation, France’s president on Monday asked for forgiveness for his country’s treatment of a group of Algerian fighters who stood with the French during the 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence.

Meeting with 300 surviving members of the Algerian Harkis, their families, and heads of associations at the Elysee in Paris, Emmanuel Macron said that today’s meeting would be the “start of reparations,” consistent with French outlet France24, and “a new step” in acknowledging France’s role within the Harkis’ widespread suffering within the aftermath of the war.

“Harki” springs from the Arabic “haraka”, or movement, aptly describing the group of Muslim Algerians who volunteered alongside the French army. Up to 200,000 men took their place as auxiliaries during the conflict.

“To the combatants, I would like to precise our recognition, we’ll not forget. I ask forgiveness, we’ll not forget,” said Macron, adding that his country “neglected its duties toward the Harkis, their wives, their children.”

Macron then pledged to hold out the law for reparations.

Harki support groups had already written a letter to the president posing for such a law to be put into effect by the top of 2021. The groups also requested that reparation payouts already in situ be stepped up.

After the war ended, thousands of Harki fighters who returned to Algeria were branded traitors and suffered brutal condemnation, and were even killed at the hands of the new government.

Many of these who remained in France were placed in internment camps, sometimes with family in tow, where conditions were traumatizing and deplorable.

In 2016 then-President Francois Hollande last acknowledged the pain and long-overdue need for redress to the Harki community, putting forth “the responsibility of the French government within the abandonment of the Harkis.”

An annual Day of National Recognition was also put in situ starting on Sept. 25, 2001, when then-President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the suffering of the group during the Algerian War.

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