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Title: Harki  
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Subject: Algerian War, History of Algeria, French Algeria, French law on colonialism, Independence Day (Algeria)
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A young Harki, French Algeria. c. 1961.

Harki (adjective from the Arabic harka, standard Arabic haraka حركة, "war party" or "movement", i.e., a group of volunteers, especially soldiers) is the generic term for Muslim Algerian loyalists who served as Auxiliaries in the French Army during the Algerian War from 1954 to 1962. The phrase sometimes is applied to all Algerian Muslims who supported the French presence in Algeria during this war.

In France, the term is used to designate the Franco-musulmans rapatriés ("repatriated French Muslims") community living in the country since 1962, and its metropolitan-born descendants. In this sense, the term Harki now refers to a distinct ethnocultural group, i.e. French Muslims of Algerian Descent, distinct from other French of Algerian origin or Algerians living in France.

As of 2012, the Harkis and their descendants represent around 800,000 people in France.[1]

President Jacques Chirac established 25 September 2001 as the Day of National Recognition for the Harkis. On 14 April 2012, President Nicolas Sarkozy recognized France's "historical responsibility" in abandoning Harki Algerian veterans at the time of the war.[2]


  • Before the Algerian conflict 1
  • During the Algerian War 2
  • After the war 3
  • Other references 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Before the Algerian conflict

Muslim Algerians had served in large numbers as regular soldiers with the French Armée d'Afrique (Army of Africa) from 1830 as spahis (cavalry) and tirailleurs (lit. skirmisher, i.e. infantry). They played an important part during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and especially World War I (1914–1918), when 100,000 died in fighting against the Germans.

During World War II, after the rearmament of the French Army accomplished by the US forces in North Africa in 1942–1943, North African troops serving with the French Army numbered about 233,000 (more than 50% of the French Army effectives). They made a major contribution during the liberation of Southern France and the campaigns in Italy (French Expeditionary Corps) and Germany of 1944–45.

Tirailleurs from Algeria, Morocco and West Africa fought in Indochina, as part of the French Expeditionary Force, until the Fall of Dien Bien Phu (1954).

During the Algerian War

A World War II Harki veteran, French Algeria, c. 1961

With the outbreak of the Algerian War in 1954, the loyalty of the Muslim Algerian soldiers to France inevitably came under heavy strain. Some of the regular units were transferred from Algeria to France or Germany, following increased incidences of desertion or small-scale mutiny.

As a partial replacement, the French administration recruited the Harkis as irregular militia based in their home villages or towns throughout Algeria. Initially raised as self-defence units, the Harkis, from 1956 on, increasingly served alongside the French Army in the field. They were lightly armed (often only with shotguns), but their knowledge of local terrain and conditions made them valuable auxiliaries to French regular units.

According to General R. Hure, by 1960 there were approximately 150,000 Muslim Algerians serving in the French Army or as auxiliaries. In addition to volunteers and conscripts serving in regular units, this total took into account 95,000 Harkis (including 20,000 in separate mokhazni district police forces and 15,000 in commando de chasse tracking units).[3]

French authorities claimed that more Algerian Muslims were serving with the French regular army than with those of the nationalist Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). According to US Army data, possibly compiled at a different date, the Harkis numbered about 180,000, more than the total FLN effectives.[4] A 1995 study by General Faivre indicates that by 1961, there were about 210,000 Muslim Algerians serving in the French Army or as auxiliaries, and a maximum of 50,000 in the FLN.[5] A report to the United Nations dated 13 March 1962 gave an estimated total of 263,000 "pro-French Muslims" broken down to 20,000 regular soldiers, 40,000 conscripts, 78,000 Harkis and Moghaznis, 15,000 mobile group commandos and 60,000 civilian self-defense group members. The remaining 50,000 included Muslim government officials and veterans of the French Army.[6]

The French used the Harkis as guerrilla-style units, though mostly in conventional formations. They generally served either in all-Algerian units commanded by French officers or in mixed units. Others were employed in platoon or below-sized units attached to French battalions. A third use involved Harkis in intelligence gathering roles, with some reported minor pseudo-operations in support of intelligence collection.[7]

The Harkis had mixed motives for working with the French. The FLN had targeted both collaborators and rival nationalist groups, and some Algerians enrolled in the Harkis to avenge the deaths of relatives who had been political opponents of the FLN. Others were defectors from the FLN rebel forces, who had been persuaded by one means or another to change sides. Many Harkis were from families or other groups who had traditionally given service to France. Others presumably supported Algeria's union with France over independence.

From the viewpoint of Algerian nationalists, all Harkis were traitors. But, at independence, both signatories of the March 1962 cease fire ("Accords d'Evian" signed by France and the Algerian FLN), guaranteed that no one, Harkis or Pieds-Noirs (Algerian-born Europeans with French nationality), would suffer reprisals after independence for any action during the war.

After the war

In 1962, the French government of Charles de Gaulle originally ordered officials and army officers to prevent the Harkis from following the Pieds-Noirs and seeking refuge in Metropolitan France. Some officers of the French army disobeyed and tried to assist the Harkis under their command, as well as their families, to escape from Algeria.

On the other hand, the OAS far-right terrorist group initiated a campaign of bombings in Algeria following the Evian Accords; it tried to block the Pieds-Noirs population from leaving the country. About 91,000 Harkis (including family members) did find refuge in France.

As feared, there were widespread reprisals against Harkis who remained in Algeria. It is estimated that at least 30,000 and possibly as many as 150,000 Harkis and their dependents were killed by the National Liberation Front (FLN) or by lynch mobs in Algeria, sometimes in circumstances of extreme cruelty.[8][9] In his history, A Savage War Of Peace, Alistair Horne writes:[10]

"Hundreds died when put to work clearing the minefields along the Morice Line, or were shot out of hand. Others were tortured atrociously; army veterans were made to dig their own tombs, then swallow their decorations before being killed; they were burned alive, or castrated, or dragged behind trucks, or cut to pieces and their flesh fed to dogs. Many were put to death with their entire families, including young children."

By contrast, regular Algerian Muslim troops (who were offered the option of continuing to serve in the French Army) were only occasionally subject to reprisals. Some leaders of the new Algerian Republic were veterans of the French Army; prior to independence, it had provided one of the few avenues for advancement open to the Muslim majority in colonial society. By 1961 there were about 400 Algerian Muslim officers in the French Army, although only one had been promoted to the rank of general.[11]

The French government, concerned mainly with disengagement from Algeria and the repatriation of the Pieds-Noirs, disregarded or downplayed news of the murders of Harkis. Charles de Gaulle appears to have been indifferent to the plight of the Muslim loyalists, according to Alistair Horne, who reported the president remarked to one of their spokesmen "Eh bien! vous souffrirez" ("Well then—you will suffer").[10] On 19 March 1962 the responsible Minister of State Louis Joxe ordered attempts by French officers to transfer Harkis and their families to France to cease, followed by a statement that "the Auxiliary troops landing in the Metropolis in deviation from the general plan will be sent back to Algeria".[6]

The government did not plan for the Harkis after independence, and for some years, it did not recognize any right for them to stay in France as residents and citizens. The Harkis were kept in "temporary" internment camps surrounded by barbed wire, such as the Joffre Camp in Rivesaltes (outside of Perpignan) and in "chantiers de forestage"—communities of 30 Harki families on the outskirts of forests which the men maintained. The French government has since enacted various measures to help the Harki community (notably the 1994 Romani law and the 2005 Mekachera law); however, as the Harki community has said, these laws are often too little, too late.

Recently, the French government of Jacques Chirac acknowledged these former allies,[12] holding public ceremonies to commemorate their sacrifices, such as the 25 September 2001 Day of National Recognition for the Harkis. Hundreds of active Harki associations in France are working to obtain further recognition and aid in integrating into the society; they are still a largely unassimilated refugee minority. For its part, the Algerian government does not recognize the Harkis as French citizens. It does not permit them to enter the country to visit their birth places or family members left behind in Algeria.

Harkis are often considered in France as "Français par le sang versé" ("French by spilled blood").[13][14]

Since Algerian independence, "Harki" has been used as a derogatory expression within Algeria. Amongst some of the Franco-Algerian community, they have been likened to "collaborators" in France during the German occupation of World War II. Algerian historian Mohammed Harbi, a former FLN member, believes that comparison between Harkis and traitors or "collaborators" is not pertinent. He has said that fighters during the Algerian War and those who opposed the French resistance cannot be compared to collaborators.[15]

Other references

During the Algerian Civil War of 1991–2002, the Islamic fundamentalist insurgents used "harkis" as an abusive term for government police and soldiers.[16]

In 2006, French politician Montpellier that they were "subhumans". He later claimed he had been referring to a specific individual in the crowd, but was fined 15,000 Euros for the statement. Frêche was later expelled from the Socialist Party for his remarks.[17]

Harkis should not be confused with the Évolués. In this context, the latter term refers to the sub-group of Algerians who became closely identified with the French and their culture (it also refers to similar groups in other colonial territories). Here, the term Évolué indicates an Algerian or North African who assimilated closely to French culture through education, government service, language and so on.

By contrast, the Harkis were mostly culturally Algerian, speaking limited French, and largely indistinguishable from the majority of ordinary Algerians except for their service in French auxiliary military units. While many of the Évolués migrated to France during the Algerian Revolution or at independence in 1962, some remained in independent Algeria after 1962. A few rose to positions of prominence, such as the former President, Ferhat Abbas.

See also

Similar organization


  1. ^ "Les harkis montrent les dents", Le Point, 24 January 2012
  2. ^ Sarkozy admits France abandoned Algerian loyalists, France 24, 14 April 2012
  3. ^ General R. Hure, L'Armee d' Afrique 1830–1962, Lavauzelle, 1979
  4. ^ Major Gregory D. Peterson, The French Experience in Algeria, 1954–62: Blueprint for U.S. Operations in Iraq, Ft Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, p.33
  5. ^ General Faivre, Les combatants musulmans de la guerre d'Algérie, L'Harmattan, 1995, p.125
  6. ^ a b Stora, Benjamin. Algeria 1830-2000: A Short History. p. 101.  
  7. ^ John Pimlott, "The French Army: From Indochina to Chad, 1946–1984," in Ian F. W. Beckett and John Pimlott, Armed Forces & Modern Counter-Insurgency, New York: St Martin's Press, 1985, p.66
  8. ^ John Keegan, page 55, A History of Warfare, ISBN 0-09-174527-6
  9. ^ "Harkis: Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity", ENotes
  10. ^ a b Horne, Alistair. A Savage War of Peace. p. 537.  
  11. ^ Edgar O'Ballance, page 192 "The Algerian Insurrection 1954-62", Faber and Faber Ltd London 1967
  12. ^ "Chirac hails Algerians who fought for France", The Telegraph 26 September 2001
  13. ^ "Aujourd’hui, le mot harki doit être un terme de fierté et de respect, un terme honoré par l’ensemble des citoyens français. Il doit l’être car il est porté par des citoyens français qui ont donné leur sang pour cela. Oui, être harki aujourd’hui c’est pouvoir dire : "je suis Français par le choix et par le sang"..."", Nicolas Sarkozy, Discours du 31 mars de Nicolas Sarkozy Candidat à la Présidence de la République à l’occasion de sa rencontre avec les représentants de la communauté Harkis, 31 March 2007
  14. ^ "harkis, Français par le sang risqué et par le sang versé", Louis Aliot, Harkis : le véritable scandale est ailleurs !, National Front, 5 February 2010
  15. ^ Mohammed Harbi, « La comparaison avec la collaboration en France n'est pas pertinente » in Les Harkis dans la colonisation et ses suites, Les Editions de l'Atelier, pp.93–95
  16. ^ "Nightmare in Algiers", Time International, 14 June 1993
  17. ^ "L'exclusion de Frêche soulage son homologue de Poitou-Charentes", Le Figaro, 29 January 2007


  • Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace, 1978 ISBN 0-670-61964-7
  • Edgar O'Ballance, The Algerian Insurrection 1954–62, 1967
  • Martin Windrow, The Algerian War 1954–62 ISBN 1-85532-658-2
  • Fatima Besnaci-Lancou, Benoit Falaize et Gilles Manceron (dir.), Les harkis, Histoire, mémoire et transmission, préface de Philippe Joutard, Ed. de l'Atelier, septembre 2010.
  • Fatima Besnaci-Lancou et Gilles Manceron (dir.), Les harkis dans la colonisation et ses suites, préface de Jean Lacouture, Ed. de l'Atelier, février 2008.
  • Fatima Besnaci-Lancou et Abderahmen Moumen, Les harkis, éd. Le cavalier bleu, collection Idées reçues, août 2008.
  • Isabelle Clarke, Daniel Costelle et Mickaël Gamrasni, La blessure, la tragédie des harkis, Ed. Acropole, septembre 2010.
  • Tom Charbit, Les harkis, Edition La découverte, Collection Repères, mars 2006.
  • Vincent Crapanzano, The Harkis: The Wounds that Never Heal, pub. University Of Chicago Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-226-11876-5.
  • Guy Pervillé, "Le Drame des harkis", revue Histoire, avril 1988
  • Jean-Jacques Jordi, La Réécriture de l'Histoire, actes du colloque du Centre universitaire méditerranéen de Nice, 1998.
  • Mohand Hamoumou, Et ils sont devenus harkis, éd. Fayard, 1994 (réédité en 2001, épuisé).
  • Mohand Hamoumou et Jean-Jacques Jordi, Les Harkis, une mémoire enfouie, Autrement, 1999.
  • Elise Langelier, La situation juridique des Harkis (1962–2007), préface d'Emmanuel Aubin, éd. de l'Université de Poitiers, collection de la Faculté de Droit et des Sciences sociales de Poitiers, décembre 2009.
  • Régis Pierret, Les filles et fils de harkis – Entre double rejet et triple appartenance, préface de Michel Wieviorka, Éditions L'Harmattan, Collection : Espaces interculturels, décembre 2008.
  • Michel Roux, Les harkis, les oubliés de l'histoire, éd. la découverte, 1991.
  • Abderahmen Moumen, Les Français musulmans en Vaucluse 1962–1991, Installation et difficultés d'intégration d'une communauté de rapatriés d'Algérie, Editions L'Harmattan, Collection Histoires et perspectives méditerranéennes, juillet 2003.

External links

  • Review of Le silence des harkis
  • Letter of the FLN to the Harkis
  • (French) : AJIR association (Association Justice Information Réparation pour les harkis).
  • (French) : "Harkis et droits de l'homme" Association.
  • (French) "Coalition nationale des harkis et des associations de harkis".
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