Who are the Harkis? The Algerians who fought against independence

The price of choosing France

Shortly after the FLN announced the start of its independence campaign on 1 November 1954, French officers began arming loyalist Muslims and tasking them with protecting civil infrastructure amid increasing chaos in rural Algeria, with the first units taking form in 1955.

A useful political card

Once they left Algeria, over 42,000 Harkis passed through internment camps in southern France between September 1962 and December 1964.

Normalised in popular culture

Both in Algeria and among minority groups in France, the word Harki is often used as a pejorative term against North Africans seen as overly sympathetic to the French. For example, in Algeria, former education minister Nouria Benghabrit was branded a Harki along with her father and grandfather, Kaddour Benghabrit, the first rector of the Grand Central Mosque of Paris, for being awarded the Legion of Honour.

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Yasmina Allouche

Yasmina Allouche

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Researcher/Journalist specialising in North Africa | Focus on Algeria |