Orphans of History: their fight for official recognition continues

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The first national day of commemoration for the harkis, the Algerian nationals who fought alongside the French during the Algerian War, was celebrated in 2001 under Chirac’s presidency. It was both a reflection of French attempts to defend its republican ideals of unity and solidarity and of practical concerns for the integration of the harkis into the French national community. Chirac argued in his speeches at the time that the recognition of the harkis’ sacrifices and of some of the shortcomings of French colonial policy was a question of honour and duty. Following the signature of the Evian Agreements in 1962, approximately 150,000 harkis were massacred by the FLN, the Algerian independence force, the French army was ordered not to intervene and the Gaullist government severely limited the repatriation of harkis back to France.

The decree of 31st March 2003 formally incorporated the journée nationale into the calendar of national commemorative ceremonies. It stipulated that an official ceremony would be held in Paris every 25th September and that the regional prefects were responsible for the organisation of local celebrations in their department.

In previous years, however, there has been very scant coverage of the journée nationale in the national press. This year, news of the programme of celebrations is similarly very difficult to find in both the national and local press. On the websites of three of the biggest national newspapers Le Figaro, Le Monde and Libération there is no mention of the journée nationale; nor is there any coverage of the ceremony in Paris in the local Parisian paper Le Parisien.

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