Now here is a deeply contemporary story. When the French abandoned Algeria in 1962, they also betrayed the tens of thousands of Algerians who fought for them. Stealthily – sometimes, quite literally, in the thick of night – they stole away from the barracks in which their Harki warriors were sleeping, and left them to their fate at the hands of the FLN (National Liberation Front) nationalists who were to inherit this oil-wealthy and deeply corrupt country. Often, they disarmed the Harkis first, so that their fate came more speedily upon them.
Harki – from the Arabic harka – is probably best translated as “volunteers”, auxiliaries who fight for the local master race, in this case France. Their end in Algeria was a despicable affair. So terrifying, in fact – so racist – that the history of the loyal Harkis who fought for France during the 1956-1962 war of Algerian independence has been the last taboo for the colony which Charles de Gaulle betrayed 54 years ago.