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The Socialist 4 April 2007 |
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International Human Rights film festival
Days of Glory
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb
THIS OSCAR-nominated World War Two drama follows the journey of North African (Indigénes) soldiers fighting their way through southern Europe helping to liberate France, their 'mother country'. Not only do they endure the horrors of war but they are subjected to racism and suffer exploitation and injustice at the hands of the very people they are fighting for.
Hundreds of thousands of 'indigenous soldiers' fought against the Nazis under the French flag but have largely been forgotten in the official histories. Their military pensions were frozen in 1959 during the Algerian revolution. A law passed in France in 2002 promised them restitution but no funds were authorised until this year.
Those north Africans who settled in France were treated as second-class citizens. Their children, growing up on impoverished estates and experiencing high unemployment and racism, have expressed their alienation in running battles with the police. Right-wing interior minister and French presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, referred to these youth as "scum".
The treatment of the Indigénes has echoes with the Gurkhas that fought in the British armed forces. Some veterans never received a pension and those that have, only get a fraction of what is paid to their British counterparts.
On 8 March this year, the Blair government said Gurkhas would receive equal pensions with other British soldiers but only present and future serving Gurkhas.
Gurkha veterans recently watched Days of Glory in London. On 28 March, 2,500 of them marched to Parliament and delivered a letter to Tony Blair calling for citizenship rights and equal pensions.
Days of Glory is on general release