Djamila Bouhired | A short introduction to socialist and revolutionalist, Djamila Bouhired.
Djamila Bouhired was an Algerian hero, born in 1935 in the La Casbah neighbourhood of Algiers. Raised in a middle-class Algerian family, she was the only daughter among seven brothers, and attended a French school in Algeria.
She became drawn into the underground nationalist struggle of Algeria against the French by her brother. She was dashing young girl, with a lot of spunk and brains, with a rare beauty.
While at school, she was the only one that shouted “Algeria is our mother!” while everybody shouted “France is our mother!”. Of course she would be punished because of this outburt. Since then, Djamila was drawn in to the revolutionary cause.
When the Algerian revolution broke out in 1954, she joined the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) when she was merely twenty years old. She joined the Fedayeen later and was the first to volunteer to plant bombs in the roads used by the French during the occupation. Due to her heroic acts she became “most wanted” by the French.
During the Revolution she worked as a liaison agent for the commander Saadi Yacef. Casualties were high; with numbers reaching two and a half a million fatalities as a result of the war, as well as more than one million deaths. Thousands upon thousands of Algerians (and a high percentage of Algerian orphans also) were driven into Tunisia and Morocco whereby both host countries became a base to house refugees.
Bouhired was, unfortunately, destined to be one of those casualties. She was captured in a raid and accused of planting bombs responsible for many deaths in French restaurants in Algiers (which was also depicted in the 1966 film La Bataille d'Alger / The Battle of Algiers). After considerable torture she was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in July 1957.
World leaders of the time, such as President Gamal Abdul Naser (Egypt), Indian President Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, demanded her release.
Her French lawyer -and soon to be husband-, who had a strong belief in the right of self-determination of peoples, was not ready to concede defeat in the comic trial. Jacque Verges, who later on won international fame for his role in Djamila’s and other cases, waged a public relation campaign that reached even the remotest village all over the world. When Djamila was released, and within a short period, she and Jacque married, and he embraced Islam taking the name of Mansoor.
After the independence, Djamila became the Chairwoman of the Algerian Women Association, but she had to fight an uphill battle for every single resolution with the then president, Bin Bella.
“I am still a rebel because the Arab woman has to carry an ax in her right arm to build, and shed a tear in her eye hoping to move the men of the nation.”