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Djamila Bouhired: Arabian Joan of Arc

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Published on : 16 June 2019, 08:13 AM
Djamila Bouhired: Arabian Joan of Arc

At the time of her birth, there was no country named Algeria. Born to an Algerian father and Tunisian mother, the girl grew up under the French colonial rule learned to recognize herself as French regardless of Arab like any other contemporary children. Surprisingly, the girl struggling with an identity crisis played an important role in Algeria`s independence. She is Djamila Bouhired, often dubbed as Arab Joan of Arc.

When the independence movement of Algeria gradually began to grow after Sétif massacre, a teenager Djamila can relate herself with that storm of the urge of freedom. Through the armed debut of FLN, Algeria`s independence struggle officially started on 1 November 1954. A university student Djamila joined the FLN with her brothers.

On August 10, 1956, 70 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a bomb blast carried out by French settlers in a densely populated area of Algiers. In the wake of this attack, one of the founders of the FLN, Larbi Ben M`hidi, ordered the group to take revenge. Djamila Bouhired came forward as volunteer warrior at that time. A secret cell `volunteer for death` was created with Djamila, Samia Lakhdari, Zohra Drif, and many other female warriors. It is decided that they will enter the European quarter by penetrating the security and leaving bombs in various crowded areas and causing them to explode.

Djamila got caught by the French soldiers in April 1957 during her second operation. She kept her mouth shut even after enduring severe torture. This 20-year-old endured severe pain including electric shock and waterboarding for 17 days long but didn`t confess the names of her comrades. She did not divulge any information under torture and reportedly repeated, "Algeria is our mother".

Unable to get any information from Djamila Bouhired, the French arranged a trial for her. Her French lawyer Jacques Vergès tried hard to save her, but despite his efforts, she was convicted and sentenced to death by the guillotine on July 14, 1957. The verdict of Djamila`s death sentence created a strong reaction worldwide. Many groups formed throughout Algeria and abroad attempting to convince the government not to kill Bouhired. 76 MPs of the Labor Party of England, sent a letter to the President René Coty of France to cease Djamila`s death sentence. There was a huge gathering against the death sentence of Djamila for three days in front of the French embassy in London. French intellectuals became vocal against this sentence.

Finally, in the face of international pressure, the French President was forced to accept. On 13 March 1958, he pardoned Djamila`s death sentence. After being pardoned, Bouhired served a prison sentence in the Reims prison until 1962. As the end of the war drew near, she was released along with many other Algerian prisoners.After getting release Djamila returned to Algeria and got married to his French lawyer, Jacques Vergès.

Djamila Bouhired is considered one of the best female revolutionaries in the Arab world. Most of Djamila`s colleagues died. 83-year-old Djamila is on the verge of her life. But at this age, she did not forget her responsibility towards the country. This Arabian Joan of Arc still gets down on street in any national issue.

Bangla Insider/SM