DYNAMIC AFRICA

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NOTABLE AFRICANS: DJAMILA BOUHIRED

Currently in her late 70s, Algerian nationalist, activist and revolutionary Djamila Bouhired is a freedom fighter best known for her contributions to the fight against French colonial rule in Algeria as a member of the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN).

Born in 1935 to a middle-class family, Bouhired was educated in French schools. However, the colonial system of education did not have the desired effect on Bouhired as she she joined the anti-colonial revolutionary movement of the FLN working as a student activist and soon began working as a liaison officer and personal assistant to FLN commander Yacef Saadi in Algiers. Her brothers were also involved in the underground struggle.

Due to her good looks and slightly European appearance, Bouhired was able to seamlessly move around the Algiers and pass through road blocks set up by French authorities, which proved to be a critical asset in the militant operations of the FLN. Bouhired was one of three FLN female bombers depicted in the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, and was also the subject of Egyptian director Youssef Chahine’s 1958 film Jamila the Algerian.

During a raid in June 1957, Bouhired was captured, arrested and accused of planting bombs in French restaurants around the capital, Algiers. Although not much is known about her imprisonment, Bouhired has said that both her and her siblings were subjected to torture under French authorities, claiming also that one of her brothers was tortured in front of their mother.

Bouhired was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by guillotine in July 1957. However, Jacques Vergès, a French lawyer who heard of her case and was against France’s occupation of Algeria waged a public relations campaign that resulted in immense pressure being put on France by international governments and human rights organizations. As a result, Djamila Bouhired was released.

She would eventually go on to marry Vergès with whom she had two children. The couple also established Révolution africaine, a publication that focused on Pan-Africanism and African nationalism movements.

Djamila Bouhired currently resides in Algiers and continues to be an active figure in many human rights and feminist politics in the country.

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