Bouhired, Djamila (1937–)

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Bouhired, Djamila (1937–)

Algerian patriot. Name variations: Djamilah or Jamila. Born 1937 to a middle-class Muslim family in Algiers (some sources cite 1935); m. Jacques Vergès (her French attorney); children: Nadyah (adopted), Maryam, Ilyas.

Algerian heroine of the War of National Liberation from France (1954–62), known throughout the Middle East as "the Arab Joan of Arc"; at 16, convinced that her activities would hasten the day of Algerian independence, was taught to plant bombs by an activist; while under arrest, was fired at by the leader of her organization in order to prevent her from revealing information about him (1957); as soon as she had recovered from her wounds, was interrogated and tortured by French captors for 17 days, but would not reveal any information; was tried before a military court in Algeria (mid-July 1957), which was regarded by many observers as a travesty of justice; was found guilty and sentenced to die on the guillotine, but public opinion—both in France and internationally—had begun to turn against the war; with her cause taken up by French intellectuals, was granted a reprieve from the guillotine; because of international pressure, sentence commuted to life imprisonment (1958); with Algerian independence (1962), was released and returned to Algiers.

See also The Battle of Algiers (1966); and Women in World History.