When all the Algerian students repeated every morning “France is our mother”, Bouhired would stand up and scream “Algeria Is Our Mother!” She was punished for this by the principal. From this time, Bouhired was drawn to the revolutionary cause. Her brothers having already been involved with the underground nationalist struggle, Bouhired was quick to join and her profile would quickly rise in stature.
Bouhired, a feminist and an anti-colonialist from her student days when she joined the FLN, worked as a liaison officer and personal assistant of FLN commander Yacef Saad. Her pale skin and European features proved an advantage in allowing her to move around relatively unrestricted. In 1956, she and two others planted bombs in the European areas of Algiers, triggering the Battle of Algiers which raged through 1957. Arrested in April 1957 while in taking refuge in the mountain revolutionary camps, she was shot in the shoulder. Bouhired was captured by the French and tortured for information about that demonstration. She did not divulge any information under torture and reportedly repeated “Algeria Is Our Mother” while being tortured.
Seventeen further days of torture then followed. In addition to the electrocution, cigarettes were extinguished all over her body, in torture sessions which lasted for up to eighteen hours at a time. Sexualised torture, a feature of detention in wartime Algeria, found Bouhired along with many of her contemporaries, both male and female, abused in custody The torture caused severe burns and bleeding which lasted fifteen days, and left her with a permanent injury to her left arm. The French colonial authorities leaked to the FLN claims that that Bouhired had fallen in love with her prison guard, and had willing given strategic information about other members to demoralise the struggle, however the extent of her torture and her ongoing resistance became clear as she walked into the courtroom chanting “Our Algeria”
After release she continued to struggle for the rights of women, assuming the position of Chair of the Algerian Women’s Organisation, promoting women’s rights under a new system of independence government that had all but forgotten the contributions of women to the struggle. Only 11, 000 women, compared with 40, 000 men were acknowledged as fighters in the resistance movement belying a lack of acknowledgement of the supportive role of women in the liberation struggle in hiding and sustaining fighters, despite this support leaving them vulnerable to colonial targeting, and a demand that all those considered resistance fighters must be literate, excluding many rural women who had had little formal education.
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