My heroes : Djamila Boupacha
Synopsis : Djamila Boupacha is everyone’s hero because it takes great courage to fight for the freedom as she did for her country called Algeria and suffered the consequences. This blog presents to you a very courageous girl who was so young but determined.
I will tell you today about a very brave girl who was called Djamila Boupacha who is a national hero of Algeria. I used to work in Algeria as an agronomist in the department of Agriculture first in Tizi Ouzou in the Kabyle mountains east of Algiers and later in Mostaganem which is west of Algiers on the coast.
But long before I left India in 1967, I had read about this brave girl who had suffered immense torture and rape for days in the hands of the French secret police that was hell bent on punishing all who dared to fight for the freedom of their country.
Algeria had suffered a brutal war of independence for over ten years in the 1960s and paid a very high price for it. Algeria was a part of France called department (province) which France ruled with a brutality that was severe to say the least. It was French soil they were defending and suppressed anyone seeking independence with jail, torture and summary execution because they did not want another episode of the war they had lost in Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam from where they had to flee in ignominy that still rankled.
Algeria was a poor country and did not have the resources to fight a well equipped, battle hardened and trained French army and the police but they struggled on under the leadership of Ben Bella, Boumedienne, Bouteflica and others who fought the French tooth and nail and suffered the consequences.
But even young girls like Djamila joined this struggle by doing what they could to gain freedom for their beloved country. Some fought alongside their men with guns while others like Djamila carried messages to and fro between various groups of freedom fighters knowing full well that getting caught by the French secret police was tantamount to death. Still Djamila carried on because she was pretty, young and not likely to be a suspect but one day her luck ran out and she was caught which put a whole lot of other freedom fighters at risk.
No one knew how she was beaten and tortured and raped for days to extract information but she bravely suffered and kept quiet that only increased the resolve of her torturers to continue inflicting pain on her.
But somehow a female lawyer Gisele Halimi who represented such detainees came to know about what Djamila was going through and wrote an article that was published in France in one of their news papers. That got the attention of Mme Simone de Beauvoir who was a well known activist and sympathetic to the Algerian cause who then started a campaign to free her and all other prisoners.
This caused a firestorm of protests all over France in favor of Djamila and against the unjust and cruel war in Algeria so deGaulle had to listen and finally bend to the popular wish that Algeria must be free. The angry officers in the military and secret services then conspired to kill de Gaulle but failed.
Thus Algeria gained its freedom but at a tremendous cost of life and trauma. One can still see in the casbah of Algiers the blown up houses that remind you that the brave Djamilas paid a high price for the freedom. I saw many tanks and wrecks of planes that the freedom fighters had destroyed and pushed into the ravines of the DjurDjura mountains in the Kabylie region. It was a brutal war that had left raw scars when I arrived in Algeria in 1971.
People were surprised and happy to know that I had known about Djamila in India because they thought that no one outside their country cared but they were wrong.
My Algeria story appears in my biography called The Untold Story — chapter five-Remember Djamila so check it out.
Here is the link : https://www.widbook.com/ebook/the-untold-story
Djamila was sentenced to death in 1961 but was freed in 1962 under the act of amnesty when Algeria became free. I admire such courage in a person so young and dedicated but I am not the only one. Millions admire her and believe that she is a real hero.
Note : My blogs and biography are also published in the links given below.