Drif, Zohra. Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter.

AuthorMagnarella, Paul J.

Drif, Zohra. Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter. Translated by Andrew Farrand. Charlottesville, VA: Just World Books, 2017.

Zohra Drif's memoir, first published in French in 2013, describes her early life and time in the Algerian resistance to French colonial rule. She wrote this memoir at age eighty-two because she wanted to justify her killing of European civilians during Algeria's war of independence. She is convinced that such violence was the only option. Zohra was born in 1934 in the small Algerian city of Tiaret to an Algerian Muslim family. She says that her life involved two struggles: one against French colonialism, which degraded Algerians, and the other against Arab tribal conservatism, which strictly limited women's roles. Her father, a qadi (Islamic judge), was atypically progressive in that he wanted his daughter to have a first-class education. Consequently, Zohra attended a French lycee and university in Algiers. She became fluent in French and knowledgeable of French ways of dressing and acting. From her early years she resented the French occupation and longed for Algerian independence.

French colonial rule over regions of present-day Algeria began in 1830 and lasted until just after the Algerian War of Independence concluded in 1962. Algeria had attracted hundreds of thousands of European immigrants, many from the poorer sections of Spain, Italy, and France. Some were criminal and political deportees from France. In 1953 the one million settlers, known as colons or pieds noirs, dominated a Muslim population of about nine million. Europeans owned about 66 percent of the arable land. The grands colons controlled much of Algeria's manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and trade. Algerians were appalled and angered by the ways the French military, police, and ultras (armed French citizens) terrorized the Muslim population. The many illegal acts committed by the French against the Algerians included beatings, torture by electroshock, waterboarding, home demolition, starvation, sexual assault, and rape. The French military had even reintroduced the guillotine.

As a twenty-year-old law student, Zohra initiated contact with the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN; National Liberation Front) shortly after the Algerian War of Independence had begun. In the beginning, she and her female cohorts secretly delivered letters to the families of Algerian fighters living in Algiers. Later, they clandestinely...

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