Algeria 2009

Two Open Letters From Djamila Bouhired

Source: El Watan, December 13, 2009;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike)

Translator’s note: Djamila Bouhired was the living symbol of the Algerian war for independence. Member of the FLN, liaison officer under Yacef Saadi during the battle of Algiers, she was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death in 1957 for her role in the wave of attacks immortalized by the filmmaker Gillo Pontecovo in his “Battle of Algiers.” Her life saved as a result of an international campaign led by Georges Arnaud and her lawyer and future husband, Jacques Vergès, she was only released from prison in 1962. In December 2009, in an independent Algeria that had left its revolutionary roots far behind, she sent two open letters to the French-language Algiers daily, “El Watan,” decrying her plight and that of her fellow freedom fighters.

December 9, 2009

To Mr. President of an Algeria That I Wanted to See Independent:

Allow me to draw your attention to my critical situation. My retirement benefits and the small war pension I receive do not allow me to live properly: my grocer, my butcher, and my supermarket can testify to the credit they advance me. It has never occurred to me to supplement my revenue with the fraudulent activities that unfortunately are so frequent in my country. I know that certain moujahiddine and moujahidate are in the same situation, probably even more critical. I don’t pretend to represent them here, but in your position you don’t and can’t know their poverty. These brothers and sisters, whose integrity is well known, have not benefited from any advantages. The sum that would be allocated to them would not exceed the generous honoraria paid to deputies and senators or those paid to yourself and all those pensioners who surround you. And so I would ask you that you cease humiliating us and that you increase our pathetic war pension so we can live with a minimum of dignity in the little time we have left to live.

With my patriotic sentiments,

Djamila Bouhired


December 9, 2009

Dear Algerian Brothers and Sisters:

If I address myself to you it is because you represent for me the varied, warm, and generous people I have always loved. I today find myself forced to appeal to you. But first, allow me to introduce myself. I am Djamila Bouhired, sentenced to death in 1957 by the military tribunal of Algiers. I currently find myself in a critical situation. I am ill, and the surgeons have recommended three serious and costly operations which I cannot afford. The cost of hospitalization, the operations, the nursing care, medicines, and hotel lodgings can’t be met by my retirement benefits and the small war pension I receive. And so I am requesting that you assist me as much as possible. Before ending this letter I would like to thank certain emirs of the Gulf countries who I consider to be brothers because of their generosity and their understanding for their generous and spontaneous offer to cover my costs, an offer I had to refuse.

With all my thanks and fraternal affection for my Algerian brothers and sisters,

Djamila Bouhired