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Djamila Boupacha

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Name  Djamila Boupacha

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Djamila Boupacha (born 9 February 1938 in Bologhine, a suburb of Algiers) is a former militant from the Algerian National Liberation Front. She was arrested in 1960 for attempting to bomb a cafe in Algiers. Her confession, which was obtained by means of torture and rape, and her consequent trial affected French public opinion about the methods used by the French army in Algeria, after publicity by Simone de Beauvoir and Gisèle Halimi. Boupacha was sentenced to death on June 29 1961, but was given amnesty under the Evian accords and later freed on 21 April 1962.

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Djamila boupacha la legendaire algerienne 23 mai 1972


Arrest and torture

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Early in the Algerian War, Boupacha worked as a trainee at Béni Messous Hospital but was prevented from taking a certificate in training because of her race and religion. This setback played a role in Boupacha's initial rejection of the French colonial system in Algeria.

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On 10 February 1960, French troops raided Boupacha's household and arrested her and her family. They were taken to a military barracks at El Biar where they were beaten and interrogated. Boupacha was later transferred and tortured at the prison of Hussein Dey. The torture included brutal sexual violence. Under torture, Boupacha confessed to planting a bomb at a University restaurant on 27 September 1959.

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Torture was a common experience for women who were arrested in this conflict, and rape was systematically used to terrorize and shame the Algerian community. The importance of Boupacha's case lies in her decision to bring a suit against her torturers. Though she did not deny her affiliation with the FLN and her commitment to Algerian independence, she did argue that a confession achieved under torture should not be admissible before the military tribunal that was to try her.

Trial

Working with French Tunisian lawyer Gisèle Halimi, Boupacha brought her torture case to trial, causing a scandal in France and Algeria and gaining wide public attention after Simone de Beauvoir published an article in Le Monde, a French newspaper, that outlined the case. Throughout the trial, Boupacha also gained the support of prominent artists and intellectuals such as Henri Alleg, André Philip, and Pablo Picasso.

Boupacha's violated virginity and her physical and metaphorical purity came under intense scrutiny in the court case as well as in the media. The army's practices of sexual humiliation were already known to the public, but Boupacha's case shed light on how far the army would go to protect her torturers from prosecution.

French officials in Algeria also hindered Boupacha's access to legal representation, denying her lawyer's visas that would allow her to be in Algeria for Boupacha's court dates. These many obstacles prompted de Beauvoir to established The Djamila Boupacha Committee in Paris. This committee was instrumental in drumming up public outrage, and also campaigned to remove the case from Algerian jurisdiction; this campaign was successful, and the case was transferred to France in December 1960.

The Evian Accords that gave Boupacha her freedom also meant that her torturers received the same immunity, who ultimately could not be prosecuted.

Later life and legacy

In post-independence Algeria, Boupacha remained important as an icon. The FLN used Boupacha as a symbol to try to help establish legitimacy for their one-party state at first, but this strategy was eventually set aside. In the 2000s, Boupacha also inspired a song called "Djamila" that was composed by Bernard Joyet and sung by Francesca Solleville. Her legacy also lives on in popular culture through Picasso's artwork inspired by her.

Boupacha has largely retreated from the public eye since her trial.

References

Djamila Boupacha Wikipedia


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