This gripping insider’s account chronicles how and why a young woman in 1950s Algiers joined the armed wing of Algeria’s national liberation movement to combat her country’s French occupiers. When the movement’s leaders turned to Drif and her female colleagues to conduct attacks in retaliation for French aggression against the local population, they leapt at the chance. Their actions were later portrayed in Gillo Pontecorvo’s famed film The Battle of Algiers. When first published in French in 2013, this intimate memoir was met with great acclaim and no small amount of controversy. It is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand not only the anti-colonial struggles of the 20th century and their relevance today, but also the specific challenges that women often confronted (and overcame) in those movements.
About the Author
In the 1950s, Zohra Drif was a core member of the armed wing of Algeria’s national liberation movement, the FLN. She later practiced criminal law and from 2001 to 2016 she served as a senator in Algeria’s Council of the Nation. Lakhdar Brahimi is a distinguished Algerian diplomat who has served as the UN’s Special Representative in Haiti, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. In the 1950s, he was one of the leaders of the FLN. Andrew G. Farrand, a native of Baltimore, MD, has worked in Algeria since 2013 as a writer, photographer, and freelance translator.
"Filled with rich detail of the socioeconomic, religious and political context of the period, Drif's account can serve as an engaging and accessible introduction to Algeria, settler colonialism, and national liberation wars for students, just as its amazing first-hand account of the role of one of the FLN's most important female fighters provides new insights and historical material for specialists." —Laurie Brand, Wright Professor, International Relations, University of Southern California
"The English translation of Zohra Drif’s memoirs is a publishing event. It makes available to a wider audience the life and times of an Algerian woman who was both actor in, and witness to, one of the 20th century’s most dramatic independence struggles." —Julia Clancy-Smith, Department of History, University of Arizona
"A narrative that is engrossing and provides a new, fresh look at a critical moment in Algerian history . . . [Drif] will now be known to the world through her own eloquent words. Essential reading." —Miriam Cooke, author, Dancing in Damascus: Creativity, Resilience and the Syrian Revolution
"A precious contribution to the knowledge of the Algerian War of Independence . . . . it shows the decisive role of women in the war . . . . this book sheds light on the miracle of culture in the resistance . . . . her testimony [is] for her young compatriots, thirsty for truth, and eager to find the trail of the struggle to liberate themselves from the scourges of today." —Amin Khan, author, Nous autres, Eléments pour un manifeste de l'Algérie heureuse
"A fascinating detailed memoir that grants her readers an awareness of the oppression that weighed upon the colonized during the French colonial era and an understanding of the difficult struggle that led to Algerian independence." —Mildred Mortimer, University of Colorado
"Zohra Drif has given us a powerful, first- hand account of the amazingly courageous role played by women in Algeria’s eight-year-long struggle for independence from France . . . . From start to finish, it reads like a thriller." —David Ottaway, formerly of the Washington Post
"Zohra Drif [is] a living legend of the Algerian freedom movement . . . This is one of the most engaging memoirs to come out of the period of decolonization." —Vijay Prashad, author, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World
"A remarkable memoir, filled with fascinating detail about her personal story . . . and the tight-knit group of militants, including herself, who organized the armed wing of the nationalist movement in the Casbah of Algiers in 1956-57." —William B. Quandt, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Virginia
"Of the many hundred books written about the Algerian war of independence, none matches Zohra Drif’s Inside the Battle of Algiers for capturing the white hot fervor of a very young Muslim woman student of impeccable family background caught up in her countrymen’s savage war of national liberation from France . . . . Hers is a gripping tale, at times feminist as much as nationalist." —Jonathan Randal, formerly of the Washington Post; author, The Tragedy of Lebanon
"Recounted with great candour and superbly written . . . . a very moving tribute to the women of Algeria." —Hugh Roberts, Edward Keller Professor, North African and Middle Eastern History, Tufts University