Fadhma N'Soumer

   Her real name is Fadhma Sid Ahmed, and she is also known as Lalla Fadhma. In the tradition of al-Kahina who resisted the Arab invasion of North Africa in the seventh century, Fadhma led resistance against the French. She was born to a marabout family, the Rahmaniya order, in the Werja village in Greater Kabylia in 1830, the same year the French launched their conquest of Algeria. At an early age, she memorized the Qur'an and also taught the Quranic school of her village. She is said to be of exceptional intelligence and had the gift of a seer. In 1850 and before the French assault on Kabylia, she is said to have had a vision in which a foreign army led an assault on her native land, Kabylia. Her account of the vision moved people to the point that they were preparing for a jihad against the French.
   In 1830, the French occupied Algiers, and 1831, they were kept away from Kabylia. In 1837, they finally succeeded in pushing back the Kabyles and built forts and bases for operations in the region. On 7 April 1854, the French assault on parts of Kabylia was met by a jihad organized by Fadhma. Fadhma's organization defeated the wellarmed French troops in the battle of Oued Sebaou. During this battle, organized by Mohamed El Amdjed Ibn Abdelmalek (known also as Boubaghla), Fadhma led an army of men and women, and she dealt the French a painful defeat. Her victory was celebrated throughout Kabylia. The mosques, zawiyas, and Quranic schools erupted into chants of praise in honor of the heroine of the Djurdjura Mountains. The French were forced to retreat, only to return for the 18-20 July 1854 battle of Tachekrirt. After two days of heavy fighting, the French forces were, once again, decimated by Fadhma and her army. In 1857, the French returned and this time with a much reinforced and superior military power, and despite the heroic resistance of the Kabyles and Fadhma, they fell to the superior weaponry of the French. In 1857, Fadhma was arrested and imprisoned in Tablat, where she died in 1863. She was 33 years old. Her heroic exploits are still celebrated in Kabyle stories, chants, and poems, making her a potent symbol of freedom and resistance against all forms of domination and colonization. In 1994, the Algerian state reburied her remains in the Carré des Martyrs cemetery (El Alia), where prominent and historic leaders of Algerian nationalism rest.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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