Tonight I first saw snow visit our neighborhood. It’s nothing to write home about (only an inch), but as snow has decided to elude these parts, I must commemorate it. Where hast thou been, fine crystal playground? My unprepared feet stumbled and slipped on an icy sewer door on my route home. No match for gravity, I could only laugh at myself, elated at the prospect of a true winter week.
I was returning from my guerrilla warfare class, where we watched the film The Battle of Algiers.
This film narrates the uprising of the National Liberation Front (FLN) in Algeria in the 50’s and early 60’s. The most interesting part of the story, besides the balanced portrayal of French paratrooper and terrorist perspectives, is the way women were used to carry out terrorist activities for the FLN. From hiding guns underneath burqas, to disguising themselves as French women (haircuts, hair and face coloring, modern dress), to carrying bombs in large handbags and conveniently leaving them in popular French civilian hangouts – it’s clear women were indispensible to the Algerian revolution, even if it meant compromising strict religious practices. I don’t condone these women’s actions, of course, but it’s hard not to admire their cunning techniques. Children, too, were “heroes,” acting as secret messengers, ganging up on incompetent or disloyal members of the FLN, and encouraging the Arabs via loudspeaker about the fortune of the rebellion.
If you haven’t seen the film, do. Philip Jenkins wrote an article about it (unfortunately I can’t find the url), arguing that The Battle of Algiers is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand or even…ahem…form policy within the Muslim world. It also elucidates the workings of a terrorist-led revolution and the measures taken to suppress it, measures that ultimately failed. Lessons from one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century bear timely relevance to the issues we’re dealing with now. Pay heed, says Jenkins; I concur.