Lalla Fatma N'Soumer
Fatma NSoumer, heroine of the Djurdjura, was born in a village near
Ain El Hammam in 1830, the year when the French occupied Algeria. Her
real name was Fatma Sid Ahmed. The nickname, NSoumer, was given
to her because of her piety and strength and because she lived in the
village of Soumer.
Fatma's father was the head of the Quranic School,
which was linked with the Zawyia Rahmaniya of Sidi Mohamed Ibn
Abderrahmane Abu Qabrein. At a young age, Fatma memorized the
Qur'an, simply by listening to her fathers disciples when
they chanted the various surats (chapters). Those close
to her described her as having a stupendous memory and being greatly
After her fathers death, Fatma directed the Quranic
school with her brother, Si Mohand Tayeb. She took special care
of the children and the poor. In addition to her great piety,
her notable wisdom, and piercing intelligence, she had an excellent
reputation throughout the region of Kabylia. Fatma NSoumer
was only sixteen years old when French soldiers occupied Kabylia.
The region was taken like the country's other regions, not
without violent fighting. But the insurrection led by Lalla Fatma
NSoumer remains one of the most important because of this
lady fighters bravery and nobility. The enemy referred to
her as the Joan of Ark of the Djurdjura, a comparison that the
religious Fatma NSoumer did not accept. Armed with an unshakable
faith, she threw herself in bloody battles to push back the enemy.
In Oued Sebaou, in 1854, when Fatma was 24 years old, she
gave the French army (several times her superior in number and
supplies) a lesson in courage and determination. During this famous
battle, led by Mohamed El Amdjed Ibn Abdelmalek (nicknamed Boubaghla),
who almost gave the French troops the advantage, Fatma, heading
an army of men and women, took control and led her people to victory,
a victory that was heralded throughout Kabylia. The mosques, zawiyas,
and Quranic schools burst into chants of praise in honor
of the heroine of the Djurdjura.
General Randon, who did not accept this defeat, asked the
inhabitants of Azazga to help him reach Fatma NSoumers
quarters and to end "her legend and misdeeds." The response
to his emissary was to "Go to the one who sent you, and tell
him our ears cannot hear the language of he who asks us to betray."
The reaction of the general in turn was that "as long as
they remain deaf to our appeals, I will make them hear the sound
of our cannons."
Fatma NSoumer did not give up. Even after the fall
of Azazga and the ferocious repression by Randons troops,
she mobilized the population and led more battles. She called
her people to "fight for Islam, the land, and liberty. They
are our constant, and they are sacred. They can neither be the
object of concessions nor haggling." Her strong personality
had a strong influence on all of Kabylia, shown by the sacrifice
and determination of the people during all the battles, especially
those of Icherridene and Tachkrit, where the enemy troops were
greatly defeated. The latter took place on July 18, 1854, and
resulted in a heavy toll for the enemy: 800 dead of which 56 were
officers and 371 injured.
Randon finally asked for a cease-fire, which was accepted
by Fatma NSoumer, a political and military strategic decision.
She planned to use the period of the cease-fire to improve her
organization and reinforce her troops. The fields were plowed
and sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of
the region. However, this cease fire, like other signed cease
fires and treaties, like those with Emir Abdelkader, was not respected
by the French. After three years, in 1857, they broke their word
after having prepared their armies and launched offensives against
several large cities which where, until then, difficult to overtake.
Fatma NSoumer, whose influence motivated the fighters
for freedom, appealed to the people for a last and supreme effort.
It was a matter of occupying three strategically important positions.
Surrounded by women of the region, Lalla Fatma directed the fight
and encouraged the volunteers who remained. The battle was lost,
In the same year, Fatma was arrested, imprisoned in the
Issers then in Tablat. The French soldiers spent her fortune,
which had been used toward caring for the disciples of her brothers
zawiya. Her rich library, which contained a rich source of scientific
and religious works from the region, was completely destroyed.
Lalla Fatma NSoumer died in 1863. The hardship from
her incarceration and the frustration from her inability to act
against the aggressions and insults to which her people were submitted,
affected her so deeply that her health deteriorated. She was only
33 years old.