De gauche a droite: le Dr Harmouche, dit Si Said; Mme Bedj Fatima, mère des Chahidates, Allah yerhamhoum; Bedj M'Hamed, frère des Chahidates et les moudjahidines de la Wilaya IV : Si El Houcine; Si Mourad et Si Ezzine; Bedj H'Med et un cousin à la famille assis.
Photo prise au domicile familial à Orléansville le 19 Mars 1962. Au cessez le feu , le groupe de la photo + Si Hassan et Mme Harmouche Farida sont venus nous annoncer que les deux soeurs Bedj etaient tombées au champs d'honneur : Messaouda dite Meriem et Fatma dite Lalia. Ce fut une journée des plus tristes et des plus douloureuses pour la famille Bedj. Allah yarham Chouhadas.
A cette triste occasion le 19 Mars 1962, voici le témoignage de la mère et de la sœur ainée des Chahidet pour l'écrivain Mme Amrane Djamila.
The Bedj Family
All of the Bedj family were in the resistance. Three of the children took to the maquis and were killed: Messaouda at 25 years of age, Fatoma at 24 and their adopted brother Youssef. Talabia, the oldest, and Farida, the youngest girl, were active in the civil organization of the FLN. The father, a retired employee of the French police, arrested several times, died of fatigue in January 1959. The mother, left alone with Talabia and the youngest children, Farida and Mohamed, kept helping the maquisards.
After the war Farida married, had children, and lives a normal life. But Fatma, the mother, and Talabia, whose accounts follow, are broken. They live in seclusion in the family home in El Asnam.
I had three younger sisters, all of us were resistance fighters... Two of my sisters were in the maquis: Fatoma and Messaouda. Every time there was an incident, they came to get my father and questioned him about Miriam (Messaouda’s code name) and El Alia (Fatoma’s code name). They took him, let him go, took him back... the last time they let him go, he was very sick, and died.
In 1958, they came because they had found a list of purchases... including a rather large amount of... paper, pens, and so on... It was my younger sister Farida who had made these purchases for the maquisards. They took her and my father away.
She made up a story saying that a guy had forced her to buy those things. She made up a false description of the guy and stuck to it. They took her to the camps with a hood over her head, so she could identify him, but she didn’t identify anyone. A soldier hit her. In the camp, an old resistance fighter, seeing them hit her, said: “Say it’s me to get out of it.” We found her a lawyer and after two months she was released. As for me, she said I was crazy. So I pretended I was. But she saved me, she saved us all.
We got letters from my sisters and the other maquisards, they told us what they needed. They asked us to sew, to knit wool sweaters, to make badges... Often I brought them the packages myself, I put on an old veil, old shoes, and went out to the douars on the outskirts of town, 5 or 10 kilometers away. I never saw Miriam, but I saw El Alia five times...
The first time... I remember that day: she had on something like moccasins tied up with a string... (she cries). She showed me her feet, it looked as if they were burned, they were bleeding. She had marched so much, her shoes had holes. And her hair! She had such beautiful hair before, it shone. And that day, I remember, she scratched her head, and took off a flea. Her hair was full of fleas. She had a little checked shirt, jeans, and a little revolver, a 6.35. She was so pleased, look I’ve got a revolver, she put it in her pocket...
I learned of [Miriam’s] death in March. I had gone to the maquis to see... El Alia. She was with Chafika and the two Khatib boys. I begged them to give me news of Miriam. Chafika took me aside and said: “She’s dead, but El Alia doesn’t know it.” I was the one who wanted to know the truth and when I did... (she cries). That day, Chafika told me that Miriam was dead, but El Alia didn’t know about it. And El Alia told me that Chafika’s fiance was dead, and Chafika didn’t know about it. Each one of them was hiding it from the other. They are all dead, Miriam, El Alia, Chafika, her fiance, the two Khatib brothers.... They were courageous, they weren’t the kind that would have just died by accident: they wanted to die. In our region many girls are named El Alia and Miriam in memory of them...
With Independence, I stopped doing political work. We did our duty, we let others take over... we were so tired...
Miriam came from Algiers to say goodbye before she left for the maquis. What could I say? It was for our country, there was nothing to say. We knew she was in the resistance. Once her father found medicine and medical instruments among her things. She was a student nurse... I knit sweaters, scarves, my husband took them in a box on his motorbike as if he was going to work and gave them to someone in a store for the mujahidin, the resistance fighters.
We felt neither fatigue nor pain.
Those who died, may God have mercy on them, and those who survived, may God reward them, may God give to each one what his heart desires.
My husband, the French harassed him, he barely spent two weeks at home without getting arrested. They came in, shouting, “Miriam, that bitch, where is she?” And they took him off, I don’t know where. Then fifteen, twenty days later, he came back, he was asthmatic, he pushed the door open, he came in... in a pitiful state... I washed him, I cared for him, they had hit him... and ten or fifteen days later they knocked on the door, they took him back... That’s how it came about that he died on January 15, 1959.
They let him go because he was going to die. He couldn’t move, I changed him, and he said, “excuse me, I am making you tired.” I said, “Oh no, father of my children, may God forgive you, you aren’t making me tired.” The next day, January 15, may God rest his soul, he was dead. All of our friends said I should sign him up as a martyr. I told them: “Oh people, pray by the Prophet, this man died in his bed.”
We worked, the revolution began with us and it ended with us. Everyone told me: “Ya El-Hajja ask for a pension, ask for something.” I asked for nothing, not even a pin, we worked for the cause of God. But now I’ll tell you the truth, I have regrets, I regret the loss of my daughters... (she cries).
…I knew in 1962. They came to my house, Farida, Si Said, Si Hassan, Slimane, they ate lunch, had tea, and they [my daughters], they weren’t there (she cries). I didn’t want to ruin their appetite, I didn’t say anything. When they had done eating, I asked them:
“And my daughters? Miriam?”
They looked at each other, and told me: “She died a martyr.”
A little while afterwards, I said: “And El Alia?”
In a strangled voice, Hassan told me: “She died a martyr.”
I said: “And Youssef?” That was my adopted son, he also went to the maquis.
“He died a martyr.”
I said nothing, I didn’t want to cry in front of them. I went into the kitchen and I cried: “Oh, my little mother, my little mother, I am ruined.” And then... God, may He be praised, gave me the faith to go on.