Neil Macmaster
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The FLN and the role of women during the war

The Algerian War saw thousands of women being mobilised, in an ad hoc way, as a result of the shortage of trained nurses to tend to wounded fighters in make-shift field hospitals. This chapter examines two groups of Algerian women militants. The first is the minority of urban-based and usually better-educated commandos (the fidayate), many of whom later escaped to the maquis. The second is the tens of thousands of anonymous peasant women 'civilians' in the rural areas (moussebilate) who provided vital support to the moudjahidines (fighters in Armée de libération nationale (ALN) units). The chapter explores the extent to which the Front de libération nationale made any impact during the course of the war on the deeply embedded sociocultural, economic and political practices relating to gender. In late 1957 and early 1958, the ALN demobilised moudjahidate from the maquis, a decision that reasserted male authority.

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Burning the veil

The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62


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