|Biographical detail : ||Algerian born writer who forced France to confront sexual violence to campaign for Muslim women’s rights in France.
Samira’s powerfully and movingly book, Dans L’Enfer Des Tournantes (In The Hell Of Tournantes) published in 2002 made her immediately infamous, because it was the first time a young woman had dared to reveal the reality of life in the deprived ghettos – the banlieve – of French cities where violence against young women were standard and gang rapes were endemic.
Gang rapes were understatement of the words but tournantes, or pass-rounds, because the girl was passed around like a joint. She was herself – a symbol for the struggle against the oppression that is so often the lot of second-generation beur (slang for Arabs) women in France – a victim of tournantes when she was 14-year old. She became a “cellar girl”, a fille a cave, as they are known on the estate: someone you could take down to the damp, stinking cellars and have your way with.
Samira’s book had shocked France into acknowledging what was happening in its suburbs. Young women who were used to keeping quite for fear of family pressure or worse, now stood up and finally having the courage of telling the truth in public. Her activism forced French government to research into the problem of violence against women, and her portrait was hung outside the French national assembly.
Samira founded and became the leader of the women’s-rights group to defend the rights of these “ghetto” women. The name says it all: Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (Neither whores, nor submissive). She was an exemplary figure, with heroic courage and someone with a passion for her role as a social worker, and educator.
Samira was born to Algerian parents in Algiers, but her family soon moved to a Parisian suburb where she was brought up in an unhappy home life.
Samira Bellil died of stomach cancer in Marseille.