Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Dalila Bellil

A song for change may moves you: And the customs continue unperturbed

Dahbia recalls, as she was 9 year-old, the song of her favorite Kabyle (Algeria ethnic group) singer Nouara:

“You have all sang my beauty

You all have lauded my sense of honor

Nobody cared for my rights

As if an animal.

My eyes are wide open now

And I’ll exact my account.

I’ll never forgive my father,

Marrying me against my will.

At the wedding ceremony, I was still playing…”

The women in my home, old and young, were moved by the song.

And nothing changed in this custom.”

Dahbia was retrieved from school at the age of 9: She was confined at home, among the women.

Dahbia was no longer permitted to step outside her home: The younger girls had the chores of bringing in what was necessary from outside the premises.

The grandmothers were free to go outside, anywhere they wanted: At this age, they are not that appealing to succumb to any dishonoring calamity… And not because they demonstrated their traditional sense of “honor”

The job of Dahbia at 9 was to be readied for marriage.

And Dahbia loved to go to school and learn. No crying or knocking at the hearts of aunts and uncles to relent produced any softening to the decision of  being secluded at home. Nobody would listen.

When her dad returned from France to town for a month vacation, all he had to say was: “If tamgharat (the eldest woman) has decided, it will be her will. I can do nothing to change her decision…”

Since that day, Dahbia’s father never looked at her the same way: Her childhood was over and his daughter is to be prepared to become a woman.

Dahbia experienced deep depression, and the tamgharat appeased her mother saying: “Time will overcome her illness.

I remember Yvonne, a young French teacher who failed in her love affair and came to teach in town. Pretty soon, Yvonne succumbed to the same illness of Dahbia. Time is the only cure…

Even in France, Maghrebi immigrant families forbid their girls of 13 to step outside their apartment to play.

Once you resign yourself to admit what was unacceptable, you feel like resuming the “normal” flow of daily life: You eat, sleep and occasionally you laugh.

Dahbia’s lot was to accept becoming a wife, a mother of a large family, unconditionally obeying her husband…

We start to elevate the “Makhtoub”(destiny) to a mythical truth.

Maktoub has very large shoulders that can carry all our failing, a weight as light as feather…

Note 1: An extract from the French book “Our fathers are gone” by Dalila Bellil

Note 2: The favorite Kabyle singers were: Nouara, Idir, Khedidja, Matoub Lounes, Cheikh el-Hasnaoui, Djurdjura, Dahmane el-Harrachi

Soltana and Dahbia: Our fathers are gone overseas

Soltana and Dahbia are half-sisters from the same father who immigrated to France. The youngest Soltana immigrated early to France while the illiterate Dahbia remained and married Djamel and has been behaving as a simple tail to her provider of a husband.

Dahbia followed the many relocation of Djamel to different cities and towns, along with her two kids, and she was never asked an opinion or any feedback: Dahbia thought that it was natural and normal to obey her husband. Dhabia thought it was her husband’s responsibility to be the provider and care for the family.

Soltana visited once her village (douar) during summer. She was single and was living in France and was welcomed as a lady. Soltana was apprehensive of meeting her married half-sister Dhabia and felt shy meeting the husband Djamel.

Dhabia felt restless and waited for the crowd to disperse in order to join Soltana and take her hand. The month vanished in a blink as in a dream for the two sisters. And Soltanan vanished back to France.

The day came when Djamel blurted out that the immigration of the family to France was imminent. Djamel has been visiting the French consulate and filling documents without ever thinking to ask Dahbia’s readiness for such a drastic move, as an exiled person.

This time her husband went overboard and Dhabia’s resentment exploded:

“If you want to leave, go. I’m staying with my kids. I live in my country and refuse to be an exiled person…”

Djamel is taken aback and tries to reason with his wife:

“What did your country offered to you since independence? After 50 years, we are still poor, vulnerable, despaired. Misery is growing steadily and injustice is flagrant. I feel totally powerless to overcome our situation. We lost courage to act. I’m like you: I dream to live in my country. If we stay we are as sure as dead…”

Dhabia retorts:

“I’m not dead and neither are the children. We are healthy and we are living together. I’m not about to repeat my father conduct. He preferred to immigrate and leave his family behind. Here I’m no stranger…”

Djamel says:

“Without you I’d be a madman longtime ago. We have not yet finished our voyage together. We have endured and suffered for so long. And I refuse for my children to suffer as we did. Our children should not feel victims of unfair circumstances…”

The illiterate Dhabia relied on her young  cousin Kaina to transcribe letters to Soltana: She needed badly to communicate to her sister her predicament and wanted Soltana’s counsel.

After a sustained correspondence, Djamel stumbled on the box of letters and got upset: What? His wife doesn’t feel close enough to him to express her emotions and her distraught state of spirit?

And Djamel ordered Dhabia to desist corresponding with her sister and summoned Kaina and the postman never to cooperate anymore.

The last letter of Dhabia to her sister was to inform Soltana of the impossibility to resume writing letters because she owes obedience to her husband.

What do you think could have been the last letter of Soltana if she could send it? Like:

“This correspondence showed me where are my roots. I lacked family. I’m no longer a free electron. I discovered the links that I missed. I rediscovered myself through your tenderness…I am no longer alone right now…?”

The follow-up post will present part of the main contents of these letters.

Note: Dalila Bellil lives in Parme and she is a kabileh ethnic of north Africa. The French book “Nos peres sont partis” is her first.




October 2022

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