Inspiring Purpose

Samira Bellil

Bellil was born in Algiers, the daughter of a traditional, submissive mother and a brutal father. Apart from a period of four years when she lived with loving foster parents in Belgium whilst her father was in prison, she was brought up in the Muslim ghetto estates of Paris.

She recalled that, at the age of 13, emotional deprivation induced her to accept the advances of Jaid, the handsome estate tough guy. But Jaid was part of the system. And so she became a fille à cave , a cellar girl, the sort of girl that the boys would pass round like a joint. One day she was set on by a gang of youths, all wanting sex. Worse was to follow, she was rescued by 'K' who took her to his flat and abused her all night with two other men. Later, 'K' attacked her on a train. No one offered to help. Then he took her to the cellars and worked her over again.

For Bellil, with no brothers to protect her, talking to her parents was out of the question. "For Muslims, for a young girl not to be a virgin is sacrilege, and I knew my father would kill me".

She sought refuge with friends, some of whom betrayed her. Eventually, she and other victims decided to take action against 'K'. After a long struggle against the incompetence of the French legal system, 'K' was jailed for eight years. This small triumph ended in bitterness as Bellil was rewarded with hostility at home and intimidation on the estate.

At the age of 24 she began to see that she could drag herself out of self-loathing and failure. Her book, 'Dans l'enfer des tournantes' (Eng: In the hell of gang rapes) published in October 2002, marks the conclusion of that process. Narrowly evading the attentions of French Television, which would have taken over the issue for its own purposes, Bellil became the figurehead of Ni Putes, Ni Soumises (Neither whores nor slaves), founded to defend women in French Muslim ghettoes. Bellil became a national figure and took part in the NPNS 23-town march organised in 2003 to draw attention to the issue of sexual violence. She gave talks and helped to organise refuges for women.

Bellil was strongly in favour of the controversial ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf by schoolgirls, saying 'These girls are told what to do and what to be by Muslim organisations'.

She died of cancer on 4th September 2004, aged 31.

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