Memoirs of a Militant
Shattering the notion that Muslim women did not play an active role in armed resistance national liberation struggles
“In order to carry on with life in prison, you must believe you will be there forever.”
In the haunting and inspiring Memoirs of a Militant: My Years in the Khiam Women’s Prison Nawal Baidoun offers us her first-person account of the life of a young woman activist imprisoned for four years, as well as the events leading up to her arrest and detention. Born into a nationalist family in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, not far from the location of the prison itself, Baidoun, like so many others, found herself compelled to take up arms to resist the Israeli occupation. Her memoir skillfully weaves together two stories: that of the oppressive conditions facing ordinary people and families in South Lebanon, and that of the horrors of daily life and the struggle for survival inside the prison itself.
Arrested for her role in planning the assassination of the well-known Israeli agent and collaborator, Husayn Abdel Nabi, Baidoun was at one point detained with Soha Bechara, a fellow militant whose similar operation is better known. Her activism rooted in her Islamic faith, Baidoun shatters the notion that Muslim women did not play an active role in the armed resistance. Much like her sisters in Algeria and Palestine, Nawal Baidoun belongs to a generation of Muslim women in the Arab world who played a significant role in their national liberation struggles. She describes the intense mental and physical torture she endured, and her refusal to confess despite this. Memoirs of a Militant offers us rare and unique insight into the strength and courage of Baidoun in extreme circumstances and conditions. Nawal Baidoun herself has said that she wrote this book as a sort of history lesson for the generations who come after her, to show the ways in which women actively took part in the resistance and struggle against the occupation. Her strongly abolitionist message about prisons and the need to liberate all prisoners and detainees resonates strongly today, as does her call for solidarity in the face of injustice.