“Every time my tormentor is done with me, I close my eyes, and I imagine her sleeping next to me in bed, and all the pain dissolves.”
Little is known of the situation of Algerian lesbians. Individuals sentenced to prison for homosexuality are predominantly men, but other prisons exist for women who love women, prisons of a much crueler and more lethal nature.
Nora is an Algerian lesbian telling us about her life, uncovering the prisons she has been sentenced to. Upon Nora’s request, and for her own safety, both her name and the name of the woman she loves have been changed.
THDZ: Hello Nora. First of all, we would like to thank you for agreeing to talk about your life, despite the danger and the pain that may be involved. To start, could you present yourself to our readers?
Nora: I am a twenty-five years old woman and mother. I believe my life is over, for I have fallen madly in love with a woman, without even meaning to feel that way, and that has ruined me.
THDZ: Ruined you?
Nora: This love story has destroyed my dreams, my hopes, my studies, and basically my whole life. The day this love story was uncovered was the last day of my life.
THDZ: Could you give us more details?
Nora: I come from a very conservative environment. I have two brothers, one that is two years older than me, and the other one year younger. Since the earliest years of my childhood, I was fully aware that I was different. When I was ten years old, my younger brother would beat me up because he would see me playing outside with the boys, and that irritated him. When I was young my father took my side and scolded my brother for his behavior. However, as soon as I hit puberty, even my father took my brothers’ side and I was no longer allowed to leave the house if I was not accompanied by one of my brothers or my father himself. They wanted to take me out of school at some point, but my mother begged and pleaded until they finally conceded and allowed me to study.
I finished high school and was very excited to study hard and become a journalist. A female cousin had graduated in the same year, so she moved in with us to pursue the same degree as well. Her parents had only accepted she continues her studies on the condition that she lives in our house. It was absolutely out of question for them that she lives on campus.
Lamia used to sleep in my room, and everyone in my family loved her. We were very close. Anyone who knew us knew that we were inseparable. At college as well as at home, we never left each other’s side, we did everything together. I became quite anxious at some point, for I didn’t know what was happening to me. One night, she snuggled next to me in bed because she had a secret she needed to tell me about. She was very nervous and kept talking in codes and riddles for hours, but eventually she admitted that she was in love with me and kissed me.
I told her she was confused, that she was simply attached to me because she is living away from her family for the first time in her life, such a love is simply not possible. It took me weeks to acknowledge the fact that I feel the same towards her and that she is the love of my life. Eventually, I confessed to her. We made love and both finished in tears, we were feeling so conflicted about it. We were in love, we loved what we were doing together, but we were terrified at the thought of what could happen to us because of it.
One day, we were home alone, so we let down our guards. My older brother – who was serving in the army – came home for a surprise visit. He walked in on us naked in bed. That is when the nightmare began.
THDZ: Then what happened? Did your brother hit you?
Nora: No. He just vomited a flow of unimaginable insults in our faces. He called us all the foul names he could think of and threatened us with hell for our actions. He immediately told my father. My father said nothing to me, which worried me even more. The first thing they did was to make sure we no longer slept in the same room. Two days later, Lamia parents came to our house to meet with my parents, they closed the doors of the living room and talked for hours. They made sure we cannot hear what they were saying. Linda packed her things and left with her family. From a hiding spot behind the curtains, I watched her leaving, greaving silently the end of our love story. That was the last time I ever saw her.
A few minutes later, my mother came in to inform me of the verdict. I was to marry Linda’s brother in thirty days. He was thirty-five, married, and father to two children. I never liked him, he always gave me nasty looks whenever he came to visit his sister. My mother – without even looking me in the eye – declared that Linda will be married to my older brother, the same brother who walked in on us. I fell to the floor at my mother’s feet, begging, telling her we were sorry, and that we were willing to do anything to avoid such marriage arrangements. My mother declared that the damage was already done, and that this was the only way to avoid the deterioration of our illness. Thirty days later, I was married off to the monster.
THDZ: Did you consider running away before the wedding?
Nora: All the time. I was constantly thinking about it. I would contemplate various scenarios to escape. However, every time I gather the courage to do it, two things would stop me. First of all, my mother had a heart condition, I was afraid she may not be able to take the shock. Second, I had no where to go. I was positive that I would end up in the hands of human predators that would do me harm. As someone who was never even allowed out of the house after 6PM, how am I supposed to survive in the streets?
THDZ: We are sorry to be bringing back all this pain, but can you tell us how the wedding went?
Nora: Torture, plain and simple. That’s the only word I can think of when I remember it.
THDZ: A moment of silence lasting for a few minutes…
Nora: My mother prepared me, there were no invitees nor any celebrations as it would be the case usually with weddings. Everything was prepared in haste and discreetly. My husband-to-be came wearing a suit. We went to the municipality building to register the union. Then an Imam came and did the religious ceremony. In less than one hour, it was all over and I had to get in the car with my husband. I wanted to kiss my father but he turned his face away, so I only kissed my mother and left.
My tormentor drove the car; it was the first time I found myself alone with him. The car-ride lasted for three hours and a half, in which he kept repeating statements about him “fixing my problem” and how I shouldn’t worry about anything.
That night, when we arrived at his house, he told me to kiss his mother and his first wife on the forehead. I did as I was told and was then led to his room. Once in the room, he told me to get prepared for prayer. I had never prayed in my life. Then he came close and told me to get naked. I said that I don’t want to. At first, he tried to be gentle. Eventually, he lost patience and tore off my dress. I suddenly found myself naked in front of him. I tried not to let him touch me. I swear I tried everything. He slapped me across the face and said “now you will know what a real man is like.” That is when I gave up and gave in, I let him do whatever he wanted with me. He finished, turned around, and fell asleep. I went to the bathroom, vomited, cried, and scrubbed my skin bloody. That is how my first night ended.
THDZ: How would you describe your life with a man you did not choose?
Nora: Every night, I try to stay as late as possible in the kitchen, hoping he’d fall asleep or go to his first wife instead. Sometimes it works, but if he really wants to be with me, he just comes to the kitchen and orders me to follow him. Whenever I tried suggesting he goes to his other wife, he’d get extremely angry, telling me that he is a good Muslim and is therefore obliged to spend as many nights with each wife. He’d also remind me that he only accepted to marry me to cover up for the dishonor brought to the family by what his sister and I had done. Now, he has to make the sacrifice since he is a good Muslim.
For months, I was thinking of escaping again, but then I found myself pregnant.
THDZ: The pregnancy made you reconsider?
Nora: Yes, it changed everything.
THDZ: What has become of Linda?
Nora: She married my brother. She is living very far away, and gave birth to two kids, who are my nephews at the same time. I never managed to see her, they made sure I never have any way to contact her. They made sure our paths could never cross and we could never talk.
THDZ: After all these years, do you have any hopes that you would break out of your prison?
Nora: The three women of my life, the same ones who have given me all the love in the world, have also killed any hope of freedom in my lifetime. My love for Linda altered my life and projects. The fear for my mother’s health forced me to accept walking into my own prison with my own feet. My little angel forces me to stay in this prison. My daughter is four and a half years old. She is adorable and she is the reason I wake up every morning. If I left, I would lose custody for sure. Considering my history, no judge would ever grant me custody.
I have learned to live under these conditions. The only thing I can’t seem to ever tolerate is sharing his bed. Every time he lays his hands on me, it feels just as painful and murderous as the first time.
THDZ: Would you like to add anything as a conclusion?
Nora: As I speak of my experience, I know for a fact that there are other women who are struggling with the same ordeal as well. I know they would want to know they are not alone.
I have a confession to make, I still hold on to the childish hope that, perhaps, Linda may manage to get her hands on this testimony and read it. If that ever happens, I would just like to tell her that, no matter what happened, I still love her. Every time my tormentor is done with me, I close my eyes, and I imagine her sleeping next to me in bed, and all the pain dissolves.
Linda, my love, I regret nothing, you will always be the love of my life. Take good care of yourself, and if you ever feel that you are collapsing under all the pressure, remember that one day, in this life or in another, we will meet again. I love you my sweet basbousa. That’s what I used to call her, you know?
THDZ: Thank you Nora, we would like to thank you for your confidence. Above all, we are very grateful for the effort we know it required to speak of all this suffering. We also hope Linda manages to read your words.
You can find more testimonials in this report http://transhomosdz.org/2016/11/27/violence-in-everyday-life-against-lgbtiq-in-algeria/