[31 July 2001] What started in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria on
the night of July 13-14, 2001 is NOT one more crime/violence/violation in the
wartime situation that our country has now become famous for. A qualitative
change has taken place.
The current violence in Algeria is
both tragic and deeply alarming in its scope and intensity to all observers, but
it is especially heartbreaking for those who have followed the country's history
for the last 40 years. Algeria was once a symbol of progressive anti-colonial
struggle which brought women and men together to fight for their basic human
rights. Djamila Bouhired and the other women fighters in the war of national
liberation became the international symbols of Algeria's freedom struggle and
were revered throughout the Arab World.
Today, in Algeria, the execution
and murder of women, foreigners and intellectuals by Muslim extremists have
become systematic. Such typically fascist acts have given rise to feelings of
outrage. Logically, therefore, one would expect that the most lucid would rally
around a struggle against such a political vision or, at the very least, in
defense of the memory of the victims.
Human Rights Watch's
Women's Rights Project and Middle East division today deplored the assassination
by suspected Islamist militants of Algerian women's rights activist Nabila
Djahnine. Ms. Djahnine, a thirty-year-old architect who led an organization
called the Cry of Women, was killed on February 15 in Tizi Ouzou, the capital
city of the Kabyle region. According to a February 16 El-Watan report, she was
gunned down by two men in a car as she walked to work.
A ‘Family Code’ law has been introduced which removes many of women’s
basic human rights. She also speaks about contraception, the problem of
abandoned children and the consequences for women of the insistence on virginity
I would like to start with this new law, which is known in Algeria under the
name “Family Code”, (not the name of it, that is “Law on Personal Status”) a
title which is also used in Tunisia and Morocco.