Algeria: WLUML Council Member Serves as human rights observer at pro-democracy protests
Karima Bennoune, member of WLUML’s Council and a law professor at Rutgers School of Law - Newark, served as a human rights observer at a series of pro-democracy demonstrations in Algeria in February. These demonstrations included significant numbers of women, and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from a new coalition, the Observatoire Nationale sur la violence faites aux femmes (National Observatory on Violence against Women). Bennoune documented the treatment of the protestors, in particular of the women activists involved, as they faced police beatings, arrest and harassment. Prominent women’s rights advocateCherifa Kheddar, was arrested and briefly detained. Many of the Algerian women Bennoune met expressed tremendous enthusiasm about the presence of an international observer.
Bennoune's first-hand English language accounts of February’s marches in Algeria can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/12/algeria-egypt; http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/17/algeria-middleeast; http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/19/algeria-middleeast as well as sound recordings of the demonstrations, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLo37IkUdWc. They detail how she met with and interviewed a number of prominent WHRDs about the situation in Algeria, and about the government’s response to women’s rights activism, and to the democracy movement generally, including the use of counter-protestors against women demonstrators (like in Egypt).
The National Observatory on Violence against Women was one of the organizations that participated in the Coordination Nationale Pour le Changement et la Démocratie (CNCD), the group that organized the protests. Bennoune was able to strengthen relationships between WLUML and organizations on the ground, including with the Observatory and with the Association Djazairouna des victimes du terrorisme Islamiste (Association Djazairouna for the victims of Islamist terrorism), in particular. Promoting networking among women human rights defenders in Muslim majority contexts and Diaspora populations is at the heart of what WLUML does, and Bennoune offered concrete solidarity to WLUML networkers who attended the protests.