March 9, 1995 in Nation/World

Algerian Women Seek ‘Right To Live’ Women Often Targets Of Violence From Islamic Extremists

Associated Press

In fear-stricken Algeria, the slogan for International Women’s Day was starkly simple: “The Right to Live.”

Women’s rights activists, targeted for assassination by Islamic militants, held a mock trial Wednesday to judge their tormentors for crimes against humanity. Other feminists discussed their plight at a heavily guarded hotel with counterparts from Europe.

But for many women across Algeria it was another day of worrying: Should they keep working, should they wear a veil, do they dare smoke a cigarette?

Especially in neighborhoods that support Islamic fundamentalism, women who favor Western lifestyles face pressure to change their ways

An estimated 300 women have been killed during a 3-year insurgency by Islamic militants angry over the cancellation of parliamentary elections that fundamentalists were favored to win. The overall death toll has passed 30,000.

On Tuesday, President Liamine Zeroual received a delegation of women’s group leaders and urged the nation to “help consolidate the role of women in society.”

The media took up this theme Wednesday, saying “authentic Islam” considered women a “full partner” in society.

Still, women in Algeria hold less than 5 percent of its jobs and have a higher illiteracy rate than men.

The symbolic trial, held at a conference hall in central Algiers, was sponsored by the Algerian Rally of Democratic Women. Witnesses included relatives of assassination victims, while absent defendants included jailed and exiled leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front and the two main guerrilla groups waging the insurgency.

A panel of five “judges” - all with covered faces - imposed death sentences on the two detained leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front, Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj, as well as exiled leaders, Rabah Kebir and Anwar Haddam.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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