ALGERIA: Algerian NGOs Want Probe into Assaults on Women

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Daily Star Regional
Northern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Algerian rights groups on Monday pressed President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika to open an independent inquiry into alleged assaults of women domestic workers on bases of foreign oil companies.

The Collective of Defense and Solidarity (CDS) asked in an open letter for “an independent and impartial inquiry to shed light on all this chronic and organized violence against isolated women, occupying precarious jobs, in a very vulnerable position.”

Fourteen non-governmental organizations and rights groups signed the letter, published in Monday's press.

The Collective was set up on April 25, in the weeks after a number of women were brutally assaulted in the shanty-town district of Al-Haicha at Hassi Messaoud, the main oil-producing center in the Algerian Sahara.

The women are mainly domestic staff for oil workers, who are often expatriate.

They were “lynched, beaten, robbed and assaulted” in March and April by hooded, armed attackers, women's rights activist Cherifa Bouatta told a press conference in Algiers.

Unidentified assailants “terrorized each of the isolated and defenseless victims (…) robbing them and molesting them after breaking into their homes,” the CDS reported in April.

There is no precise figure for the victims because some are frightened of coming forward.

“The attacked women work mostly on the bases of foreign oil companies. They are cleaning ladies, iron clothes, do the cooking and live on their own or with their children in shanty town accommodation,” said an official with one NGO.

In its letter, the CDS said it “waits with confidence for firm and definitive measures to be taken (…) to ensure the security and protection of these women, of their children and their property.”

The assaults “are a reminder of the odious crimes that targeted more than a hundred women” in the same Al-Haicha district in July 2001, when some 300 men violently attacked women living on their own and “subjected them to the worst atrocities,” the CDS said.

It recalled statements from the World Organization Against Torture that it “could not ignore the specific violence carried out against women.”