Dossier 14-15: Women's Rights Activist Assassinated in Algeria

Publication Author: 
Human Rights Watch
September 1996
Word Document78 KB
number of pages: 
February 17, 1995

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. No one has claimed responsibility for the murder, believed to have been committed by Islamist militants. The killing follows other attacks by extremists on well-known activists, intellectuals and others opposed to the political goals of the Islamist opposition.

Ms. Djahnine, a well-known activist in Tizi Ouzou since she was a student, helped start a magazine called the Voice of Women in 1990. In her writing, she defended Algerian women's right to participate in the civil and political life of their country. Despite escalating attacks on activists known for their opposition to the agenda of the armed Islamist militants, Ms. Djahnine remained an outspoken advocate for women's rights. Ms. Djahnine's organization has called for the elimination of discriminatory provisions from Algeria's family code, which governs marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. The code has been denounced by women activists in Algeria for denying women their rights and making them minors under the law regardless of their age.

Since the cancellation of parliamentary elections in 1992, fighting between the Algerian government and the armed Islamist opposition has led to a severe deterioration in human rights conditions in Algeria.

Suspected Islamists have been detained and subjected to torture and mistreatment in detention. Islamist militants have targeted civilians from all walks of life - including prominent intellectuals, public figures, journalists and foreigners - in their armed struggle.

Increasingly, women have been the targets of such violence. Women who work outside the home - including shop-owners, teachers, journalists and magistrates - have been threatened and killed by Islamist militants. Women have been threatened with violence if they refuse, or, in other cases, if they choose, to wear the veil. Other women have been threatened with death by extremists because of their own or family members' identification with the government or security forces. Algerian defenders of women's rights believe that the armed Islamist groups target women as important cultural symbols: by driving women from the streets, the Islamist militants demonstrate their power to impose the culture they envision for Algeria.

Source: Middle-East Watch, Feb 17, 1995

Human Rights Watch, Middle East Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104, U.S.A.