Karima Bennoune https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12940/all cached version 08/02/2019 23:28:14 en The truth about Charlie: one year after the 7 January attacks https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/one-year-after-7-january-attacks-truth-about-charlie <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Charlie Hebdo attack one year ago was part of a long tradition of fundamentalist assaults on artists.&nbsp; Understanding this tragic event is critical to defeating Islamist terror today.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article is written by Professor Bennoune in her personal capacity. </em></p><p>Two French Islamist gunmen of Algerian descent entered a newspaper office in Paris a year ago today and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">gunned down a generation of Europe’s greatest political cartoonists</a> – many from an anarchist, anti-racist tradition &nbsp;– along with their co-workers and those protecting them, who also included people of Algerian descent. &nbsp;In case anyone is confused about the politics of this – it was a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">far right attack on the left</a>.&nbsp; </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/special-edition-of-charlie-hebdo-on-first-anniversary-of-attacks_9400118.jpg" alt="" height="270" width="385" /></p> <p><em>Special edition of Charlie Hebdo published on the first anniversary of the attack. Photo: Demotix, Art Widak. <br /></em></p><p> At first the world reacted with justified horror and a solidarity which is not always forthcoming for the frequently anonymous victims of Islamist slaughter, and which was not often experienced by the Charlie Hebdo staff in previous years when they <a href="https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/je-suis-charlie-its-a-bit-late/">endured threats and firebombs</a>. However, the backlash began quickly.&nbsp; The truth about Charlie was that many were shockingly equivocal in their reaction to these events.&nbsp; </p> <p>There was the “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/mohamed-sifaoui/tariq-ramadan-nest-ni-charlie-ni-flic-ni-juif_b_6448888.html">I am not Charlie</a>” campaign, promoted by Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. &nbsp;The meaning of that was clear enough.&nbsp; Those whose ideology helped pave the way for such killings were publicly admitting their lack of solidarity with the victims.</p> <p>There were outright vilification campaigns suggesting that the cartoonists (or perhaps French people generally) were racists, “Islamophobic” or otherwise had it coming.&nbsp; In California – which by year’s end became the site of another Islamist bloodbath – a number of people expressed such views to me, thinking that because I have a Muslim name I would agree.&nbsp; Not long after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I spoke at a U.S. university event on freedom of expression along with a self-appointed young American spokesperson for “the Muslim community” from the Council on American Islamic Relations - whom I must say I never elected to speak for me.&nbsp; She reviled the 7 January victims to the point where I felt compelled to ask if she understood that they were actually dead.&nbsp; She did not know as I did that just before their murders, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were in a heated discussion about terrible socio-economic conditions in the Paris suburbs where much of the Muslim population lives – an injustice which mattered a great deal to them.</p> <p>Another response was the more sophisticated “<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/08/twitter-tribute-paris-policeman-ahmed-merabet">I am Ahmed</a>” campaign named for the stalwart French policeman Ahmed Merabet also of Algerian descent who was killed by the Kouachi brothers as they fled the newspaper’s offices. Sadly, this was sometimes meant as a rebuttal rather than an amplification of “Je suis Charlie,” when in fact people like the murderous Kouachis have been killing Ahmeds around the world for years. &nbsp;Very few have been paying attention to that body count.&nbsp; When they depicted their version of the Prophet Mohamed crying over terrorism, the Charlie Hebdo<em> </em>cartoonists had the courage to take on those carrying out that slaughter while others looked away or were silent.&nbsp; </p> <p>That is committed anti-racism and solidarity, even if it comes in the shape of a merciless, sometimes disturbing French satirical tradition not always well understood elsewhere – like Mad Magazine with politics.</p> <p>On this anniversary, we must remember that those who killed Charlie also killed Ahmed and that saying “I am Charlie” is also a way of saying “I am Ahmed,” and vice versa. Indeed, opposing the Kouachis of the world is essential to saving those countless people of Muslim heritage and their fellow citizens in the Global South who have been dying in the tens of thousands at the hands of Muslim fundamentalist killers in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya and beyond. Ahmed is a synonym for Charlie, not an antonym. That was why so many people of North African descent <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karima-bennoune/one-week-after-the-charli_b_6467034.html">stood with the 7 January victims</a>.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/first-anniversary-of-january-2015-attacks-in-paris_9396504.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>First anniversary of January 2015 attacks. Photo: Demotix. Paul Alfred-Henri.</em></p><p>For example, Ali Dilem, one of Algeria’s best political cartoonists joined the Charlie Hebdo team in February out of solidarity. &nbsp;His bold cartoons have lampooned political figures and fundamentalist terrorists for years, earning him jail sentences and countless fatwas. On 7 January 2015, Dilem’s <a href="https://twitter.com/dilemali/status/552855126441201666">cartoon</a> bore the heading: “<a href="https://twitter.com/dilemali/status/552855126441201666">God is Humour</a>” (in French: “Dieu est humour,”a play on words derived from “Dieu est amour” – “God is Love”).&nbsp; Another of Dilem’s cartoons after the 7 January attacks shows a dying figure writing in his own blood on a wall: “<a href="https://41.media.tumblr.com/6b43b108b440cc73f1c55f7fcfe2b379/tumblr_nhwrk9zzbI1qcd6qzo1_500.jpg">the idiots killed me</a>.” </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/turkeyparis-resized.JPG" alt="" width="400" /></p><p><em>" The idiots killed me", cartoon by Dilem</em>. Credit: @DilemAli.</p><p>I saw a copy of this Dilem heartbreaker hanging atop piles of flowers when I went to pay my respects at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in December.. I stood in the street where a pregnant woman had hung from a windowsill trying to escape the “Islamic State” offensive, and in front of the small club where 89 mainly young people lost their lives at the hands of another group of young Islamist assassins of North African descent.&nbsp; I found my visit doubly poignant because I went with Samia Benkherroubi a former Algerian TV presenter whose own producer, the legendary <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">Aziz Smati</a>, had been shot in 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group, the forerunners of “Islamic State,” and is today a paraplegic, but continues his work from his wheelchair. Smati’s crime, like Charlie’s, was creativity.&nbsp; He produced Algeria’s groundbreaking youth music TV show, <em>Bled Music, </em>showing the first Rai music videos on TV, which were also controversial at the time.&nbsp; </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/turkey paris dec 2015 064.JPG" alt="" width="400" /></p> <p><em>"I am Bamako. We are Humanity". Sign at memorial at Bataclan Theatre. Photo: author's own<br /></em></p><p> Outside the bullet-riddled Bataclan, Samia and I laid flowers and mourned together, lamenting that the fundamentalists we have been battling for years are still so much stronger than their civil society opponents.&nbsp; She had written to me after the 13 November attacks to say how deeply saddened she was to see the fundamentalist violence she fled in 1990s Algeria reproducing itself elsewhere.&nbsp; What was especially mystifying to her, was the way in which some on the left tried to use the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/charlie-hebdo-paris-attack-brothers-campaign-of-terror-can-be-traced-back-to-algeria-in-1954-9969184.html">history of French colonialism as the excuse</a> (or so-called “explanation”) for these attacks. The same thing happened after 7 January. Samia wrote that “looking for explanations in colonial history is an injury to all victims of blind terrorism.” It also entirely overlooks that Algeria itself lost as many as 200,000 – including many veterans of the liberation struggle - to extremist terrorism in the 1990s, a fact often conveniently forgotten. </p> <p>The same night that Samia and I paid our respects at the Bataclan, we visited the plaque by the Seine to the victims of the massacre of 17 October 1961 when several hundred Algerian nationalists were slain and thrown into the river by police during a peaceful protest. </p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Here_are_drown_the_Algerians.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p><p><em>"Here we drown Algerians" banner, Paris, 17 October 1961</em></p><p>We vowed by that memorial not to let their brave memory be misused to justify fundamentalist atrocities, even while keeping their memory alive like those of other victims.&nbsp; For me, this is very personal. My Algerian grandfather Lakhdar Bennoune died defeating French colonialism.&nbsp; His death is part of an historic injustice which still demands real accounting – but is no justification whatsoever for the lamentable Kouachis who would have said he was not a true martyr because he died fighting for a republic rather than an “Islamic State”.</p> <p>All of this complexity seems to have been lost on the authors and signatories of the <a href="http://www.salon.com/2015/04/29/charlie_hebdo_and_the_pen_award_petition_sent_to_authors_urging_them_to_disassociate_ourselves_from_honoring_the_magazine/">petition</a> against the granting of the PEN Freedom of Expression Courage award to the Charlie Hebdo staff &nbsp;signed by a group of mainly Western intellectuals in the name of anti-racism.&nbsp; They wanted to make clear that they were not Charlie.&nbsp; They claimed solidarity with Ahmed.&nbsp; They presumed to know what the Ahmeds of the world think (and that they think alike) while <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">overlooking</a> the contemporary politics of the Muslim majority regions of the world. &nbsp;They regretted the killing, but clearly didn’t understand it.&nbsp; </p> <p>The petition’s authors presumed a) that French Muslims were mostly devout, and b) that this meant they could not stomach satirical drawings – two huge and highly inaccurate presumptions. This was a recurring theme after 7 January – that all Muslims and all people of Muslim heritage were offended by the publication of cartoons (whether they liked the cartoons or not). It is not at all clear how assuming that 1.5 billion people have no sense of humor (and no politics) is anything other than patronizing. </p> <p>Meanwhile, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/27/salman-rushdie-pen-charlie-hebdo-peter-carey">campaign</a> to support the presentation of the PEN award to Charlie Hebdo was led by Salman Rushdie, who is of Muslim heritage, and whose name is derived from a great 12th century Andalusian Muslim philosopher <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/ibnrushd/">Ibn Rushd</a> who likely would not have been terribly troubled by provocative cartoons, and whose own books on philosophy and theology were burned by Muslim fundamentalists while his Christian followers were slain by the Inquisition.&nbsp; </p> <p>So, we must remember that January 7, 2015 was one in a long line of far right attacks on creativity, and part of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-911-and-isis-understanding-history-of-homo-islamicus-fun">history of fundamentalist assaults against artists and intellectuals</a> who have defied them. &nbsp;And, sadly, it was only one of the first armed Islamist salvos of 2015 which will be remembered as the year of endless, expanding jihad. Charlies and Ahmeds, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34821813">Ceciles</a> and <a href="http://www.un.org/en/sc/ctc/docs/2015/Open%20Briefing%20-%20Intervention%20by%20Hanaa%20Edwar.pdf">Samiras</a> died in many regions of the world at the hands of those seeking a free ticket to paradise. </p> <p>In 2015, Muslim fundamentalists would go on to target Pakistani arts promoters, Iraqi women lawyers and teachers and most of the country’s minorities, Syrian archaeologists, a Kosher grocery store in France, an event about freedom of expression in Denmark, Afghan airports, Tunisia’s national museum, countless Shiite mosques everywhere, minarets, a Beirut shopping district, a Sousse beach, Nigerian markets, a Kenyan University, and a Russian airplane carrying families home from vacation.&nbsp; Grave crimes, crimes against humanity, war crimes, even genocide, in some cases.&nbsp; Afterwards we were all assaulted verbally both by some on the left who tried to excuse the perpetrators or minimize their crimes in defiance of the facts, and some on the right who sought to lump all Muslims in with those perpetrators notwithstanding how many Muslims have died at their hands and how many have <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35151967">opposed them</a>. </p> <p>With all of this bloodletting and intolerance, why is it important to remember the Charlie Hebdo attack and its victims?&nbsp; Algerians I have interviewed about the country’s “dark decade” of 1990s fundamentalist violence have often told me about the debates regarding the motives behind fundamentalist killings. In the beginning, people tried to explain away the targeting – “oh, he was a policeman, he we was an atheist, she was a communist,” until the terrorists began killing Every(wo)man and it seemed inexplicable.&nbsp; Grassroots solidarity with less popular or controversial victims was crucial but sometimes harder to come by, something which their assassins knew only too well.&nbsp; A muted response to what happened to the cops and the communists only emboldened the so-called Warriors of God to attack others.&nbsp; </p> <p>So, a year later, remembering the Charlie Hebdo attack, and paying tribute to its victims, are critical aspects of the ongoing struggle against Muslim fundamentalist terrorism.&nbsp; Likewise, remembering that many Muslims and people of Muslim heritage have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">spoken up in defense</a> of Charlie Hebdo and against fundamentalist violence (and have died in that violence) is a key way of fighting the racism and discrimination against Muslims which also burgeoned in 2015.&nbsp; The truth about Charlie is that in the year since the attacks we have often forgotten all of these things. </p> <p>So today, in memory of Charb, Cabu, Wolinksi, Tignous, Bernard Maris, Honoré, Elsa Cayat, Mustapha Ourad, Frédéric Boisseau, Michel Renaud, and the police officers Franck Brinsolaro and Ahmed Merabet who were killed exactly a year ago, and all those who died at the hands of Islamist terrorists in 2015, I say simply, “I am still Charlie.”&nbsp; It is a battle cry in the ongoing campaign against fundamentalist violence and the ideas that motivate it, which is one of the defining human rights struggles of 2016.&nbsp; That is perhaps the most important truth about Charlie.</p><p>Read more articles in our series<em> <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism"><strong>Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</strong> </a><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/maryam-namazie/islam-and-culture-of-offence-missing-point">Islam and the &quot;culture of offence&quot;: missing the point </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">For Aziz Smati on Valentine&#039;s Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/akmal-ahmed-safwat/to-take-stand-is-more-important-than-to-take-distance">To take a stand is more important than to take a distance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">&quot;Support the right to make fun of extremists&quot;: an interview with Caroline Fourest </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/conquering-fear-with-hope-secularism-2014">Conquering fear with hope: Secularism 2014 </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/zainah-anwar/speaking-with-forked-tongue-whither-malaysia%E2%80%99s-moderate-islam">Speaking with a forked tongue: whither Malaysia’s moderate Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/gita-sahgal/sharia-law-apostasy-and-secularism">Sharia law, apostasy and secularism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rahila-gupta/preventing-violent-extremism-noose-both-too-tight-and-too-loose">Preventing violent extremism: a noose that is both too tight and too loose </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ziba-mirhosseini/men-in-charge-rethinking-authority-in-muslim-legal-tradition">Men in charge? 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Bennoune is the author of the book,&nbsp;<em><a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-mali017.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-mali017.JPG" alt="Woman holds pen, listening, as another woman in foreground of image is speaking, dictaphone in hand." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="400" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karima Bennoune interviewing Malian lawyer Sara Keita Diakite in<br />Bamako, December 2012. Photo: author's own (c)</span></span></span></p><p><em>Karima Bennoune won the <a href="http://daytonliterarypeaceprize.org/2014-nonfiction_winner.htm">2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize</a> for Nonfiction with her book <a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>. She spoke to Deniz Kandiyoti in August 2013 about the path that led her to collect these stories.</em></p><p><strong>Deniz Kandiyoti:</strong> Your new book <a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: <em>Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</em></a> gives a voice to the victims of fundamentalist violence in Muslim majority countries. What led you to this project? </p> <p><strong>Karima Bennoune: </strong>The book was inspired by my father’s experiences in Algeria in the 1990s when, as a progressive intellectual of Muslim heritage, he <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">spoke out against rising Muslim fundamentalism</a> in his own country and faced grave threats as a result. He and Algerian democrats generally received little international solidarity, including from the left, during this terrible time. So I set out to meet people doing similar work today, to try to understand their analysis of the challenges they face, to try to give them more exposure and win them more support than their Algerian&nbsp; counterparts received in the 90s.</p><p>I interviewed nearly 300 people from almost 30 countries – from Afghanistan to Mali. They include teachers in northern Mali who risked everything to keep their co-educational schools open under Jihadist domination, <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-senegalnigerzeinabouhadari.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-senegalnigerzeinabouhadari.JPG" alt="Woman holding dictaphone as if to speak into it" title="" width="160" height="174" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nigerien sociologist Zeinabou<br />Hadari, one of nearly 300 people<br />Karima Bennoune interviewed.<br />Photo: author's own (c)</span></span></span>women lawyers in Afghanistan who dared prosecute in cases of violence against women despite Taliban threats and U.S. attempts to “reconcile” with the Taliban, feminists in Egypt and Tunisia who participated in revolutions against autocrats and then <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/08/14/is-this-the-end-of-the-arab-spring/democracy-activists-must-reclaim-a-co-opted-movement">fought</a> to stop those revolutions being hijacked by Islamists, or journalists in Chechnya who braved both Russian bombardment and the crimes of foreign fighters but continued to <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/25/boston-marathon-bombing-muslim-reflection">speak out</a>.&nbsp; By portraying these lives in struggle and conveying these voices of conviction, I also hope to challenge stereotypical notions – whether on the left or on the right in the West - about the people we now simply call “Muslims”. </p><p>DK: Your arguments clearly shift the focus of analysis from “a clash of civilizations” to a clash <em>within </em>civilizations, or as you put it, “a clash of right wings, not civilizations”. How does this dynamic play out?</p> <p>KB: I have been inspired in my thinking about these issues by the work of the anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada. She wrote the best book about the Danish cartoons controversy, called <em><a href="http://www.siawi.org/article81.html">Comment Produire une crise mondiale avec douze petit dessins</a></em> (How to produce a global crisis with twelve little drawings). In it, she speaks critically both about the politics of the Danish far right and the Muslim far right. She is able to look at the problem through multiple lenses – that of discrimination against people of Muslim heritage, and that of Muslim fundamentalism&nbsp; simultaneously,&nbsp; thus better grasping the whole picture. That is what I am also trying to do.&nbsp; Reacting to the conflagration over the offensive pseudo-film <em><a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/12/making-of-innocence-of-muslims">The Innocence of Muslims</a></em>, Favret-Saada <a href="http://www.gaucherepublicaine.org/respublica/la-liberte-dexpression-comme-ressource-terroriste/4952">wrote</a> “On the one side we have cowardly networks of so-called defenders of the West who manufacture a provocation… and make terroristic use of freedom of expression, and on the other side Muslim fundamentalist commandoes… eagerly welcome this provocation… [E]ach needs the other to produce the desired effect… Together these militant groups cause considerable damage.”&nbsp; </p> <p>DK: As a secular feminist of Algerian origin, you convey a sense of betrayal on the part of the liberal left in the West who, in their eagerness to denounce imperialism, armed interventions and the abuses unleashed by the so-called war on terror, have endorsed some Islamist tendencies with little discernment about their policies or record. How did we get here?</p> <p>KB: There are many examples of this stance – whether it is the <a href="http://www.human-rights-for-all.org/spip.php?article15">uncritical attitude</a> of parts of the left and the human rights movement in Britain toward Moazzam Begg and Cage Prisoners that has been so strongly criticized by prominent South Asian feminists and others, or the pro bono representation of the interests of the late Anwar Awlaki and his family by the U.S. civil liberties group the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), with no effort to recognize Awlaki’s own record and his culpability in issuing threats of assassination (calling him simply “a Muslim cleric”), that has been <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/15/us-assassination-policy-rights-awlaki">opposed</a> by Algerian survivors of terrorism – and by myself when I sat on CCR’s Board. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-YourFatwaBookCover-whiteTop.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-YourFatwaBookCover-whiteTop.jpg" alt="Book cover with title "Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here"" title="" width="160" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>How did we get here? There are a number of answers. The first has to do with the increasing <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-politics/">hegemony of identity politics</a> and the assumption that this always represents a “progressive” stance. Yet identity politics covers over the fact that peoples of the Global South are as diverse as the rest of humanity, and are situated all across the political spectrum just like everyone else. Supporting the Muslim far right because they are Muslims still represents support for the far right. I was reminded again during the interviews for this <a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">book</a> that one has to be uncompromising in challenging the far right wherever one lives – whether one is Muslim, Christian, Jewish or atheist.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another irony is the reliance of some “post-colonial” scholars on a very colonial worldview –whereby there is one largely homogenous group of colonizers and a similarly homogenized group of colonized – and the only power dynamic that matters is that&nbsp; between those two&nbsp; groups. This is an oversimplification of today’s world where the dynamics are more complex, and in which there are <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1626026">multiple axes</a> along which power is exerted and dominance is asserted – multiple processes of subordination that resemble colonial domination. For example, women’s rights advocates I interviewed in Niger talked about Muslim fundamentalists’ attempts to “de-Africanize” their lived Islams, by imposing garments like the djilbab which are not indigenous to West Africa ,a quasi-colonial intrusion.&nbsp; If we are committed to human rights and to equality, we have to take all these dynamics seriously. I refuse to be forced to choose between opposing colonialism and the burqa which are in fact about the same idea – subordination.</p> <p>DK: Can you clarify your reluctance to accept at face value the distinctions the West has tried so hard to establish between so-called “moderate Islamists” (of the Ennahda and Muslim Brotherhood variety) and the jihadi manifestations of Islam? Where and how do you draw the lines?</p> <p>KB: I&nbsp;do recognize distinctions among Islamist tendencies but have misgivings about the implications that have been&nbsp;ascribed to these distinctions in the West, and especially the way in which movements like Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood have often been whitewashed in the process. At the end of the day, they are all right wing movements that uphold theocratic agendas of varying stripes which they promote by diverse means.&nbsp; </p> <p>What is fascinating to me is the attachment to the notion of “moderate Islamists” in the West, when, in many Muslim majority societies today, this is a highly contested notion.&nbsp; For example, after the recent assassination of Mohamed Brahmi in Tunisia, many of the articles reporting this event in the Western media used the phrase “moderate party” to describe Tunisia’s ruling party Ennahda, even though many on the ground were blaming Ennahda for the assassination, either directly or at least indirectly by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/26/world/middleeast/second-opposition-leader-killed-in-tunisia.html?_r=1&amp;">fostering the climate</a> that led to the killing. One leading Ennahda deputy made an inflammatory speech saying that anyone who supported the removal of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt&nbsp; was a legitimate target – and Brahmi did praise what happened in Egypt before being <a href="http://www.businessnews.com.tn/details_article.php?temp=1&amp;t=520&amp;a=39354">felled</a> by 14 bullets. And yet this embrace of the “moderate Islamist” notion appeared in Western press articles on that same day. </p> <p>I am trying to understand that attitude which, I think, comes from a number of different places. In official circles in the West&nbsp; a desire to use the Islamists politically to&nbsp; maintain order in the “Muslim world” (a term I do not use) while avoiding what is officially perceived as the only significant downside, namely, terrorism against “us,” seems to dictate the agenda.&nbsp; How “Islamists” wish to treat “their own people” is not their problem. Yet, in left and in liberal circles that would see themselves as critical of those official circles, you also sometimes find a similar embrace of this term, which I think again goes back to the previous question and an apology for Islamism in the name of a kind of thin cultural politics. Meanwhile, across North Africa you see a rejection of this notion of “moderate Islamism” not only in liberal and left political circles, but among ordinary people. There is a realization there of the fact that the minute your project is to use religion to take power or to rule you have crossed a line which takes you out of what we would ordinarily think of as “democracy” in the substantive sense. </p> <p>The other thing I find disturbing is that the actual track record of the “moderate Islamists” gets entirely lost in the Western embrace of the notion. Almost no one&nbsp; in the West talks about the fact that you have Ennahda politicians openly threatening people who disagree with them, you have Ennahda female deputies calling for the gender segregation of public transportation. You have Ennahda tolerating an environment in which Salafist preachers are coming in and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/opinion/killing-the-arab-spring-in-its-cradle.html?_r=0">advocating</a> female genital mutilation in a society where it has never been practiced. Moreover, the so-called “moderates” open the door to the jihadis which is precisely what happened in Tunisia with Ennahda and the terror groups now operating in parts of the country, or in Egypt with Morsi’s <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/luxor-protests-against-morsis-new-governor-for-the-city--former-islamist-terror-leader-adel-elkhayat-8662675.html">nomination of Adel el-Khayat</a>, a founding member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, to be governor of Luxor (when his own terror group was responsible for the worst attack in the city’s history). </p> <p>So what does “moderate” actually mean?&nbsp; On the ground, what people see is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda have attempted to use religion as a tool of governance and repression. A few days before I left Tunisia, I went to hear Mbarka Brahmi, Mohamed Brahmi’s widow, speak during a protest in front of the Constituent Assembly, calling for the Ennahda government to step down. She is a devout Muslim woman, and she said something very beautiful, "<em>We also say ‘Allahu Akbar.’ We also say ‘Mohamed Rasoul Allah.’ But we don’t say it to take power</em>."&nbsp; She distinguished carefully between ordinary Muslims, and “merchants of religion.”</p> <p>DK: Another interesting suggestion you make about the readiness with which voices like yours are dismissed and marginalized is that embracing “Muslim otherness” has become a convenient way for the West to absolve itself of the responsibility of its own actions. In fact you hold the policies of the West partly responsible for the rise of political Islam. Can you tell us more?</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong>Many progressive anti-fundamentalists of Muslim heritage today believe the U.S. supports Muslim fundamentalism in many instances. Indeed, there is no question that the U.S. has sometimes fostered Muslim fundamentalist groups to suit its own geo-political agenda. During the 1980s in the context of the Cold War, the United States poured <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Taliban-Militant-Fundamentalism-Central-Edition/dp/0300163681">money and military aid</a> into the Islamizing Pakistani dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq, and into Afghan mujahideen groups, no matter how extreme, as a way to counter communism. Disaffected men from many countries joined this U.S.- sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, then went home with their training and experience. This had a direct impact on countries like Algeria, where the worst jihadi killers were called “Afghans” for their battle experience in that faraway jihad.</p> <p>The U.S. was not alone in this blunder. Britain supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the colonial period as a more palatable alternative to secular nationalists. As I was told by both Israelis and Palestinians I met, even Israel prefers Hamas to the secular Palestinian Authority and PLO.&nbsp; Fundamentalists are useful. They fulfill the stereotypes of Muslims, and can be counted on to keep “their own people” in line, usually causing great suffering to their compatriots in the process.</p> <p>Meanwhile, anyone who dares to think critically about these issues and to speak from the perspective of a Muslim or Arab secularist, who dares to criticize Muslim fundamentalism and its relationship to the West, has to be disciplined. The fundamentalists themselves often engage in a very literal, physical discipline based on threats and actual violence. Some left intellectuals in the West&nbsp; use the violence of words by employing labels such as “imperialist feminism” to attack critical voices. However, deploying the epithet of imperialism as a slur simply displays a lack of understanding of the gravity of imperialism itself, and entirely obscures the fact that those of us trying to challenge the apology for Muslim fundamentalism in the West, including in the academy, are actually <a href="http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/08/14/erhal-campaign-attempts-to-oust-enahdha-officials/">heeding the voices of progressive and feminist activists on the ground</a> – whether in the Irhal Campaign in Tunisia, or in Djazairouna, the Algerian Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism, who are themselves on the frontlines. </p> <p>Personally, I find this line of attack rather remarkable given that I come from a family of peasants, two generations removed, that was very involved in the anti-colonial movement. My grandfather, one of the people to whom <a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">my book</a> was dedicated, was killed by the French military. My father was imprisoned and tortured by the French authorities during the Algerian war of independence.&nbsp; I grew up with a very heavy sense of the responsibility of that legacy – which was to fight for the freedom and human rights of ordinary people in the region against any who would seek to trample them. That is why the dedication of my book to my grandfather Lakhdar Bennoune, a peasant leader who organized massive protests against French domination and was repeatedly interned as a result, says that he “died defeating colonialism that his descendants might be free.”&nbsp; The fundamentalists, on the other hand, believe that those who died freeing Algeria were not real martyrs because they did not die fighting for an Islamic State. </p> <p>DK:&nbsp; When you discuss the way forward for Muslim majority societies you state that upholding women’s human rights is a <em>sine qua non</em> about which there can be no compromise. What do you make of the contention that<strong> </strong>Muslim women must forge their own feminist discourse using the interpretative resources available to them in the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence? Where do you stand on these debates?</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong>The question facing women’s rights advocates is what strategy or strategies they should employ to be most effective today, in the face of fundamentalist movements and all the other challenges they face – patriarchy, racism, misogyny, autocracy, neo-liberalism run amok. I was compelled in my interview with the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie-Lucas by her <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article4176.html">argument</a> that right now the difficulties are so great, and the shared threat of fundamentalist movements so powerful, and we are so outgunned politically, that feminists who engage in feminist (re)interpretation of Islam and those who make secular human rights arguments, should be allies against fundamentalism. For me as a committed secularist, it was a great honor to attend a <a href="http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/">Sisters in Islam</a> event in Kuala Lumpur in May this year on feminist interpretation of the Qur’an. I do believe our work can be complementary, and I am persuaded by the Tunisian feminist law professor Sana Ben Achour in her <a href="http://www.assuaal.net/content/%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B6%D9%8A%D9%91%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A3%D8%A9-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%82%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%91%D9%88%D9%82">paper</a> “Feminismes Laïcs en Pays d’Islam” (Secular Feminism in Muslim Majority Countries) that we have to be careful of setting out a stark binary opposition between the two tendencies, each of which are diverse, and indeed in practice often porous – she gives the example of the work of <em><a href="http://www.euromedrights.org/eng/category/countries/regional-members/collectif-95-maghreb-egalite/">Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalité</a></em>. Nigerian feminist Ayesha Imam, for example, told me that she and her colleagues in <a href="http://www.escr-net.org/docs/i/399786">Baobab for Women’s Rights</a> used tools from whichever system can as she put it “recuperate rights”, believing it is possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-FATWAPhotoCollage.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-FATWAPhotoCollage.jpg" alt="Photos of 44 women" title="" width="400" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A collage of women killed by Algeria's fundamentalist armed groups during the<br />1990s. Image courtesy of Djazairouna</span></span></span></p> <p>However, I do think that there are some potential dangers in applying what is called Islamic feminism in the current moment that have to be confronted. First of all, I think this discussion has to be very context specific. Though I am also a committed universalist, I do think one has to think strategically across contexts about how one raises issues. In some regions, sub-regions and countries, it may make sense to make arguments within religion, especially when confronting certain types of challenges. However, elsewhere, such as in northwest Africa where there was a pre-existing secular republican political tradition, where women already have (or perhaps now I should say had) formal equality in constitutions, engaging in religious argument when one is talking about social and political change – about women’s participation in politics, about development, about health, may be a step backward onto theocratic terrain, and away from citizenship and universal human rights. For example, I asked the Senegalese sociologist Fatou Sow, who coordinates the network of <a href="http://www.wluml.org/">Women Living Under Muslim Laws</a> whether secular or religious discourse on women’s rights was more useful. She insisted that the best approach depends on context noting that “as a Senegalese I refuse to reinterpret the Qur’an to change the family law. I am not going to enter into the religious debate. I do not want to close myself off.” She argues that the strategy for combating fundamentalisms must be a political one that takes the debate off “the religious terrain where they wish to trap us. Nowadays, all questions take you back to the Qur’an.”&nbsp; </p><p>One of the most worrying trends is the embrace of Islamic feminism in the West as the only legitimate paradigm. There seems to be a desperate need in the West now for people in certain regions of the world to be simply “Muslims” – not citizens or human beings – what Iranian women’s rights activist <a href="http://www.mahnazafkhami.net/">Mahnaz Afkhami</a> criticizes as&nbsp; “Islamic exceptionalism.”&nbsp; <a href="http://www.fanoos.com/society/sana_ben_achour.html">Sana Ben Achour</a> recently asked in response to such ideas at play in Tunisia’s constitutional drafting debate, “are there some human rights which we Tunisians do not deserve?” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-pakistanPICT0054.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Karima-pakistanPICT0054.JPG" alt="Women hold signs " title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lahore protest against Pakistan's blasphemy laws, called by the<br />Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. Photo: author's own </span></span></span></p><p>Women’s rights advocates and other progressive opponents of fundamentalism must act with urgency, and whatever their strategic choices, must find ways to work together now. If they do, they can have great political success at this particular moment. This, again, reminds me of the words of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/26/world/middleeast/second-opposition-leader-killed-in-tunisia.html?pagewanted=all">Mbarka Brahmi</a> in front of the Constituent Assembly: “The people will bring down the obscurantists, the murderers and the terrorists…. But we will sweep them away with civilized methods, not with their methods… with social movements, in every corner of Tunisia.&nbsp; And we will win, justice will win, Tunisia will win, a civil republic will win over the dark Tunisia that they wish for…”&nbsp; </p> <p><em>This interview was first published on August 27th 2013, </em><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><p><em><strong>Read articles by Karima Bennoune <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/karima-bennoune">here.&nbsp;</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong><em>Read </em></strong><em><strong>more articles in the 50.50 series <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong><br /></em></p> <p><a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/"></a></p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yakin-erturk/culture-versus-rights-dualism-myth-or-reality">Culture versus rights dualism: a myth or a reality?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8B">الجزائر بعد عشرين سنة: الكلمات باقية أبداً</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-911-and-isis-understanding-history-of-homo-islamicus-fun">From 1990s Algeria to 9/11 and ISIS: understanding the history of &quot;Homo islamicus fundamentalensis&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight-">Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns”</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin">&quot;Support the right to make fun of extremists&quot;: an interview with Caroline Fourest </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-postelection-democratic-struggle-continues">Algeria post-election: The democratic struggle continues </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/pour-aziz-smati-pour-la-saint-valentin">Pour Aziz Smati, pour la Saint Valentin</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">For Aziz Smati on Valentine&#039;s Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/louiza-chennoub-karima-bennoune/algeria-voices-for-democratic-transition-cannot-be-silenced">Algeria: voices for democratic transition cannot be silenced</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-iraq-today-trampling-islam-underfoot-in-name-of-jihad">From 1990s Algeria to Iraq today: trampling Islam underfoot in the name of Jihad </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Tunisia Egypt Algeria Democracy and government International politics Meteoric rise of the Islamic State 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism patriarchy fundamentalisms feminism Deniz Kandiyoti Karima Bennoune Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:33:27 +0000 Karima Bennoune and Deniz Kandiyoti 74978 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sabeen Mahmud: “I stand up for what I believe in, but I can’t fight guns” https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/in-memory-of-sabeen-mahmud-%E2%80%9Ci-stand-up-for-what-i-believe-in-but-i-can%E2%80%99t-fight- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sabeen Mahmud alleviated intellectual poverty until the day she was murdered, 24 April 2015. In an interview with Karima Bennoune in 2010 Mahmud explained why she founded a politico-cultural space in Karachi.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/world/asia/outpouring-of-grief-and-anger-as-pakistani-activist-is-gunned-down.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">Sabeen Mahmud</a>, founder of the NGO <a href="http://www.t2f.biz/">Peace Niche</a> and director of Karachi’s cultural institution, T2F, was <strong><a href="http://www.dawn.com/news/1178159/at-peace-sabeen-mahmud-laid-to-rest-in-Karachi">assassinated</a></strong> on Friday night while leaving the centre with her mother, who was also gravely injured in the attack.&nbsp; T2F had just hosted an event about human rights in Balochistan, and Sabeen had reportedly been receiving threats. </p><p><strong>This interview is published today in memory of Sabeen Mahmud <em><br /></em></strong></p> <p>Karima Bennoune<strong>: </strong><em>What made you decide to found T2F?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud<strong>: </strong>I was studying in Lahore, and when I came back I was working in technology. But my mother works for an educational non-profit.&nbsp; This sense of social justice and standing up for what you believe in started becoming a part of everyday life for me, just thinking about what, as individuals, we are supposed to do about issues that confront society.&nbsp; I finished college, after trying to drop out for four years, unsuccessfully. I started working. By 2006, I was getting very restless and wanted to do something in development. The companies that were our large clients – Unilever, Shell, - I realized that I am helping them sell more toothpaste or more oil and I am angry about what they are doing in certain parts of the world. It started getting more difficult to reconcile my ideas around activism with the work I was doing. </p> <p>I am deeply interested in arts and music and technology and science. So, I thought, how about creating a space that would be able to host all kinds of events, would be a talent incubator, a platform for emerging artists, graphic designers, singers, poets, or other people who don’t have a platform?&nbsp; Then, I thought, when we talk about how young people are the future, what are we doing to create future leaders?&nbsp; We are not challenging them.&nbsp; </p> <p>There were coffee shops, but a lot of them were expensive. It was very businesslike. You go and have your meal and leave. Coffee houses used to be centers of intellectual activity and discourse.&nbsp; I know that was decades ago, but surely people still have things to say. </p> <p>In Pakistan, we don’t have bars. How are people supposed to meet new people? Then, one day I just decided I would do this. I wanted to set up a non-profit not to make money but to make meaning, with a quadrangle for theatre, and other things around it. But, we didn’t have money. It was a crazy idea. My uncle had sent some money. My mother and grandmother and I live together - three generations of women. I took the money my uncle sent and set up T2F which stands for “the second floor” because it was on the 2nd floor of a building. </p> <p>KB<em>: When did you open your doors, and how? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> May 13, 2007.&nbsp; It took a few months to set up.&nbsp; If you tell someone you’ve set up an NGO, no one is going to come.&nbsp; You want to reach out to young people. I wanted to think about how we could be self-sustaining. People will come here and sit for six hours and have one cold drink. And that does not make a space like this function. But others will come and just drop off a 1000 rupee donation. We operate on an honor code. People who understand and value will keep eating and drinking. Others will sit here all day and not even order that one cup of tea. The landlord served us notice in 2009. We had to vacate.&nbsp; And then somebody wrote about it in the newspaper and this wonderful man donated these two floors to us. It is rented out to us for 1 rupee a month. It took 9 months to build. I took loans, begged, borrowed and stopped just short of stealing to keep going. My mother said, “what are you doing?” I have developed gambler’s nerves. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What is the mission of T2F today? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> Changing minds does not happen in a week – especially with regard to the kinds of issues we were talking about at the forum you attended here on combatting violence against women with new technology [Take Back the Tech]. You do not get people to start thinking a certain way because you sat down one day and talked about it. What may be obvious to you and me is anathema to another person. You need that time and that engagement to hear out the other person as well as to present your viewpoint. Amartya Sen spoke of the many faces of poverty. Intellectual poverty alleviation is what we do. We work in three areas: 1) arts and culture, 2) science and technology and 3) advocacy. </p> <p>We are open every day from noon to 10 PM. Initially, in the original space there was just me and I used to be in for 14 hours a day. Today, we have Hindus and Muslims and Christians working together. They sit and eat together. </p> <p>KB<em>: How do you keep T2F going?</em> </p> <p>SM: I do not earn any money from this. I work nights in graphic design and technology consulting to pay my bills. When I say nights, it is actually in the middle of the day, and it could go on until 3 in the morning. I remember this one project we worked on - an interactive CD on <a href="http://www.faiz.com/">Faiz Ahmed Faiz</a>, a revolutionary Pakistani poet. I spent 30 days and nights in the office. I only went home to bathe. I used to be of the opinion that we can convert one day into two, if we work non-stop. Now, it is all catching up. I am 36. </p> <p>We have a few volunteers and interns, and a lot of young people, and I feel so maternal to them. This is exciting because you feel the hard work pays off - like these “First Fridays” that we instituted. The first time we did it someone from one of the leading radio stations came and he heard these two sisters who were playing together for the first time in public, and they were on the radio the next weekend. </p> <p>KB: <em>What have been some of T2F’s most memorable events? <br /></em></p> <p>SM: No matter what happens, I am a geek.&nbsp; So, one of my favourites was with a guy who was the first Pakistani to get an application into the Apple apps store, and about his approach to business and risk. The people he hires are supposed to dedicate a certain percentage of their time to work for social justice. That was one of my favorites.&nbsp; But, we have had over 250 events [as of December 2010]. Another really memorable event had to do with Faiz Ahmed Faiz.&nbsp; We got his daughter on the phone, and then an Indian singer and a Pakistani singer.&nbsp; They’re both very famous. They sang and told stories on Skype. We were able to use technology and show you can bridge boundaries in this way.&nbsp; Music transcends everything.&nbsp; If you go to our website, the events page has an archive back to 2007. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What do you feel you have achieved here?</em><strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I have no grand illusions. I was brought up in a home where my mother’s focus was changing one teacher at a time, by changing the way she thinks. My mother was rebellious from the day she was born. She is not a get-out-on-the-street-and-protest kind of person. Instead, she has done incredible work in government schools changing mindsets. It takes so long and it takes so much effort. I am who I am because of her, undoubtedly. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>To what extent has the issue of fundamentalism impacted your work?</em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> There are certain buzz words, “combatting fundamentalism through fashion,” that get attention, publicity, donor money. We have never done anything like that. We try to quietly go about our business. By its very nature, we are doing all those things. But, you don’t have to shove it down people’s throats. Or give press releases to that effect. “We have had twenty musicians so we have changed everything.”&nbsp; We have changed nothing. We gave twenty people an opportunity to breathe for two hours. Maybe they would never be able to do that otherwise, and I am very happy we were able to do that for them. And, I hope they can find ways to do that for other people. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How dangerous is your work? <br /></em></p> <p>SM<strong>:</strong> I stand up for what I believe in. But I can’t fight guns. I know that much, and nothing is worth dying for.&nbsp; You have to live for these causes. We do things on the blasphemy law and we do things on AIDS. You have to take calculated risks. </p> <p>You were asking about fundamentalism. We did this thing recently on the <a href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/2013/08/28/blasphemy-in-pakistan-why-is-asia-bibi-still-in-jail">blasphemy laws</a>. The people who were sending us the speakers said you might not say it in the title. I said, “all our lives we have been fighting against this.” We’ve marched on the streets for it. What will happen? We are talking about its [the blasphemy law’s] repeal. It is important to talk about this. Those kinds of risks we are happy to take. More people need to stand up. </p> <p>There are people from the [security] agencies who come. It’s quite clear they are from the agencies.&nbsp; I am sure a dossier has been prepared somewhere. They attend.&nbsp; They say, “don’t take my photograph.” They have a cup of tea.. You just have to work within what you have, and try and do as much as you can. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>How has the broader security environment in Karachi affected you?</em></p> <p>SM: There are days when the guys can’t come to work, because there is no transport. We can cancel an event or have it the next day. We have had to close down on occasion. There have been riots, there have been strikes. The security situation has always been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/karachi-violence_n_2267057.html">awful</a> in Karachi. </p> <p>But, this year [2010], Karachi has had a lot of violence. What upsets me is there is a huge gun shop at the end of the lane. It is awful. There is talk of a de-weaponizing Karachi campaign. But, I feel it is a battle we can’t win. We should focus where we can attain some victories, and feel empowered to move on. </p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>What battles do you want to focus on?</em></p> <p>SM: The blasphemy law is something that I really want to see gone in my lifetime. We need more people to rise up and take a stand.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>Sabeen Mahmud defied terror in multiple forms to champion the right to culture.&nbsp; She embodied the spirit of the line from Faiz Ahmed Faiz which insists that “tyrants… cannot snuff out the moon, so today, nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Though she is gone now, Sabeen’s light – which she bequeaths us all - cannot be snuffed out either.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Karima Bennoune interviewed Mahmud at T2F in December 2010 while doing research for the book “<a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>.</em><em>”</em></p><p><em><strong>This interview is published as a hundred women human rights defenders meet with Nobel Peace laureates at the Nobel Women's Initiative <a href="http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/our-blogs/defending-the-defenders/">conference on 'Defending Human Rights Defenders !</a> in the Netherlands, April 24-26.</strong>&nbsp;</em><strong><em><strong><em></em></strong></em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em>Read <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/nobel-women%27s-initiative/nobel-women%27s-initiative-2015">articles by participants and speakers</a> framing and addressing the discussions.&nbsp;</em></strong></em></strong></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jody-williams/defending-defenders-daunting-challenge">Defending the Defenders: a daunting challenge </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-reigniting-embers">Women human rights defenders: reigniting the embers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lydia-alpizar/csw-vital-need-to-defend-women-human-rights-defenders">CSW: the vital need to defend women human rights defenders </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/women-defenders-preventing-rape-as-weapon-of-war">Shelters without walls: women building protective infrastructures against rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/women-human-rights-defenders-activisms-front-line">Women human rights defenders: activism&#039;s front-line</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/daysi-flores/hope-as-survival-strategy-for-defensoras-in-honduras">Hope as a survival strategy for Defensoras in Honduras</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/melina-loubicanmassimo/awaiting-justice-%E2%80%93-indigenous-resistance-to-tar-sand-development-in-cana">Awaiting justice: Indigenous resistance in the tar sands of Canada</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pakistan </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karachi </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Karachi Pakistan Civil society Culture Democracy and government Nobel Women's Initiative 2015 50.50 Women Human Rights Defenders 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism Nobel Women's Initiative 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights violence against women gender justice fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter women's work Karima Bennoune Sat, 25 Apr 2015 11:46:01 +0000 Karima Bennoune 92271 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi's widow speaks out https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the first anniversary of Mohamed Brahmi’s assassination, his widow, Mbarka Brahmi, denounces fundamentalism and terrorism in Tunisia.&nbsp; This article is republished following the murderous attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-025.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-025.JPG" alt="Portrait photograph of woman " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mbarka Brahmi at her Tunis home where her husband was assassinated on 25 July 2013</span></span></span></p><p>Mbarka Brahmi, 47, mother of five, has become a key spokesperson for the fight against fundamentalism and terror in Tunisia since the assassination of her husband <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/opinion/killing-the-arab-spring-in-its-cradle.html?_r=2&amp;">Mohamed Brahmi</a> at their Tunis home on 25 July 2013. Sometimes known as “Widow Courage”, along with Basma Belaid, wife of another slain Tunisian anti-fundamentalist <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/U-S-must-support-Tunisia-s-secularists-4261703.php">Chokri Belaid</a>, in this interview Mbarka Brahmi describes her late husband’s life, struggles and death.&nbsp; </p> <p>At the time of his murder, Mohamed Brahmi was a member of the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, the body elected after the revolution in October 2011 to draft a new constitution. Born, like the revolution, in the Sidi Bouzid region, and from a poor, rural background, Mohamed Brahmi studied economics before founding what was meant to be a socialist and secularist “People’s Movement” in 2011. He later resigned from the movement after other leaders drifted close to Ennahdha, the then-ruling fundamentalist party. Both a left-leaning Nasserist and a devout Muslim, he launched a new party called the Popular Current in July 2013 shortly before his death.&nbsp; </p> <p>Brahmi’s killing, in earshot of his wife and children, sent shock waves across Tunisia, provoking a political crisis and popular protests by what became the Irhal (get out!) campaign that eventually led to Ennahdha’s ouster. Given that only last week Tunisia weathered the biggest losses its army has suffered since independence in a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28341318">jihadist attack</a> near the Algerian border that killed fifteen, and in light of <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/prominent-activist-slain-in-libya-1403784113">worrying developments</a> across the region, remembering Mohamed Brahmi and supporting Mbarka Brahmi’s battle for tolerance and peace has never been more critical.</p> <p><strong>Karima Bennoune</strong>: <em>Why was Mohamed Brahmi targeted, in your opinion?</em></p> <p><strong>Mbarka Brahmi</strong>: He was targeted both for reasons linked to Tunisian politics and to international relations. In Tunisia, he believed the Ennahdha movement has nothing to do with Islam as a religion, but instead represents political Islam. They exploit Islam to have the sympathy of the people. He said that in the Constituent Assembly. He said Ennahdha took power thanks to “political money.”&nbsp; If it was not for the money flowing to Ennahdha from Qatar and Turkey, the results of the 23 October 2011 elections would have been different. While denouncing the Islamists, Mohamed was a Haj. He prayed every day in the mosque of the Constituent Assembly. But, his Islam was not for profit. He was Muslim in his house and in his heart, not through his political party. At the international level, he always said that the Muslim Brotherhood is the “big stick” of colonialism. That which colonialism was not able to achieve, it used the Muslim Brotherhood to complete.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-026.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-026.JPG" alt="Portrait of a man with looking thoughtful, doves behind him" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The portrait of Mohamed Brahmi which hangs in the living room of the family's Tunis home</span></span></span></p><p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>In your opinion, what was the significance of the assassination of your husband for Tunisia?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p>MB: The killing of Chokri Belaid in February 2013 was a trial run. People went out to protest afterwards, but once they buried Chokri Belaid they went back to their homes with sadness. However, with the assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, Tunisians knew that a serial drama of assassinations had begun. It was as though a catastrophe hit the country. How can those who say they are defending Islam, kill a Haj who prays with them?&nbsp; </p> <p>My husband's assassination was a wake up call. The struggle is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, nor is it between believer and non-believer. Islam is our religion, our culture. However, our Islam is a moderate and a particular Islam. In Tunisia we do not accept that the Islam of other societies be applied here because we have our own Islam which is consistent with the specificity of our society. For example, in Tunisia, you cannot tell a man without a beard that he is a kafir (non-believer). Islam does not mean that a woman must wear a niqab (veil covering everything but the eyes). We in Tunisia are not used to these things. Our society will not get used to them.&nbsp; </p> <p>Tunisians knew that they were all targeted by the assassination of Mohammed Brahmi. This explains why on 25 July 2013 people flocked in the thousands to protest in Bardo Square, where the Constituent Assembly meets. That was how the “departure” (rahil) sit-in began, during which people demanded Ennahdha relinquish power. The sit-in continued until some of its goals were achieved. At least the Ennahdha movement was obliged to formally step down - although it had already planted its roots in both the administration and in security and military institutions in order to facilitate its eventual return. We insist on not having these people back in power. We insist on achieving other goals, like living with dignity and taking back our rights. But political money is still playing a role.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Some suspects have been <a href="http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/ARTJAWEB20140209120305/">arrested</a> in relation to Mr. Brahmi’s assassination. What is your reaction to this?</em></p> <p>MB: One of those arrested was my neighbour, a young marginalized guy who did not finish his education. After the revolution he joined the Salafi movement like a lot of other young people who were brainwashed and bought. He is just someone who was hired and does not have any interest in killing Mohamed. Other parties have an interest in this. I want them to be prosecuted. However, there has been a big cover up. I know the murderers will not be discovered any time soon, because the group behind the killer is the one investigating, and is protected by the Tunisian state.&nbsp; </p> <p>Twelve days before Mohamed’s assassination, the Ministry of the Interior received a document from the American security services warning that he was targeted, but they closed their eyes and left him to his murderers. Usually when such a document is received it is immediately forwarded to the head of government and the President. In this case, it was as if they did not know anything. One year later, there still has been no investigation about the letter. I want the truth<em>. </em></p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>To be clear, do you hold Ennahdha, which was in power at the time, responsible for your husband’s murder, whether directly or indirectly?</em></p> <p>MB: Yes. I was sure that Ennahdha was involved in the crime even before Mohamed took his last breath, while we were transporting him to the hospital. I was saying, “Ennahdha killed him.” Indeed, Ennahdha created a hostile environment. Their deputies in the Constituent Assembly – like <a href="http://www.huffpostmaghreb.com/2013/07/14/sahbi-atig-polemique_n_3594355.html">Sahbi Atig</a> and <a href="http://www.businessnews.com.tn/tunisie-habib-ellouze--ce-terroriste-recidiviste,519,43334,3">Habib Ellouze</a> - were inciting people against him. Mohamed went on hunger strike at the Constituent Assembly with fellow deputy Ahmed Al Khaskoussi for 24 days in support of socio-economic demands in Sidi Bouzid. They were harassed on the Assembly premises by Ennahdha deputies. Followers of Ennahdha even used violence against my husband in Bourguiba Avenue on two occasions. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>In the west, the Ennahdha party is often labelled </em><em>“</em><em>moderate.</em><em>”</em><em>&nbsp; How do you feel when you hear this? </em></p> <p>MB: I laugh at those who think it is a moderate party - a moderate party that sometimes happens to kill people in front of their own homes. If this is modernism, what is terrorism? For me, the <a href="http://www.businessnews.com.tn/Mbarka-Brahmi--Mehdi-Jomâa-est-sincère-mais-il-a-les-mains-liées-(audio),520,48143,3">Ennahdha party is a terrorist party</a> which violates the integrity of the citizen, and toys with the feelings of the people and with their Islam. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Can you describe what happened on 25 July 2013?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p>MB: It was completely quiet outside, because it was a national holiday - Republic Day. It was Ramadan. Mohamed went out the front door and I heard shooting. I found him lying on his side, covered in blood. I saw the culprit walking calmly away from the scene toward a motorbike where a second man waited. I screamed to Adnane and Balkis, my oldest children who are in their twenties, to come outside, saying that they had killed him, Ennahdha had killed him. When my children arrived, Mohamed was still moving his eyes. So Adnane and Balkis held him and said, “Dad, say the shahada” (the profession of Muslim faith).</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>You became an activist after this tragic event, even speaking to thousands of protestors in front of the Constitutent Assembly. What has your life been like in the year since?</em></p> <p>MB: It was the most difficult year in my life. In my family, I became both the mother and the father. With respect to my presence on the political scene, I do not like being under the spotlight, especially while some of my kids are still young. However, I have to make sure people hear from me what Ennahdha has done to me. All the families that lost their children <a href="http://www.kapitalis.com/societe/18830-les-tunisiens-enterrent-leurs-morts-victimes-du-terrorisme.html">should be able to speak</a>, and they were from the poorer classes. They should be given the opportunity to be heard because new elections are being organized in October and November 2014. This way Tunisians will know - those who voted for Ennahda last time - that they gave their vote to a gang of killers, and they will protect the country in the next election by not voting for this gang.</p> <p>What I am asking for is that the world know that Ennahdha targeted all sectors of society. It targeted citizens such as <a href="http://www.businessnews.com.tn/affaire-lotfi-nagdh--les-suspects-officiellement-accuses-de-meurtre-premedite,520,47468,3">Lotfi Naghdh</a> in the south. It targeted the army. It targeted the <a href="http://www.liberte-algerie.com/international/quatre-personnes-tuees-dont-deux-gendarmes-faux-barrage-au-nord-de-jendouba-en-tunisie-215900">security forces</a>. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>You received death threats yourself last spring. Has this continued?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p>MB: No, it did not continue. However, to be under threat does not require that you receive threats every day. The state is supposed to provide protection, and there are guards in front of the house. But, they come one day and then do not return for ten days. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What is your analysis of the struggle against terrorism in Tunisia now?</em></p> <p>MB: Terrorism is now embedded in Tunisia. The state needs to attack the problem of terrorism at the root. It needs to make sure the mosques are neutral, because some spread a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/tunisia-cracks-down-on-radical-mosques-media/2014/07/20/f0875fee-1039-11e4-ac56-773e54a65906_story.html">fundamentalist discourse</a>. The Tunisian sheikhs have to organize programmes to educate young people, so they will not be attracted to religious extremism, so they will not think that either you are with me or I should kill you. The Prophet did not do this. The Prophet lived side by side with non-believers and with Christians, and Jews, and he treated them well. In Tunisia now, according to the fundamentalists, if you do not agree with them about something, you should be killed. To counter this idea, we need to raise awareness by organizing conferences and seminars. Young people who were lured into terrorism need to be assisted, just like drug addicts, because the young fundamentalist is like a person addicted to drugs. He needs to be cured and reintegrated into the society. </p> <p>There should be an international day to combat terrorism. In Tunisia this should be on Republic Day, July 25, the day that commemorates peaceful, republican and modern values. On that day last year, a civilized and educated Muslim person was assassinated. If terrorism hits me today, it will hit my neighbour, my brother and my friend tomorrow. We must put an end to political Islam, and prevent states from financing it. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-032.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/tunis2014-032.JPG" alt="A stone plaque with a tunisian flag flying over it" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Tunis memorial to Haj Mohamed Brahmi</span></span></span>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Today, one year after the assassination of your husband Mohamed Brahmi, what are your hopes for the future of your children, and of Tunisia itself?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p>MB: I wish for peace and security for Tunisia, because it is our only shelter. We are not used to hearing fundamentalist speeches, or to witnessing extremist practices like assassinations and terrorism. So, I hope Tunisia can be healed. The terrorists need to be prosecuted, but at the same time we need to give voice to a peaceful discourse, not one full of hate and revenge. We need a brilliant future for our kids - mine and those of all Tunisians. </p><p>(This article was first published in July 2014.)</p> <p><em>Read the series on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050">oD 50.50: </a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism"><strong>Frontline Voices against Muslim fundamentalism </strong></a></em></p><p><em>Karima Bennoune is the author of <a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>. TED Talk: <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/karima_bennoune_the_side_of_terrorism_that_doesn_t_make_headlines">When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism</a>.<br /></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">For Aziz Smati on Valentine&#039;s Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jessica-horn/crisis-in-mali-fundamentalism-womens-rights-and-cultural-resistance">Crisis in Mali: fundamentalism, women&#039;s rights and cultural resistance</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/perilous-slide-towards-islamist-dictatorship-in-egypt">The perilous slide: towards an Islamist dictatorship in Egypt?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/taliban-agent-or-victim">Taliban: agent or victim? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/massouda-jalal/afghanistan-fundamentalism-education-and-minds-of-people">Afghanistan: fundamentalism, education, and the minds of the people </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt-islamization-of-state-policy">Egypt: the Islamization of state policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/yifat-susskind/what-we-owe-nigeria%E2%80%99s-kidnapped-schoolgirls">What we owe Nigeria’s kidnapped schoolgirls</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatimah-kelleher/women%27s-voices-in-northern-nigeria-hearing-broader-narratives">Women&#039;s voices in northern Nigeria: hearing the broader narratives </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/lindsey-hilsum/desolation-and-despair-in-libya-murder-of-salwa-bugaighis">Desolation and despair in Libya: the murder of Salwa Bugaighis </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/donor-driven-islam">Donor-driven Islam ?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Tunisia 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Mbarka Brahmi Karima Bennoune Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:18:27 +0000 Karima Bennoune and Mbarka Brahmi 84685 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Tunisia's fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In conversations with Karima Bennoune, Tunisian intellectual Amel Grami shares her analysis of the political crisis in Tunisia during the rule of the Ennahda party, and the strategies needed to defeat fundamentalism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><del datetime="2013-09-30T18:08" cite="mailto:Karima%20E%20Bennoune"></del></p> <p>July 8, 2013</p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>Could you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?</em></p> <p><del datetime="2013-09-30T18:08" cite="mailto:Karima%20E%20Bennoune"></del></p> <p>July 8, 2013</p> <p>KB<strong>: </strong><em>Could you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?</em></p> <p>AG: The main subject is civil liberties and how to survive the current wave of violence against women. There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc.&nbsp; For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women.&nbsp; It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia - this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are <a href="http://en.qantara.de/content/interview-with-amel-grami-the-arab-revolutions-have-triggered-a-male-identity-crisis">using violence</a> in order to “correct” the behavior of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists impose their rule, such as rural areas near Bizerte where there is reported to be Salafist controlled territory or “Imara Salafya”.&nbsp; Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What has given you this fear that impedes your mobility?</em></p> <p>AG:&nbsp; Some activists who are well known have received death threats, so we cannot go to these areas without risking our lives. And secondly, there is now a division of space, and many areas dominated by Salafists are deliberately avoided. A small number of people who use violence have become powerful, and even the policemen are afraid. Yesterday, for example, a group of artists were <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/U-S-must-support-Tunisia-s-secularists-4261703.php">arrested</a> in El Kef for performing a play about the February 2013 assassination of human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid.&nbsp; Facebook publications reported that the judge was close to the Salafists. It is a real challenge, for activists, intellectuals, journalists, and even for artists. Different areas are increasingly falling under the domination of some groups. Even during protests, the streets are divided and you cannot for instance, be around an area where Ennahda militants are protesting. Some journalists, women activists and opposition leaders can be verbally and even physically assaulted. The most important thing is the question of how we can live together, how to transcend fragmentation.&nbsp; The Ennahda party is using the “<a href="http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/01/23/what-is-the-league-for-the-protection-of-the-revolution/">Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution</a>,” (groups of Islamist vigilantes) as well as its own members to engage in violence against journalists, against intellectuals, to defend its territory. They are here to make sure it is impossible to cross borders.</p> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/tunisia%20july%202013%20001.JPG" alt="Amel Grami" width="320" /><br /><em><small><small>Amel Grami in Tunis, July 2013: "Color is a form of resistance." <br />Photo by Karima Bennoune.</small></small></em></p> <p>KB: <em>You have said that gender equality is not possible without separation of religion and state.&nbsp; Can you explain?</em></p> <p>AG: Look at the debate in the Constituent Assembly where women from the Ennahda party defended the “complementarity” of women. Secondly, consider <a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/">CEDAW</a> (the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). The women from the Ennahda party organized a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Women under the slogan:“If you commit adultery, you should be punished.”&nbsp; Some said CEDAW means SIDA (the French-language acronym for AIDS) because it supposedly promotes sexual relations outside of marriage. This new strategy is used not only by the Ennahda party but by the Muslim Brothers everywhere.&nbsp;<del datetime="2013-09-30T18:12" cite="mailto:Karima%20E%20Bennoune"></del>There is no more balance between international laws and national laws, but there is a desire to make the whole region be guided by local laws, and Islamic laws. The ruling party’s strategy is hiding behind words, for example saying, “We agree with liberties but on one condition - if they are not against local tradition.” It is no longer just double discourse, but multiple discourse.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>In light of the fraught climate that you describe and the pressure the Ennahda party puts on secular Tunisians, what do you think of the fact that the Western media continues<del datetime="2013-09-27T14:35" cite="mailto:User"></del> to dub the party “moderate”?</em></p> <p>AG: They have manufactured this notion of “moderate Islam,” and of “democracy compatible with Islam.”&nbsp; But, what we witnessed this year was that Ennahda’s dream of an Islamic state is being realized, step by step. They are busy “defending the sacred,” sentencing someone who declared his atheism to seven years in jail for expressing his beliefs. There is no room for art, for differences, for tolerance. In the West, they often talk about Ennahda as homogeneous, but what we witnessed this year was fragmentation inside the party.&nbsp; Even inside Ennahda we find a radical grouping. This includes, for example, Sadok Chourou, a member of the Constituent Assembly, and Habib Ellouze.&nbsp; The latter is a member of the Constituent Assembly, and at the same time a fundamentalist. He appeared in some Ennahda gatherings, meetings and videos &nbsp;calling for ‘purification’ of the media, and purification of intellectuals, and inviting preachers from Egypt and the Gulf to promote Female Genital Mutilation and the veil.&nbsp; Sadok Chourou also called for the application of hudud punishments (corporal punishments like flogging and stoning derived from Muslim laws), and for dealing with demonstrators by cutting off their hands and their legs according to Islamic law. So, who exactly is moderate?&nbsp; A woman member of the Constituent Assembly from the Ennahda party called for segregation of beaches and of public transportation. The Radical wing&nbsp; inside the “Shura Council” (which leads Ennahda) is quite influential. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>How worried are you about the armed groups that have been active near the Algerian border, about organized terrorism?</em></p> <p>AG: The armed groups are well organized. During the first year of the revolution when we were having our carnival, and dreaming about our revolution, they organized themselves. They benefitted from this period of disorder, so nowadays they are everywhere.</p> <p>KB:<em> Many of the issues you are addressing played out on the Manouba University campus from November 2011 to March 2012 when your premises were taken over by those whom Dean Habib Kazdaghli described as “enemies of an enlightened and modern Tunisia.”&nbsp; Can you summarize these events which your colleague Habib Mellakh labeled a “catastrophic situation” in his book “<a href="http://paris-international.blogs.la-croix.com/en-tunisie-le-rude-combat-contre-le-manoubistan/2013/02/19/">Chroniques du Manoubistan</a>”?</em><em> </em></p> <p>AG<strong>:</strong> It started with a call from certain mosques for people to go to Manouba University and oppose the work done there by secular intellectuals who are “against Islam.”&nbsp; Most of those involved in the takeover were outsiders, not students. They began by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/world/africa/tensions-at-manouba-university-mirror-turbulence-in-tunisia.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">blocking access</a> to our classes. So, there was no way to have courses until they would leave. Some people in the neighborhood surrounding the university trusted their Imams when they said that Manouba is under the power of people who hate Islam. They labeled what they did for the benefit of Islam and the revival of Islam in this university. They targeted Manouba because it is well known for its modernist Islamic studies and for re-interpreting the Qur’an. I myself wrote about apostasy in Islam, and about the marriage of non-Muslim men and Muslim women. I finally concluded that it is not forbidden under Islam and Sharia for women to marry non-Muslim men. This new reading disturbed the fundamentalists.</p> <p>One day, in November 2011, I arrived on campus to find someone giving a sermon and calling on the students to throw Amel Grami out of the university. Luckily, they did not recognize me, but they denounced me because I am supposedly against Islam, because I teach comparative religion, and according to them I stand with the Jews and Christians, so I am against Islam. And that year I was teaching another course about feminism, so I am the “bad girl of Islam.” That is how it started. By the end of the day, there was a clash. </p> <p>A group of Salafists tried to have an appointment with the Dean. They demanded a&nbsp;<del datetime="2013-09-30T18:16" cite="mailto:Karima%20E%20Bennoune"></del>prayer room on campus, segregation between men and women, and that female professors only teach female&nbsp; students. Within two months, the campus was under the control of the Salafists. We were kicked off our own campus and they were inside playing football. It was reported that some even engaged in sex with their partners, whom they married according to customary laws. One female sit-inner was taken to hospital when on hunger strike and was found to be pregnant. The authorities refused to intervene because, they argued, it was an ideological debate. The son of Ali Larayedh (the then Minister of the Interior from Ennahda) was there with the Salafist activists.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What was the response of the students?</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>AG: It took time for them to become aware about the real project of the Salafist groups, and about what it would mean if Manouba fell under their control, which would mean that all the universities would be. What happened here was a test, and our resistance was also a message for the other faculties about what is at stake: our future and our academic freedom.&nbsp; It is our role as professors to defend the future of education.&nbsp; It all came to a head on March 7, 2012, when the Salafists lowered the Tunisian flag over the university and raised their own black flag.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>When this occurred, it turned the Tunisian population decisively against the Salafist occupiers. In what became an iconic gesture, a woman student<ins datetime="2013-09-30T17:35" cite="mailto:Karima%20E%20Bennoune"> </ins>defied the Salafists, climbed on the roof and put the national flag back up. The occupiers lost at Manouba, despite the utter failure of the authorities to intervene to stop them. However, the university community had already suffered months of harm. Can you describe what that time was like for you and your colleagues?</em></p> <p>AG: There were repeated acts of violence against professors. For example, they used a knife on one colleague to try to force her to accept students wearing the niqab. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Habib Mellakh writes that the Salafist occupiers warned that damnation and hell would be the fate of women students who “go naked” – which in the Salafist lexicon is a synonym for showing one’s face. They particularly targeted women, it seems.</em></p> <p>AG:&nbsp; Yes. I myself was surrounded by a group of students and their supporters and told to “dégage” – get out – (the anti-Ben Ali slogan of the 2011 revolution).&nbsp; It hurts, these groups of students considering that you are evil, you are “Aytem França”- the orphans of France, that you are representing&nbsp; the West. I cannot forget this event.&nbsp; Some of them used the threat of rape against me. I spent my life teaching values, and I am a member of many groups for interfaith dialogue. My whole project is the right to be different and the philosophy of differences in terms of race, class, gender, religion. Then, finally, I found myself the other. And, after the revolution no less.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Can you explain the heroic role of Dean Habib Kazdaghli in successfully resisting the Salafist take over?</em><strong> </strong></p> <p>AG: He spent months organizing demonstrations, press conferences, petitions, <a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/africa/2013/05/02/Tunisia-dean-acquitted-of-veiled-woman-assault-.html">calling on civil society and intellectuals to support us</a>, with the help of journalists and opposition politicians. It was not easy.&nbsp; It was another form of struggle. Despite what we did, and the fact that we took back our campus, the struggle for academic freedom in Tunisia continues. Just this month, there was an incident at Jendouba University in northwest Tunisia, near Algeria. Groups of Salafists – most from outside the university - blockaded it to protest the punishment of some Salafist students who violated the law, and they managed to stop all classes.&nbsp; Exams could not be held, and the students risked losing the entire year as a result. There was no intervention from the police. So, we are in a critical period. The Salafists believe they are above the law and operate in impunity. This view was strengthened by the fact that those who attacked the U.S. embassy (on September 14, 2012 during the furor over the film “The Innocence of Muslims”) got a six month suspended sentence – <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/29/us-tunisia-us-embassy-idUSBRE94S10Y20130529">they were not punished</a>. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Could an Islamic state actually be established in Tunisia?</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>AG: If liberal forces are weak, and operate without a clear strategy, we will lose.</p> <p>KB: <em>What are the best ways to make sure that does not happen?&nbsp; What are the best ways now to fight against fundamentalist ideologies in Tunisia?</em></p> <p>AG:<strong> </strong>The whole problem is that we do not have an ideology. The Islamists have this power to talk with people and most importantly, they have money.&nbsp; Money came to support them from all the fundamentalists in the world for the “free and transparent” 2011 elections.&nbsp; What do you do when some parties have the money to buy elections, and to organize, and the other parties are weak and have no money?&nbsp; Now, they also have clandestine armed wings, like the Muslim Brotherhood does everywhere.&nbsp; If they have violence and money on their side, how are we going to have elections?</p> <p>KB: <em>What percentage of the population do you think supports the fundamentalists now, and what percentage of the population supports secularism?</em></p> <p>AG: People are fed up because there is a lack of vision about economic issues.&nbsp; We all failed - secular parties and liberals - because we are trying to talk about concepts, about the constitution. So, many common people have decided that they will not vote.&nbsp; Moreover, people are no longer interested in Ennahda either. They want someone to solve their economic problems, and that is all.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What is your life like now, especially since the assassination of Chokri Belaid in February?</em></p> <p>AG:&nbsp; I have been so depressed by all of this. I am no longer able to do my work as an academic since the revolution. I cannot actually produce writings that offer in-depth analysis.&nbsp; From the personal point of view, I do not have enough time with my children, or with my husband.&nbsp; I am entirely consumed with the struggle. And I must deal with the threats for the last two or three months.&nbsp; After the assassination of Chokri Belaid, I spoke on television about the fundamentalist project to create an Islamic state and then I received death threats. My telephone is tapped, and my Email. I have often received Facebook messages containing insults and defamation. It is as though I am back in the Ben Ali years.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What can progressive activists elsewhere do to support people like you in Tunisia now? </em></p> <p>AG: Maybe the best thing is to document these events and issues since we do not have time to write about our experience with our everyday life.&nbsp; Writers need to show people that behind this successful story of revolution we find a group of women who spent their lives fighting in order to maintain their rights - not only to have more rights but to just maintain those we had – and that we are looking for a better future for the new generation.</p> <p><strong>August 12, 2013</strong></p> <p>KB: <em>How have&nbsp;you experienced the time since the July&nbsp;25 assassination of Mohamed Brahmi? </em></p> <p>AG: Brahmi was a member of the Constituent Assembly which is drafting a new constitution.&nbsp; He and his Popular Front party were outspoken against the Islamist Ennahda party, whom Brahmi's family is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/30/opinion/killing-the-arab-spring-in-its-cradle.html">accusing</a> of being behind the assassination. The killing came as Tunisia celebrated the anniversary of independence from France.&nbsp; </p> <p>As a Tunisian intellectual and citizen I was pleased by the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/08/14/is-this-the-end-of-the-arab-spring/democracy-activists-must-reclaim-a-co-opted-movement">demonstrations</a> organized after this assassination by the democratic opposition in front of the Constituent Assembly building.&nbsp; The protestors criticized Ennahda for not cracking down on hard-line extremists, who have been blamed for many acts of violence in the last few years. Yet, the most serious challenge for Ennahda has been controlling the extremists among its own leaders.&nbsp; Ennahda has also been criticized for allowing a growing Islamization of the country, and for its tolerance of extremist groups, including the Salafists and jihadists who were recruiting young men to fight in Syria and recruiting Tunisian women to have sexual intercourse with these “mujahidin,” and groups threatening women who worked outside the home or were unveiled.</p> <p>I was very impressed by the role played by the family of the martyr Brahmi and particularly his wife Mbarka Brahmi, a courageous woman who demanded the resignation of the Tunisian government and the Constituent Assembly and called for real change in Tunisia, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/deniz-kandiyoti-karima-bennoune/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">declaring</a> that Ennahda is not a moderate party but an extremist movement with a violent past. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What should the strategy be&nbsp;to counter Tunisian fundamentalists in this new phase?</em></p> <p>AG: There is no choice for Tunisians. They must resist and fight for a better future for their children. I keep in mind what Tahar Djaout, an Algerian journalist murdered by Muslim fundamentalists in May 1993 said: “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">If you speak out, they will kill you. If you keep silent, they will kill you. So speak out, and die</a>.” All Tunisians - intellectuals, artists, journalists -should assume their responsibility to spread awareness, to promote a culture of peace, and advance a moderate interpretation of religious texts and modern education. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What are your hopes and fears for Tunisia now?</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>AG: Among my most important fears is that Ennahda is placing more of its members in top government positions.&nbsp; The opposition is concerned that the results of the next election will be tampered with.&nbsp; Power still remains concentrated in the hands of Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader.&nbsp; My hopes are that a new government could somehow succeed in establishing peace, and controlling the extremists, and would work for the interests of all of Tunisia. </p><p><strong>September 30th, 2013 </strong></p> <p>KB: <em>How do you assess Ennahda’s reported agreement, announced on September 28th, to step down in response to massive protests against its rule, and as part of a transitional process? Do you think this will actually transpire? </em></p><p>AG: Since the beginning of the opposition movement which called for the dissolution of the government, establishing a government of technocrats, canceling the appointment of Ennahda partisans in key public positions, and even the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, Ennahda’s reaction <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24385363">remained ambiguous</a> and reflected the divided views within the party itself. Some defended the legitimacy of the government and the Constituent Assembly, while others feared the Egyptian scenario, namely impeachment. Rached Ghannouchi’s statements made after meeting with their number one foe - Nida Tunis leader Beji Caid Essebsi - in Paris, reiterated a commitment to compromise and consensus both in the drafting of the Constitution and also in the transition. Meanwhile, other leading figures in Ennahda rejected the call to resign.&nbsp; As recently as this week, Harouni, the Ennahda Minister of Transport and a member of the Shura Council, said that their being in power is not just a matter of legitimacy and elections, but is a divine mission above all laws and the Constitution. </p> <p>(This article was first published in October 2013)</p><p><em>Raed Karima Bennoune's book , “<a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></em>.”&nbsp; </p><p><strong><em><strong><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/16-days-activism-against-gender-violence-0"></a></strong></em></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/fear-and-fury-women-and-post-revolutionary-violence">Fear and fury: women and post-revolutionary violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/egypt-islamization-of-state-policy">Egypt: the Islamization of state policy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deniz-kandiyoti/disquiet-and-despair-gender-sub-texts-of-arab-spring">Disquiet and despair: the gender sub-texts of the &#039;Arab spring&#039; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/kristine-goulding/tunisia-arab-spring-islamist-summer">Tunisia: Arab Spring, Islamist Summer</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mariz-tadros/perilous-slide-towards-islamist-dictatorship-in-egypt">The perilous slide: towards an Islamist dictatorship in Egypt?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/hoda-elsadda/narrating-arab-spring-from-within">Narrating the Arab spring from within</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Tunisia 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women's human rights patriarchy fundamentalisms feminism 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Amel Grami Thu, 19 Mar 2015 10:03:27 +0000 Amel Grami and Karima Bennoune 75826 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Support the right to make fun of extremists": an interview with Caroline Fourest https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune-caroline-fourest/support-right-to-make-fun-of-extremists-interview-with-carolin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism. Journalists are defending something which is elementary to our democracy: our freedom to breathe and to laugh. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/caroline-fourest/ ">Caroline Fourest</a> worked at Charlie Hebdo when it re-published the cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed. Karima Bennoune interviewed her for openDemocracy on the day of the Paris attacks.</em> </p> <p><span>Karima Bennoune</span>:<strong> </strong><em>What is your political analysis of the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">attack</a> against the Charlie Hebdo paper where you used to work? How should we understand it?</em></p> <p><span>Caroline Fourest</span>:&nbsp; Charlie Hebdo has received death threats for more than ten years, since the explosion of the affair of the Mohamed cartoons almost 10 years ago. For Anglophone readers, I should explain that the paper occupies a very particular place on the French political spectrum. It is very leftwing, very <a href="http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2013/11/20/non-charlie-hebdo-n-est-pas-raciste_3516646_3232.html">anti-racist</a> and very secular all at the same time. It represents something that we cherish in France, this balance to which we are very attached between, on the one hand, the defense of secularism and the struggle against religious fanaticisms in any religion, and on the other, the fight against racism.&nbsp; This is what is so unacceptable for the jihadists.&nbsp; In France, this is what they reject the most. </p> <p>Charlie Hebdo re-published the Danish cartoons in solidarity with the Danish cartoonists who were threatened with death in 2006.&nbsp; It is a paper in the skeptical tradition and it makes fun of all religions, so it decided to show these drawings that had not been shown elsewhere. They had not been published in the US for fear of attack, or because of the fear of shocking religious sensibilities. Re-publishing these drawings was our way of defending freedom of expression when faced with fanatics.</p> <p>We published a cartoon that tried to differentiate Mohamed from the fundamentalists and showed how upset he was with the stupidity of their violent response to the Danish drawings.&nbsp; (Interviewer’s note: The <a href="https://carolinefourest.wordpress.com/category/charlie-hebdo/">cartoon in question</a> shows the Prophet Mohamed holding his head in his hands, crying, and saying “it is hard to be loved by idiots.”&nbsp; It is most relevant this week.) Since the time we published those cartoons, we have received death threats at Charlie Hebdo. We faced a court case brought by a Muslim organization which we won.&nbsp; Charlie continued to draw against all religions. We drew against the Pope.&nbsp; But there was more of a polemic when we drew Mohamed.&nbsp; The headquarters of the paper was burned in 2011 in a criminal arson attack. So Charlie Hebdo took refuge in another location where there was a lot of security. They did not even have the name of the newspaper displayed outside. My former colleagues and comrades who were killed on January 7th had been under police protection since 2006.&nbsp; Their lives were never the same since this affair. They knew they were hated by the fanatics.</p> <p><span>KB</span>:<strong><em> </em></strong><em>What are the best ways for the international community to respond to this attack, and what are the best ways for progressives and secularists elsewhere to stand in solidarity with the victims?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: Make drawings to support freedom of the press. Support the right to make fun of religions, and of extremists.&nbsp; Make fun of the fundamentalists. Continue to have a sense of humour. Continue to smile when they want to prohibit us even from smiling.&nbsp; Support the press.&nbsp; Journalists today are on the frontlines because they defend something which is elementary to our democracy: Our freedom to breathe and to laugh.</p> <p>Stand up to incitement on social media.&nbsp; Beyond the mentally ill people who committed this crime at Charlie Hebdo, there have been years of incitement against the journalists of Charlie Hebdo online.&nbsp; They were accused of being Islamophobic simply because they claimed the right to laugh at all religions.&nbsp; It must never be allowed to happen again, this way of designating someone as a target. It must never be accepted again.&nbsp; Such rhetoric must never again be excused. </p> <p>Racism must not excuse fundamentalism.&nbsp; And fundamentalism must not excuse racism. We have to unceasingly <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">fight both at the same time</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><span>KB</span>:<em> In the Anglophone media, some are resorting to a communitarian analysis and <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/9/french_muslims_fear_backlash_increased_islamophobia">blaming</a> the attacks on France’s failure to integrate Muslims.</em><strong>&nbsp; </strong><em>How do you reply to such an analysis?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: It is really the day of idiotic rhetoric.&nbsp; That is what the jihadists expect. The jihadists carry out terrorist attacks to make us idiots.&nbsp; Many countries in the world face terror attacks. We can make a sociological analysis if we want to, but it was not “the Muslims” who attacked Charlie Hebdo.&nbsp; It was three mentally ill people.&nbsp; Those fundamentalists who <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">killed in Algeria in the 1990s</a> , were they Muslims who were not well-integrated in Algeria?&nbsp; Those who resort to such an analysis do not understand that we are facing a political threat, a totalitarian Islamist threat that manifests in terrorism.&nbsp; This analysis is another way of falling into the trap that the extremists offer us.</p> <p>We had people born in Normandy who are blond with blue eyes who <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30119868">went to fight</a> with “Islamic State”.&nbsp; There are Muslims who <a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">killed many other Muslims</a>, many more Muslims than Westerners. Today there are all sorts of flags flown by fanatics that are used to rally people without humour, without hope, without spirit. </p> <p>In fact, secularism is actually working very well in France.&nbsp; 90% of French people are very attached to secularism, including its citizens of Muslim culture. I can tell you that for ten years at Charlie Hebdo, those who sent the most solidarity messages, those who fought on our side the most were of Maghrebin background, whether Muslim or not Muslim.&nbsp; </p> <p><span>KB</span>: <em>As someone who has worked with Charlie Hebdo, as someone who has courageously fought fundamentalism for many years, what are you feeling today?</em></p> <p><span>CF</span>: I feel an even greater responsibility to continue.&nbsp; I keep with me the images of the faces of my colleagues who have fallen on the front lines of freedom of the press today. I have friends who have been found in their blood, and others who are in shock.&nbsp; The survivors said to each other that we will all meet tomorrow for an editorial meeting. We will make sure the <a href="http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/01/10/ac-intv-fourest-charlie-hebdo-spirit.cnn">issue will come out next week</a>. We will not have the same sense of humor we used to have, as they killed all of the best French cartoonists in one massacre.&nbsp; </p> <p>But, there is no way they will make us put down our pens.&nbsp; </p> <p><em>Translated from French by Karima Bennoune.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/double-bind-tied-up-in-knots-on-left">Double Bind: tied up in knots on the left </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens">Charlie Hebdo: &quot;There is no way they will make us put down our pens.&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/salah-chouaki/compromise-with-political-islam-is-impossible">Compromise with political Islam is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/janine-moussa/rightful-place-of-gender-equality-within-islam">The rightful place of gender equality within Islam </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/deepa-shankaran/right-to-have-rights-resisting-fundamentalist-orders">The right to have rights: resisting fundamentalist orders</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? France Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Caroline Fourest Karima Bennoune Charlie Hebdo Sat, 10 Jan 2015 10:27:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune and Caroline Fourest 89465 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Charlie Hebdo: "There is no way they will make us put down our pens." https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/charlie-hebdo-there-is-no-way-they-will-make-us-put-down-our-pens <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pen against Kalashnikov: courage against atrocity. People of Muslim heritage call for combatting Islamist ideology by political means and mass mobilisation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>We are all Charlie!</p> <p>To those who attacked Charlie Hebdo yesterday shouting “Allahu Akbar,” I would like to say that your kind of God - a God of Hate and Murder - is not Great. Nor is that God the God of most Muslims, but rather of your own Islamist cult - which so many people of Muslim heritage <a href="http://www.karimabennoune.com/">oppose</a>. You are incapable of understanding satire; you openly revile the beliefs of others but brook no criticism of the medieval notions you believe. You claim to defend Islam while bringing only shame upon it. You are offended by cartoons but not by killing. You claim to have avenged the Prophet Mohamed but have instead defamed him with your cowardly attack on unarmed journalists in his name.&nbsp; </p> <p>As a Tunisian woman wrote to me afterwards, “It is so horrible, claiming the name of God while killing these poor people. But, about which God are they speaking?”&nbsp; With an ironic outrage, worthy of Charlie Hebdo itself, she insisted the deity would be “gratified” that they are “making him a God of intolerance and blood.”&nbsp; In the name of tolerance and peace, and in memory of the tragically murdered victims in Paris, and of so many others - even more numerous - in places like Peshawar, let us commit after this bleak January day to make 2015 the year we finally put an end to this ghastly jihad.</p> <p>While first information suggests the authors of the Paris attack may have claimed affiliation with Al Qaeda in Yemen, others suspect an “Islamic State” link. In any case, their indisputable connection is with the pernicious ideology of international Islamism and its myriad armed manifestations.&nbsp; These are, to quote Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie-Lucas, “political movements of the extreme right that… manipulate religion to achieve their political aims.” We must collectively denounce that ideology and do all we can to defeat these movements.&nbsp; As Helie-Lucas and Maryam Namazie wrote in an <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article8509.html">online petition</a> in denunciation of the Charlie Hebdo attack, a statement rapidly signed by activists from Iran to Sudan, “What is needed is straight-forward analysis of the political nature of armed Islamists: they are an extreme-right political force, working under the guise of religion and they aim at political power. They should be combated by political means and mass mobilization….” </p> <p>This latest horror is but one in a long line of Muslim fundamentalist assaults on thought. “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">Those who combat us with the pen will die by the sword</a>,” decreed the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria in the 1990s while slaughtering intellectuals.&nbsp; Just this December, an Algerian Salafist called for the public execution, possibly by crucifixion, of prominent writer Kamel Daoud, a free-thinker who recently made waves with his rewriting of Camus’s “The Stranger” from an Algerian perspective, and who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/books/an-algerian-author-fights-back-against-a-fatwa.html?_r=0">dared to say</a> in a television appearance that Arabs must reflect on the role of religion in their societies to move forward. </p> <p>While I am first and foremost outraged by the Islamist ideologues who make such threats, and the terrorists like those who perpetrated yesterday’s massacre, I also blame <em>some</em> liberals and left-wingers - and even human rights advocates - in the West who have for years apologized for Islamism and Islamist ideas, painted Islamists mainly as victims with legitimate grievances standing up to the West, or defenders of Muslim culture, rather than extreme right wingers with guns determined on squashing human rights.&nbsp; These Western apologists<a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/At-Freedoms-Limit-Postcolonial-Predicament/dp/082325786X"></a> have justified everything from the burqa to theocracy in the name of cultural relativism – appalling many intellectuals of Muslim heritage who are determined instead to <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/At-Freedoms-Limit-Postcolonial-Predicament/dp/082325786X">buck extremism</a>. Some of these&nbsp; voices were <a href="http://portside.org/2015-01-07/let%e2%80%99s-not-sacralize-charlie-hebdo">heard</a> again in the U.S. media yesterday emphasizing the “offensiveness” of Charlie Hebdo’s content.&nbsp; In Western academia, this apologia has often been a politically correct stance, what Mahnaz Afkhami&nbsp; <a href="http://www.mahnazafkhami.net/">decries</a> as “Islamic exceptionalism.”&nbsp; So, one way to commemorate this terrible event and memorialize its victims is to unequivocally defend universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and to make clear that they apply to all.&nbsp; We must <a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2015/01/07/for-charlie-hebdo-rage-and-solidarity/">dare to defend</a> even the right to blaspheme, the right that the Charlie Hebdo staff paid with their lives for asserting. </p> <p>Many people of Muslim heritage – from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, from Afghanistan to Algeria, have been in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">frontlines of the fight against terror and extremism </a>. But so many more of us in the diasporas need to find the courage to speak out in support of them.&nbsp; After the Sydney attack and on the same day as the Peshawar massacre, CNN featured a Muslim American blogger whining about the fact that Muslims are expected to condemn jihadist attacks.&nbsp; I no longer have any patience for this sort of view.&nbsp; Those of us who are proud of our heritage, who have diverse and complex relationships with the Islam of our forebears, can make a difference by speaking out against every single one of these crimes whose miserable perpetrators wrongfully claim to act as agents of the religious heritage we value.&nbsp; (This is akin to suggesting that Jews can advance the cause of human rights by criticizing the Israeli government’s violations since it claims to represent them, even while they are in no way collectively responsible for such abuses.)&nbsp; We should have a Million Muslim March, or the virtual equivalent, every single time an event like this happens.</p> <p>Our community organizations should move from reactive condemnations of terrorism post hoc, to proactive, systematic efforts to root out Islamist ideology through awareness-raising, and humanist education.&nbsp; We must also do more to support those doing this work back home in our countries of origin.&nbsp; As difficult as it can be to speak out in our highly charged contemporary environment in which the Western far right campaigns against Islam – akin to “walking on a tightrope” as one young Arab-American activist recently described it - it takes just a fraction of the moral courage shown by those most at risk.&nbsp; Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, who has to have armed guards in her Lahore office, implored the diaspora community to speak out about the slaughter in countries like hers when I interviewed her. </p> <p>It is especially critical not to blame the victims for the Paris attack, however challenging some of their drawings and writings may have been for some.&nbsp; That is what satirists do – push boundaries.&nbsp; That is their right, and indeed modern society needs those who dare to claim that none of our emperors have any clothes.&nbsp; Charlie Hebdo are equal opportunity offenders, lampooning the Pope, Jewish orthodoxy and the Mullahs.&nbsp; Many people of Muslim heritage appreciate satire.&nbsp; The late great Pakistani arts promoter Faizan Peerzada <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583">told me</a> of the Danish cartoons that Charlie Hebdo reprinted, “if this cartoon was seen by Mohamed, he would have had a laugh.&nbsp; As simple as that.” </p> <p>Meanwhile, the extreme right wing and other anti-Muslim forces in the West cannot be allowed to overlook such defiance among people of Muslim heritage, or to smear all of Islam or its adherents - &nbsp;or immigrants writ large - because of attacks like the one in Paris.&nbsp; As <a href="https://carolinefourest.wordpress.com/">Caroline Fourest</a>, an expert on fundamentalisms and former member of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo told me yesterday, the magazine is itself both anti-fundamentalist and secularist - and resolutely anti-racist.&nbsp; “Racism must not be an excuse for fundamentalism.&nbsp; And fundamentalism must not be an excuse for racism,” she insisted. “We have to fight both at the same time.”&nbsp; She is absolutely correct, and these will both be long struggles.</p> <p>After twenty years of writing about Muslim fundamentalist violence, I am running out of synonyms for atrocity.&nbsp; And for courage.&nbsp; During my recent research about opposition to fundamentalism among people of Muslim heritage, I was given a copy of the newspapers published at Press House in Algiers on the very next day after a 1996 Armed Islamic Group bombing there that killed 18 press workers and their neighbors.&nbsp; I have thought about this story a great deal in the last 24 hours.&nbsp; </p> <p>Somehow the Algerian journalists rallied back in 1996 and got their editions out, working to do so in the rubble of their offices before the smoke had even cleared.&nbsp; One of them, a woman named Ghania Oukazi, posed the following question in that day’s heroic papers, a question just as relevant now. “Pen against Kalashnikov.&nbsp; Is there a more unequal struggle?”&nbsp; She answered it herself with this commitment.&nbsp; “What is certain is that the pen will not stop.”&nbsp; Yesterday’s terror attack in Paris is a stark reminder that to defeat all forms of fundamentalism and terror we must always honor Ghania’s pledge.&nbsp; As Caroline Fourest exclaimed when telling me her surviving former colleagues were determined to rally and get an issue of Charlie Hebdo next week: “there is no way they will make us put down our pens.”</p> <p><em>Read more interviews and analysis with people of Muslim heritage working to challenge fundamentalisms:</em><strong> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/5050-frontline-voices-against-muslim-fundamentalism">Frontline Voices Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/freedom-of-expression-sacred-right">Freedom of expression: a sacred right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses">&quot;Truth needs witnesses&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ani-zonneveld/progressive-muslims-in-world-of-isis-and-islamophobes">Progressive Muslims in a world of ISIS and Islamophobes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marieme-h%C3%A9lielucas-maryam-namazie/promoting-global-secular-alternative-in-isis-era">Promoting the global secular alternative in the ISIS era</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/fatou-sow/secularism-at-risk-in-subsaharan-secular-states-challenges-for-senegal-and-mali">Secularism at risk in Sub-Saharan secular states: the challenges for Senegal and Mali</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? Civil society Can Europe make it? 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Charlie Hebdo Thu, 08 Jan 2015 09:54:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune 89392 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Truth needs witnesses" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/truth-needs-witnesses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The column Saïd Mekbel published the day before he was assassinated<strong> </strong>in 1994<strong> </strong>remains sadly topical today - recalling murdered journalists everywhere. <em>Republished in tribute to the people <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30710883">killed </a>today at the offices of the French satirical magazine <a href="http://www.charliehebdo.fr/index.html">Charlie Hebdo </a></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on December 3, 2014. It is republished here in tribute to those killed today in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo</em></p><p>December 3, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Algerian journalist Saïd Mekbel. He was shot while eating in a restaurant near his Algiers office and died the next morning. That same day Mekbel had published an article<em> </em>in his paper <em>Le Matin</em> that&nbsp;would prove to be his own eulogy.&nbsp; Its raw words memorialize journalists everywhere who are targeted for practising their profession. The piece, known as "Ce voleur qui" or “This Thief Who…,” which describes the plight of press workers&nbsp;trapped in conflict, remains sadly topical today.&nbsp; It recalls not only Mekbel's murder, but also those of Iraqi journalists <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29613783">Raad Mohamed al-Azzawi and Mohanad al-Akidi</a>, and Americans <a href="http://www.cjr.org/darts_and_laurels/the_new_york_times_recreates_i.php">Steven Sotloff and James Foley</a>,&nbsp; all of whom have been killed by “Islamic State” this year.</p> <p>Throughout the 1990s, Algerian journalists were extra-judicially condemned to death and executed by the country’s murderous armed fundamentalist groups, while simultaneously facing endless restrictions and harassment by the military-backed government.&nbsp; Journalist and editor Lazhari Labter <a href="http://www.editions-harmattan.fr/index.asp?navig=catalogue&amp;obj=livre&amp;no=5213">analyzed the killings </a>&nbsp;in his profession as follows:&nbsp; “the fundamentalist terrorists implemented a systematic program of liquidation of members of the journalistic family – a program summed up in the sinister slogan of the Armed Islamic Group: ‘Those who combat us with the pen will die by the sword.’” </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/mekbelPhoto.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="304" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saïd Mekbel</span></span></span>The Algerian writer <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahar_Djaout">Tahar Djaout</a> - one of Algeria’s first intellectuals <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">cut down</a> in the 90s&nbsp; - had expressed the reporters’ predicament perfectly: “If you speak out, they will kill you. If you keep silent, they will kill you. So speak out, and die.” Mekbel did just that. The nineties violence which claimed his life made Algeria, according to a 2012 United Nations <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Protectingthelivesofjournalists.aspx">report</a>, one of the five deadliest locations for reporters in the last twenty years. A total of a hundred press workers, including sixty journalists, were killed by the fundamentalist armed groups between 1993 and 1997, a terrible history chronicled by Ahmed Ancer, a journalist with the paper <em><a href="http://www.elwatan.com/">El Watan</a> </em>(the Nation), in a book appropriately entitled <em>Encre Rouge</em> (Red Ink). </p> <p>This violence was, as the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Protectingthelivesofjournalists.aspx">described</a> the murder of journalists, “the most extreme form of censorship. . . .”&nbsp; The journalists’ counter-attack was to survive, to keep writing no matter what. After Saïd Mekbel was killed, <em>Le Matin</em> reprinted his articles over many days “to spite the killers.” </p> <p>In life, Saïd Mekbel was an honest and humorous socio-politial critic who frequently took aim both at politicians in the Algerian government as well as at the fundamentalist armed groups that battled them.&nbsp; His son <a href="https://ajouadmemoire.wordpress.com/articles-documents-et-interviews-reportages/interview-avec-nazim-mekbel-president-de-lassociation-ajouad-algerie-memoires-la-societe-civile-doit-prendre-en-main-son-histoire/">Nazim Mekbel</a>, president and co-founder of <em><a href="https://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Ajouad-Alg%C3%A9rie-M%C3%A9moires/190787850940981">Ajouad (“the generous”) Algérie Mémoires</a>,</em> a collective of families of victims of the 1990s fundamentalist terrorism, wrote last December on the 19th anniversary of the killing about some of his father’s most pointed criticisms. “[T]o the Sheikh of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), who advised that we should prepare to change our modes of dress and eating, he replied…. ‘I encourage you, in all fraternity, to go… reclothe yourselves.’” <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>As Nazim recalled, his father had also written of torture – which like fundamentalist violence was endemic in 1990s Algeria. “[P]olice officers should be given ashtrays with the explanation that they are to be offered to some of their colleagues… who in certain police stations, ask detainees to open their mouths so as to serve as ashtrays.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Of Algeria’s terrible wave of 90s political assassinations, Saïd Mekbel had noted that, “They are done so as to suit all the political extremes that want to gain or keep Power.”&nbsp; He asked a question that is still globally relevant. “Is there really nothing else that can be unrolled on the road that leads to the throne other than this macabre carpet made of the bodies of intellectuals?”&nbsp; Nazim recalled that his father wondered in print who exactly would kill him, remarking that&nbsp;“sometimes I long to meet those assassins and especially their commanders.”&nbsp;This was because, as he explained, “I want to know who will order my death.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Of his country’s youth, Saïd Mekbel had worried about “what sort of mutants” were being produced – “traffickers in arms and in drugs, economic con men and con men of religion.”<em> </em>According to Nazim, for his father, “a prime example of the intolerance which plagued his country was the letter he received from an ‘anonymous combatant’ who promised an Islamic Algeria while condemning another reader ‘who had the cowardice to sign his name and to affirm that he was a Christian Algerian, proud of his identity and living his faith, his convictions and his ideas.’ ”&nbsp; Mekbel was horrified by the violence such ideas produced.&nbsp; After the <a href="http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1370&amp;dat=19941022&amp;id=KKMxAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=2QoEAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=4579,4269981">assassination</a> of two Spanish nuns by the Armed Islamic Group in Algiers in 1994, he posed a question which still needs answering in the era of the so-called Islamic State: &nbsp;“Toward what world of darkness are we headed, we who dream only of light?"<em> <br /></em></p> <p>While Pope Francis today asks people of Muslim heritage to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30265996">condemn terrorism</a>, Mekbel was already doing so twenty years ago. His February 1994 open letter to the terrorists of Algeria distills the rage of many people in Muslim majority societies against those who butcher in the name of Allah.&nbsp; “Tell me, partisan of terrorism . . . you who regularly . . . explain that terrorist acts are done . . . to—I quote—‘bring down the military junta in power,’ tell me how assassinating a schoolteacher in front of . . . the children in his class, when he only had a little piece of chalk in his hands, tell me . . . how this ignoble execution contributes to ‘bringing down the military junta.’ ” </p> <p>Ten months later, on December 3, 1994, the man who had the courage to ask this question in print was himself fatally shot.&nbsp; Saïd Mekbel’s assassination was <a href="http://cpj.org/killed/1994/said-mekbel.php">claimed</a> by the Armed Islamic Group. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this crime, and as insisted by Mustapha Benfodil, who is currently <a href="http://www.djazairess.com/fr/elwatan/480044">writing</a> about Mekbel for the Algerian newspaper <em>El Watan,</em> some form of accountability for these 1990s atrocities <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">remains essential</a>.&nbsp; </p> <p>Amongst his father’s 1300 columns from that period, Nazim Mekbel selected a particularly defiant one that should be remembered on this somber anniversary.&nbsp; It appeared in November 1991 when the still ascendant Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) threatened to use the ballot box to reduce Algeria to an “Islamic State.”&nbsp; Entitled “Ya FIS” or “O FIS” (the acronym also means “son” in French), the piece is a sardonic reply to correspondence from a fundamentalist sympathizer.&nbsp; “A big thank you for your letter. I found it very nice, even if at the end of each sentence you promised me that I will do many things lying face downwards when the FIS comes to power… Your letter really put me in a good mood… I was able to laugh at treasures like this one:&nbsp; ‘Lying face downwards, you will fall from on high, Saïd, when you learn the results of the election of December 26, 1991…’”&nbsp; Mekbel signed his open letter with insubordinate courtesy.&nbsp; “Take care of yourself, <em>ya FIS</em>.&nbsp; I greet you, but not face downwards.”</p> <p>Lazhari Labter wrote recently from Algiers to say that “all his life Saïd Mekbel fought for FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, for DEMOCRACY, for HUMAN RIGHTS and WOMEN’S RIGHTS, for LIBERTY.”&nbsp; Summing up his own body of work, Saïd Mekbel <a href="http://www.lematindz.net/news/13024-said-mekbel-un-3-decembre-1994-la-verite-a-besoin-de-temoins.html">observed</a>&nbsp;that, “[t]ruth is like justice.&nbsp; It needs witnesses…. Even very small witnesses who can simply write things that will last.” &nbsp;While he has been gone for exactly twenty years, his words&nbsp; - written against extremism, terror, abuse and corruption and yet infused with humor wherever possible - <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">will never die</a>.&nbsp; In honour of both uncomfortable truths and elusive justice, this great Algerian witness wrote things that will indeed last.&nbsp; </p> <p>Here is a translation of his final column.</p> <p><strong>This thief who… </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><em>This thief who, in the night, keeps a low profile when going home, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This father who recommends that his children not say in public what his miserable line of work is, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This bad citizen who skulks in the courts, waiting to appear before judges, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This individual picked up in a roundup and propelled by a riffle butt into the back of a truck, it is he.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>It is he who leaves his house in the morning without being sure he will arrive at work.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>And it is he who leaves work again at night, with no certainty of reaching home.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This vagabond who no longer knows where to spend the night, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>He is the one who is threatened in the secrecy of an official’s office, the witness who must swallow what he knows, this naked and helpless citizen….</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This man who makes a wish not to die by having his throat cut, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>This body onto which they sew back a decapitated head, it is he.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>It is he who does not know what to do with his hands, apart from scribbling his humble writings, he who hopes against hope, because roses grow well – don’t they - on a pile of manure. </em><em></em></p> <p><em>He who is all of this and who is only a journalist.</em></p> <p>Translated by Karima Bennoune</p><p><em>The American photo journalist Luke Somers, who had been captured by Al Qaeda and held hostage in Yemen, died&nbsp; 6th December 2014.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>On December 5th the IWMF issued a statement: <strong>"The International Women's Media Foundation is gravely concerned about the detention of investigative journalist and 2012 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, and is <a href="http://www.iwmf.org/courage-awardee-khadija-ismayilova-arrested/">calling</a> on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release her immediately."</strong></em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><strong><br /></strong></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aidan-white/charlie-hebdo-how-journalism-needs-to-respond-to-this-unconscionable-attac">Charlie Hebdo: how journalism needs to respond to this unconscionable attack</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/shirin-ebadi/shirin-ebadi-who-defines-islam">Shirin Ebadi: who defines Islam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-iraq-today-trampling-islam-underfoot-in-name-of-jihad">From 1990s Algeria to Iraq today: trampling Islam underfoot in the name of Jihad </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mahfoud-bennoune/from-1990s-algeria-to-911-and-isis-understanding-history-of-homo-islamicus-fun">From 1990s Algeria to 9/11 and ISIS: understanding the history of &quot;Homo islamicus fundamentalensis&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Democracy and government Can Europe make it? 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Wed, 07 Jan 2015 18:45:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune 88421 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria post-election: The democratic struggle continues https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-postelection-democratic-struggle-continues <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Steadfast in the face of a witch-hunt and physical attacks against their members, the Barakat citizen's movement will not give up the call for peaceful democratic transition, Karima Bennoune reports on the post-election challenges that lie ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="NoSpacing"><em>This is the fourth in a series of articles by <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/karima-bennoune">Karima Bennoune</a> covering this month's election in Algeria</em></p><p class="NoSpacing">On Thursday April 17, Algerians were asked to <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-04-17/algerias-presidential-election-less-revolution-and-more-weekend-bernies">decide</a> whether 77 year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika – a stroke patient who in 2008 had the constitution changed to enable himself to seek first a third and now a fourth term in office - should <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-04-17/algerias-presidential-election-less-revolution-and-more-weekend-bernies">remain in power</a>.&nbsp; “The President is not even able to campaign.&nbsp; Others are campaigning for him,” journalist and opposition activist Meziane Abane, who was arrested three times this spring, told me in Algiers in March.&nbsp; “This has never been seen before in the entire world.”&nbsp; In response to this non-campaign, Algerians abstained <em>en masse</em>.&nbsp; Only 51.7% of the country's 23 million registered voters actually voted, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27081942">down from 75% in 2009</a>.&nbsp; The interior ministry claims 81% of those who voted cast their ballots for President Bouteflika, a statistic which is disputed by opposition political parties that boycotted the election. </p><p>Since late February, the non-partisan <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7193.html">Barakat</a> (Enough!) Movement has been organizing small but resolute demonstrations across the country against the President’s attempt to seek a fourth term, and for a more just Algeria – no mean feat when the government stifles opposition, repeatedly <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7129.html">arresting and beating</a> Barakat’s members.&nbsp; The activists have also been the targets of a vicious smear campaign in cyber-space, on television and even on their own Facebook page. They are incessantly accused of being Zionists and foreign agents, and of threatening the stability of the country.&nbsp; Their individual pictures are often displayed together with this invective, a tactic the movement has decried as incitement to assassination. </p> <p>Beyond all this anti-Barakat propaganda, the reality is that Barakat brought together women and youth, professionals and the unemployed to challenge what they viewed as an electoral masquerade, but also to continue to demand the <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7090.html">restoration of citizenship</a> and dignity even after the elections.&nbsp; They are resolutely non-violent, reformist rather than revolutionary, and they seek neither re-enactment of the “Arab Spring” nor any international involvement in Algeria.&nbsp; Instead, they are simply a diverse, local citizen movement with neither funding nor NGO status.</p> <p>On the eve of the elections, this movement took to the streets to hold its 18th peaceful protest of the season – peaceful on the demonstrators’ part alone.&nbsp; After the carnival of police brutality that greeted their first actions in early March, the security forces had shifted tactics, containing the movement’s protests but allowing them to take place.&nbsp; Not on 16 April.&nbsp; All of those I interviewed previously for openDemocracy -&nbsp; founders <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Mustapha Benfodil</a>,&nbsp; a prominent writer, and Dr. <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Amira Bouraoui</a>, a female gynecologist, as well as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louiza-chennoub-karima-bennoune/algeria-voices-for-democratic-transition-cannot-be-silenced">Louiza Chennoub</a>, the woman who became one of the faces of the movement after being famously gagged during a march by a policewoman - were again ruthlessly <a href="http://www.lecourrierdelatlas.com/699616042014Un-rassemblement-de-Barakat-reprime-a-la-veille-de-la-presidentielle.html">attacked</a> by security forces.&nbsp;&nbsp; As the Barakat movement commented on its Facebook page on 16 April: “The peaceful citizen&nbsp;demonstration that we organized in front of the central campus of the University of Algiers was violently repressed, and broken up by police officers in uniform and in civilian clothes, as well as by&nbsp;hooligans&nbsp;of all sorts who had been dispatched to attack peaceful citizens… Those who responded to Barakat's call to demonstrate were beaten up. As we write this, some demonstrators are actually&nbsp;trapped in a building near the campus, among them Mustapha Benfodil and Amira Bouraoui.&nbsp; The demonstrators who were seriously injured are now at Mustapha Hospital in Algiers. Barakat (Enough!) says no to la Hogra (the arrogance with&nbsp;which officials treat ordinary people), and long live Algeria.”<strong>&nbsp; </strong>On Youtube, you can see that Dr. Bouraoui is nearly strangled, while Chennoub <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=778202038870912&amp;set=vb.753966754627774&amp;type=2&amp;theater">appears</a> draped in an Algerian flag and in tears as she was forced off the streets with another woman by a horde of policemen.&nbsp; The Algerian government seems to believe that that which it bans will simply disappear.&nbsp; They are mistaken.</p> <p>Immediately after the election results were announced on 18 April, the Barakat activists renewed their <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">declarations of defiance</a> on the organization’s Facebook Page. “Boutef and his ruling circle cannot lock me up in a voting booth,” declared Mustapha Benfodil.&nbsp; “The next steps:&nbsp; application of article 88 (of the constitution which holds that in case of physical incapacity, the Constitutional Council should relieve the president of his functions) – building a new constitution – political transition after the funeral of Boutef who, without a miracle, will not be able to complete his term – new elections. A simple calculation: with 49% rate of abstention + those who voted for Benflis, Louisa H (opposition candidates)… + the blank ballots, we are more than 30 million who rejected the imaginary president.&nbsp; This is plenty of material with which to plan for hope. Barakat (Enough!) of depression!”</p> <p>Dr. Amira Bouraoui was similarly steadfast as she addressed herself to the government:&nbsp; “Barakat will continue its struggle in a peaceful manner. Barakat remains determined to achieve the RIGHT to life, the RIGHT to live FREELY in one’s country.&nbsp; In spite of the witch hunt which the uncultured regime organizes against our members, we are not afraid of anything...&nbsp; The only fear which motivates us comes from knowing that Algeria is still in… your unclean hands… We will liberate ourselves from you… because lies, violence and mean-spiritedness have never been able to last forever. …&nbsp; Algeria belongs to its children whose oil you have sold off for the next twenty years.&nbsp; We will fight peacefully to the end.”</p> <p>The Barakat Movement’s constant emphasis on peaceful action reflects the anxieties left behind by the country’s terrible internal conflict of the 1990s - the “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">dark decade</a>” - during which fundamentalist armed groups massacred and assassinated hundreds of thousands while the state responded with torture and forced disappearances. Today, and throughout election season, the regime uses the very real ghosts of this violence to haunt the population, despite the fact that many victims of terrorism are <a href="http://forumdesdemocrates.over-blog.com/article-cherifa-kheddar-presidente-de-djazairouna-un-jour-un-lieu-une-stele-114806603.html">highly critical</a> of the regime’s national reconciliation which amnestied the perpetrators of the 90s.&nbsp; </p> <p>Nevertheless, as sociology professor Nasser Djabi told me in Algiers in March this year, the government threatens the society by saying, “either accept us as the political system, or there will be chaos.”&nbsp; <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Benfodil</a>, himself a victim of the fundamentalist violence of the 90s, wrote for the newspaper El Watan about election day in Boufarik, a town located in one of the dark decade’s toughest zones.&nbsp; He quoted Nadir, an election worker, who explained his attitude toward the current political situation: “<a href="http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/un-vote-orange-a-boufarik-19-04-2014-253916_109.php">I prefer misery to decapitated heads.&nbsp; We lived hell here.</a>”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>In such an environment, in this post 17 April era, the challenges that lie before the Algerian opposition, including the Barakat Movement, are great.&nbsp; As Djabi explained, they must do no less than “rehabilitate politics itself.”&nbsp; On 21 March, I attended a debate about the current political situation at the headquarters of independent newspaper <a href="http://www.algerienews.info/">Algérie News</a>, which has subsequently had advertising for state companies pulled from its pages because it offered space to the Barakat Movement to hold an <a href="//www.algerie-focus.com/blog/2014/04/parce-quil-a-accueilli-la-conference-de-presse-de-barakat-algerie-news-est-prive-de-publicite-publique/">election week press conference</a>.&nbsp; Near the end of the 21 March debate, a young woman opined from the floor:&nbsp; “What should we do?&nbsp; That is the only question that I am interested in.&nbsp;&nbsp; It is the regime that infantilized the people, the nation and the exercise of democracy itself.&nbsp; We must pick one struggle – not by suppressing differences because we do have differences – but we must unify around a democratic project for the Algeria of tomorrow.”</p> <p>This project is urgent, because the Algeria of today is experiencing some turbulence.&nbsp; During a recent demonstration by unemployed men, government buildings were set on fire in the Saharan city of Ouargla, some 480 miles from Algiers. This led to arrests, followed by further protests.&nbsp; On the night of Saturday 19 April, 11 soldiers - some very young - were killed in a terrorist attack, likely carried out by Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, in Iboudrarene.&nbsp; On Sunday 20 April, marches to commemorate Berber (Amazight) protests in 1980 and 2001, were brutally suppressed in the city of Tizi Ouzou.&nbsp;&nbsp; A Youtube <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVnUkDNaE4w&amp;feature=player_embedded">video</a> of policemen pummeling young demonstrators, including one who appears to be unconscious circulates widely, provoking even the director of the national security services to reportedly order an investigation.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the country is surrounded by neighbors like Libya and Mali which are experiencing dire security challenges that pose tremendous difficulties for Algeria as well. </p> <p>The question is, what real solutions President Bouteflika ( who rarely appears in public due to his health problems ) and his government now have to offer as the fourth term begins.&nbsp; Will they come up with anything other than doling out oil revenues – which are increasingly recognized to be finite – to friends and roiling sectors of the population without building an infrastructure that can outlive those oil revenues?&nbsp; Foreign powers seem happy with this arrangement as it keeps the oil flowing and makes profits for their companies, so they look the other way as protestors are battered and the opposition silenced.</p> <p>But Algeria is not a gas station. It is a country of some 39 million people who have over successive generations paid a terrible price in blood in the quest for liberty - in the 50s and 60s for freedom from France, and in the 90s for freedom from fundamentalist terrorists.&nbsp; They now deserve a real, peaceful democratic transition that ensures the economic, social, civil and political human rights of all.&nbsp; While the Barakat activists who work for just such a future seek no outside support, it is clear that they may be at risk of reprisals in coming months and will need civil society solidarity as they aim to keep going.&nbsp; As the movement posted on its Facebook page just after the electoral results were announced:&nbsp; “Barakat. The struggle continues.&nbsp; Long live Algeria!”</p> <p><strong><em>Read Karima Bennoune's series of articles on openDemocracy 50.50 covering the recent Algerian elections: </em></strong></p> <p><em>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: "We are saying no to submission".&nbsp;&nbsp;</a></em></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">The birth of the Barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope</a>&nbsp; &nbsp;</em></p> <p><em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louiza-chennoub-karima-bennoune/algeria-voices-for-democratic-transition-cannot-be-silenced">Algeria: voices for democratic transition cannot be silenced</a> </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: &quot;We are saying no to submission&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">The birth of the Barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/louiza-chennoub-karima-bennoune/algeria-voices-for-democratic-transition-cannot-be-silenced">Algeria: voices for democratic transition cannot be silenced</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Democracy and government Continuum of Violence 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Wed, 23 Apr 2014 08:33:33 +0000 Karima Bennoune 82077 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria: voices for democratic transition cannot be silenced https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/louiza-chennoub-karima-bennoune/algeria-voices-for-democratic-transition-cannot-be-silenced <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In the six weeks since the citizens <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">Barakat movement</a> for a free and democratic Algeria was founded it has moved from cyberspace onto the streets. The voices calling for democratic transition are being heard. Pro-democracy activist Louiza Chennoub spoke to Karima Bennoune </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Barakat1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/Barakat1.jpg" alt="Women and men with mouths tapes up holding signs" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Louiza (red t-shirt) and Amira (black t-shirt) protest at ENTV</span></span></span>As Algeria prepares for presidential elections on 17 April, the Barakat movement leads small but determined <a href="http://www.tsa-algerie.com/2014/04/09/mouvement-barakat-rassemblements-a-tebessa-batna-et-constantine-le-12-avril/">protests</a> across the country against the seemingly endless rule of ailing 77 year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who is running for a fourth term after fifteen years in office.&nbsp; When Louiza Chennoub’s picture was taken as a policewoman <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10202467250096717&amp;set=a.3321259744497.135117.1058419474&amp;type=1&amp;theater">tried to silence her</a> at a demonstration in Algiers, she became a symbol of the Barakat movement’s efforts to make citizen voices heard in Algeria.&nbsp; Karima Bennoune spoke with her in Algiers on 22 March. </p> <p>Karima Bennoune:<strong> </strong><em>What are the goals of the Barakat movement?</em></p> <p>Louiza Chennoub: The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">Barakat movement </a>&nbsp;is a much-needed cry from the heart, and also from the spirit, against what has been happening in Algeria for a while now.&nbsp;&nbsp; It is true that there has been defiance among the Algerian people for some years. But the opportunity to say what we were thinking only arose when we found out that a fourth presidential term for Abdelaziz Bouteflika was in the works, and that this gravely ill man would remain on the throne he has claimed for himself <em>ad vitam aeternam</em>, that is, until his very death. We said, ‘it is not possible that we are unable to say what we think, once and for all.’ That is where the name Barakat comes from - it means, ‘that’s enough!’&nbsp; Personally, I came into contact with the Barakat movement and the other members through the Internet, on Facebook pages. We have had discussions for years amongst ourselves, but suddenly we said, ‘we must go out to say what we think because we are fed up with only being present in cyberspace.’&nbsp; We must make our voices heard beyond that sphere, in the street.&nbsp; Thereafter, we were joined by many others who had been thinking the same things, and who had been wondering how they could express their views. In the beginning, it all came together spontaneously, because Barakat is a citizen movement. Now, we need to create a structure to be able to go forward beyond the 17 April elections.&nbsp; </p> <p>KB:<em> You are the woman who appears with a police officer’s hand over her mouth in the famous photo from the 6 March Barakat demonstration in front of the University of Algiers.&nbsp; This image of a very physical form of censorship galvanized support for the Barakat movement.&nbsp; What happened before, during and after the photo was taken?</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>LC: We were being <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7129.html">arrested</a> in a very violent manner.&nbsp; This violence was designed to dissuade those not yet in the movement by showing that this is what could happen to them.&nbsp; It was shocking. The second time I was arrested, I did not expect it.&nbsp; We were in a group, shouting our slogans: ‘<em>Barakat! la repression</em>.’&nbsp; Enough repression!&nbsp; ‘We demand the rule of law.&nbsp; We want a democratic state.’ Then, I was surrounded by seven or eight people.&nbsp; There was nothing I could do. If they were going to take me away, they were going to take me away.&nbsp; There were three people behind me whom you can see in the photo, undercover police in civilian clothes, who were trying to form a barrier between my arrest and the arrests of others - and the ordinary citizens around us.&nbsp; A policewoman wanted to muzzle me so I would not scream and she put her hand over my mouth.&nbsp; People interpret her gesture to mean that the state had given the order to silence us, and had insisted that we must not be heard.&nbsp; The police were arresting us to deprive us of the right to speak.&nbsp; When the policewoman put her hand over my face, I was almost suffocated, because I have asthma and she covered my nose and my mouth and I could not breathe.&nbsp; However, I saw in the woman’s eyes that when I chanted ‘Djazaïr Horra Democratiya,’ a free, independent and democratic Algeria, she would perhaps like to have been in my place, to have done so herself.&nbsp; So, for her to not have to hear me anymore, I must be made to shut up.&nbsp;&nbsp; That was how I understood it. I did not take it badly.&nbsp; When she is not in uniform, she is simply a citizen. She has children, a husband.&nbsp; She has the same problems:&nbsp; school, health care. Salaries are not very high. Life is very expensive.&nbsp; This is how I understood this photo.</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>Did the policewoman say anything to you before she covered your mouth in the gesture that became a symbol of Barakat’s struggle to be heard?</em></p> <p>LC: No.&nbsp; Beforehand, she simply repeated, “Shut up!”&nbsp; It was as though I was voicing a truth she did not want to hear.&nbsp; She was afraid, precisely because she knew what I was saying was true. But she is paid to do her job, so my voice must be silenced. This was how I interpreted what she did.&nbsp; On the way to the police station, she sat next to me.&nbsp; She asked, ‘Do you think I was glad to do this to you?’ I said, ‘But, you did it.’&nbsp; She replied, ‘yes, I am under oath to do my job, and I am paid for this.’ Then she explained her own situation, saying, ‘Actually, I am pregnant and I am not even supposed to be here on active duty. What you are doing, you are doing for yourselves, but also for us.’&nbsp; </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>In spite of this difficult experience, you went out to protest again.</em> </p> <p>LC: I went out again to take part in the <a href="http://www.algerie-focus.com/blog/2014/03/mouvement-barakat-le-15-mars-nous-manifesterons-dans-la-rue-et-advienne-que-pourra/">demonstration</a> of 15 March.&nbsp; I will also go out to <a href="https://twitter.com/elwatan2014/status/448066049678651392/photo/1">protest</a> in front of the ENTV (the national TV station) on March 14th to say that this television station that we pay for with our taxes should be in the service of the people, and not just of one caste. I will go out again this Thursday, March 27, just the same in front of central campus where I was previously arrested, to say loud and clear that this system must go, and that citizens must take action to re-occupy the democratic field.&nbsp; <em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>The Barakat movement appeals for a democratic transition in Algeria.&nbsp; What does that mean for you? </em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>LC: For me personally, the main reason I am in this movement is because we do not recognize these elections.&nbsp; These are biased elections.&nbsp; We cannot endorse them.&nbsp; Even boycotting the elections gives them a certain legitimacy.&nbsp; The fact of saying, ‘no, I do not recognize these elections,’ means we must have a transition. We must call on all democratic forces to be involved and to put the country on a better path so we do not simply continue with the same policies, but instead make a real break, perhaps by reviewing the constitution, among other things.&nbsp; </p> <p>KB:<em> What is the strategy of the movement from here to the April 17 elections, and afterwards?&nbsp; </em></p> <p>LC: April 17 is not very far off at all.&nbsp; But, the fact that people are hearing about us now is already a good thing, as is the fact that we now have a <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7193.html">platform</a> with general demands so that people feel that their interests are implicated –&nbsp; whether this is because they are sick and are not receiving adequate care, or because they are in school but are not being well educated, or because they are working for private companies but have low salaries, etc.&nbsp; After April 17, we can be the echo of the popular masses of people who are deprived of everything.&nbsp; I hope we can try to articulate our demands so as to promote solutions and so as to be a positive force, a kind of intermediary between an oppressed class and an oppressive ruling class.</p> <p>KB: <em>The </em><a href="http://www.lexpressiondz.com/actualite/191624-les-boycotteurs-tiennent-meeting.html"><em>photos</em></a><em> from yesterday’s rally in Harcha Hall ( March 21st) <strong>&nbsp;</strong>of the diverse coalition of political parties that are boycotting the elections have worried some observers – including some </em><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die"><em>victims of the terrorism</em></a><em> of the 1990s. Many fundamentalists were visible among the crowd.&nbsp; While the Barakat movement, which is not a political party, has no relationship to the boycotters, how do you assess this concern?</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p>LC: I do not endorse what happened yesterday in Harcha Hall.&nbsp; Maybe not everyone in Barakat shares my view, but I think most do.&nbsp; I want to live in a country where we separate religion and state. Religion must be a private matter whether you are Muslim, Christian, atheist or Buddhist. The laws must be republican.&nbsp; We should not put God in the constitution.&nbsp; I am against this.&nbsp; The separation of religion and state is part of any democratic transition.&nbsp; This is only my personal view, of course. But, I would not endorse a movement that did not take such a position. </p> <p>Karima Bennoune writes:&nbsp; several days after this interview was conducted, on March 24, I watched Louiza Chennoub protest at ENTV, along with Barakat founders Mustapha Benfodil and Amira Bouraoui.&nbsp; All had symbolically taped their mouths shut.&nbsp; This time police officers kept them backed up against a wall but did not arrest them or stop their demonstration which was extensively covered by the local press.&nbsp; Regardless of the outcome of the 17 April elections, they have already made an important step forward for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Algeria simply by refusing to yield.&nbsp; In any case, it is clear that election day will mark not an end of Barakat’s struggle but the beginning of the next phase of its work for the “free and democratic Algeria” Chennoub was appealing for when gagged and arrested on 6 March.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>In the run up to the Algerian elections on 17 April, this is the third in a series of interviews by Karima Bennoune, recorded on Mach 22nd, with leading members of the Barakat movement which was founded on 1 March, 2014. Read <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: "We are saying no to submission".&nbsp;&nbsp;</a> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">The birth of the barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope. </a><br /></em></p> <p>On April 16th the Barakat demonstration was very <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=778202038870912&amp;set=vb.753966754627774&amp;type=2&amp;theater">harshly repressed</a> by police </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: &quot;We are saying no to submission&quot; </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">The birth of the Barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick women and power secularism patriarchy 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Louiza Chennoub Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:33:27 +0000 Louiza Chennoub and Karima Bennoune 81347 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The birth of the Barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:DoNotOptimizeForBrowser ></w> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> </p><p><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;">"The government did not expect there would be such a vigilant civil society</span><span style="font-family: &amp;amp;amp;">.</span><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"> They thought we were dead, but we were in convalescence".&nbsp; Ahead of next week's elections, Amira Bouraoui co-founder of the Barakat (Enough!) movement, told Karima Bennoune about the new citizens' movement to establish democracy in Algeria</span><span style="mso-bidi-font-family: Calibri;"></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This is the second of two interviews by Karima Bennoune with the founders of the Barakat movement. Read the interview with Mustapha Benfodil</em> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">here </a></p><p>Karima Bennoune: <em>Can you explain the aims of the Barakat movement and the recent history which shapes it?</em></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/DrAmiraBouraoui-small.jpg" alt="Woman with dictaphone smiles at camera " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" width="160" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Dr. Amira Bouraoui at a Barakat meeting in Algiers, 22 March 2014</span></span></span>Amira Bouraoui: The goals of the <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7193.html">Barakat movement</a> are to establish democracy in Algeria. For much too long, the Algerian people have been subjected to the law of a regime that does not apply the rules of democracy. In fact, Algeria has gone through very difficult times. There was already a kind of Barakat Movement in <a href="http://www.algeria-watch.org/farticle/88/88abc1.htm">1988</a> when, motivated by social injustice, youth took to the streets to express themselves.&nbsp; It ended badly at the time. Subsequently, because people could not express themselves, part of the society took refuge in the arms of God.&nbsp; Some joined a <a href="http://www.wluml.org/sites/wluml.org/files/import/english/pubs/pdf/wsf/14.pdf">political party</a> (the Islamic Salvation Front, FIS) that tried to monopolize religion.&nbsp; But, what belongs to everyone – because most Algerians are Muslims –cannot belong to a political party. Meanwhile, the ruling party (the National Liberation Front, FLN) tried to monopolize Algerian history. History also belongs to everyone, and cannot belong to a single political party.&nbsp; What we want today is a democracy that shields us from the risk of all these excesses. </p> <p>KB<em>: What was it about President Bouteflika’s record that inspired your protests?</em></p> <p>AB: Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika came to power in 1999 – 15 years ago. The Algerian constitution had been amended a few years earlier so that its Article 74 <a href="http://confinder.richmond.edu/admin/docs/local_algeria.pdf">limited presidential terms</a> to two.&nbsp; In 2008, Mr. Bouteflika increased the salaries of legislators.&nbsp; He thereby influenced the deputies to violate the constitution by amending it without a referendum, without the opinion of the people being expressed, and so the third term was <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7724635.stm">stolen</a>.&nbsp; We were very attached to Article 74 because even if Bouteflika was “elected” in conditions that were not very transparent, people said to themselves he will be here for two terms, and then he will go.&nbsp; When a president has term limits – like in many democratic countries - he knows he will have to leave one day, and he tells himself that one day he will have to give an account of what he has done. When you know you will have to account for your actions, you work hard and you try not to make mistakes. But when you decide you will stay in power until you die, like a dictator or a monarch, you think you can do anything you want. You think the republic belongs to you, and this is not the case.</p> <p>When you go back to President Bouteflika’s last speech of May 2012, he said ‘<a href="http://algeriepatriotique.com/article/le-president-bouteflika-pourra-t-il-revenir-sur-son-engagement-de-quitter-le-pouvoir-en-avri">my generation is finished</a>.’&nbsp; He said that a man must know his limits. He said this in Arabic. We were somewhat reassured in May 2012 when he said ‘we must pass the torch’ – a torch that is preferably lit and not extinguished. Despite a third stolen term, we thought we would finally have elections that would bring back hope.&nbsp; </p> <p>Every generation needs hope. A president who stays in power for more than ten years, for more than two terms, presides over a generational transition. And the new generation is no longer connected with a president who stays too long in power.&nbsp; Nevertheless, this year we saw politicians calling on the president to seek a fourth term even though he is very sick, and has been in power for 15 years, and the constitution has been violated, and we had not seen him in public for two years, and he had not even given a speech for two years. Both physically and mentally, he is in no condition to govern.&nbsp; So, we decided with activist friends to go out into the street and to say, ‘no.’ ‘Stop!’ We did not expect the rapid popularity of Barakat, a movement that was just created on March 1st. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What is it about a fourth term for President Bouteflika that is so unacceptable?</em></p> <p>AB: Before President Bouteflika’s candidacy was announced, many, many Algerians – in universities, cafés, businesses, hospitals - would say, ‘no he would not dare to go for a 4th term.’&nbsp; That would be unacceptable. The 4th term is simply the symbol of a regime and a system that is archaic. This regime and this system have contempt for the people, deeming them immature. They think the people are stupid. But they do not realize that the people are so aware of the situation that that is why they do not vote anymore. They have not had the right to a real choice.&nbsp; We are witnessing an electoral masquerade, a process designed to impose Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a 4th term. Instead, we call for the people to be really and truly consulted about its choice of leader. </p> <p>KB:<em> The threat of instability is often used to silence protest in Algeria, given the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">terrible events</a> of the dark decade of the 1990s. How do you respond to this argument?</em></p> <p>AB: Our anger, our rejection commenced when President Bouteflika violated the constitution. At the time, we wrote and signed petitions. We tried to protest, even if we had just come out of a decade of horror. Algerian citizens were afraid: afraid of destabilizing the country, afraid of falling again into a cycle that had hurt us very much in the past. But we find that this stability-through-blackmail that the regime offers us now, telling us to shut up or else we risk destabilizing Algeria, is unacceptable.&nbsp; We will not play this game. It is like they are saying, ‘let us run the country in a non-transparent manner. Do what we want.&nbsp; Then, in return, you can have stability.’ We think that what has actually destabilized Tunisia, Libya and Syria, and the countries of the “Arab Spring,” was precisely that dictators did not know when to leave. </p> <p>KB: <em>What is your strategy from here until Election Day on April 17?&nbsp; Perhaps even more importantly, what will your strategy be afterwards?</em></p> <p>AB: From now until April 17, we will continue to organize actions aimed at pressuring the non-responsive regime, and trying to make it hear reason. The regime tries to justify the unjustifiable.&nbsp; It defends the indefensible. Those in power need to realize that they are running right into a brick wall. After the 17th, we will continue to struggle, and we will continue to be present on the ground, so as to reject this illegitimately elected president.&nbsp; Most Algerians do not even have a voting card, have never had a voting card, and do not plan to vote because for them the outcome is a foregone conclusion. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/EnoughOfLies-small.jpg" alt="Protesters hold a sign" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Enough lies." Dr. Amira Bouraoui sits in at the National TV station in Algiers, along with other members of Barakat on Mar 24.</span></span></span></p><p>KB:<em> The Barakat Movement has said many times that it is a citizen movement which is political but non-partisan. What does that mean?</em></p> <p>AB: We are a citizen movement, made up of Algerian citizens who were not all political activists. We work for democracy and the acquisition of citizenship. When you have not chosen your president, you are no more than a pilot project of a citizen. You are not an actual citizen. I would say Barakat is supra-political, because to permit political parties to take part in democracy, you must have rules of the game that are clear, transparent and respected.&nbsp; This citizen movement aspires to create these rules.&nbsp; We do not want to be a political party, and we do not want to be political in the partisan sense. </p> <p>KB: <em>You have received a great deal of support, including on your <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">FACEBOOK</a> page where you now have been “liked” by over 30,000 people in just one month.&nbsp; However, you are also being harshly critiqued by some, often in what appears to be an organized way.&nbsp; Why do you think this has been the case when you are such a young movement?&nbsp; </em></p> <p>AB: The government did not expect that there would be such a vigilant civil society. They thought, ‘we got a third term, so we will get a fourth term in total silence.’ They thought we were dead somehow, but we were only in convalescence. We were learning to walk again, and soon we will be able to run, so as to protect the republic and democracy. The government used every kind of propaganda to try to tarnish our movement.&nbsp; They invented so many lies, and they called us every conceivable name, just because we aspired to be citizens and to defend democracy.&nbsp; But, we will not give up. They do have the capacity to inflict damage with their propaganda because they have television stations and newspapers at their disposition. They are trying to turn public opinion against those of us who contest this electoral masquerade. We are called everything from the tools of the foreigners to Zionists.&nbsp; It went very far.&nbsp; We were called supporters of the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front), and then “eradicators” (a term used to smear staunch opponents of fundamentalism) all at the same time – whatever can give us a bad image in the eyes of the public so as to put us on the back foot.&nbsp; However, we will stay the course.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>KB:<em> Barakat is, first and foremost, an Algerian movement speaking to an Algerian audience, but do you also have a message for the international community?</em><strong>&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>AB: We are for the freedom of all peoples, and we would like Algeria to work with other countries, whether western or others.&nbsp; But, we would like this to be in the context of a win-win situation, not a win-lose situation. We sense now that the government tries to buy the silence of the international community by opening the valves of oil. It even tries to kill the conscience of a people. What we would like is that the freedom of a people not have a price on it. Algeria is not alone in the world.&nbsp; It aspires to work with everyone, but this should be for the benefit of everyone. And we do not want our young people to be left with no other dream but that of a visa with which to <a href="http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2009/04/07/harraga-la-jeunesse-desenchantee-d-algerie_1177663_3212.html">flee</a> to El Dorados - countries which are actually sometimes also in economic crisis. We want justice and democracy, and there is nothing else but these things that can lead to peace among peoples. </p> <p>KB: <em>What has the experience of Barakat’s first month been like for you, one of the movement’s most visible representatives?</em></p> <p>AB: I had to take 15 days off of work as a doctor because I was badly manhandled during my <a href="http://elwatan2014.com/component/k2/item/972-La-police-r%C3%A9prime-%C3%A0-nouveau-une-manifestation-%C3%A0-Alger">first arrests</a>.&nbsp; The way I was arrested was very difficult for me because I had had back surgery. However, I am going back to work tomorrow. I love my work.&nbsp; </p> <p>I think human beings are not born simply to eat and sleep. We are born to dream of freedom, to realize our dreams, to defend our ideas, to think. In Algeria they want to keep us from thinking and expressing ourselves.&nbsp; So, I have been arrested 5 times. I was also arrested in 2011, and before that, because this is not the first time I was active against this government. I do not like injustice. It pains me, whoever is the victim.&nbsp; I guess it is a personal trait. How did I live this? I did not expect all this media attention. I am someone who prefers discretion, so it was quite difficult. I have been under a lot of pressure. Members of my family have also been under pressure.&nbsp; But, if my voice and image can help the cause, then it is worth it. </p> <p><em>This interview was recorded and translated from the French by Karima Bennoune in Algiers, March 22nd 2014.</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">For Aziz Smati on Valentine&#039;s Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s">Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: &quot;We are saying no to submission&quot; </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Women, Peace & Security 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick Karima Bennoune Amira Bouraoui Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:00:09 +0000 Amira Bouraoui and Karima Bennoune 80937 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algerian elections and the Barakat movement: "We are saying no to submission" https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil-karima-bennoune/algerian-elections-and-barakat-movement-we-are-saying-no-to-s <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>President Bouteflika and his team broke the people as a whole and Algerians as citizens. Mustapha Benfodil, founding member of the new Barakat ( Enough!) Movement, spoke to Karima Bennoune about the awakening of the tradition of activism and the search for consensual politics. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This is the first of two interviews by Karima Bennoune with the founders of the Barakat movement. Read the interview with Amira Bouraoui</em> <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">here</a></p><p>Karima Bennoune<em>: Can you explain why you founded the Barakat Movement?</em></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/MustaphaBenfodilProtests-small.jpg" alt="Protester holds up a sign" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" width="160" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mustapha Benfodil protests for freedom of expression in front of Algeria's national TV station on March 24</span></span></span>Mustapha Benfodil: The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/50snabarakat">Barakat Movement</a> was born out of the desire of a group of citizens to respond to the Algerian regime’s efforts to keep President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in power, even though he is ill and entirely unable to discharge his constitutional duties. Through this candidacy, the regime is sending a signal that it is willing to enter into a confrontation with the society. There are different constituencies within the regime.&nbsp; They include the presidential camp around President Bouteflika and his brother, Said Bouteflika, on one side. There is General Toufik who was always the real president of Algeria. There is the DRS (Department for Information and Security, an internal intelligence agency), and the military leadership, and there are even some elements within the army who want to change things. When the candidacy of Mr. Bouteflika was announced, there was a consensus about this, even if a fragile one, among these different forces.&nbsp; Meanwhile, there is a strong demand from the society for change. But the regime responds by saying, ‘we want to retain the authoritarian status quo.’ Algerian society is terribly afflicted by political fatalism and inertia. A large majority of Algerians believe that absolutely nothing can be done to change this political situation. </p> <p>KB:<em> What were the factors that created such a political climate in Algeria?</em></p> <p>MB: The good economic health of Algeria - which is exclusively due to oil revenues, not to the president’s economic program - has benefited the ruling class.&nbsp; However, it has not benefited the Algerian people very much. During the last 15 years, billions of dollars have been poured into poorly considered programmes that have had a small impact on the daily lives of Algerians. There have been some steps taken in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of social issues there have been many things that have been very badly run due to corruption and poor governance.&nbsp; In the 2000s, the politics of President Bouteflika and his team were based on corrupting the society - the political class, the media, and even the unions. They wanted to buy everyone through the politics of the chequebook. They created a citizenry that is completely passive.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>We also suffered from the after effects of the way Algerian society was shaken by the Islamist terrorism of the 90s.&nbsp; Afterwards people wanted to have a normal life.&nbsp; Algerians withdrew from political life <em>en masse</em>.&nbsp; We saw the emergence of a new pseudo-middle class and we drifted into consumption, accompanied by the destruction of the national companies and the national economy. This constituted a wild neo-liberalism. What did this produce in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century? A new rich class on one side - a business class that supported the regime naturally and are its clients - and on the other side a pseudo-middle class that does not want to be involved in politics, even in its own neighborhoods.&nbsp; </p> <p>We witnessed the complete disintegration of the society. This started during the time of terrorism, with the squandering of the achievements of our own “Arab Spring” of October 88. Terrorism destroyed civil society. There were <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">mass assassinations</a> of intellectuals and civil society activists. And then, later on, civil society was destroyed by dirty money. So, by 2008, we reached the lowest level you can imagine. And that is when Bouteflika took advantage of the generalized lethargy and passed an amendment - with votes of deputies who had themselves been bought off - that gave him authorization for a presidency-for-life.&nbsp; </p> <p>KB: <em>What has the impact of Bouteflika’s politics been on Algeria and how does Barakat seek to respond?</em></p> <p>MB: From 2008 onward, we saw that the biggest danger was the destruction of citizenship in Algeria. The Algerian of the 21st century is broken, bullied, castrated. So, the Barakat movement was born from a desire to rehabilitate citizenship and to restore popular sovereignty.&nbsp; The critics of Barakat say you must accept that nothing is possible in Algeria - the Algerian people as a whole should take up residence in the cemetery of El Alia.&nbsp; It is a discourse of submission.&nbsp; This was the achievement of Bouteflika and his team, and the DRS, and the political police. They broke the people as a whole and Algerians as citizens.&nbsp; Barakat means, above all else, saying Barakat (Enough!) to submission.&nbsp;&nbsp; We refuse the politics that made us subjects of Mr. Bouteflika.&nbsp; <strong></strong></p> <p>KB<em>: Can you explain how the history of recent political contestation in Algeria</em><em>,</em><em> since at least 2011, and perhaps even earlier, has led up to the emergence of the Barakat Movement?</em><em></em></p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/freedomOfExpression-small.jpg" alt="Protester holds up sign" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" width="240" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A young Barakat support demonstrates for freedom of expression at the national TV station on March 24.</span></span></span>MB: Things were moving here, at the same time as in Tunisia, in the beginning of January 2011. There were riots at the same time as the self-immolation of Bouazizi. We had not seen something similar since October 1988.&nbsp; The government’s communication team wanted to break this movement. They labelled these events ‘riots of sugar and oil,’ as if Algerians were not capable of claiming their dignity. They are digestive tracts only.&nbsp; So, it was urgent, like in October 88, to give this popular uprising a political superstructure.&nbsp; In response to this need, the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/feb/17/algeria-middleeast">National Coordination for Change and Democracy</a> (CNCD) formed, but personality struggles and political dissention led to its break up. </p> <p>Across the region there was an “<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/feb/12/algeria-egypt">enchanted interlude</a>,” with the fall of Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, and then the fall of Mubarak on 11 February. However, the turning point was Libya.&nbsp; Events there disrupted what was happening in Algeria because Algerians are very sensitive to international intervention due to our anti-colonial history. And there the regime played the card of fear. It is an old theme. Even George W. Bush could beat a man like John Kerry because of 9/11. So, we fell back into our torpor because the images of Libya and Syria evoked the nightmare of the 90s terrorism.&nbsp; Algerians said, ‘we do not want a return to violence and terror,’ and they accepted their fates, provisionally. Then, on 8 May 2012, Bouteflika gave a speech in which he said, “Our time is over.”&nbsp; There was a moral contract in which the president consented to pass the torch, and on the other side the opposition made concessions to avoid the country falling into violence</p> <p>At that time, I was active in a group called <a href="http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/pierre-puchot/031109/bezzzef-est-ne-vive-bezzzef">Bezzef</a> that carried out small citizen actions, but nothing on the level of Barakat.&nbsp; We were getting ready to react because we felt we must do something quickly to restore citizenship. But we all thought that in 2014 we will have a change and the regime will be obliged to make concessions.&nbsp; We were sure Bouteflika would not run again. And there might even be a new president, perhaps from within the regime, who - under pressure from the society - would undertake a few reforms. Then, on 22 February 2014, we had our answer. Bouteflika announced his <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/22/world/la-fg-wn-algerian-president-to-run-for-fourth-term-20140222">candidacy</a> by proxy with contempt for protocol, morals and ethics. </p> <p>Happily, there are still some Algerians – women and men – who want to defend our dignity, including Amira Bouraoui.&nbsp; The group organized around Dr. Bouraoui went out to protest on the morning of 22 February. Meanwhile, I wrote a manifesto for counter-elections, saying we must work with the population and try to change the balance of power, or we will have a civil war in Algeria. I, myself, am marked by the years of terrorism.&nbsp; I launched an appeal for a meeting in Algiers, for all those who want to think of political solutions to come together.&nbsp; This is how we joined with the group of Amira Bouraoui, and <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7193.html">Barakat</a> was born. </p> <p>KB: <em>The Barakat Movement calls for a democratic transition. What does that mean?</em></p> <p>MB: There are two schools of thought.&nbsp; One thinks that a transition will be like the beginning of the 90s – an interruption of elections, and a transitional government.&nbsp; I do not support this.&nbsp; My idea is to work within the existing structure. For example, we never said to stop the electoral process. We respect the elections as they are even if we know there will be fraud. </p> <p>We call on Algerians to stay home on election day, April 17, so as to say to the regime that these are not our elections. You are spending money and asking us to waste our time on elections that you do not believe in. Then, on 18 April Barakat will likely take to the streets and call for the <a href="http://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/africa/DZ/algeria-constitution-with-the-amendments-of-15">application of Article 88</a> of the Constitution. This provision holds that in case of physical incapacity, the Constitutional Council should meet to relieve the president of his functions. Then there is a short time when the country is run by the president of the senate until there are elections. They did not do this last time because they were afraid, and the regime was strong. But, things are changing. There are political parties and sectors of the society that are on the move. So, maybe we have a chance to apply Article 88.&nbsp; We already appealed to the Constitutional Council once before, saying, ‘Don’t you want to be able to look your children in the eye, and say we did our jobs?’&nbsp; We said ‘we appeal to your conscience. When you sleep at night you will think of Barakat and of the signature you put on the document saying Bouteflika is well enough to govern. You know you are lying. And you know we know you are lying. And you will be judged by history.’ We will do this again if the Constitutional Council validates this masquerade. They have to provide a medical certificate.&nbsp; Yesterday, Bouteflika exposed them when he said in his own letter that he is very sick.&nbsp; We will say ‘apply Article 88,’ even if it will not work. </p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong><em>What is the long term agenda of Barakat, after the April 17 elections?</em></p> <p>MB: We will work with all political and social forces for a consensus around a draft constitution. If we can even get the limit of presidential terms to two, like in the time of President Zeroual, this would be an advance. There will be progressive change. We ourselves do not want too brutal of a change, because either there will be suicidal types who can bring us down with them, or there could be a moment of terrible political instability.&nbsp; We want the state to keep functioning. And we will engage at every level, whether about issues like the constitution or municipal and legislative elections, or on other sectorial questions. For example, the multi-nationals are colonizing Algeria again. We say we need a second independence. We will also scrutinize public spending. How can we not demand an accounting from these people? </p> <p>KB<em>: So you are talking about reform, not revolution?</em><em></em></p> <p>MB: Yes, because we are not an insurrectional movement.&nbsp; Given the<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die"> terrorism</a> we suffered in the 90s, and the damage caused by the “Arab Spring” - which either brought the army or extremist movements to power in different countries - reform is better.&nbsp; We do not want a violent solution. We are profoundly traumatized. No country knew the violence we did. I am against the “Arab Spring.”&nbsp; For us, the most important mission of Barakat is to offer political mediation.&nbsp; We understand that either we will have politics and a political solution, or chaos. Within Barakat, there is both a movement, and an initiative.&nbsp; The Barakat initiative is a consensual political project. We just finished our first month. Today we demonstrated in front of the national TV.&nbsp; We want to take concerted action that will probably assume the form of a new constitution. </p> <p>KB:<em> Can you describe the activists of Barakat? Who are they?</em><em></em></p> <p>MB: We have a mix of people among our activists.&nbsp; At first, we were particularly identified with certain personalities, like <a href="http://www.liberte-algerie.com/actualite/on-n-a-pas-envie-de-destabiliser-notre-pays-video-amira-bouraoui-porte-parole-du-mouvement-barakat-217187">Amira Bouaroui</a> who is a gynecologist.&nbsp; In the founding meetings we held between 22 and 27 February, which were decisive for the movement, the participants were mainly middle class people, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, doctors, civil society activists, and students. The average age is between 20 and 30.&nbsp; Over time, everyone joined in. We were accused of being feminists, gays, drinkers and Kabyles (Amazight/Berber).&nbsp; I say, thank you for the four compliments, because we are for diversity.&nbsp; </p> <p>Now, we also have supporters who are from the popular class. They recognized Barakat as a rallying symbol. They have taken to heart a slogan which is now everywhere. I am stopped in the street all the time, every day, by people who make political suggestions. This is citizenship restored. We begin to have the kind of citizens who say I do not agree, but they discuss this with you without getting angry. Our meetings, and even our experience of <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7129.html">arrests</a>, awaken new traditions of activism that we had lost.&nbsp; Politics had become taboo. Slowly, people are beginning to come back to politics. </p> <p>Our strength is our <a href="http://www.siawi.org/article7109.html">organization</a>. We are ready to sacrifice and lose our jobs and be arrested. We cannot be bought off.</p> <p>KB:<em> Barakat’s protest this morning at the National TV station had a significant media impact, but the protestors were small in number.&nbsp; Do you aim for mass mobilization?</em></p> <p>MB: We have modest goals. We are not going to change the world, or Algeria as a whole. But even appearing in front of the national TV station with ten people is in itself an achievement here. We cannot expect too much.&nbsp; We are not bothered by numbers. We are not politicians.&nbsp; When someone proposed to me to mobilize a mass protest I replied, only if you can assure me no one will be killed.&nbsp; I am happy to have ten people and to know who they are, and then they go home safely.&nbsp; Real civil society is not a question of numbers or money. </p> <p>KB:<em> Barakat is an Algerian movement</em><em>,</em><em> with messages aimed at Algerians.&nbsp; However, what should the international community or civil society elsewhere understand about your struggle?</em><em></em></p> <p>MB: To the formal international community of governments, we say, “leave us in peace. Don’t interfere with us. We will take care of our own problems.” The solution will not come from outside. We know there are many who would like to use us. We are not naïve about this. We do not even want any financing. The best support is just to let us do things in our own rhythm. This is an Algerian movement that is happening inside Algeria. For Algerians outside who want their country to change, we ask them to organize and not to fight amongst themselves, because Barakat is a movement to federate people. It is an entirely non-violent movement.&nbsp; </p> <p>I am always pleased to work with people in civil society who struggle. There is a global movement of peoples to retake sovereignty. All these peoples’ movements are working for the same things. It is not just the countries of the Third World that have work to do.&nbsp; Even in the world’s leading democracies there is work to be done.</p> <p><em>This interview was conducted by Karima Bennoune on March 22nd in Algiers</em><em></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amira-bouraoui-karima-bennoune/birth-of-barakat-movement-in-algeria-every-generation-needs-hope">The birth of the Barakat movement in Algeria: Every generation needs hope </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 North-Africa West-Asia Algeria Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick Karima Bennoune Mustapha Benfodil Wed, 02 Apr 2014 18:00:07 +0000 Mustapha Benfodil and Karima Bennoune 80942 at https://www.opendemocracy.net For Aziz Smati on Valentine's Day https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In honour of the determination of people like Algerian TV producer, Aziz Smati, who was shot exactly twenty years ago today, we must support all those who wield song against suicide belt, and wage art against fundamentalism, writes Karima Bennoune</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: right; background-color: #ededed; padding: 10px;">Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/pour-aziz-smati-pour-la-saint-valentin">French</a> »</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/azizphoto3.JPG" alt="Group of four men smiling at camera" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" width="400"/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aziz Smati (2nd from left) with Cheb Khaled (in red) during a November 1993 shoot. Photo courtesy of Aziz Smati</span></span></span></p><p>Twenty years ago, on 14 February 1994, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQE00601E.shtml">Armed Islamic Group </a>sent a Valentine’s Day message of hate to Algerian performing artists and the youth who loved them by gunning down Aziz Smati, beloved producer of the local equivalent of MTV.&nbsp; His legendary show, <em>Bled Music</em> (<em>Bled</em> means “country” or “homeland”), burst onto our screens in 1989 during a unique moment of political opening in post-independence Algeria. As the country lurched away from single party rule, and single party thinking, the programme was an intoxicating glimpse of what a truly North African freedom could look and sound like. It featured unmistakably Algerian tunes introduced in uniquely Algerian <em>argot</em> by the dreamy Samia Benkherroubi, a college student who effused a very Algerian warmth from the small screen.&nbsp; </p> <p>Meanwhile, the Muslim majority country’s late 80s democratic experiment was exploited by fundamentalists who flourished in the petri dish of instant multi-partyism, and in the 90s declared a <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">jihad against the entire society</a> that would kill as many as 200,000 people (and to which the state also responded with further abuses). Looking back at that period, Samia remembers that “We thought our revolution was done. But we were had by the Islamists who were much better organized than we were.”&nbsp; </p> <p>As fundamentalism burgeoned, one of its targets was music. In the municipalities the <a href="http://www.wluml.org/sites/wluml.org/files/import/english/pubs/pdf/wsf/14.pdf ">Islamic Salvation Front</a> (FIS) controlled after the 1990 elections, the party banned music at weddings and public dancing. Samia and Aziz received threats and insulting letters. “Stop this show. You are against the Qur’an. Music is forbidden. You’ll see what happens to you.” </p> <p>I asked them whether there was something inherently antifundamentalist about creating their programmes in such an environment.&nbsp; “For us, making a show about music was completely normal,” Aziz answered. “Music has always existed in Algeria. Even our parents never said it was <em>haram</em>. Just because extraterrestrials come and tell you it is forbidden, I will not believe them. And I continued to do what I was doing.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/azizphoto1.JPG" alt="Man wearing a peace symbol on a necklace" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" width="400"/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aziz gives peace a chance, November 1993. Photo courtesy of Aziz Smati</span></span></span></p><p>Things got worse. The Islamists sent threatening letters to merchants who sold cassettes. Finally, as they unleashed widespread violence in 1993 and 1994, they would assassinate singers like the working class “<a href="http://freemuse.org/archives/486 ">Cheb Hasni</a>” whose hit about heartbreak, “Don’t cry for me, just say this is my destiny,” (“Metebkish Hada Mektoubi”) took on a whole new meaning. “He sang especially about love,” Aziz reflects. “He was loved by the youth. It was to make people afraid. ‘Everything you love we will kill.’” </p><p>In such an environment, what Aziz Smati and his colleagues did became a life threatening endeavour. The producer’s reward for giving young people an hour a week to forget the turbulence around them in front of the TV ultimately came in the form of four bullets, paraplegia and a wheelchair. </p> <p>Aziz had started on the radio as the director of a show called “Le Local Rock,” but he dreamed of creating a bona fide “Hit Parade à l’Algérienne” on television. As Aziz tells me, “there were very few Algerian singers who had access to the TV. They played a very Middle Eastern music, but the music of <em>chez nous</em>, the Raï, wasn’t heard. They said it was a vulgar music and shouldn’t be on TV.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Raï - whose lyrics often cover worldly topics like love and wine - is a sort of North African hybrid hip-hop that started as Bedouin music. Aziz Smati’s <em>Bled Music</em> played the first Raï clips shown on ENTV, the national station.&nbsp; </p> <p>Everyone loved <em>Bled Music</em>. I was a huge fan from the moment I stumbled across the show one night in my father’s living room on the outskirts of Algiers. When I first met Aziz and Samia in 2008, I had to keep myself from asking them for their autographs. Back in the day, the show’s creators and cast were inundated with fan mail. There<strong> </strong>was no Billboard<em> </em>chart in Algeria, so Samia asked viewers to write<strong> </strong>in with their preferences, and they used those to rank the songs. “The show tried to make Algerian songs accessible,” Samia told me. “It became very popular, because it was watched by all the social categories and ages.”&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/azizphoto2_0.JPG" alt="Six people around a table, eating." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Aziz (1st on right) and Samia Benkherroubi (green shirt) with their crew and Algerian singer Idir, Nov 1993. Photo: Aziz Smati</span></span></span></p><p><em>Bled Music,</em> and the 1993 follow up <em>Rockrocki, </em>revolutionized both the music and the language considered ready for prime time.&nbsp; On air presenters and guests spoke like real people did, rather than sounding as though they were in 7<sup>th</sup> century Arabia. As Samia explains, “to be on Algerian TV you had to sing in classical Arabic that we learned in school.”&nbsp; Aziz recalls that on his shows they “wanted to speak Arabic as it is spoken in the street and that everyone understands. It was a mix of Arabic, Kabyle [Tamazight] and French.” They also covered cultural news and interviewed breakout performers.&nbsp; “Artists and singers gave their vision of things,” Samia says. “And they couldn’t do that elsewhere. They had freedom of language, a new and free expression. This was possible because of who Aziz was.” </p><p><a href="http://www.hamid-baroudi.com/">Hamid Baroudi</a>, the Algerian ethno-pop singer whose haunting anti-Gulf War song <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQjDZCFayNQ">Caravan to Baghdad</a> topped the <em>Bled Music</em> charts for a long time agrees. He wrote to me this week to say: “During the 90s, Aziz was a visionary. He was twenty years ahead of his time.” For Baroudi who has gone on to tour the world with Peter Gabriel’s Womad Festival, Aziz’s achievement was not only creative but also civic. “I saw a child of the radio use his microphone with no holds barred to give voice to a society that was living the darkest years of its modern history. He wrapped all of this in unprocessed music, before entitling it with the slogan -“Bled Music” - made in Algeria. Twenty years later I realize that this show is still relevant.” </p> <p>Given the significance of his work, and his personal popularity, the attempt to kill Aziz Smati on 14 February 1994 terrorized the entire country. Neither he nor his presenter had the means to take special security precautions. After being shot four times on the street on his way to work by a young man he mistook for a fan, Aziz was rushed to Beni Messous hospital outside Algiers. Junior doctors wept outside the operating room where their colleagues fought to save the producer’s life from 11am until midnight.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Samia learned of the attack, which took place during Ramadan when the fundamentalists killed the most, as she arrived at the studio to film. “Time stopped for me. In those days, we were afraid all the time because every day we learned of the assassination of one of our friends. However, we continued our work, like automatons. We continued to work because it was our only way to fight back. Still, I think that until 14 February we were blind to the dangers we ourselves were facing every day.” </p> <p><span style="line-height: 115%; font-family: &amp;amp;amp; font-size: 11pt;"><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="line-height: 115%; font-family: &amp;amp;amp; font-size: 11pt;"><span><span style="line-height: 115%; font-family: &amp;amp;amp; font-size: 11pt;"><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="line-height: 115%; font-family: &amp;amp;amp; font-size: 11pt;">That same day Samia’s then-fiancé, the well-known radio host and actor Mohamed Ali Allalou who had long worked with Aziz, was in Berlin and - despite a fierce hangover from drinking to forget the violence&nbsp;back home&nbsp;– was promoting a film called <em>Youcef</em> at a festival.<span> </span></span></span></span></span></span></span></span>“In the hotel lobby, there was a famous Indian star. I knew I had been a fan of this face since childhood, but couldn’t remember his name. Shashi Kapoor?” As Allalou collected himself in preparation for his screening, someone interrupted. “Mister Allalou. Telephone.”&nbsp; It was a friend calling to say simply, “They shot Aziz this morning.”&nbsp; Allalou remembers that as he heard this news from his “martyred city of Algiers,” he “fell into the arms of Shashi Kapoor and cried just as they do in his films.” </p> <p>Still, like Algeria itself, Aziz would not let the fundamentalists kill him. After a 12 hour operation, he came back to life.&nbsp; As the newspaper <em>Le Matin </em>said on its front page the next day,<strong> “</strong>Today, Samia and the Rockrocki team are not in mourning. Although the perpetrators of this attack and the supporters of fundamentalist terrorism might not like it, Aziz remains with us. To produce other shows, to strive for another culture.” But he would never walk again. </p> <p>In keeping with the stubborn artistic determination that enabled him to take on Algeria’s cultural establishment, he has not allowed even an assassination attempt to derail him. While he lives every day with the harsh, life-changing consequences, he has never given in. Aziz now makes art from his wheelchair, and so has beaten those who sought to silence him. “Yes, I am not going to stay in a wheelchair doing nothing,” he asserts. “If I fought for life, It is to continue doing what I was doing.” </p> <p>He directed a stylish and moving clip for a campaign against Algeria’s discriminatory family law by <a href="http://bledconnexion.over-blog.com/pages/re-belles-par-association-20-ans-barakat-8801395.html"><em>20 Ans Barakat</em></a>&nbsp; (Twenty Years is Enough!), an Algerian women’s rights group. Remaining defiant, Aziz shows bareheaded women protesters on the streets of Algiers, and Hassiba Boulmerka, Algeria’s gold medal runner, appears in the shorts that earned her death threats from the same fundamentalists who had taken aim at him.&nbsp; </p> <p>In recent years, he collaborated with Mohamed Ali Allalou and writer <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Mustapha Benfodil</a> on a multimedia book project about the city of Algiers called <a href="http://www.amazon.fr/Alger-nooormal-Jean-Pierre-Vallorani/dp/2951661460">A<em>lger Nooormal</em>.</a> Aziz compiled the soundtrack that accompanies the text, a CD “of the noises and songs of Algiers – young people who scream, chanting in stadiums, all mixed together.”&nbsp; In addition, he has produced a related <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6nde0mhB_k&amp;feature=player_embedded">video</a> whose evocative images and haunting soundtrack trace the post-independence history of Algeria. President Boumediene proclaims the start of the 70s agrarian revolution to the sound of <em>oud</em>; the ruling National Liberation Front’s 1980s corruption is denounced in Algerian rap; and the victims of FIS and Armed Islamic Group atrocities in the 1990s are memorialised to the beat of outraged Algerian rock.&nbsp; </p> <p>Samia Benkherroubi’s assessment of Aziz Smati’s achievements, and the meaning of this 2014 anniversary, is that “the Islamists and the terrorists did not manage to destroy everything. There are many of us who are still around, fighting against their obscurantist ideas.” Their story is not just a history lesson. Across Muslim majority regions of the world today, artists remain on the frontlines. Other Aziz Smatis spin dreams of music, words and light, whether in Mali, Somalia, or Afghanistan. They defy extremism and offer hope and even humour to its opponents, and all too often, like Aziz, they become targets for fundamentalists.&nbsp; </p> <p>The danger is not hypothetical, but these artists understand the criticality of their mission. For example, Pakistani playwright <a href="http://global.oup.com/academic/product/selected-plays-9780195474770?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Shahid Nadeem</a> and his <a href="http://ajoka.org.pk/">Ajoka Theatre Company</a> have tackled everything from blasphemy laws to burqas, and faced banning and bomb threats. Why continue?&nbsp; As Nadeem said recently after a 7 February performance of his play “Burqavaganza,” “if we abandon this space, there will be nothing left.” </p> <p>History repeats itself. Shahid Nadeem’s colleague, distinguished theatre professor and playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/661464/playwright-asghar-nadeem-syed-attacked-near-shaukat-khanum-hospital/">survived a gun attack</a> in Lahore on 21 January. Shahid Nadeem explains that Syed has long been an opponent of religious extremism, and three years ago wrote a popular TV series called “<a href="http://www.nation.com.pk/lahore/21-Jul-2010/Khuda-Zameen-Se-Gaya-Nahi-Hai-nominated-for-awards">Khuda Zameen se Gaya Nahin Hai</a>” (God has still not left the Earth) about the threat of Talibanization in Pakistan. According to Nadeem, this is one possible motive for the attack on his colleague. Thankfully, like Aziz Smati, Syed remains alive. </p> <p>In any case, such crimes have primary and secondary victims. Those around the targeted person are also dramatically affected.&nbsp; Samia Benkherroubi had to flee into exile shortly after the attempt on Aziz’s life, leaving behind her beloved family and work.&nbsp; Today, she says “I want to believe that what happened to us will not happen again. But, I am aware that this is just a dream. All you have to do is look at what is happening in Egypt, in Libya, in Syria to see the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">same methods being reproduced</a>. But we also are continuing to fight, in my case through feminism and the promotion of equality between men and women.”&nbsp; She now trains new generations of Algerian women’s rights advocates for the <a href="http://www.medwomensfund.org/en/index.html">Mediterranean Women’s Fund</a>. </p> <p>In honour of the determination of people like Samia Benkherroubi, Mohamed Ali Allalou, Shahid Nadeem, Asghar Nadeem Syed, and most of all Aziz Smati, we must support all those, who like Aziz, wield song against suicide belt, or wage art against fundamentalism. That is why on 14 February 2014, we should send this Valentine’s message of love for Aziz and his work from the countless thousands of us to whom he brought improbable joy in harrowing times. The forces of regression put him in a wheelchair and took away the use of his legs, but still he stands taller than most ever will. </p> <p><em>Karima Bennoune is the author of the book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a> which, inter alia</em><em>,</em><em> tells the stories of Aziz Smati, Samia Benkherroubi, Mohamed Ali Allalou and Pakistan’s Ajoka Theatre</em>. </p> <p style="text-align: right; background-color: #ededed; padding: 10px;">Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/pour-aziz-smati-pour-la-saint-valentin">French</a> »</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/afiya-shehrbano-zia/taliban-agent-or-victim">Taliban: agent or victim? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/fundamentalism-and-education">Fundamentalism and education</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/meredith-tax/gender-based-censorship">Gender-based censorship </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter patriarchy fundamentalisms Karima Bennoune Fri, 14 Feb 2014 08:03:27 +0000 Karima Bennoune 79319 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Pour Aziz Smati, pour la Saint Valentin https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/pour-aziz-smati-pour-la-saint-valentin <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pour rendre hommage à la détermination de gens comme le producteur Algérien Aziz Smati, qui était victime d’un attentat il y a exactement 20 ans, il nous faut soutenir tous ceux qui opposent des chansons aux ceinture d’explosifs et luttent par l’art contre l’intégrisme, écrit Karima Bennoune</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: right; background-color: #ededed; padding: 10px;">Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">English</a> »</p> <p>Il y a vingt ans, le 14 février 1994, pour la Saint Valentin, le Groupe Islamique Armé envoya un message de haine aux artistes algériens et aux jeunes qui les aimaient, en tirant sur Aziz Smati, producteur bien aimé de l’équivalent local de MTV. Son légendaire programme, Bled Music (Bled veut dire ‘pays’ ou ‘patrie’ ou ‘village’), éclata sur les écrans en 1989, au cours d’un unique instant d’ouverture politique dans l’Algérie post-indépendante.</p> <p>Alors que le pays cahotait hors du système du parti unique - pouvoir unique, pensée unique -, ce programme donnait un aperçu énivrant de ce à quoi pourrait ressembler un programme vraiment nord africain, et quel son il aurait. Il proposait des airs indubitablement algériens, présentés dans un argot typiquement algérien par l’étudiante Samia Benkherroubi qui exsudait une chaleur très algérienne à travers le petit écran.</p> <p>Et pendant ce temps, la tentative démocratique de la fin des années 80 dans ce pays à majorité musulmane était exploitée par les intégristes qui fleurirent dans le bouillon de culture de l’avènement brutal du multipartisme, et qui, dans les années 90, déclarèrent la guerre à la société tout entière, une guerre qui tuera jusqu’à <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die" target="_blank">200 000 personnes</a> (et à laquelle l’état répondit par d’autres violations)&nbsp;</p> <p>Repensant à cette période, Samia se souvient que ‘ Nous pensions que notre révolution était accomplie. Mais on s’est bien fait avoir par les Islamistes qui étaient beaucoup plus organisés que nous’.</p> <p>L’une des cibles de l’intégrisme en plein bourgeonnement était la musique. Dans les communes controlées par le Front Islamique du salut (FIS) après les élections de 1990, le parti interdit la musique lors des mariages, et de danser en public. Samia et Aziz reçurent des menaces et des lettres d’insulte. ‘Arrêtez ce programme. Vous êtes contre le Coran. La musique est interdite. Vous allez voir ce qui va vous arriver.’</p> <p>Je leur ai demandé s’il y avait quelque chose de fondamentalement anti-intégriste dans le fait de créer un tel programme dans cet environnement. ‘Pour nous, faire un programme musical était une chose parfaitement normale’, répond Aziz. ‘La musique a toujours existé en Algérie. Même nos parents n’ont jamais dit que c’était haram [interdit]. Juste par ce que des extra terrestres débarquent et vous disent que c’est interdit, je n’allais pas me mettre à les croire. Et j’ai continué à faire ce que je faisais’.</p> <p>Les choses devinrent pires. Les islamistes envoyèrent des lettres de menace aux marchands qui vendaient les cassettes. Finalement, déployant une violence tout azimut en 1993 et 1994, ils assassinèrent les chanteurs comme ‘Cheb Hasni’, de milieu ouvrier, dont la chanson sur les coeurs brisés ‘Ne me pleure pas, dis seulement que c’était mon destin’ (‘Metebkish Hada Mektoubi’) prit un tout nouveau sens. ‘Il chantait surtout l’amour’ commente Aziz. ‘Il était aimé de la jeunesse. C’était pour effrayer les gens. ‘Tout ce que vous aimez, on va le tuer’ ’.</p><p>Dans cet contexte, ce que faisaient Aziz et ses collègues devint une entreprise à haut risque. La récompense du producteur pour avoir procuré aux jeunes une heure d’oubli par semaine devant la télé, loin de la trépidation environnante, se résume en fin de compte à quatre balles, la paraplégie et une chaise roulante.</p><p>Aziz démarra à la radio en tant que réalisateur directeur d’un programme intitulé ‘Le Rock Local’, mais il rêvait de créer un ‘Hit Parade à l’Algérienne’ à la télévision. Comme Aziz me le dit, ‘il y avait très peu de chanteurs qui avaient accès à la télé. Ils jouaient une musique très moyen-orientale, mais la musique de chez nous, le Raï, on ne l’entendait pas. Ils disaient que c’était une musique vulgaire qui ne devait pas être programmée à la télé’.</p><p> Le Raï - dont les paroles traitent souvent d’amour et de vin – est une sorte d’hybride hip-hop nord africain qui démarra comme musique bédouine. Le Bled Music d’Aziz Smati présenta les premiers clips de Raï sur ENTV, la chaine nationale. </p><p>Tout le monde aimait Bled Music. Je fus une grande fan dès que je tombais dessus une nuit dans le living room de mon père dans la banlieue d’Alger. Quand je rencontrais Aziz et Samia pour la première fois en 2008, il a fallu que je me retienne de leur demander des autographes. Autrefois, les créateurs de ce programme étaient inondés de lettres de fans. Il n’y avait pas de Billboard Chart en Algérie, alors Samia demandait aux auditeurs de lui écrire en indiquant leurs préférences, et c’est ce qu’ils utilisaient pour étalonner les chansons. ‘Le programme essayait de rendre accessibles les chansons algériennes’ me dit Samia. ‘C’est devenu un programme très populaire, parce que tout le monde le regardait, des gens de toutes les catégories sociales et de tous les âges’.</p> <p>Bled Music, et ce qui le suivit, Rockrocki, révolutionnèrent tant la musique que le langage considérés comme acceptables en prime time. Les présentateurs et les invités parlaient vraiment comme le peuple, plutôt que de faire comme s’ils étaient dans l’Arabie du 7 ème siècle.</p> <p>Comme l’explique Samia, ‘ pour passer à la télé algérienne, il fallait chanter en arabe classique, celui qu’on apprend à l’école’. Aziz se souvient que dans ses programmes, ils ‘voulaient parler l’arabe de la rue, celui que tout le monde comprend. C’était un mélange d’arabe, de kabyle (tamazight) et de français’. Ils couvraient aussi les nouvelles culturelles et interviewaient des artistes émergents. ‘Les artistes et les chanteurs donnaient leur vision des choses’, dit Samia. ‘Et ils ne pouvaient pas faire ça ailleurs. Ils avaient toute liberté de langage, une expression nouvelle et libre. Ce qui le rendait possible, c’était Aziz, qui il était’.</p> <p><a href="http://www.hamid-baroudi.com/">Hamid Baroudi</a>, le chanteur ethno-pop algérien, dont l’inoubliable chanson contre la guerre du Golfe, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQjDZCFayNQ">Caravan to Baghdad</a> resta en tête du hit parade de Bled Music pendant des semaines, est d’accord. Il m’a écrit la semaine dernière pour me dire: ‘Durant les années 90, Aziz était un visionnaire. Il était en avance de 20 ans dans son domaine.’ Pour Baroudi, qui partit avec la tournée mondiale du Womad Festival organisé par Peter Gabriel, l’exploit de Aziz n’est pas seulement créatif, il est aussi citoyen. ‘J'ai vu un enfant de la radio utiliser sans pitié un micro pour faire parler une société qui a vécu les plus sombres années de son histoire moderne, le tout accompagné d'images hors du commun filmé en burlesque, un peu kitsch avec un language du bled. Il la fera habillée d'une music not polish avant de l'intituler du slogan "Bled Music" made in Algeria. 20 ans plus tard je me rend compte qu'elle est toujours d'actualité.”</p> <p>Au vu de la signification de son travail, et de sa popularité personnelle, la tentative d’assassinat sur Aziz Smati le 14 février 1994 terrorisa le pays tout entier. Ni lui-même ni sa présentatrice n’avaient les moyens de prendre des mesures exceptionnelles de sécurité. Après avoir reçu quatre coups de feu en allant à son travail, d’un jeune homme qu’il avait pris pour un fan, Aziz fut transporté d’urgence à l’hopital de Beni Messous à l’extérieur d’Alger. De jeunes médecins pleuraient à la porte de la salle d’opération pendant que leurs collègues luttaient pour sauver la vie du producteur,- de 11h du matin à minuit.</p> <p>Samia apprit l’attaque, - qui avait eu lieu pendant le Ramadan, période où les intégristes tuaient plus que jamais -, quand elle arriva au studio d’enregistrement. ‘Le temps s’est arrêté pour moi. Nous avions peur tout le temps à cette époque. Tous les jours nous apprenions l’assassinat de l’un ou de l’une de nos ami(e)s. Nous continuions à travailler comme des automates. Nous travaillions parce que c’était notre seule manière de lutter. Donc jusque-là ce jour du 14 février nous étions comme aveugles sur les dangers que nous courrions tous les jours.’</p> <p>Ce même jour le fiancé de Samia, Mohamed Ali Allalou, homme de radio et acteur très connu qui travaillait avec Aziz depuis longtemps, se trouvait à Berlin et – malgré une terrible cuite prise pour oublier la violence au pays qui l’avait forcé à quitter la radio et à partir en exil – faisait dans un festival la promotion d’un film, dont le titre était ‘Youcef’,. ‘Dans le hall de l’hôtel, il y une très grande star indienne. Suis fan de ce visage de mon enfance et je n’arrive pas à mettre un nom. Shashi Kapoor?’. Comme Allalou se reprenait pour affronter le visionnage du film, quelqu’un l’interrompit; ‘Mister Allalou. Téléphone.’ C’était un ami qui appelait et il lui dit simplement: ‘On a tiré sur Aziz ce matin’. Allalou se souvient que lorsqu’il entendit ces nouvelles d‘Alger, sa ‘ville martyr’, il est ‘tombé dans les bras de Shashi Kapoor’. ‘Et j’ai pleuré comme dans ses films’.</p> <p>Néanmoins, comme l’Algérie elle même, Aziz ne laissa pas les intégristes le tuer. Après une opération de douze heures, il revint à la vie. Le quotidien Le Matin publia à la Une le jour d’après: ‘ Aujourd’hui, Samia et l’équipe dee Rockrocki ne sont pas en deuil. Ca va faire râler les auteurs de l’attaque et les supporters du terrorisme intégriste, mais Aziz reste parmi nous. Pour produire d’autres shows, pour se battre pour une autre culture’. Mais il ne put jamais marcher de nouveau.</p> <p>Avec la même détermination têtue qui lui avait permis de tenir tête à l’establishment culturel de l’Algérie, il n’a pas permis que même une tentative d’assassinat le fasse dévier de sa trajectoire. Bien qu’il vive chaque jour les dures conditions de ce changement de vie, il n’a pas baissé les bras. Aziz fait maintenant de l’art en chaise roulante et a ainsi tenu en échec ceux qui voulaient le réduire au silence. ‘Oui, je ne vais pas rester sur mon fauteuil à ne rien faire’, affirme-t-il. ‘Si je me suis battu pour vivre, c’est pour continuer à faire ce que je faisais’.</p> <p>Il a dirigé un clip émouvant et stylé pour une campagne contre le discriminatoire code algérien de la famille pour '<a href="http://bledconnexion.over-blog.com/pages/re-belles-par-association-20-ans-barakat-8801395.html">20 ans Barakat!</a>'&nbsp;<a href="http://www.imow.org/wpp/stories/viewstory?storyid=1328"></a> (20 ans, ça suffit!), un groupe de femmes algériennes se battant pour leurs droits. . Toujours dans le défi, Aziz montre des manifestantes dans les rues d’Alger, tête nue, ainsi qu’ Hassiba Boulmerka, la médaille d’or algérienne pour la course de vitesse, qui y apparait en short, tenue qui lui valut des menaces de mort de la part des mêmes intégristes qui l’avaient pris, lui, pour cible.</p> <p>Ces dernières années, il a collaboré avec Mohamed Ali Allalou et l’écrivain <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Mustapha Benfodil</a> pour la fabrication d’un livre multimedia sur la ville d’Alger intitulé <a href="http://www.imow.org/wpp/stories/viewstory?storyid=1328">Alger Nooormal</a>. Aziz compila la bande son qui accompagne le texte, un CD ‘des bruits et des chants d’Alger – des jeunes qui crient, qui chantent dans les stades, tout mélangé’. De plus, il a produit une vidéo qui l’accompagne dont les images évocatives et l’inoubliable bande son retracent l’histoire de l’Algérie après l’indépendance. Le Président Boumedienne proclame le début de la révolution agraire au son du luth; la corruption du FLN des années 80 est dénoncée sur du rap algérien; et les victimes des atrocités du FIS et du GIA sont enregistrées au beat enragé du <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6nde0mhB_k&amp;feature=player_embedded">rock algérien</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Samia Benkherroubi évalue le rôle qu’ont joué les performances d’Aziz Smati et le sens de cet anniversaire en 2014: ‘les islamistes et les terroristes n'ont pas tout détruit. Nous sommes nombreux à être encore là et à combattre leurs idées obscurantistes.’ &nbsp;Leur histoire n’est pas seulement une leçon d’histoire. D’un bout à l’autre des régions à majorité musulmane dans le monde aujourd’hui, les artistes sont sur la ligne de front. D’autres Aziz Smati filent des rêves de musique, de mots et de lumière, que ce soit au Mali, en Somalie ou en Afghanistan. Ils défient l’extrémisme et offrent espoir et même humour à ses opposants, et bien souvent, comme Aziz, ils deviennent la cible des intégristes.</p> <p>`Le danger n’est pas hypothétique, mais ces artistes comprennent à quel point leur mission est critique. Par exemple, l’auteur pakistanais de <a href="http://global.oup.com/academic/product/selected-plays-9780195474770?cc=us&amp;lang=en">pièces de théatre Shahid Nadem</a> et sa <a href="http://ajoka.org.pk/">compagnie théatrale Ajoka</a> ont traité de tous les sujets, du blasphème aux burqas, et ont été confrontés aux interdictions et aux alertes à la bombe. Pourquoi continuer? Comme l’a dit Nadeem il y a peu, après la présentation le 7 février de sa pièce ‘Burqavaganza’, ‘si nous abandonnons cet espace, il ne restera plus rien’.</p> <p>L’histoire se répète. Le collègue de Shahid Nadeem, le distingué professeur de théatre et auteur de pièces Asghar Nadeem Syed a survécu à une <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/661464/playwright-asghar-nadeem-syed-attacked-near-shaukat-khanum-hospital/">attaque armée</a> le 21 janvier à Lahore.. &nbsp;Shahid Shahid Nadeem explique que Syed est un opposant de longue date à l’extrémisme religieux; il y a trois ans il a écrit une série de télé populaire sous le titre “<a href="http://www.nation.com.pk/lahore/21-Jul-2010/Khuda-Zameen-Se-Gaya-Nahi-Hai-nominated-for-awards">Khuda Zameen se Gaya Nahin Hai</a>” (Dieu n’a pas encore quitté la terre), &nbsp;sur la menace de talibanisation du Pakistan. Selon Nadeem, c’est peut être bien la raison de l’attaque subie par son collègue. Heureusement, comme Aziz Smati, Syed a survécu.</p> <p>En tout cas, des crimes de ce genre font des victimes principales et des victimes secondaires. Ceux autour de la personne visée sont aussi dramatiquement affectés. Samia Benkherroubi dut s’enfuir en exil peu après l’attentat sur la vie d’ Aziz, abandonnant derrière elle sa famille bien aimée et son travail. Aujourd’hui , elle dit: ‘Aujourd’hui j’ai juste envie de croire que ce qui nous est arrivé ne se reproduira plus jamais. Mais je reste consciente et lucide que ce n’est qu’un rêve et qu’aujourd’hui il n’y a qu’à regarder ce qui se passe en <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Egypte</a>, en Libye, en Syrie pour voir les mêmes methodes se reproduire.’ &nbsp;Mais nous continuons aussi à nous battre, pour ce qui me concerne à travers le féminisme et la promotion de l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes’. Elle forme maintenant les nouvelles générations de défenseuses des droits algériennes pour le <a href="http://www.medwomensfund.org/en/index.html">Fond des Femmes en Méditerranée</a>.</p><p> Pour rendre hommage à la détermination de gens comme Samia Benkherroubi, Mohamed Ali Allalou, Shahid Nadeem, Asghar Nadeem Syed, et plus encore à celle d’Aziz Smati, il nous faut soutenir tous ceux qui, comme Aziz, opposent des chansons aux ceintures d’explosifs et luttent par l’art contre l’intégrisme. C’est pourquoi, en ce 14 février 2014, envoyons lui cette carte de la Saint Valentin, message d’amour pour Aziz et son travail, de la part des innombrables milliers d’entre nous à qui il apporta des joies improbables en des temps difficiles. Les forces de la régression l’ont mis dans un fauteuil roulant et l’ont privé de l’usage de ses jambes, mais il se tient debout, et il est plus grand que beaucoup d’autres ne le seront jamais.</p><p style="text-align: right; background-color: #ededed; padding: 10px;"><em>Traduit de l'anglais par Marieme Helie-Lucas</em>. Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">English</a> »</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/for-aziz-smati-on-valentines-day">For Aziz Smati on Valentine&#039;s Day</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-deniz-kandiyoti/your-fatwa-does-not-apply-here">Your fatwa does not apply here</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt">Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Civil society 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick fundamentalisms Karima Bennoune Fri, 14 Feb 2014 08:03:24 +0000 Karima Bennoune 79333 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria: the real lessons for Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-real-lessons-for-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For all its problems, Algeria never became an Islamic state. Like Algerian progressives in the 1990s, Egyptian progressives now have to carve out the space to construct a credible alternative under the shield of the new transitional process, and simultaneously challenge the military’s human rights abuses</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>“Enough is enough,” insists <a href="http://www.internationalservice.org.uk/what_we_do/development_awareness/human_rights_awards/2008_awards/cherifa_kheddar.html">Cherifa Kheddar</a>,&nbsp; whose brother and sister were murdered by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in June 1996, and who is the President of <a href="http://www.djazairouna.ranahna.dz/">Djazairouna</a>, the Algerian Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism. She is right. One of the consequences of recent events in Egypt has been a renewed cascade of <a href="http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=59969">misrepresentations</a> and misinformation about what happened in Algeria in the 1990s. Though each context is unique, the lessons that can be learned from Algeria then for the situation in countries like Egypt now make it critical to challenge the misinformation.&nbsp; So much blood was spilt in the fundamentalist assault on Algeria that it is immoral not to remember what actually happened. </p><p>I have just finished three years of research on progressive opposition to fundamentalism across Muslim majority countries from Afghanistan to Mali, for my forthcoming book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>. But I began in Algeria by interviewing scores of survivors of the 1990s Islamist violence in places like Kheddar’s hometown Blida inside what was then-called “the Triangle of Death.” The voices of the people I spoke to must be heard to understand their history.&nbsp; </p> <p>Instead, we are treated to <a href="http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/07/09/commentary/avoiding-an-algeria-in-egypt/#.UeIDjHbD_IW">boilerplate accounts</a>. Almost no one seems to talk to the many Algerians who challenge that narrative.&nbsp; And no one seems to bother to talk to women. You cannot understand what happened in Algeria, and what it means today, without doing both of these things.</p> <p>Post-independence socialist rule waned when Chadly Benjedid became President in 1979. Like Sadat, he used the rising fundamentalists to scare critics on the left, a game which got out of control.&nbsp; Benjedid’s unregulated privatization generated a huge gap between haves and have-nots. This provoked a youth-led <a href="http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article26614">revolt</a> in October 1988; the army killed 500 in a week. Afterwards, the government placated the public by launching an ill-conceived electoral process and legalizing opposition parties, including the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) whose composition violated Algeria’s constitutional ban on parties based on religion.&nbsp; This moment of “democratization” - which did unleash independent media and fostered tremendous optimism - was exploited by the FIS whose precursors had been militating in mosques and had a considerable head start.&nbsp; </p> <p>The FIS participated in the electoral process while its leaders said they did not believe in democracy except as a means to come to power, and its associates were already engaging in <a href="http://www.wluml.org/sites/wluml.org/files/import/english/pubs/pdf/wsf/14.pdf">violence against women</a> and young conscripts. Most of this was overlooked by outsiders too busy celebrating the advent of a multi-party system. One summary version of Algeria’s 1990s trajectory is reiterated in the West – the fundamentalists were participating in the elections, their victory was stolen and that was when trouble started. This is a gross oversimplification.</p> <p>Openly declaring they would abolish democratic institutions, the FIS leaders proclaimed that they would rule through a <em>majlis al-shura</em>, a cabal of clergy. They described the mixing of the sexes a “cancer,” and besieged women’s college dorms. Their prescription was simple. “Islam is the solution.” Their words and deeds terrified liberal and leftwing Algerians. The FIS second in command Ali Belhadj asked, “if we have the law of God, why should we need the law of the people?” About non-fundamentalist Algerians, he <a href="http://www.wluml.org/node/343">raved</a> “one should kill these unbelievers.” </p> <p>One of the worst <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/04/egypt-revolution-lessons-from-algeria">fallacies</a> today about this time period is that there was no popular support for the Algerian army’s subsequent action. “Millions of Algerians did not pour into the streets either to demand or denounce the cancelling of elections in 1992,” writes Hicham Yezza in an <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/hicham-yezza/what-algeria-1992-can-and-cannot-teach-us-about-egypt-2013">article</a> on openDemocracy. This completely obscures the reality that there were in fact mass protests calling for the interruption of the electoral process.</p> <p>In the opening days of 1992, as documented <em>inter alia</em> by journalists Hassan Zenati and Ricardo Ustarroz at the time, at least three hundred thousand people demonstrated on the streets of Algiers, long before Facebook, Twitter and cellphones. Some who took part estimate this number to have been much higher – up to 500,000 or even a million. They called on the government to save the republic when it looked like the FIS would win, establish an Islamic state, and never relinquish power.&nbsp; At the time, Usatarroz wrote about the first round of voting, that “fresh elections for many of the seats won by the fundamentalists may have to be held because of complaints of ballot rigging and other irregularities in 140 constituencies.”</p> <p>Cherifa Kheddar, who participated in protests then, reminded me last week that “a million citizens – women first among them – took to the streets of Algiers.&nbsp; We asked the authorities to stop the electoral masquerade. We refused the Iranization or Sudanization of our country.”&nbsp; In response, these opponents of theocracy received threats from Islamists telling them their only choices were a boat or a grave.</p> <p>On January 11, 1992, the military-backed government heeded the call to stop the flawed process that would have given the FIS the reins of state to implement those threats. As terrible as things became afterwards, many argue it would have been worse had Algeria’s murderous fundamentalists been allowed to dismantle the republic from the inside.&nbsp; As a newspaper publisher told me, “we would have become Afghanistan.”&nbsp; “<a href="http://www.smala-diffusion.fr/les-traumatismes-collectifs-en-algerie.html">Winning elections alone is not democracy</a>,” feminist psychologist Cherifa Bouatta who has long worked with women victims of the nineties violence reminded me in 2010. “It can lead to eternal dictatorship.” Herein lies an interesting quandary. For Western liberals and leftists now <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/opinion/in-egypt-democrats-vs-liberals.html?_r=0">lecturing</a> Egyptians about democracy, does that concept require a willingness to vote your republic - and yourself - out of existence? This is not just any passing government that is at stake in Egypt – it is rather the one which is set to promulgate the next constitution, a document that can affect the lives of generations of the country’s citizens.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another of the <a href="http://www.madamasr.com/content/why-egypt-not-algeria">grave misrepresentations</a> circulating now about what happened in Algeria is that those who supported the interruption of the electoral process did so based merely on hypothetical fears. Algerians had already been grappling with disastrous local rule by fundamentalists since the municipal elections of 1990, which Yezza correctly points out in his piece. The FIS city councils were incapable of doing much other than banning cultural events.&nbsp; “They said, ‘one day your turn will come,’” TV music producer Aziz Smati remembers. “There were lists of people they would assassinate when they took power.”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The threat to Algerian ways of life was existential, but this was misunderstood in a West that often considered the fundamentalists democrats, and stereotyped their opponents - who were in fact almost all staunch Algerian nationalists - as “Francophiles,” a <a href="http://leelajacinto.blogs.france24.com/article/2013/07/05/coup-or-whatchamacallit-egypt-not-algeria-0">smear</a> that now reappears in today’s media coverage. “We tried to explain to them,” Cherifa Bouatta told me of Westerners, “that fundamentalism was the end of everything.&nbsp; It was the death of our country.” Moreover, the Islamists openly proclaimed what they were planning. “No Charter, No Constitution, said God, said the Prophet,” was one of their favorite campaign slogans. This was but further proof of what Yezza dismisses as “Islamism’s supposed inherent and sinister impulse to deploy democracy’s own mechanisms to subvert and eventually destroy democracy itself.”</p> <p>As former journalist Malika Zouba <a href="http://www.cairn.info/article.php?ID_ARTICLE=COME_059_0033">remembers</a>, “the Islamists promised that they would change everything in Algeria. Women would go back home. They told us in their sermons and their electoral campaign that there would be no constitution, just the Sharia. That we would lose all we had fought for all our lives.”&nbsp; While both men and women spoke out against growing Islamism, it is no accident that women’s rights activists were among the first to do so and were prominent amongst those calling for the interruption of the electoral process.&nbsp; In Bouatta’s words, “this rise of fundamentalism was terrifying for us as women.”</p> <p>In any case, the cancellation of the second round of parliamentary elections was no panacea.&nbsp; A “dark decade” ensued with the military-backed government on one side and fundamentalist armed groups on the other.&nbsp; Most of the bloodletting was directed by the armed groups against ordinary civilians, killing as many as 200,000. “The whole civilian population was taken hostage,” Cherifa Bouatta told me. Yet, Western narratives&nbsp; - especially on the left - often implied that Algerians deserved the violence because they supported cancelling the elections.&nbsp; We are seeing this again now with regard to Egypt.&nbsp; Fundamentalists are deemed to have the right to rule, and when that is taken away, to kill anyone in their way.&nbsp; They assume this power as well.&nbsp; For example, on July 13 at a pro-Morsi rally in Tunis, Sahbi Atig, the head of the Ennahda bloc in the Tunisian constituent assembly, <a href="http://www.businessnews.com.tn/details_article.php?a=39354&amp;t=520&amp;lang=fr&amp;temp=3">threatened</a> that “all those who dare to kill the will of the people in Tunisia or in Egypt, the Tunisian street will be authorized to do what it wants with – including to shed their blood.” </p> <p>Actually, if they choose to murder now, the region’s fundamentalists will have made a choice for which they alone are responsible and for which their fellow citizens will hold them accountable. The same is true for Egypt’s army which has already killed some 60 protestors. As the Algerian journalist Mustapha Benfodil, recently <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">wrote</a> of Egypt’s military chief, “after having kicked the Ikhwan out of the Itihadiyah palace, the most difficult task lies before the army leader: avoiding a bloodbath.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course, there was also violence on both sides in Algeria. Though the overwhelming majority of the victims were those attacked by the fundamentalists, the forces of the state went on to use arbitrary detention, extra-judicial executions, and grisly torture, and carried out some <a href="http://www.algerie-disparus.org/cfda1/">eight thousand forced disappearances</a>, all of which were grave violations of human rights. And the army has also remained a major force behind the scenes to this day with troubling consequences for democracy, and the rule of law.&nbsp; </p> <p>What then are the real lessons of Algeria for Egypt and other countries today?&nbsp; First and foremost, it is a gross error to underestimate the danger posed by movements that wield God as a political weapon, that are overtly committed to inequality.&nbsp; I cannot often enough cite the words of education reformer Salah Chouaki who wrote shortly before his assassination by Algeria’s GIA ,“the most dangerous and deadly illusion… is to underestimate fundamentalism, the mortal enemy of our people.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Another lesson is that while one may sometimes have to choose the lesser of two evils to survive – both physically and politically, one must never give up on constructing a better alternative.&nbsp; “I am sick of having a choice between dictatorship and Islamism. Our aspiration for democracy is real,” Leila Aslaoui recently told the Algerian newspaper El Watan.&nbsp; However, that search for genuine democracy must include not only a rejection of autocracy, but also a commitment to socio-economic justice, and to minority and women’s rights, and an unrelenting struggle against the fundamentalism which threatens them.&nbsp; Aslaoui, who supported both the Algerian and Egyptian military interventions, and whose own dentist husband was murdered by Islamists in his Algiers office due to her opposition to extremism, also said about the 90s, “<a href="http://www.elwatan.com/international/le-syndrome-algerien-05-07-2013-219996_112.php">we knew who was protecting us and who was cutting our throats</a>.”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Like Algerian progressives in the 1990s, Egyptian progressives now have to carve out the space to construct a credible alternative under the shield of the new transitional process, and simultaneously challenge the military’s human rights abuses which are in no way justified. That is no easy task (it is already worrying that they are reportedly not being consulted about the new constitutional process). These activists need both international support and understanding of the situation they face to have a chance at fulfilling it – two things their Algerian counterparts never received. In the meantime, it is critical that the security of Egyptian progressive activists be guaranteed. When the Algerian fundamentalists escalated their jihad, they went first, as I have written in an earlier article for openDemocracy, for those who <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">dared challenge their dominion</a>. </p> <p>The balance sheet of the Algerian military's intervention remains <a href="http://www.elwatan.com/international/le-syndrome-algerien-05-07-2013-219996_112.php">mixed</a>.&nbsp;However, many survivors of fundamentalist violence&nbsp;believe the outcome would have been much worse if the FIS had&nbsp;seized power&nbsp;and&nbsp;terrorized from&nbsp;above rather than from outside the power structure.&nbsp; And, for all its problems, Algeria never became an Islamic State. The lessons that can be learned from the country’s turmoil then - as told by real survivors -make it critical to remember this history now. </p> <p>The lack of international solidarity with non-fundamentalist Algerians at the time remains a bitter pill for many, and may sadly be an experience shared by Egyptians.&nbsp; But there is also reason for optimism if the world takes a smarter stance on Egypt and <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2013/07/alaa-aswany-morsi-overthrow-threat-mubarak-regime.html">supports</a> those committed to substantive democracy.&nbsp; I think of the words of Aziz Smati, a paraplegic today after a 1994 attempt on his life by the GIA. “During 10 years they didn’t succeed, so I don’t think they ever will. Algeria will never become an Islamist country.” That is among my hopes for Egypt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">Algeria twenty years on: words do not die</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/hicham-yezza/what-algeria-1992-can-and-cannot-teach-us-about-egypt-2013">What Algeria 1992 can, and cannot, teach us about Egypt 2013</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Egypt Algeria Democracy and government 50.50 Gender Politics Religion Women and the Arab Spring 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter patriarchy fundamentalisms Karima Bennoune Tue, 16 Jul 2013 11:24:43 +0000 Karima Bennoune 74081 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algeria twenty years on: words do not die https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Algerian jihadists war on culture. Those who waged the intellectual struggle against fundamentalism in Algeria throughout the 1990s received little support internationally. Karima Bennoune pays tribute to those who fell in the culturicide, and warns of the urgent need to remember&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8B">Arabic</a> or <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">French</a>.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" alt="Black and white photo of street protest. Woman with megaphone and photograph, banners and placards in background.." title="" width="400" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women protest killings in Algiers on March 22, 1994, carrying the<br />picture of Tahar Djaout, among others. Photo: El Watan </span></span></span></p><p>My father, Algerian anthropologist <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Algeria-1830-1987-Cambridge-Library/dp/0521524326/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1371681165&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=mahfoud+bennoune">Mahfoud Bennoune</a> called these systematic 1990s killings of intellectuals by the country’s fundamentalist armed groups a genocide. A law student then, I explained to him that the UN Genocide Convention did not protect political or social groups. But in my research about the unrelenting assault on Algeria’s intelligentsia that began in early 1993, I have come to understand my father’s use of the term. This was indeed an attempt by the radical Islamists battling the Algerian state to stamp out the North African nation’s culture and to wipe out those who shaped it. It was, as Algerian writer and artist Mustapha Benfodil describes it, an “intellectocide.” Benfodil, whose most recent installation, “<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Headless</a>,” memorialized these assassinations, argues that “never, to my knowledge, have so many intellectuals been killed in so little time.”</p> <p>On May 26, 1993, one of Algeria’s greatest writers, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahar_Djaout">Tahar Djaout</a>, was gunned down leaving his apartment in Bainem, a Western suburb of the capital Algiers where I lived as a child. The country reeled. Djaout, a Berber who wrote in French and had studied mathematics, who had penned numerous novels and volumes of poetry, founded the publication <em>Ruptures,</em> and been an eloquent critic of both the country’s government and its vicious fundamentalists, died a week later after lingering in a coma. “Algiers thinks about the corpse in its arms,” wrote J.E.B. on May 31 in a poem published in <em>Ruptures</em>. During those seven days, we waited to see if Djaout, and we ourselves, would awaken from this new nightmare; he never did, and the country would not for ten long years. “Tahar was assassinated by the inquisition,” proclaimed a headline in <em>Ruptures</em> after his death on June 2.&nbsp; </p> <p>The anniversary of this tragedy was recently commemorated by a somber colloquium in Algiers organized by the newspaper El Watan (The Nation) on June 1, entitled “Presence(s)of Djaout.” (El Watan director Omar Belhouchet himself survived a 1993 assassination attempt by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA).) As the poet Amine Khene <a href="http://www.editionsbarzakh.dz/index.php?option=com_parution&amp;view=parution&amp;id=140&amp;Itemid=3">said</a> at the paper’s memorial colloquium, Tahar Djaout’s murder “was an assassination of Algeria and its future. Djaout was among that minority of intellectuals who could have formed the kernel of a democratic alternative.” </p> <p>Back in 1993, thirteen days after Djaout’s passing, one of Africa’s leading psychiatrists, the erudite <a href="http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahfoud_Boucebci">Dr. Mahfoud Boucebsi</a>, another figure in a potential “democratic alternative,” was in the sights of obscurantist assassins. On the morning of Tuesday June 15, 1993, the 57 year-old vice president of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was knifed at the entrance to his Algiers hospital. Boucebci had written pioneering works about single mothers, and won the Maghreb Prize for Medicine. In a 1991 interview, he described the fundamentalist takeover of Mustapha Hospital in Algiers. “I felt infinite pain in seeing these young men who thought they were all powerful and had suddenly become super-chiefs, and could command and humiliate a doctor.” Anouar Haddam, the loathsome spokesman of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) who found refuge in the United States, said that Boucebsi’s killing was “not a crime but the execution of a sentence.”&nbsp; </p> <p>The next theocratic “sentence” was carried out one week later on the morning of Tuesday June 22, almost exactly twenty years ago<strong>.</strong> <a href="http://www.algerie-livres.com/default.asp?page=actu&amp;num_actu=2152010104416%20PM">Mohamed Boukhobza</a>, 52, a prominent sociologist and the director of the National Institute for Global Strategic Studies, was tied up and had his throat cut in front of his daughter in the Telemly neighbourhood in Algiers. I came home that day to my father’s apartment on the outskirts of the city to find him angrier than I could ever remember seeing him over the murder of his former university colleague. </p> <p>On Tuesday June 29, 1993, exactly one week later, I woke up early to an unrelenting pounding on the sturdy metal front door my father had recently installed. By then, as El Watan later <a href="http://www.sfapsy.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=192:hommage-a-djilali-liabes&amp;catid=55:lactu-en-algerie&amp;Itemid=159">described</a> it, “every Tuesday a scholar fell to the bullets of… fundamentalist assassins.” Mahfoud Bennoune was a politically outspoken professor whose anthropology class - in which he dared teach Darwin - had already been visited by the head of the FIS who had denounced him as an advocate of “biologism,” until - as a former student in that class recently reminded me – Dad had ejected the man. On June 29, 1993, whoever was pounding on our door would neither identify himself nor go away. My father tried repeatedly to get the police on the telephone. Perhaps terrified themselves by the rising tide of armed extremism that had already claimed the lives of many Algerian officers, the local police station did not even answer. However, we were lucky that day. The unwanted and unidentified visitors eventually departed. We never knew why, or exactly who they were. Someone would return a few months later, leaving a note on the kitchen table. “Consider yourself dead.” They wrote “death to” before our name on the mailbox. </p> <p>Subsequently, Algerian fundamentalists would post Mahfoud Bennoune’s name on lists of those to be killed in extremist-controlled mosques in Algiers, along with the names of so many others – journalists, intellectuals, trade unionists, women’s rights activists. They would murder more of my father’s colleagues, his friends and relatives, and as many as 200,000 Algerians in what came to be known as “the dark decade.” No matter how awful things became, the international community largely ignored these events. The world would leave all those victims of fundamentalism to fend for themselves. </p> <p>Finally, my father would be forced to flee his apartment and to give up teaching at the University. That was when I came to understand that the struggle against Muslim fundamentalism and terrorism waged by countless people of Muslim heritage in many countries is one of the most important – and overlooked - human rights struggles in the world. Sadly, this is even truer now twenty years later. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" alt="Close up photo of man in smiling conversation holding cigarette." title="" width="240" height="164" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Salah Chouaki, noted education expert and<br />dedicated leftwing activist, murdered on<br />September 14, 1994 </span></span></span>The intellectuals who were killed first by extremists in Algeria were mainly those who had most quickly and clearly understood the nature of the beast. My father’s friend <a href="http://www.humanite.fr/node/219517">Salah Chouaki</a>, a leftwing school inspector and esteemed education reformer, had warned in one of the last articles he published before being gunned down on<strong> </strong>September 14,1994 by the GIA<strong> </strong>that “the most dangerous and deadly illusion… is to underestimate fundamentalism, the mortal enemy of our people.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Published after his death, Tahar Djaout’s final book, <a href="http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Last-Summer-of-Reason,673300.aspx">The Last Summer of Reason</a> <strong>-</strong> Algeria’s “1984” - describes the rise of extremism in chilling detail, and projects what the country would look like if the fundamentalists took over – by elections or by force. In Djaout’s theocratic hell, roadblocks catch inappropriately garbed women. Young men are brainwashed against their more liberal fathers. Minds are closed, families destroyed. But some refuse to submit. </p> <p>The novel’s hero, Boualem Yekker - whose family name means “stood up or awoke” in Tamazight (Berber) - is a free-thinking book seller. As Djaout described Yekker, “[he] was one of those who had decided to resist, those who had become aware that when the hordes confronting them had managed to spread their fear and impose silence they would have won.” Djaout himself, Boucebsi, Boukhobza, Chouaki and many of the other targeted intellectuals were like Boualem Yekker, and their murders were meant to quash their resistance, and silence its expression. Yet, others continued to stand up. Even when my father was driven from his home, he remained in the country, and continued to publish pointed criticisms of both the armed fundamentalists and the government they battled. In a three part series published in El Watan in November 1994, called “How Fundamentalism produced a terrorism without precedent,” he denounced the terrorists’ “radical break with true Islam as it was lived by our ancestors.” </p> <p>The leftwing women’s group <a href="http://www.peacewomen.org/news_article.php?id=1080&amp;type=news">RAFD</a> (refuse) was born after the funeral of one of the slain scholars, and its members took to the streets with their heads uncovered, carrying photos of the dead and wearing cloth targets in protest. Their philosophy was rather like Djaout’s. “If you speak out, they will kill you. If you keep silent, they will kill you. So speak out, and die.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Those who waged the intellectual struggle against fundamentalism in Algeria in the early nineties, who spoke out and died - or lived - received almost no support internationally. Algerian psychologist and women’s rights advocate <a href="http://www.cairn.info/publications-de-Bouatta-Ch%C3%A9rifa--44383.htm">Cherifa Bouatta</a> says there is still tremendous anger at those internationally who could have been the allies of progressive anti-fundamentalists but were not. “No one said, ‘we are with you.’”&nbsp; Moreover, governments like that of the U.S. and Britain had only made things worse by pumping money into the anti-Soviet jihad in faraway Afghanistan which had a direct effect on Algeria; the worst killers in the 90s conflict were known as “Afghans” for their experience as foreign fighters in that “jihad.” </p> <p>The Algerian state killed too, though in far smaller numbers, used widespread torture against terror suspects, and disappeared as many as 8,000 people, but the conflict in the nineties was primarily about the fundamentalist assault on Algerian society. Moreover, the intellectuals targeted by the fundamentalist armed groups tended to be fiercely independent figures who were both critics of the state and extremism. </p> <p>Back then, the wave of fundamentalist blood-letting among people of letters<strong> </strong>began in March 1993, with the shooting of <a href="http://www.sfapsy.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=192:hommage-a-djilali-liabes&amp;catid=55:lactu-en-algerie&amp;Itemid=159">Djilali Liabes, </a>a sociologist and former Education Minister whom my father had described as “one of the most dedicated educators of his generation,” the knifing of doctor turned novelist <a href="http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A2adi_Flici">Laadi Flici</a>, and the murder of political scientist <a href="http://www.liberte-algerie.com/hommage/hommage-a-hafid-senhadri-196389">Hafid Senhadri</a>. After the June slaughter of Djaout and the others, a lengthy wave of killings of journalists and press workers commenced in August 1993 with the slaying of Arabophone television reporter <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=253">Rabah Zenati</a>. Over the next few years, editors-in-chief like <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=883">Omar Ouartilane</a> who directed the Arabic-language paper <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Khabar">El Khabar</a>, prominent columnists like the inimitable <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=306">Saïd Mekbel,</a> journalists like <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=844">Naima Hamaouda</a> of <em>Revolution Africaine</em>, and even technical staff like <em>Le Soir d’Algérie’s</em> copy editor Yasmine Drissi were all “eliminated.” </p> <p>FIS spokesman Anouar Haddam openly told the French newspaper <em>Lib</em><em>é</em><em>ration</em> that they had suggested to their “brother jihadists” to target journalists amongst others. When assassinations were not deemed sufficient to root out the journo-menace, the Islamists blew up newspaper offices repeatedly, killing people like poetry-loving <em>Le Soir</em> culture editor <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=1074">Allaoua Aït Mebarek</a>, and columnist <a href="http://www.newseum.org/scripts/Journalist/Detail.asp?PhotoID=1045">Mohamed Dorbane</a> who had just finished his grocery shopping for Ramadan supper. A total of 100 press workers, including 60 journalists, were killed by the fundamentalist armed groups between 1993 and 1997, according to El Watan scribe Ahmed Ancer’s appropriately titled book, <em>Red Ink</em>. </p> <p>Many journalists had to leave their homes as a result. <a href="http://lavoixdesmartyrsdelaplume.over-blog.com/article-pour-que-nul-n-oublie-les-deux-soeurs-rachida-et-houria-hammadi-sont-mortes-pour-l-algerie-47049852.html">Rachida Hammadi</a>, 32, a serious TV correspondent I had met at a Ramadan dinner in her safe-house went home to be with her family for one night. As she departed at dawn on March 20, 1995, a car full of armed fundamentalists waited. One opened fire with an automatic weapon. His bullets hit Rachida and her sister Meriem who tried to protect her. Both died in the hospital. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" alt="Portrait photo of woman " title="" width="160" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lawyer Leila Kheddar, known for<br /> her modernist views and opposition<br /> to terrorism, shot and killed on<br />June 24, 1996</span></span></span>The fundamentalist armed groups’ assault on knowledge and the learned hit many professional categories. They killed lawyers like Leila Kheddar<a href="http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/cherifa-kheddar-presidente-de-djazairouna-un-jour-un-lieu-une-stele-26-01-2013-200886_109.php"></a> who was shot at home in front of her family, and Human Rights League President Youssef Fathallah who was gunned down in his office. They killed judges like Lakhdar Rouaz<strong>, </strong>and even law students who refused to give up their studies like 22 year-old <a href="http://ajouadmemoire.wordpress.com/ce-quils-nous-ont-laisse/amel-zenoune-zouani/">Amel Zenoune-Zouani</a>. They killed economists like Abderrahmane Fardeheb<strong>,</strong> teachers (often in front of their classes) like 33 year-old<strong> </strong>Abdelaziz Chelighem, and women school principals like<strong> </strong>Meziane Zhor, 54<strong>. </strong>They slaughtered female students like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/31/world/bareheaded-women-slain-in-algiers.html">Naima Kar Ali, 19, and Raziqa Meloudjemi, 18,</a> who dared to bare their heads. </p> <p>They took out Algeria’s leading sign language specialist Nacer Ouari who had recently returned from the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the country’s foremost pediatrician, anti-torture activist <a href="http://anadde.centerblog.net/5-hommage-rendu-par-l-anadde-au-pr-djillali-belkhenchir">Dr. Djilali Belkhenchir</a>.&nbsp; They were interdisciplinary, killing both the dean of the School of Fine Arts <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1994/03/06/world/algerian-teacher-and-son-killed-at-school.html">Ahmed Asselah</a>, and Salah Djebaïli, the rector of the Faculty of Science, during the spring of 1994. Not long before his death, Djabaïli said, “It is exactly the time to diagnose the problems and do things differently. It’s now or never, while there are no taboos.” As Professor Fardeheb’s daughter Amel wrote about her slain father in a plea for these murders not to be forgotten, “<a href="http://www.algerie-dz.com/forums/showthread.php?t=220778">Do they know how much you loved your country? Do they know that you wanted the best for the youth of Algeria?</a>” To kill people of this level of education, skill, promise and commitment in a developing country that had only been independent for thirty years – and so many more of them than can be mentioned in this article - was tantamount to trying to kill the country itself.&nbsp; </p> <p>Some 71,500 university graduates reportedly fled the fundamentalist onslaught between 1992 and 1996 alone, a brain drain whose consequences continue to be felt today. While the much larger number of killings of ordinary people in Algeria must also be commemorated, and all are equally important in human terms, these killings aimed a knife at the throat of the entire society. Each murder had many, many victims. </p> <p>To honour those intellectuals who fell to fundamentalism in Algeria two decades ago, we have to listen to and support – or at least notice - the Boualem Yekkers of today. They are still out there, from Afghanistan to Mali to Turkey’s Taksim Square, peacefully standing up to extremism, often alone and without international support or publicity. They continue to speak their minds, sometimes on pain of death. In north-west Pakistan, thousands of intellectuals and political activists have been slaughtered by militants over the last decade, a pattern of devastation that provokes nowhere near the outcry from progressives in the West as that caused by drone attacks. I think of <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/304186/zarteef-afridi-hero-of-jamrud/">Zarteef Afridi</a>, a teacher in Jamrud, Kyber Agency who campaigned for the franchise of tribal women and organized elders against terrorism, and was gunned down walking to his school on December 8, 2011. As his friend Salman Rashid <a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/304186/zarteef-afridi-hero-of-jamrud/">wrote</a> of him “He stood for the liberation of the human soul through education and enlightenment.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Even Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, has now seen the first fundamentalist assassination of an intellectual, the leftist lawyer <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/U-S-must-support-Tunisia-s-secularists-4261703.php">Chokri Belaid </a>who was mowed down in February<strong> </strong>of this year, a man who like the early martyred Algerians, could see the danger rising Islamism poses to his country and appealed to his fellow citizens to confront it. Sacrifices like these must be remembered. </p> <p>I write this article to pay tribute to those who fell in the Algerian jihadists war on culture twenty years ago, and to say to their families, and their colleagues who continue their work, that progressives elsewhere will not forget them. Though men and women may be gunned down, words do not die, and I continue to learn from their words every day. They taught that one must be entirely lucid and unwavering in one’s critique of the extreme right, wherever one lives, and that those who battle it armed only with a pen or a voice need support. </p> <p>&nbsp;“Those who fight us with a pen should die by the sword,” ordered Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group in 1992, according to Ancer’s <em>Red Ink</em>.<strong> </strong>“Pen against Kalashnikov. Is there a more unequal struggle?,” Ghania Oukazi had asked on the night her newspaper’s offices were bombed by the GIA in Algiers, back in 1996. She and her fellow journalists had huddled in the ruins of their building to get out the next day’s papers no matter what.&nbsp; As her signed piece in that heroic February 12, 1996 edition concluded:&nbsp; “What is certain is that the pen will not stop…”&nbsp; </p> <p>Courage like this demands solidarity and deserves to be recorded. “We will not be deserving of your sacrifice,” Cherifa Kheddar wrote last week in an open letter to her lawyer sister Leila who was killed by the GIA seventeen years ago today, on June 24, 1996, “if we do not take a moment to honor your memory, and by doing so to also remember your sacrifice for a modern Algeria that moves forward and does not regress.” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" alt="City-scape with tall, graceful monument in the background." title="" width="400" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Monument to the Martyrs of the war of independence,<br />or maqam e-shahid. A constant reminder of loss and hope</span></span></span></p><p>Today, twenty years later, there is an urgent need to remember – and learn from – what happened in Algeria’s dark decade. First and foremost, these events should remind us that people of Muslim heritage – especially those on the left - have always been the most frequent targets of Muslim fundamentalists – and their most important opponents.&nbsp; </p><p>Fundamentalism is on the rise now from Yemen to Tunisia and beyond. An outspoken Tunisian college professor recently told me how terrified she is since Belaid’s assassination, and how she has changed her daily movements to protect herself. Algeria’s experience should serve as a warning today about how dangerous such developments are, and help identify the best way to combat that danger. In an article entitled “Compromise with Political Islam is Impossible”-&nbsp;&nbsp; which is as relevant today as when it was penned in 1993, a year before its author’s assassination - Salah Chouaki explained that “[t]he best way to defend Islam is to put it out of the reach of all political manipulation…. The best way to defend the modern state is to put it out of the reach of all exploitation of religion for political ends.”&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>What happened in Algeria twenty years ago shows that the challenge to local cultures and ways of life posed by fundamentalism is actually existential. It is no accident that the last words of Tahar Djaout’s last work ask a question. “Will there be another spring?”</p> <p><em>An interview with the author, conducted by Deniz Kandiyoti, about her forthcoming book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism, </a>will be published on 5050 in August.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/algeria-when-rivers-turned-black">Algeria: When the Rivers Turned Black</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karima-bennoune-mbarka-brahmi/opposing-political-islam-mohamed-brahmis-widow-speaks-out">Opposing political Islam in Tunisia: Mohamed Brahmi&#039;s widow speaks out</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/amel-grami-karima-bennoune/tunisias-fight-against-fundamentalism-interview-with-amel-grami">Tunisia&#039;s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Frontline voices against fundamentalism 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa 50.50 Editor's Pick secularism patriarchy fundamentalisms 50.50 newsletter Karima Bennoune Mon, 24 Jun 2013 10:21:27 +0000 Karima Bennoune 73493 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Algérie vingt ans plus tard : les mots ne meurent pas https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Cette année marque le vingtième anniversaire de la guerre menée par des djihadistes algériens contre la culture. Karima Bennoune rend hommage à ceux qui sont tombés dans ce culturicide et appelle à l’urgente la nécessité de ne pas les oublier.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8B">Arabic</a> or <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">English</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" alt="Black and white photo of street protest. Woman with megaphone and photograph, banners and placards in background.." title="" width="400" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alger le 22 Mars 1994, des femmes militantes protestent contre<br />les crimes des intégristes islamistes</span></span></span></p><p>Mon père, l’anthropologue algérien, Mahfoud Bennoune, a qualifié de génocide les assassinats systématiques d’intellectuels perpétrés dans les années 90 par le groupe islamique armé. L’étudiante en droit que j’étais alors lui avait expliqué que la Convention pour la prévention et la répression du crime de génocide ne protégeait pas les groupes politiques ou sociaux. Cependant, au cours de mes recherches sur les attaques implacables contre l’intelligentsia algérienne qui avait commencé au début de 1993, j’avais fini par comprendre pourquoi mon père a eu recours à ce terme. Il s’agissait effectivement de la part des islamistes radicaux en guerre contre l’Etat algérien d’une tentative d’éradiquer la culture de cette nation et d’anéantir ceux qui l'avaient forgée. C’était, comme l’a indiqué l’écrivain et artiste algérien, Mustapha Benfodil, un "&nbsp;intellectocide&nbsp;". Mustapha Benfodil dont la récente installation-performance intitulée "&nbsp;Sans têtes&nbsp;" a immortalisé ces assassinats,&nbsp; témoigne&nbsp;: " jamais, à ma connaissance, on n’a tué autant d’intellectuels en aussi peu de temps. " </p> <p>Le 26 mai 1993, l’un des plus grands écrivains algériens, Tahar Djaout, était abattu alors qu’il quittait son domicile à Bainem, dans la banlieue ouest de la capitale Alger, où j’avais vécu enfant. Le pays vacille. Tahar Djaout, berbère écrivant en langue française, avait étudié les mathématiques. Il avait écrit de nombreux romans et recueils de poésie et avait fondé le journal <em>Ruptures. </em>Il critiquait le pouvoir en place et les islamistes violents et décédera une semaine plus tard après un long coma. "Alger songe un cadavre entre les bras" écrivait J.E.B dans un poème écrit le 31 mai et publié dans Ruptures. Pendant ces sept jours, nous avions attendu le réveil de Djaout, et le nôtre, de ce cauchemar. En vain. Le pays y plongera pendant dix longues années. "&nbsp;Tahar a été assassiné par l’inquisition&nbsp;" titrait Ruptures le 2 juin. </p> <p>Le 1er juin dernier, l’anniversaire de cette tragédie a été tristement commémoré par un colloque intitulé "&nbsp;Présence (s) de Djaout&nbsp;» organisé à Alger par le quotidien influent El Watan (La patrie) dont le propre directeur, Omar Belhouchet, a échappé à un attentat du Gia. Le poète Amine Khene, présent à ce colloque, a déclaré que l’assassinat de l’écrivain «&nbsp;était l’assassinat de l’Algérie et de son avenir. Djaout faisait partie d’une minorité d’intellectuels qui aurait pu constituer le noyau d’une alternative démocratique". </p> <p>En 1993, treize jours après le décès de Tahar Djaout, l’un des psychiatres africains les plus brillants, Dr Mahfoudh Boucebsi, une autre figure de la potentielle «&nbsp;alternative démocratique&nbsp;» était la cible des obscurantistes assassins. Le matin du mardi 15 juin 1993, celui qui était également le vice-président de la Société Internationale de Psychiatrie de l'Enfant et l'Adolescent, était poignardé à l’entrée de l’hôpital qu’il dirigeait à Alger. Agé de 57 ans, Mahfoudh Boucebsi avait publié des travaux novateurs sur les mères célibataires et avait remporté le Prix maghrébin de médecine. Dans une interview datant de 1991, il s’exprimait sur l’emprise des islamistes au sein de l’hôpital Mustapha d’Alger&nbsp;: "&nbsp;j’ai ressenti une douleur infinie en voyant ces jeunes hommes qui pensaient être tout puissants et étaient devenus tout d’un coup de super chefs et pouvaient donner des ordres à un médecin et l’humilier&nbsp;". Anouar Hadam, l’odieux porte parole du Front Islamique du Salut&nbsp; (Fis) algérien qui avait trouvé refuge aux Etats Unis, déclarait que l’assassinat de Boucebsi "&nbsp;n’était pas un crime mais l’exécution d’une sentence." </p> <p>La “sentence” religieuse suivante fut exécutée une semaine plus tard, le mardi 22 juin, presque vingt ans jour pour jour aujourd’hui. Mohamed Boukhobza, sociologue remarquable et directeur de l’Institut national des études stratégiques globales, était ligoté et égorgé devant sa fille dans le quartier du Télemly à Alger. Je suis rentrée ce jour-là chez mon père dans les environs d’Alger, je ne l’avais jamais vu aussi furieux que devant l’assassinat de son ancien collègue à l’université. </p> <p>Le mardi 29 juin, exactement une semaine plus tard, je fus réveillée tôt le matin par quelqu’un qui cognait sans relâche à la solide porte d'entrée métallique que mon père venait d’installer. A l’époque, comme l’écrira plus tard El Watan, "&nbsp;tous les mardis un chercheur tombait sous les balles assassines de criminels intégristes." Mahfoud Bennoune était un professeur qui exprimait ouvertement ses opinions politiques. Son cours d’anthropologie – il avait osé y enseigner Darwin – avait déjà reçu la visite du chef du Fis qui l’avait dénoncé comme un adepte du "&nbsp;biologisme&nbsp;" jusqu’à ce que – comme me l’a rappelé récemment un de ses étudiants - papa l’ait mis dehors. Le 29 juin 1993, la personne qui cognait à notre porte n’avait pas décliné son identité ni ne s’était éloignée. Mon père avait tenté à maintes reprises de joindre la police au téléphone. Probablement terrifiés eux-mêmes par la déferlante de l'extrémisme armé qui avait déjà coûté la vie à de nombreux officiers algériens, le commissariat de police du quartier n'avait même pas répondu. Cependant, nous avions eu de la chance ce jour-là. Les visiteurs indésirables et non identifiés étaient finalement repartis. Nous n'avons jamais su pourquoi ils étaient venus ni exactement qui ils étaient. Une personne devait revenir quelques mois plus tard, laissant un mot sur la table de la cuisine. "&nbsp;Vous êtes un homme mort&nbsp;" y était-il écrit. "&nbsp;Mort à " avait été également apposé devant notre nom sur la boîte aux lettres. </p> <p>Par la suite, les intégristes algériens allaient afficher sur les murs des mosquées contrôlées par les &nbsp;extrémistes à Alger, les listes des personnes à assassiner. Le nom de Mahfoud Bennoune y figurait mais aussi ceux de tant d'autres - journalistes, intellectuels, syndicalistes, militantes des droits des femmes. Ils allaient assassiner d’autres collègues de mon père, ses amis et parents et 200.000 Algériens dans ce qui allait devenir " la décennie noire&nbsp;". Aussi effroyable qu’ait pu prendre la tournure des événements, la communauté internationale les avait grandement ignorés. Le monde a laissé toutes ces victimes de l’intégrisme se débrouiller seules. </p> <p>Finalement, mon père a été forcé de fuir son appartement et de renoncer à l'enseignement à l'Université. C'est alors que j'ai commencé à comprendre que la lutte contre l’intégrisme islamiste et le terrorisme menée par d'innombrables personnes d'origine musulmane dans de nombreux pays était l'une des luttes pour les droits humains les plus importantes et –négligées&nbsp;-&nbsp; dans le monde. Malheureusement, cela est encore plus vrai vingt ans après.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" alt="Close up photo of man in smiling conversation holding cigarette." title="" width="240" height="164" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Salah Chouaki</span></span></span>Les intellectuels qui ont été tués en premier par les extrémistes en Algérie étaient principalement ceux qui avaient le plus rapidement et clairement compris la nature de la bête. Salah Chouaki, un ami de mon père, inspecteur général de l'enseignement secondaire, militant de gauche et réformateur de l'éducation estimé, avait averti dans un de ses derniers articles publiés avant qu’il ne soit tué par le Groupe islamique armé (Gia) le 14 septembre 1994 que " l'illusion la plus dangereuse et mortelle ... est de sous-estimer l'intégrisme, ennemi mortel de notre peuple." </p> <p>Publié à titre posthume, le dernier livre de Tahar Djaout, "&nbsp;Le dernier été de la raison&nbsp;", le "&nbsp;1984&nbsp;" algérien, - décrit la montée de l'extrémisme avec des détails qui donnent froid dans le dos, et ce à quoi pourrait ressembler le pays si les intégristes prenaient le pouvoir – par le biais des élections ou par la force. Dans l'enfer théocratique dépeint par Djaout, les femmes vêtues de manière inappropriée sont arrêtées à des barrages routiers. De jeunes hommes sont endoctrinés&nbsp; et s’élèvent contre leurs pères plus libéraux. Les esprits sont fermés, les familles détruites. Mais certains refusent de se soumettre.</p><p> Le héros du roman, Boualem Yekker-dont le nom de famille signifie " Il se lève ou se réveille " en tamazight (berbère) - est libraire et un esprit libre. Djaout dépeint Yekker ainsi&nbsp;: "&nbsp;[il] était &nbsp;de ceux qui avaient décidé de résister, ceux qui avaient pris conscience que lorsque les hordes d’en face auraient réussi à répandre la peur et à imposer le silence, elles auraient gagné." Djaout lui-même, Boucebsi, Boukhobza, Chouaki et beaucoup d'autres intellectuels ciblés ressemblaient à Boualem Yekker et leur mort devaient annihiler cette résistance et réduire au silence son expression. Pourtant, d'autres ont continué à se tenir debout. Même quand mon père a été chassé de sa maison, il est resté dans le pays et a continué à publier des critiques acerbes à l’endroit des intégristes armés et du gouvernement qu’ils combattaient. Dans une contribution en trois parties publiée dans El Watan en novembre 1994 et intitulée " Comment l'intégrisme a produit un terrorisme sans précédent", il avait dénoncé les terroristes en "&nbsp;rupture radicale avec l’islam véritable tel qu'il a été vécu par nos ancêtres.&nbsp;" </p> <p>L’association de femmes de gauche, RAFD (Le refus), est née après les funérailles de l'un des intellectuels assassinés. Ses militantes sont descendues dans la rue tête nue portant les portraits de celles et ceux qui avaient été assassinés et arborant des cibles en tissu en guise de protestation. Leur philosophie était plutôt celle de Djaout&nbsp;: "&nbsp;si tu te tais, tu meurs et si tu parles, tu meurs. Alors dis et meurs ! ". </p> <p>Ceux qui menèrent la lutte contre l'intégrisme sur le plan intellectuel en Algérie au début des années 90, qui se sont exprimés et sont morts - ou ont vécu – n’ont reçu aucun soutien international ou presque. Cherifa Bouatta, psychologue algérienne et défenseure des droits des femmes affirme qu'il existe encore une énorme colère envers ceux qui, à l'étranger auraient pu être les alliés des progressistes anti-intégristes mais ne l’ont pas été. «&nbsp;Personne n'a dit&nbsp;: nous sommes avec vous». Par ailleurs, des gouvernements comme celui des États-Unis et&nbsp; de la Grande-Bretagne ont aggravé les choses en finançant le «&nbsp;djihad&nbsp;» antisoviétique dans le lointain Afghanistan qui a eu un effet direct sur ​​l'Algérie. Les plus sanguinaires dans le conflit des années 90 étaient connus comme&nbsp; les "Afghans" pour leur expérience en tant que combattants étrangers dans ce "djihad"." </p> <p>L'Etat algérien a&nbsp; également fait des victimes, quoique dans des proportions bien moindres, il a fait un usage généralisé de la torture contre les suspects de terrorisme et 8.000 personnes sont portées disparues, mais le conflit dans les années 90 portait essentiellement sur la guerre des intégristes contre la société algérienne. De plus, les intellectuels visés par le groupe islamisque armé&nbsp; étaient pour la plupart des figures farouchement indépendantes, critiques de l'état et de l'extrémisme. La saignée parmi les personnes de culture a commencé en mars 1993. Djilali Liabes, sociologue et ancien ministre de l'éducation dont mon père avait dit qu’il était " l'un des éducateurs les plus dévoués de sa génération," est assassiné, puis ce fut au tour du médecin et romancier Laadi Flici d’être poignardé à mort, et du politologue Hafid Senhadri d’être tué. Après le massacre, en juin, de Djaout et des autres, une longue vague de meurtres de journalistes et travailleurs de la presse allait commencer en août 1993 avec l'assassinat du journaliste arabophone de télévision Rabah Zenati. Au cours des années suivantes, Omar Ouartilane, le rédacteur en chef du journal arabophone El Khabar, les chroniqueurs de premier plan comme l'inimitable Saïd Mekbel, des journalistes comme Naima Hamouda de l’hebdomadaire Révolution Africaine, et même le personnel technique comme la correctrice de presse du Soir d’Algérie, Yasmine Drissi, allaient tous être "&nbsp;éliminés ".</p><p>Le porte-parole du Fis, Anouar Haddam, a ouvertement déclaré au journal français Libération qu'ils avaient proposé à leurs «frères moudjahidine» de cibler les journalistes, entre autres. Lorsque les assassinats n'ont pas été jugés suffisants pour extirper la menace que constituaient les journalistes, les islamistes ont, à plusieurs reprises, déposé des bombes dans les locaux des journaux tuant l’amoureux de poésie et chroniqueur culturel au Soir d’Algérie Allaoua Aït Mebarek et Mohamed Dorbane. Ce dernier revenait de ses achats pour le dîner du Ramadan. Dans son livre intitulé à juste titre Encre rouge, Ahmed Ancer, journaliste à El Watan, rapporte que cent travailleurs de la presse, dont 60 journalistes, ont été tués par le groupe islamique armé entre 1993 et ​​1997.</p> <p>Par conséquent, de nombreux journalistes ont dû quitter leurs foyers. Rachida Hammadi, 32 ans, journaliste de télévision reconnue que j'avais rencontrée lors d'un dîner de Ramadan à son domicile sécurisé était rentrée chez elle pour être auprès de sa famille pour une nuit. Au moment où elle quittait la maison familiale à l'aube du 20 mars 1995, une voiture avec à son bord des islamistes armés l’attendait. L’un deux a ouvert le feu avec une arme automatique. Les balles ont touché Rachida et sa sœur Meriem qui tentait de la protéger. Toutes deux sont mortes à l'hôpital.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" alt="Portrait photo of woman " title="" width="160" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Leila Kheddar</span></span></span>Les attaques du groupe islamique armé contre la connaissance et les intellectuels ont ciblé de nombreuses catégories professionnelles. Des avocats comme Leila Kheddar qui a été abattue chez elle devant sa famille, le président de la Ligue des droits de l’Homme, Youssef Fathallah qui a été assassiné dans son bureau. Ils ont tué des juges comme Lakhdar Rouaz, et même des étudiants en droit qui avaient refusé d'abandonner leurs études comme Amel Zenoune-Zouani, fauchée à l’âge de 22 ans. Ils ont tué des économistes comme Abderrahmane Fardeheb, des enseignants (souvent devant leurs élèves) comme Abdelaziz Chelighem, 33 ans, et&nbsp; des directrices d'école comme Meziane Zhor, 54 ans. Ils ont tué des étudiantes comme Naima Kar Ali, 19 ans et Raziqa Meloudjemi, 18 ans. Elles avaient osé sortir têtes nues. </p> <p>Ils ont éliminé le spécialiste du langage des signes, Nacer Ouari, qui venait de rentrer d’un pèlerinage à la Mecque et le Dr. Djilali Belkhenchir éminent pédiatre, militant contre la torture. Les terroristes étaient pluridisciplinaires, tuant à la fois le doyen de l'École des Beaux-Arts Ahmed Asselah, et Salah Djebaili, le recteur de la Faculté des Sciences, au cours du printemps 1994. Peu de temps avant sa mort, Djebaili avait dit: " C'est exactement le moment de diagnostiquer les problèmes et de faire les choses différemment. C'est maintenant ou jamais, pendant&nbsp; qu’il n'y a pas de tabous&nbsp;".&nbsp; Comme l’a écrit la fille du professeur Fardeheb, Amel, à propos de son père assassiné et dans un plaidoyer pour que ces meurtres ne soient pas oubliés, "&nbsp;savent-ils combien tu aimais ton pays ? Savent-ils que tu voulais le meilleur pour la jeunesse algérienne ?&nbsp;" Tuer des gens de ce niveau d'éducation, de compétence et d'engagement - et tant d'autres d'entre eux qui ne peuvent tous être cités&nbsp; dans cet article - dans un pays en développement indépendant depuis trente ans seulement,&nbsp; revenait à essayer de tuer le pays lui-même.</p><p>Près de 71.500 diplômés de l'université aurait fui l'offensive fondamentaliste entre 1992 et 1996 uniquement, une fuite des cerveaux dont les conséquences continuent à se faire sentir aujourd'hui. Même si un plus grand nombre de meurtres d’algériens ordinaires doit également être commémoré, et tous sont tout aussi importants en termes humains, ces assassinats étaient un couteau sur la gorge de la société tout entière. Chaque assassinat a fait beaucoup, beaucoup de victimes.</p><p>Pour rendre hommage à ces intellectuels victimes de l'intégrisme en Algérie il y a deux décennies, nous devons écouter et soutenir - ou à tout le moins noter- les Boualem Yekker d'aujourd'hui. Ils sont toujours là, de l'Afghanistan au Mali en passant par la place Taksim en Turquie, debout, résistant pacifiquement à l'extrémisme, souvent seuls, sans soutien ni tapage au plan international. Ils continuent à s’exprimer, parfois sous la menace de la mort. Dans le nord-ouest du Pakistan, des milliers d'intellectuels et de militants politiques ont été tués au cours de la dernière décennie, un modèle de désastre qui ne provoque pas, loin s’en faut,&nbsp; le tollé de la part de progressistes en Occident que soulèvent les attaques de drones. Je pense à Zarteef Afridi, un enseignant de Jamrud, Agence Khyber, qui a milité pour le droit de vote des femmes des zones tribales et a aidé les aînés à s’organiser contre le terrorisme. Il a été abattu alors qu’il marchait vers son école le 8 décembre 2011. Comme le rappelle son ami Salman Rashid,&nbsp; "&nbsp;il militait pour la libération de l'âme humaine à travers l'éducation et l'éveil.&nbsp;"</p><p>Même la Tunisie, berceau du Printemps arabe, a vu le premier assassinat d'un intellectuel, l'avocat de gauche Chokri Belaid, fauché en février de cette année. Un homme qui, comme les premiers martyrs algériens, a pu voir le danger de la montée de l’islamisme guettant son pays et a appelé ses concitoyens à le combattre. Des sacrifices comme le sien doivent être rappelés.</p> <p>J'ai écrit cet article pour rendre hommage aux victimes de la guerre&nbsp;livrée par les djihadistes algériens à la culture il y a vingt ans. Pour dire à leurs familles, leurs collègues qui continuent leur oeuvre, que les progressistes ailleurs ne les oublieront pas. Bien que des hommes et des femmes puissent mourir, les mots ne meurent jamais, je continue à me nourrir de leurs paroles tous les jours. Ils nous ont appris qu'il faut être tout à fait lucide et inébranlable dans la critique de l'extrême droite, où que nous soyons, et que ceux qui la combattent, armés seulement d’un stylo ou d’une voix ont besoin de soutien.</p> <p>"Ceux qui nous combattent par la plume doivent mourir par l'épée " ordonnait en 1992 le Groupe islamique armé en Algérie (Gia) cités par Ahmed Ancer dans Encre rouge. "&nbsp;Le stylo contre la kalachnikov&nbsp;", y a t-il un combat plus inégal ? " s’interrogeait Ghania Oukazi le soir&nbsp; du jour où les locaux de journaux à Alger avaient été détruits par une bombe déposée par le Gia en 1996. Avec ses collègues journalistes, elle s’était réfugiée dans les ruines pour sortir coûte que coûte les journaux du lendemain. Elle affirmait en conclusion de son article publié dans cette héroïque édition du 12 Février 1996 : " Ce qui est certain, c'est que la plume ne s'arrêtera pas ...&nbsp;" </p> <p>Un tel courage exige la solidarité et mérite d'être relevé. "&nbsp;Nous ne serons pas à la hauteur de votre sacrifice&nbsp;", a écrit Cherifa Kheddar la semaine dernière dans une lettre ouverte à sa sœur Leila et son frère Mohamed Redha, tués par le Gia le 24 Juin 1996, "&nbsp;et nous ne serons pas dignes de vous, si nous ne prenons pas un moment pour honorer votre mémoire, et à travers elle, rappeler votre sacrifice pour une Algérie moderne, qui va de l'avant, et ne recule pas." </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" alt="City-scape with tall, graceful monument in the background." title="" width="400" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Le Monument aux Martyrs de la guerre d'indépendance, ou<br />maqam e-shahid, domine les hauteurs d'Alger</span></span></span></p><p>Aujourd'hui, vingt ans plus tard, il est urgent de se souvenir - et de tirer les leçons -&nbsp; de ce qui s'est passé au cours de cette décennie noire qui a frappé l'Algérie. Tout d'abord, ces événements doivent nous rappeler que les personnes d'origine musulmane - en particulier celles de la gauche - ont toujours été les cibles les plus nombreuses des intégristes islamistes- et leurs opposants les plus farouches. </p><p>L’intégrisme a le vent en poupe du Yémen à la Tunisie et au-delà. Une tunisienne, professeur d'université m'a franchement parlé de la terreur qui s’est emparée d’elle depuis l'assassinat de Chokri Belaid l’obligeant à changer ses déplacements quotidiens pour se protéger. Aujourd'hui, l'expérience algérienne devrait servir d'avertissement quant au danger de ces évolutions et aider à déterminer le meilleur moyen de le combattre. Dans un article intitulé " Le compromis avec l'islam politique est impossible ", aussi pertinent aujourd'hui que lorsqu’il a été écrit en 1993 un an avant l'assassinat de son auteur, Salah Chouaki expliquait que " la meilleure façon de défendre l'islam est de le mettre hors de portée de toute manipulation politique .... La meilleure façon de défendre l'État moderne est de le mettre hors de portée de toute exploitation de la religion à des fins politiques.&nbsp;"</p> <p>Ce qui est arrivé en Algérie il y a vingt ans montre que le défi posé par l’intégrisme aux cultures et modes de vie locaux est en réalité existentiel. Ce n'est pas un hasard si les derniers mots de la dernière œuvre de Tahar Djaout ont la forme d’une question&nbsp;: "Le printemps reviendra-t-il ? "</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Karima</em><em> Bennoune est professeure de droit à l'Université de Californie, Davis School of Law, ancienne conseillère juridique d'Amnesty International, et auteure du livre à paraître <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Fatwa-Does-Apply-Here/dp/0393081583.">Votre fatwa ne s'applique pas ici : Histoires non dites de la lutte contre l'intégrisme islamiste</a></em><strong>.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mustapha-benfodil/alg%C3%A9rie-quand-les-fleuves-sont-devenus-noirs">Algérie: Quand les fleuves sont devenus noirs </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algeria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Algeria Civil society Democracy and government 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa secularism patriarchy fundamentalisms Karima Bennoune Mon, 24 Jun 2013 10:15:24 +0000 Karima Bennoune 73509 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الجزائر بعد عشرين سنة: الكلمات باقية أبداً https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%8B <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="rtl">تميز العالم الحالي الذكرى العشرين لبداية الحرب التي أطلقها الجهاديون الجزائريون ضد الثقافة. و لم يلق من تولوا الكفاح الفكري ضد الأصولية في الجزائر، في تسعينيات القرن الماضي، سوى قليلاً من الدعم على المستوى الدولي. و في هذا المقال، توجه " كريمة بنُّون" التحية لأرواح من سقطوا في حرب إبادة الثقافة هذه و تدعو إلى الضرورة المستعجَلة للعمل على تفادي نسيانهم.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Read this article in <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/algeria-twenty-years-on-words-do-not-die">English</a> or <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/karima-bennoune/alg%C3%A9rie-vingt-ans-plus-tard-les-mots-ne-meurent-pas">French</a></p> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/rassemblement22031994-ElWatan.jpg" alt="Black and white photo of street protest. Woman with megaphone and photograph, banners and placards in background.." title="" width="400" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="rtl">وصف والدي، عالم الأنثروبولوجيا الجزائري، " محفوظ بنُّون"، ، الاِغتيالات الجماعية للمثقفين التي أقدمت عليها في تسعينيات القرن الماضي، الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة بـالـ " إبادة". </p><p dir="rtl">و قد أوضحتُ له، أنا طالبة كلية الحقوق، آنذاك، أن اِتفاقية منع جريمة الإبادة و المعاقبة عليها لا تحمي المنظمات السياسية أو الاِجتماعية. غير أنه اِنتهى بي الحال إلى فهم اِستعمال أبي لهذا الكلمة، في الأبحاث التي أجربتها حول الهجمات الشرسة ضد المثقفين الجزائريين التي اِنطلقت في بداية 1993. و بالفعل، فقد كانت تلك الهجمات التي شنها الإسلاميون الراديكاليون، الذي كانوا في حرب ضد الدولة الجزائرية، تهدف إلى اِستئصال ثقافة هذه الأمة و القضاء على من شكلوها. و تعلق الأمر بـ" إبادة مثقفين"، مثلما أشار إلى ذلك الكاتب و الفنان الجزائري، "مصطفى بن فوضيل". و يؤكد " مصطفى بن فوضيل"، الذي خلَّد هذه الاغتيالات في معرضه، الذي أقيم مؤخراً، بعنوان " بدون رؤوس"، هذا الأمر قائلاً: " حسب علمي، لم يحدُث، على الإطلاق، أن تم قتل مثل هذا العدد من المثقفين في وقت قصير كهذا". </p><p dir="rtl">في يوم 26 مايو 1993، تم قتل " الطاهر جاووت"، أحد أكبر الكتاب الجزائريين، بينما كان يغادر مسكنه، بحي " باينام"، في الضاحية الغربية لمدينة الجزائر، حيث قضيتُ طفولتي. لقد كان اِغتياله صدمة للبلد. كان " الطاهر جاووت"، البربري اللسان و الذي يكتب باللغة الفرنسية، قد درس الرياضيات. و ألف العديد من الروايات و الدواوين الشعرية و أنشأ أسبوعية " روبتور" ( قطائع ). هذا الكاتب الذي كان ينتقد السلطة القائمة و الإسلاميين العنيفين، توفي بعد أسبوع غيبوبة. و قد كتب " ج.ا.ب"، في يوم 31 ماي في قصيدة نشرتها " روبتور" قائلاً: " تتخيل الجزائر جثة بين يديها". لقد اِنتظرنا سبعة أيام يقظة " الطاهر جاووت" و يقظتنا من الكابوس. و كان اِنتظارنا سدى. لقد غطس البلد في الكابوس طيلة أكثر من عشر سنوات طويلة. و قد عنونت أسبوعية " روبتور" ، في 2 جوان، &nbsp;مقالاً لها عن هذه الوفاة بـ " محاكم التفتيش تغتال الطاهر". و في 1 جوان من هذا العام، جرى اِسترجاع حزين لذكرى هذه المأساة من خلال ملتقى يحمل عنوان " حضور جاووت"، نظمته الجريدة اليومية النافذة " الوطن" التي كان مديرها " عمر بلهوشات" قد نجا من محاولة اِغتيال من طرف الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة. و خلال هذا الملتقى قال الشاعر " أمين خان" أن اِغتيال هذا الكاتب " كان اِغتيالا للجزائر و لمستقبلها؛ ذلك لأن جاووت هو واحدٌ من أقلية من مثقفين كان بإمكانهم تشكيل نواة بديل ديمقراطي".</p><p dir="rtl">في سنة 1993، و بعد ثلاثة عشر يوماً من وفاة " جاووت"، اِستهدف القتلة الظلاميون أحد أشهر الأطباء النفسانيين الأفارقة، الدكتور " محفوظ بوسبسي"، و هو وجه آخر من وجوه " البديل الديمقراطي" المحتمل؛ ففي صباح الثلاثاء 15 جوان 1993، تعرض نائب رئيس الجمعية الدولية لعلم نفس الطفل و المراهق، إلى الطعْن بخنجر، عند مدخل المستشفى الذي كان يديره، في مدينة الجزائر. محفوظ بوسبسي، البالغ، وقتها، 57 سنة، كان قد نشر مؤلَّفَات مُجدِّدَة عن الأمهات العازبات و تحصل على الجائزة المغاربية في الطب. و قد وصف، في مقابلة صحفية، في 1991، سيطرة الإسلاميين على مستشفى مصطفى باشا في الجزائر العاصمة، بقوله:" لقد أحسستُ بألم لامتناهٍ عندما رأيتً هؤلاء الشبان الذين يظنون أنهم مُهيْمِنون و الذين أصبحوا، فجأة، قادة كبار بإمكانهم أن يصدروا أوامر لطبيب و يهينوه". </p><p dir="rtl">وقتئذ، صرَّح " أنور هدَّام"، الناطق الرسمي المقيت للجبهة الإسلامية للإنقاذ الجزائرية، و الذي لجأ إلى الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، بأن اِغتيال بوسبْسي " لم يكن جريمة بل هو تنفيذ لحُكْمٍ ". </p><p dir="rtl">" الحكم " الديني الآتي جرى تنفيذه بعد أسبوع ؛ ففي يوم الثلاثاء 22 جوان، قبل عشرين سنة تقريباً، تعرض الدكتور" محمد بوخبزة"، عالم اِجتماع مرموق و مدير &nbsp;المعهد الوطني للدراسات الإستراتيجية الشاملة، إلى تقييد بحبل ثم الذبح أمام اِبنته في حي " تيليمْلي"، بمدينة الجزائر. يومها، قصدتُ بيتَ والدي، في ضواحي " الجزائر"، و قد وجدتُهُ في حالة غضب لم أعهدها فيه بسبب اِغتيال زميله السابق في الجامعة. </p><p dir="rtl">في يوم 29 جوان، أي بعد أسبوع، بالضبط ، أيقظني شخص كان يدق بدون توقف على باب مسكننا الحديدي السميك الذي وضعه والدي قبل فترة قصيرة. آنذاك، مثلما كتبت جريدة " الوطن"، فيما بعد، " كان كل يوم ثلاثاء يوما يسقط فيه مثقف برصاص القتلة الأصوليين". كان " محفوظ بنون" أستاذاً يعبر عن آرائه السياسية. و سبق لمحاضراته في الأنثروبورجيا ــ &nbsp;التي تجرَّأ فيها على تدريس " داروين" ــ أن شهدت زيارة قائد الجبهة الإسلامية للإنقاذ الذي أدانه كواحد من أنصار " البيولوجوية"، إلى أن طرده أبي من القاعة، مثلما ذكَّر بذلك أحد الطلبة. في 29 جوان 1993، لم يُقدِّم الشخص الذي كان يضرب بقبضته على الباب نفسه و لم يبتعد عنه. و قد حاول أبي، عدة مرات، الاِتصال بالشرطة، هاتفياً. و ربما بدافع الرعب من اِنسياح التطرف المسلح، الذي قضى على العديد من الضباط الجزائريين، لم تَرُدْ محافظة شرطة الحي، مطلقاً. و مع ذلك فقد كان الحظ معنا في ذلك اليوم. إذ في نهاية الأمر، عاد هؤلاء الزوار غير المرغوب فيهم و المجهولين أدراجهم. و لم نعلم قط السبب الذي جاءوا من أجله، و لا هويتهم. و بعد أشهر، قصدنا شخصٌ و ترك على طاولة المطبخ ورقة كتب عليها " أنت رجل ميِّت". كما كتب على صندوق بريدنا، بالقرب من اِسمنا عبارة " الموت لكم ". </p><p dir="rtl">و فيما بعدعلَّق الأصوليون الجزائريون في المساجد التي كان يسيطر عليها المتطرفون في مدينة الجزائر، قوائم الأشخاص الذين يجب قتلهم . و كان إسم " محفوظ بنُّون" فيهاـ إلى جانب أشخاص آخرين ــ &nbsp;صحفيين، مثقفين، نقابيين، مناضلات في مجالات حقوق المرأة. كانوا سيغتالون زملاء آخرين من زملاء والدي، و أصدقائه و من أفراد عائلته، و 200.000 جزائري فيما سيعرف باِسم " العشرية السوداء". و رغم الفظاعة التي اِتخذتها الأحداث، فإن المجموعة الدولية تجاهلتهم. لقد ترك العالم كل تلك الضحايا التي خلفتها الأصولية تواجه الأمر وحدها. </p><p dir="rtl"><span>و&nbsp;</span><span>في نهاية الأمر، وجد أبي نفسه مجبراً على الفرار من شقته و التخلي عن التعليم في الجامعة. عندئذ، بدأت أفهم أن الكفاح ضد الأصولية الإسلامية و الإرهاب الذي يخوضه عدد لا يحصى من الناس الذين هم من أصول إسلامية في العديد من البلدان، كان أحد الكفاحات الأكثر أهمية في مجال الحقوق الإنسانية ــ و الأكثر تعرضا للمبالاة ــ في العالم. و للأسف، يبقى الأمر كذلك، بعد&nbsp;</span><span><span>ثلاثين سنة.</span></span></p><p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/SalahChouaki.jpg" alt="Close up photo of man in smiling conversation holding cigarette." title="" width="240" height="164" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>إن أوائل المثقفين الذين اِغتالهم المتطرفون في الجزائر هم، أساساً، المثقفين الذين أدركوا أسرع من غيرهم و بوضوح طبيعة الوحش. و أحد هؤلاء " صالح شواقي"، صديق والدي، و هو مفتش في التعليم الثانوي و مناضل يساري و أحد إصلاحيي التعليم، كان قد حذَّر في أحد أوائل مقالاته الذي عنونه بدقة بـ:" التسوية مع الإسلام السياسي مستحيلة" ــ من أن " أخطر الأوهام و &nbsp;أكثرها هلاكاً ... هو الاِستهانة بالأصولية، العدو اللدود لشعبنا". </p><p dir="rtl">في آخر كتاب له نُشِرَ بعد وفاته &nbsp;بعنوان " آخر صيف للعقل"، و هو المثيل الجزائري لكتاب " 1984 " ، يصف " الطاهر جاووت" صعود التطرف بتفاصيل تسيل العرق البارد، و الحالة التي سيكون عليها البلد إذا ما اِستولى الأصوليون على السلطة ــ بواسطة الاِنتخابات أو بالقوة. و في الجحيم اللاهوتي الذي رسمه " جاووت"، يجري توقيف النساء اللائي يرتدين لباساً غير لائق في الحواجز على الطرقات. أما الفتيان فيجري حشو دماغهم بأفكار غريبة كما أنهم يثورون ضد آبائهم الأكثر تعلقاً بالحرية. و في هذا المجتمع تنغلق الأذهان، و تتحطم العائلات. و لكن بعض السكان يرفضون الخضوع للأصوليين. </p><p dir="rtl">بطل هذه الرواية " بوعلام يَكَّرْ" ــ الذي يعني اِسمه من" ينهض أو من يستيقظ ــ بالأمازيغية ( لغة بربرية ) ــ هو مالك مكتبة لبيع الكتب صاحب تفكير حر. و يصف " جاووت " البطل " يَكَّرْ" بهذا الوصف:" كان أحد الذين قرروا المقاومة، و الذين أدركوا، أنه عندما تنجح الجماعات المواجِهَة في نشر الخوف و فرض الصمت، فإنها تكون قد اِنتصرت". و" جاووت" نفسه، و " بوسبْسي" و " بوخبزة" و " شواقي" و الكثير من المثقفين المستهدَفين يشبهون " بوعلام يَكَّرْ" و موتهم أوقف مقاومتهم و أرغمهم على الصمت. و مع ذلك، واصل آخرون الصمود. و حتى لما طُرِدَ والدي من مسكنه، بقي في البلد و واصل نشر نقده الحاد للأصوليين المسلحين و للحكومة التي كانوا يقاتلونها. و في مساهمة من ثلاث حلقات، نشرتها جريدة " الوطن"، في نوفمبر 1994، بعنوان " كيف ولَّدت الأصولية إرهاباً لا سابق له"، أدان والدي الإرهابيين " الذي أقدموا على قطيعة جذرية مع الإسلام الحقيقي الذي كان عليه أجدادنا". </p><p dir="rtl">و من جهتها، ولدت الجمعية اليسارية للنساء " رفد" &nbsp;( التجمع الجزائري للنساء الديمقراطيات ) بعد جنازة أحد المثقفين المغتالين، و قد نزلت عضواتها إلى الشوارع عاريات الرأس، رافعات صور القتلى و هن يحملن دارئات قماشية تعبيرا عن الاحتجاج. و كانت فلسفتهن هي فلسفة " جاووت" و التي تقول :" إذا صمتَّ فإنك ستموت، و إذا تكلمتَ ستموت، إذن، قُلْ كلمتك و مُتْ". &nbsp;إن مَنْ خاضوا الكفاح الفكري ضد الأصولية في الجزائر في بداية سنوات التسعينيات، و الذين عبروا عن عن ذلك و ماتوا ــ أو بقوا على قيد الحياة ــ لم يتلقوا أي دعم دولي، تقريباً. و تصرح " شريفة بوعتة"، خبيرة نفسية جزائرية و مدافعة عن حقوق النساء بأن لا يزال هناك غضب كبير على من هم في الخارج و كان بإمكانهم أن يكونوا حلفاء التقدميين و المعادين للاِمبريالية و لكنهم لم يفعلوا:" لا أحد قال نحن معكم". و من جهة ثانية فإن حكومات مثل حكومة الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية و حكومة بريطانيا لم تتوانيا عن زيادة الوضع سوء من خلال تمويل " الجهاد" المعادي للسوفييت في أفغانستان البعيدة و الذي كان له أثر مباشر على الجزائر. لقد كان أكثر الإرهابيين دموية في سنوات التسعينيات من القرن الماضي معروفين كـ " أفغان" بسبب تجربتهم كمقاتلين أجانب في هذا "الجهاد". </p><p dir="rtl">و الدولة الجزائرية هي الأخرى تسببت في سقوط ضحايا ، حتى و إن كان ذلك بمقدار أقل بكثير مما تسبب فيه الإرهاب، كما أنها اِستعملت التعذيب المُعمَّم ضد من اِشتبه في ضلوعهم في الإرهاب و جرى فقد 8000 شخص، و لكن نزاع سنوات التسعينيات من القرن الماضي هو في الجزء الأكبر منه عدوان الأصوليين ضد المجتمع الجزائري. و من جهة ثانية، فإن المثقفين الذين اِستهدفتهم الجماعات الإسلامية المسلحة كانوا جد متعلقين باِستقلاليتهم و كانوا ينتقدون الدولة و التطرف معاً. </p><p dir="rtl">في بداية الإرهاب، كان النزيف الذي تعرض له رجال الثقافة قد اِنطلق، في مارس 1993 ، باِغتيال " الجيلالي اليابس" عالم اِجتماع و وزير سابق للتربية وصفه أبي بأنه " أحد المربين الأكثر تفانياً بين أفراد جيله". ثم جاء دور الطبيب و الروائي " الهادي فليسي" الذي مات مطعوناً، ثم أعقبه اِغتيال الخبير السياسي " حفيظ سنحضري". بعد قتل " جاووت" و الآخرين، في شهر جوان، اٍنطلقت موجة طويلة من قتل الصحفيين و عمال الصحافة في أوت 1993، باِغتيال صحفي التلفزيون المعرب " رابح زناتي". و خلال السنوات التالية، جرت " تصفية" رئيس تحرير جريدة " الخبر"، " عمر أورتيلان" و كتاب أعمدة مثل " سعيد مقبل"، صاحب الأسلوب المتميز و صحفيين آخرين مثل " نعيمة حمودة" من أسبوعية " ريفوليسيون أفريكان" و قد طال القتل موظفين تقنيين في الصحافة مثل المصححة اللغوية " ياسمين دريسي"، من الجريدة المسائية " لوسوار دالجيري". </p><p dir="rtl">و قد قد عبَّر " أنور هدَّام" الناطق الرسمي باِسم الجبهة الإسلامية للإنقاذ، بصريح العبارة للجريدة الفرنسية " ليبيراسيون" بأنه اِقترح على " إخوانه المجاهدين" اِستهداف الصحفيين من بين فئات أخرى. و عندما لم تكفِ الاِغتيالات للقضاء على الصحفيين الذين يشكلون لهم تهديداً، وضع الإرهابيون، عدة مرات، قنابل في مقرات الجرائد فقتلوا أشخاصا مثل عاشق الشعر الصحفي الثقافي بجريدة " لو سوار دالجيري"، " علاوة آيت مبارك"، و "محمد ضربان" الذي كان عائدا من مشوار تسوُّق. و في المجموع قتلت الجماعات الأصولية المسلحة &nbsp;100 عامل في الصحافة، من بينهم 60 صحفيا، بين سنتيْ 1993 و 1997 ، حسب كتاب عنونه، بحق، &nbsp;" أحمد عنصر" ، الصحفي بجريدة " الوطن " بـ " الحبر الأحمر". </p><p dir="rtl">و دفع هذا الأمر العديد من الصحفيين لمغادرة مساكنهم؛ من هؤلاء " رشيدة حمادي"، صحفية في الثانية و الثلاثين من العمر، جادة في عملها، كنتُ قد اِلتقيتُها، خلال مأدبة إفطار في شهر رمضان في مسكنها الآمن. و قد قصدت بيت أهلها لقضاء ليلة. و عندما كانت تَهُمُّ بمغادرة مسكن عائلتها في فجر يوم 20 مارس 1995، وجدت في اِنتظارها سيارة إسلاميين مسلحين. و قد فتح أحدهم النار عليها من بندقيته الآلية. و قد أصاب الرصاص " رشيدة " و أختها " مريم" التي كانت تحاول حمايتها. و قد لفظت الاِثنتان أنفاسهما في المستشفى. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/LeilaKheddar.JPG" alt="Portrait photo of woman " title="" width="160" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>لقد اِستهدفت هجمات الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة &nbsp;حَمَلة المعرفة و العلماء و العديد من الفئات المهنية؛ فقد قتلت تلك الجماعة محامين &nbsp;مثل " ليلى خدَّار" التي تعرضت للقتل أمام مسكنها، و كذا رئيس رابطة حقوق الإنسان، " يوسف فتح الله" التي قُتِلَ في مكتبه. كما أنها قتلت قضاة مثل " الأخضر روَّاز"، بل و حتى طلبة في الحقوق رفضوا الاِنقطاع عن الدراسة كما كان الحال مع " آمال زنون ــ زواني"، التي قُتِلَتْ و هي في الثانية و العشرين من عمرها. و قتل الإرهابيون اِقتصاديون مثل " عبد الرحمان فارالذهب"، و معلمين ( عادة ما جرى ذلك أمام تلاميذهم ) كما حدث مع " عبد العزيز شليغم "، و هو في الثالثة و الثلاثين من عمره &nbsp;و مديرات مدارس مثل " مزيان زهور"، و كانت في سن الرابعة و الخمسين. </p><p dir="rtl">كما طال قتل تلك الجماعة طالبات مثل " نعيمة قارعلي" البالغة تسعة عشر سنة، و " رزيقة ملوجمي"، التي لم يتعدى عمرها الثامنة عشر؛ و الاِثنتان تجرأتا على الخروج عاريتيْ الرأس. </p><p dir="rtl">و صفت تلك الجماعات خبير لغة الإشارات " ناصر واري" الذي عاد من الحج، و الدكتور " الجيلالي بلخنشير"، خبير مرموق طب الأطفال و مناضل ضد التعذيب. لقد كانت تلك الجماعات متعددة التخصصات؛ إذ قتلت، في فترة واحدة من ربيع 1994، عميد مدرسة الفنون الجميلة " أحمد عسلة " و " صالح جبايلي" عميد كلية العلوم. و قبل فترة قصيرة من اِغتياله، قال " جبايلي":" إنه، بالضبط، الوقت الملائم لتشخيص المشاكل و التصرف بشكل مغاير. هذا يجب أن يكون اليوم أو لن يكون، علينا أن نستغل هذا الوقت الخالي من الطابوهات". و مثلما كتبتُ، مؤخراً، " آمال" اِبنة " فار الذهب"، في مرافعة حول اِغتيال أبيها حتى لا تتعرض تلك الاٍغتيالات للنسيان: قائلة:" هل كان يعلمون مدى حبك لبلدك؟ هل كانوا يعلمون أنك كنتَ تريد أفضل الأشياء للشبيبة الجزائرية؟". إن قتل أشخاص في مستوى هؤلاء من التعليم، و الكفاءات و الاِلتزام إزاء بلد في طور التنمية و مستقل منذ عشرين سنة فقط ــ و غيرهم و هُمْ &nbsp;كُثْر لا يمكن ذكرهم &nbsp;كلهم في هذا المقال ــ كأنه قتل للبلد نفسه. </p><p dir="rtl">لقد هرب حوالي 71.000 من حملة الدبلومات الجامعية من أمام الهجوم الأصولي بين سنتيْ 1992 و 1996 وحدها. و تلك هجرة أدمغة لا تزال آثارها محسوسة في البلد إلى اليوم. و إذا كان يجب، أيضا، تذكر قتل الناس البسطاء أيضا، و كلهم في نفس الدرجة من الأهمية في المجال البشري، فإن هذه الاِغتيالات هي سكين في عنق كل المجتمع؛ فقد كان لكل اِغتيال الكثير و الكثير من الضحايا. </p><p dir="rtl">و لتخليد ذكرى هؤلاء المثقفين ضحايا الأصولية في الجزائر منذ عشريتيْن، يجب الإصغاء و دعم ــ أو على الأقل ملاحظة ذلك ــ أمثال " بوعلام يَكَّر " اليوم. إنهم موجودون، دائماً، من أفغانستان إلى مالي، مروراً بساحة " تقسيم " في تركيا، و هم واقفون يقاومون سلميا التطرف، و عادة ما يكونون وحدهم &nbsp;دون مساندة و دون ضجة على المستوى الدولي. إنهم مستمرون في التعبير عن موقفهم، و أحياناً، فإن ذلك يكون تحت التهديد بالموت؛ ففي شمال غرب الباكستان، تم قتل آلاف المثقفين و المناضلين السياسيين خلال العشرية الماضية، و هذا نموذج للكارثة التي لا تثير اِستنكار التقدميين في الغرب مثلما الاِستنكار الذي تثيرها الهجمات التي تستعمل فيها الطائرات بدون طيَّار. و في هذا الصدد، فإن أفكاراً تذهب نحو " زرتيف أفريدي"، مُدرِّس في جمرود، الذي ناضل من أجل حق النساء في الاِنتخاب في المناطق القبلية و ساعد الكبار على الاِنتظام من أجل مواجهة الإرهاب. لقد جرى قتله بينما كان يمشي نحو مدرسته في يوم 8 ديسمبر 2011. و مثلما يذكر صديقه " سلمان رشيد" فإنه " كان يناضل من أجل تحرير الروح البشرية بواسطة التربية و اليقظة". </p><p dir="rtl">و حتى تونس، مهد الربيع العربي، شهدت أول اِغتيال لمثقف، و هو المحامي اليساري " شكري بلعيد"، الذي تمت تصفيته في شهر فيفري من العام الحالي. و هو رجل، مثل أوائل الشهداء الجزائريين، اِستطاع إدراك الخطر المحدق ببلده و دعا مواطنيه إلى مواجهة هذا التهديد. إن تضحيات مثل تضحيته جديرة بالتذكير بها. </p><p dir="rtl">لقد كتبتُ هذا المقال، لتخليد روح ضحايا الحرب التي يشنها الجهاديون الجزائريون على الثقافة منذ عشرين سنة. و هذا حتى نقول لعائلاتهم و لزملائهم الذين يواصلون عملهم، بأن تقدميي البلدان الأخرى لن ينسوهم. و إذا كان الموت قدر الرجال و النساء، فإن الكلمات لن تموت أبداً، و لذا فإنني أبقى أرتوي من كلماتهم كل يوم. لقد علمونا أن نكون متبصرين و ثابتين في نقد اليمين المتطرف، أينما كنا، و أن من يقاومون بالقلم وحده أو بصوتهم، في حاجة إلى دعم. </p><p dir="rtl">" من يقاتلوننا بالقلم يجب أن يموتوا بالسيف" هذا هو الأمر الذي وجهته الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة في الجزائر، مثلما ذكر ذلك، " أحمد عنصر" في كتابه " الحبر الأحمر"؛ أي " القلم ضد الكلاشنيكوف". و قد تساءلت " غنية عُكًّازي"، في الليلة الموالية لليوم الذي دمرت فيه قنبلة وضعتها الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة في سنة 1996، مقرات صحف في مدينة الجزائر، قائلة:" هل هناك معركة أكثر اِختلالا من هذه؟". لقد لجأت هذه الصحفية رفقة زملاءها الصحفيين إلى حطام تلك المقرات لإصدار الجريدة في اليوم الموالي، مهما كلف ذلك من تضحية. و قد قالت في ختام مقالها المنشور في ذلك العدد البطولي من الجريدة الصادر، بتاريخ 12 فيفري 1996: " إن المؤكَّد أن القلم لن يتوقف...". </p><p dir="rtl">إن شجاعة كهذه تستحق التضامن و التسجيل؛ لقد كتبت " شريفة خدار، في رسالة مفتوحة و منشورة في الأسبوع الماضي، و هي موجهة إلى أختها " ليلى" و أخيها " محمد رضا"، اللذيْن قتلتهما الجماعة الإسلامية المسلحة، يوم 24 جوان 1996:" إننا لن نرقى إلى مستوى تضحيتكما و لن نكون جديرين بكما، إذا لم نتوقف لحظة لتخليد روحيكما، و التذكير، من خلالها، بتضحيتكما من أجل جزائر معاصرة، تسير قدماً إلى الأمام و لا تتقهقر". &nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/521587/algeriaMonument2.JPG" alt="City-scape with tall, graceful monument in the background." title="" width="400" height="283" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p dir="rtl">و اليوم، بعد عشرين سنة، من المستعجل تذكر ــ و اِستخلاص الدروس ــ ما جرى حلال هذه العشرية السوداء التي ضربت الجزائر. و بادئ ذي بدء، فإن على هذه الأحداث أن تذكرنا أن ذوي الأصول الإسلامية ــ و بالخصوص المنتمين إلى اليسار ــ كانوا، دوماً، أكثر من اِستهدفهم الأصوليون المسلمون ــ و كانوا معارضيهم الأشداء. </p><p dir="rtl">إن الأصولية تعيش حركة مدّ في اليمن و في تونس و خارجهما. &nbsp;و بهذا الخصوص، تحدثت أستاذة جامعية، بصراحة، عن الرعب الذي اِمتلكها منذ اِغتيال " شكري بلعيد" و أرغمها ذلك على تغيير أماكن عيشها اليومي لحماية نفسها. و اليوم، يجب أن تستخدم التجربة الجزائرية كإنذار لمخاطر هذا المآل و مساعدة الناس في تحديد أفضل وسيلة لمكافحة تلك الأصولية. &nbsp;و في مقال بالغ الدلالة اليوم ،كما كان الحال في الماضي، عندما كُتِب في 1993، أي سنة قبل اِغتيال كاتبه، &nbsp;شرح " صالح شواقي"، الأمر قائلا:" إن أفضل وسيلة للدفاع عن الإسلام تكمن في إبعاده عن كل تلاعب سياسي... و أنفع طريقة للدفاع عن الدولة العصرية هي جعلها في منأى عن كل اِستغلال للدين لأغراض سياسية". </p><p dir="rtl">إن ما حدث في الجزائر، منذ عشرين سنة، يُبيِّن أن التحدي الذي فرضته الأصولية على الثقافات و على أنماط العيش المحلية هو واقع موجود. و ليس من الصدفة أن تكون آخر كلمات آخر عمل لـ " الطاهر جاووت" في شكل سؤال:" هل سيعود الربيع من جديد؟"</p><p dir="rtl">&nbsp;</p><p dir="rtl">كريمة بنُّون، أستاذة بكلية الحقوق بكاليفورنيا، " دافيس سكول أو لاو"، و هي مستشارة سابقة لدى منظمة العفو الدولية، و مؤلفة كتاب سيصدر عما قريب بعنوان " فتواكم لن تطبق هنا: قصص غير مروية عن الكفاح ضد الأصولية الإسلاموية".</p><p>&nbsp;</p> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Gender Politics Religion 50.50 Our Africa Karima Bennoune Mon, 24 Jun 2013 10:12:27 +0000 Karima Bennoune 73514 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Karima Bennoune https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/karima-bennoune <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karima Bennoune </div> </div> </div> <p>Karima Bennoune is the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights; Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis School of Law, and a former Amnesty International Legal Advisor. She won the <a href="http://daytonliterarypeaceprize.org/2014-nonfiction_winner.htm">2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize </a>for her book, <a href="http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=4294972265">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: <em>Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.&nbsp;</em></a>Professor Bennoune gave the TED Talk<em>: <a href="http://www.ted.com/talks/karima_bennoune_the_side_of_terrorism_that_doesn_t_make_headlines">When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism.&nbsp; </a></em>Follow her on twitter @KarimaBennoune</p> Karima Bennoune Fri, 21 Jun 2013 15:04:36 +0000 Karima Bennoune 73494 at https://www.opendemocracy.net