Algeria Islamic body rules on "terror rape"


Algeria’s highest religious body has ruled that women who have been raped by "terrorists" can have their pregnancy ended, Algeria’s Al Khabar newspaper said on Sunday.

The influential Arabic-language newspaper said the Supreme Islamic Council had issued a fatwa, or religious edict, on abortion, which is generally not allowed in Moslem countries.

"The interruption of the pregnancy is now authorised, except in extreme cases, for women who are victims of rapes committed by terrorists," ruled the fatwa, quoted by Al Khabar.

The reference to "extreme cases" signified the surgical procedure should pose no risk to the pregnant woman’s health.

Al Khabar said the council avoided using the term "abortion" to ensure its fatwa was not used as a general authority to end pregnancies not resulting from "terrorist rape".

Hundreds of women and young girls, some aged as young as 12, have been raped during attacks on villages in which thousands of residents have been killed.

Al Khabar last December put the figure of known rapes at 1,600, with many others hidden because of family shame.

Many girls have also been kidnapped by Moslem rebels to act as sex slaves, often being subsequently killed, usually by having their throats cut.

Besides those who were raped but survived massacres, some women have managed to escape rebel hideouts only to find that they were pregnant.

Early this month, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told parliament that the Supreme Islamic Council was looking at a fatwa "in favour of women victims of rapes committed by terrorists".

Al Khabar said the fatwa text was sent to the Algerian Ministry of National Solidarity and the Family on Saturday. It was the ministry which took the initiative in requesting the ruling.

A U.S. State Department 1997 report on human rights in Algeria said: "There were frequent reports of young women being abducted and repeatedly raped, often for weeks at a time. The terrorists sought to justify this sexual abuse by referring to it as ’temporary marriage’, but all other observers, including Islamic scholars, uniformly condemned the practice as rape.

"Armed Islamist terrorists committed hundreds of rapes of female victims, most of whom were subsequently murdered."

Moslem rebels, called "terrorists" in official Algerian parlance, have been battling the authorities since early 1992 after the authorities cancelled a general election dominated by radical Islamists.

Western estimates put the number of people killed since then at 65,000.

Late in March, in an unusually explicit interview in the Moslem country, an Algerian girl, Meriem Yasmina, told of how she was held as a sex slave with seven other girls before managing to escape.

She was kidnapped last September 28 during a massacre in her village of Tabainet in Medea district. In nearly six months of captivity she was raped repeatedly by around 40 rebels aged between 20 and 70 years, she told La Nouvelle Republique.

Two other girls who told how they escaped from another group said they had had to abandon a young girl fleeing with them. She had been seven months pregnant and could not keep up with them as they made their getaway in the mountains of western Relizane province.


12th April 1998


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