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Algeria: The recipient of a human rights award beaten and arrested on March 8 in Algiers

Thursday 12 March 2015, by siawi3

Some years ago, Cherifa Kheddar received the International Service’s human rights award, precisely for sing the work which get her beaten and arrested on March 8 in Algiers.


Ms Cherifa Kheddar
President of Association Djazairouna, Algeria

In 1996, in the middle of Algeria’s violent civil war - or ‘Dark Decade’ - Cherifa Kheddar witnessed the torture and murder of her brother and sister. Her husband was also killed and she narrowly escaped an attempt on her own life. Forming the Djazairouna (‘Our Algeria’) Association, Kheddar united with the survivors and victims of terrorism. She fights to give them a voice in the wake of more than 10 years of violence.

In 1991, political conflict between the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front and the state military spiralled rapidly into civil war, lasting until 2002. It is estimated that over 150,000 people were killed during the conflict. A disproportionate number of casualties were women and children.

The fundamentalists and their armed insurgency groups used violence and discrimination against women to enforce gender apartheid. In particular, women who were viewed as not complying with traditional gender roles were systematically attacked and thousands of women were assassinated, attacked, raped, tortured, abducted or forced into hiding. For this reason, Ms Kheddar has always labelled the civil war a ‘war on civilians’.

Through Association Djazairouna, Kheddar is relentless in her mission to provide support to victims and their families: from emotional and psychological help, to organising weekend outings for survivors; from accompanying people to identify the corpses of their loved ones, to help with lengthy administrative procedures.

In particular, Kheddar is instrumental in campaigning for justice for the victims of the civil war. She fiercely opposes key sections of Algeria’s ‘Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation’ and argues that by recognising only those crimes committed by the state during the war, political amnesty is provided for the terrorists and their armed groups. The majority of human rights abuses during the civil war were not committed by the state, but by fundamentalist groups. This means thousands of victims and families of victims find that no-one can be held to account for the crimes committed against them, and it is now almost impossible for people to enquire about what happened to their loved ones. Kheddar is at the forefront of publicising this issue and lobbying the government.

In May 2008, she returned from a week’s training to find she had been dismissed from the job she had held for 12 years - she had previously received warnings from her superiors for her actions in the defence of women’s human rights. 12 days before Ramadan in August 2008 she was, along with her elderly mother and autistic brother, forced out of her official home.