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
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
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.