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Algeria/France: Souvenir Day : Amel Zenoune, assassinated for refusing to wear a veil

Sunday 24 April 2016, by siawi3

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Source: siawi, 24.04.2016

By Zazi Sadou,


Amel Zenoune, a young university student, was leaving Algiers in a university bus and going back home to Sidi Moussa, about one hour before the time for breaking fast. On Sunday, the 26th of January 1997, on the 17th day of the month of Ramadan, the bus was stopped on its way by what Algerian people used to call ‘ fake control points’ to differentiate them from the control points which were under the army control.
The ambush was set by GIA terrorists (Islamist Armed Group) in a hamlet called Benedja on the commune of Bentalha– Bentalha which remains in our memories as the place of one of the most terrifying massacres in the nineties.

The passengers in the bus were shivering with fear and they thought they were looking death in the eye. But terrorists showed no interest : they looked for one person only, Amel Zenoune. They ordered her to get out of the bus and the young woman did so with much courage.

One of the armed men sharpened his knife on a stone and, without showing any emotion, he sliced her throat under the eyes of terrorized passengers. The man then said that this would be a deterent to all women who go to university and to work without being veiled. That was a terrifying message sent to those who refused to bend to their moral order.

She was just 22.

She was meant to serve as an exemple in order to terrify women and girls who in Algeria resisted FIS’ diktats ( Islamic Salvation Front) and its various armed branches’.

In other countries of the world, where Islam prevails, millions of women, as Amel Zenoune did, continue in all possible ways to resist Muslim fundamentalism and its limitless ambition to force women and societies into their backward theocratic project.

Today, it is in Paris, - the capital city of secular France, the heir of the Enlightenment era and of the Republic, which promotes human rights and equality of rights between men and women - that a new initiative is being launched : the so-called ‘Hijab Day’. This worldwide initiative was started in 2013 by a network which fully achieved its political marketing in Europe. Here is the proof under our very eyes : the action is taking place in Sciences PO Paris, the prestigious School where they teach reason so as to enlighten the mind !

Whatever the motivations of the young female students who mobilized in support of their ‘veiled pals’, they should not forget that hundred thousands – no, millions – of Muslim women - bare headed - risk their lives to occupy the public space in their own countries. That they resist by any mean in order to state their desire to be free and not to submit to the moral order which hides women as sexual objects ! How many of them paid the high price by being raped and killed as ‘ butty of war’ ?

These young French students, who for sure are secular and emancipated, should not forget that the battle over ‘the veil’ is used, above all, to hide the ambition of violent politico-religious forces which are determined to conquest the world and to turn ‘citizens’ into a community of believers only, in a totalitarian order where women are due to hide, fade away, obey, disappear…

As for the veiled young girls who are courted by preachers and ‘paradise dealers’ through a misleading discourse of tolerance and benevolence, they should make the effort to question this practice which is imposed outside its context, and which stands miles away from the enlightened Islam they seek to represent ! They should read Ibn Sina, Ibn Rochd, Mohamed Arkoun, Fatima Mernissi, so as to promote another spirit of Islam than the one which parades in a uniform.

My position will certainly not be widely accepted : i am just screaming here my outrage as an Algerian feminist activist who lived, together with hundred thousands citizens, under the rising fundamentalist order. Without women’s resistance and that of all citizens who believed in the idea of democracy in its fullest humanist sense, Algeria would have been radically transformed.

Granted, France is neither Algeria, nor Tunisia, nor Iraq, nor Egypt. However, let us not forget that all fundamentalist extreme right conquest movements’ primary stand is that –whatever their disguise is – their first victims are women. This is the lesson we learn everyday from history.

Is the wearing of a veil a matter of liberty which is guaranteed by democracy ? I do not think so. The ‘battle over the veil’ is only the most visible expression of the fundamentalists’ will to bring women into submission. To brandish the principles of democracy and freedom are just means to succeed…

Let us not forget the sacrifice of the student Amel, of the agronomist Rachida, of the vet Khadidja, of the teacher Lila, of the housewife Rabéa, and this very long list of women resisters…

*Zazi Sadou was for many years the spokesperson of the Rassemblement Algérien des Femmes Démocrates ( RAFD – Algerian Assembly of Democratic Women).

translated by marieme helie lucas