11/08/2008: Mohamed Sifaoui - an Algerian journalist, writer and director living in exile in France - was violently attacked by Islamists in Paris on Friday, June 13th 2008. Why? For his tireless and courageous struggle against fundamentalisms and his defence of secularism and women’s human rights. Since 2003 he has benefited from police protection, but in January 2008 it has been suddenly withdrawn.
Today, he receives death threats and he, his wife, and their children are in real danger. They live as recluses. The major media sources remain silent. Concerned citizens and human rights defenders have circulated this news and launched a petition on Mr. Sifaoui’s behalf.
For further information (in French) please see here:
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can write a polite letter to the French government urging them to ensure the security and welfare of Mohamed Sifaoui.
Letters are to be sent to the following addresses:
Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l’Elysée
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
Salutation: Dear Mr. President
Ministère de la Justice
13, place Vendôme
75042 PARIS CEDEX 01
Salutation: Dear Sirs
Ms. Margaret Sekaggya
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
fax: +41(0) 22.917.90.06
You can also send your letter to other French governmental authorities and the embassy of France in your country.
The SAMPLE LETTER below has been endorsed and signed by the following organizations:
• SIAWI – Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
• Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML) – International Solidarity Network
• BAOBAB – For Women’s Human Rights , Lagos , Nigeria
• Women in Black (WIB) - Belgrade, Serbia
And by the following organizations from amongst the International Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders:
• Human Rights First
• International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
• Front Line International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Front Line)
• Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights (UAF)
• ISIS-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange (ISIS-WICCE)
• Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ)
• Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
• Women Living under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
• BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights
• Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
11 August 2008
Ensure police protection for Mr. Sifaoui
Dear President Nicolas Sarkozy,
We are writing to draw your attention to the case of Mr Mohamed Sifaoui, a human rights defender and a women’s human rights defender at risk in France.
Since January 2003 he benefitted from police protection in France where he was granted political asylum in 2000. This protection was removed in January 2008, without further explanation.
For many years Mr Sifaoui has been inundated with hate mail; Muslim fundamentalists continue to propagate insulting rumours about him that may encourage someone to actually take action against him. Since the removal of protection, Mr Sifaoui is still facing death threats by mail and telephone. Moreover, he is now regularly threatened by Muslim fundamentalists in the street, and was physically assaulted in broad daylight in the 11th district of Paris on June 13, 2008.
On June 14, Mr Sifaoui reported the case to the local police and filed a case based upon the violence, insults and death threats. Moreover, on June 16, his lawyer formally wrote to the Minister of Interior to request protection for his client. To this date, he has not been given any protection.
Meanwhile he continues to receive hate mail and is threatened as soon as he gets out of the house. Fearing for his life, Mr Sifaoui cannot step out of his house. His family, including children, is at risk too. It is very clear to us that Mr Sifaoui’s life is in danger, due to the removal of his police protection. We fail to understand why protection was not given back to him after the physical assault of June 13.
At a time when other human rights defenders from Muslim countries and communities suffer from total abandonment by the countries that hosted them and granted them asylum (such as Aayan Hirsi Ali in Holland, or Tasleema Nasreen in India), one may wonder why the ’moderate Muslims’ European governments loudly pretend to desperately look for in order to dialogue with them, are so badly treated by democracies. Is it that human rights defenders are in demand only when they are seen as politically useful by powers that be, and when they are not so useful, they are thrown as disposable? This is not our conception of defending human rights defenders.
We placed our hopes into the fact that France recently honoured Ms Taslima Nasreen with the Simone de Beauvoir award that gave recognition and visibility to her work as a defender of women’s rights. We are astounded that the risks to his life which Mr Sifaoui is facing in France are not taken more seriously and that he was deprived of a protection once granted to him and which he still badly needs.
We have known Mr Sifaoui, his life and his career, for many years. He has been a journalist since 1988. His whole career demonstrates his honesty, his bold courage, and his involvement in the defence of civil liberties, secularism, human rights and women’s rights. He worked in Tunisia and in Algeria. In Algeria he was a journalist at radio "Alger Chaine 3", and for the daily papers "Soir d’Algérie", "Horizons", "Le quotidien d’Oran", "l’Authentique", and a chief editor for the weekly "Le chroniquer". He was also the correspondent in Algiers for the French weekly "Jeune Afrique".
In 1996, he barely escaped the bomb blast that killed so many independent journalists at the Maison de la Presse where most independent newspapers were housed. It is a well-known fact that armed fundamentalists in Algeria targeted journalists and especially those of "Le Soir d’Algérie" where Mr Sifaoui was working. After this traumatic event, Mr Sifaoui devoted his life as a journalist, opposing fundamentalists.
In 1999, he courageously opposed President Bouteflika’s policy of ’national reconciliation’ which granted impunity to fundamentalists with blood on their hands. Moreover this ’reconciliation’ and its later developments forbade any truth finding, any enquiry into responsibilities for killings and massacres of the population: contrary to all known examples of ’truth and reconciliation commissions’, this reconciliation is based on silencing the victims and veiling the facts. Harassed by police and judiciary, receiving daily death threats, Mr Sifaoui came into exile in France where he was granted political asylum.
By January 2000, he resumed his activities as a journalist and a writer, especially at radio BFM and the weekly Marianne. He was also the correspondent in Paris of "La voix du Luxembourg". He immediately started investigating on Islamist groups in France. Subsequently, he received several death threats that led the Minister of Interior to give him around-the-clock police protection in January 2003. While death threats have continued non-stop over the years, this protection was removed in January 2008.
Mr Sifaoui is a well known writer: he published several books in French, among which: My brothers the assassins, France sick with Islamism, On the tracks of Ben Laden, Combatting Islamic terrorism, etc. A well-known reporter, he has done did several segments for television and radio (on French, German and Canadian channels). He also gives conferences and is regularly invited as a speaker by NGOs.
Mr Sifaoui works very closely with secular and feminist groups. In Algeria as well as in France, Mr Sifaoui was outspoken on women’s oppression in Muslim countries. Himself a Muslim believer, he spoke numerous times against the veiling of women, which he describes as a political flag for fundamentalists, as an instrument and symbol of submission of women.
He works with the well-known French women’s rights organisation ’Ni Putes Ni Soumises’ and with the secular French organisation ’Prochoix’, and was elected on the board of SOS Racism since October 2007. He publicly took position against Tariq and Hani Ramadan who refused to condemn stoning to death for adulterous women. He is a signatory of Durban I and II petitions. He publicly condemned attacks on civilians in Israel, September 11 terrorist acts, Paris bombings in 1995, as well as bombings in London, Madrid, etc. In numerous public fora, he supported minority religious groups, gay groups, secularism, human rights and democracy. He supported freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of the press, when he testified in court for the French weekly Charlie Hebdo and the Danish daily Jyllands Posten, at the time of the cartoons’ controversy. Mr Sifaoui, a well-known human rights defender and defender of the human rights of women, deserves continued protection from France.
We are demanding of the French Government that full protection be granted to him as it was in the past. Failing to do that at the earliest would place on France the responsibility of any further attack on Mr Sifaoui.
[Your name / organization]