Sixty percent of Algeria’s university students are women, researchers say. This group was waiting for a bus at a university in Algiers.
Photo Credit: New York Times
Back in November, a Muslim woman from British Columbia made the ridiculous assertion that Muslim women are not harassed if they refuse to wear a hijab in Muslim countries, that some women just choose to wear it. See my lead article in this series, Muslim Sexual Harassment in Jordan.
When a Muslim tells you that some women simply choose to wear the veil, that is true - but they choose to do so in many cases to keep from being killed. In the British television channel video below we hear the story of Katia Bengana, a 16 year old Kabyle (indigenous Berber people in Algeria) girl who was killed for refusing to wear the hijab.
"None of us wants to wear the veil...but fear is stronger than our convictions or our will to be free. Fear is all around us. Our parents, our brothers, are unanimous: 'Wear the veil and stay alive. This will pass'" (1).
This is no lone incident and it's not just about hijab. The real beauty of Islam is that it is a religion that supports the cruel mistreatment of women and so it is readily accepted by men in backward and primitive cultures. According to the Danish Institute for Human rights [PDF], the sexual harassment of women, including torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, is reported to be widespread at Algerian workplaces.
As we see in the photo above, not all women wear hijab as in Saudi Arabia. The Algerian Djelbab tends to be more colorful. In the big cities you will see uncovered women here and there, although rarely on the street late at night. Once you leave the big cities, the Islamic veil is everywhere.
Back in the 1970s and 80s it was common to see most women dressed in Western style clothes. But in the last few decades men returning from working in the Oil Gulf States brought back with them the more repressive Saudi-style of Islam.
Although things are getting better for Algerian women in educational and employment opportunities, it has gotten worse for them in terms of increased sexual harassment ironically as more and more women "choose" to don the hijab. Interestingly, as women cover more of themselves, there tends to be even more sexual harassment; see my article The Myth that Veiling Protects Women from Assault.
Susan Slyomovics, "Hassiba Benbouali: If You Could See Our Algeria", Middle East Report, Jan-Feb 1995, p.10