Algeria’s secret torture chambers

A new report by Amnesty International on Algeria’s secret torture chambers is out. The full 44-page report could be found here.
Algerian security services have inherited the French school of torture and counterinsurgency that was ironically developed by Frech colonialists against Algerians themeselves… and sure the jackboots gained more expertise in their dirty war against Islamist militants during the 1990s civil war.
Currently Algeria is one of America’s and Europe’s allies in the “war on terror” together with Bin 3ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt. The CIA-chartered Ghost Flights reportedly landed in Algerian airports. Several Europe-based militant suspects were also sent back to Algeria, where Bu Tafliqa’s secret services’ custody, other EU members are still trying hard.
Related Article:
Algeria admits killing 17,000 Islamists

New tale of rendition

The New York Times published today a touching story on the rendition of an Algerian suspect from Tanzania to Afghanistan. The man was held for 16 months in the US-run gulag, before he was freed and flown back to Algiers without being tried or charged.

Algerian Tells of Dark Odyssey in U.S. Hands
ALGIERS — Two years ago, a motley collection of prisoners spent night after night repeating their telephone numbers to one another from within the dark and dirty cells where they were being held in Afghanistan. Anyone who got out, they said they agreed, would use the numbers to contact the families of the others to let them know that they were still alive. Continue reading New tale of rendition

NYT on Algeria

Unfortunate beginning to this NYT story on Algeria:

ALGIERS — In the 1990’s, Algeria was the Iraq of the Arab world, ripping out its own heart in a bloodbath that pitted a rising Islamist movement against military death squads, killing more than 100,000 people. It was a model of hell on earth.

Er… in the 1990s, Iraq was the Iraq of the Arab world.

Anyway, it’s good that the august newspaper of record is bringing attention to the problems with the general amnesty the Algerian government has granted (it would have been ever better if they mentioned that discussing the identity of the perpetrators of the civil war’s crimes is now illegal), but isn’t it a little bit late? The charter for national reconciliation, as the Algerian government calls its attempt to bury the past, went through in February. At the time I quoted Le Monde:

The text adopted by the government puts them [security personnel] beyond the reach of legal pursuits, even if infractions have been committed. They have “shown proof of patriotism,” and “no lawsuit can be made, individually or collectively,” against them. “Any denunciation or complaint regarding [security personnel] will not be accepted,” the documents adds, while adding that “any declaration, written or otherwise, using or instrumentalizing the wounds of national tragedy to attack national institutions, weaken the state, damage the honor its agents… or to sully the image of Algeria internationally” will be sanctioned.

The lack of coverage of the Maghreb in major US newspapers is really quite astounding.

Dirty Islamists

This story about Algeria’s Harkat Al-Islah Islamist party brought a smile…

Algerian Islamists Rattled by Sexual Scandals, Resignation of Leaders

Scandals surrounding the party broke out earlier this week when a member of the leadership, who must remain anonymous for legal reasons, filed a lawsuit claiming that his wife had been “sexually assaulted” by Sadiq Sulayemah, another party leader.

The plaintiff has accused the party’s leadership of trying to cover up the incident along with other instances of “illegitimate sexual activity” at the highest levels.

Sulayemah, a well-known poet, and a life-long friend of Jaballah, has denied the charge, explaining his presence in the plaintiff’s house as an accident.

Party sources said yesterday that the poet had met Jaballah and “confessed to his sins” and asked for pardon. Jaballah is reported to have asked the poet to keep the incident a secret so as not to harm the party.

“It is hard to know what happened at the house,” says Abdul-Ghafour Saadi, the party’s deputy leader. “There were no witnesses to see what our comrade and the lady did.”

Sulayemah has published an ode lampooning unnamed party leaders for their obsessions with adultery and sexual deviation. The scandals come as a blow to a party that has built its platform on the claim that the Algerian society has become corrupted by Western influence.

Last year the party presented a bill to make Algeria alcohol-free by banning the sale of drinks in public places. The bill failed to get enough support for inclusion in the parliamentary agenda. The party has also campaigned to make polygamy legal again, and opposed reforms presented by President Bouteflika to improve the condition of women.

Nothing reassures me more than corrupt (morally or otherwise) Islamist politicians. It’s the holier-than-thou ones I’m afraid of.

Shatz on Khadra

Adam Shatz penned an excellent review piece on Yasmina Khadra’s work in the London Review of Books. Khadra — his real name is Mohammed Moulessehoul — wrote several extremely successful books in French under his wife’s name before being coming out openly to a massive fanfare in the French literary world. In his review, Shatz takes a look at what may have caused his books to be translated into English when so few Arab novelists are. Among the top causes are the current trend for what’s-wrong-with-Islam? books, a category Khadra fits neatly into because he is virurently anti-Islamist. But that, Shatz says, is ignoring the bigger and more complicated picture:

Khadra is a talented writer, but he isn’t a dissident. (As anyone who has spent time in Algeria knows, everyone there fancies himself a critic of the pouvoir, as they call their political system; the closer one is to the pouvoir, the more loudly one’s dissidence is proclaimed.) Whatever troubles Khadra once had with military censors, they are now a thing of the past. In a recent interview he declared that Algeria has ‘no political exiles’, which will have been news to exiled opponents of the military government such as Mohammed Harbi, a former FLN leader and modern Algeria’s leading historian. Though witheringly critical of Algeria’s Islamists, and of its business and political elites (the ‘political-financial mafia’), Khadra is notably indulgent of the army, which runs the country along with the Sécurité Militaire, the secret police, the regime’s ‘spinal cord’. Khadra’s books are prominently displayed in every Algerian bookshop, while La Sale Guerre (2001), a scathing memoir by Habib Souaidia, a former officer exiled in France, is banned.

It really is worth reading in full as a quick overview of Algeria’s recent history, and how the tragedy of the civil war has been manipulated by le pouvoir to create a group of anti-Islamist intellectuals who are quite mute when it comes to the military junta. It also applied to Algeria’s myriad feminist movements, which in some cases have been mostly regime apologists. This type of problem is at the core of the tendency in the West to quickly support “cosmetic democratizers” in the Arab and Islamic world — the Ahmed Chalabis and Benazir Bhuttos — or simply pyt up with the military types who say that the only alternative is the Islamists.

And while you’re at it, revisit this classic Shatz article on Fouad Ajami.

Spotted via Moorish Girl.