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Algeria: Rape Victims Are ‘Pure’

April 27, 1998

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) _ Algeria’s religious authorities have decreed that rape victims should not be ostracized but stopped short of condoning abortions for women raped by Islamic insurgents, a newspaper reported Monday.

Rapes by Muslim militants waging an Islamic insurgency since 1992 have become increasingly common, prompting government officials to appeal to religious authorities for an exception to the abortion ban.

``Women Raped by Terrorists are Pure,″ read Monday’s headline in the daily French-language Liberte, which reported the fatwa, or Muslim religious decree, issued by the High Islamic Council.

The fatwa, issued April 2, recommended that legal proceedings be started against anyone who insults a raped woman. It also said the state is to take charge of children born of rape _ boys until they are adults, girls until marriage.

``The raped woman is honorable,″ the fatwa stated in a move against a tradition of ostracizing rape victims and making it difficult for them to find husbands.

However, the ruling maintained Algeria’s ban on abortions except in ``cases of absolute necessity,″ that do not include rape, Liberte said. The ruling did not say when abortions might be allowed.

On April 13, the High Islamic Council denied a story in the respected Arabic-language newspaper Al Khabar saying a fatwa changing Algeria’s rape law had been issued.

Militants have reportedly raped an estimated 1,600 women since their insurgency began, according to press estimates. Armed gangs frequently kidnap women during attacks, and Algerian newspapers say many women raped by insurgents are killed if they become pregnant.

On Monday, the Algerian press reported the kidnapping two days earlier of seven women by a gang of 20 men armed with rifles, hatchets and knives. The men swept into an eatery in the eastern port city of Annaba, taking away the women, two of whom were later found dead, their throats slit.

An estimated 75,000 people have been killed in Algeria since violence erupted in 1992, after the army canceled elections to thwart a likely victory by a Muslim fundamentalist party.

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