- North Africa
- Religion - Governance
Ramadan and crime: What Algerian authorities tried to hide
The holy month of Islamic fasting, Ramadan as an important element in the control of vice is being scrutinized after a study, published in August by El Watan and Le Matin and undertaken in 24 of Algeria’s 48 wilayas (provinces) by the Abassa Institute, indicated that there is a marked rise in road accidents and violent attacks during the holy month. The survey has offended the Algerian authorities.
Is Ramadan risky? According to a survey, self-financed and undertaken in 2007 by the Abassa Institute, there is a marked rise in assaults and accidents in Algeria during the holy month. The survey shows that people are more aggressive (82%), less friendly (65%) and more selfish (56%).
And according to data collected from police stations, the mood change contributes to the rise in brawls, assaults and attacks by 320 percent, while car thefts, fraud and forgeries and use of forgery rise by 180 percent.
According to data from the emergency units of the hospitals surveyed, domestic accidents increased by 250 percent while work related accidents rose by 150 percent compared to annual averages. The same applies to traffic accidents which increased by 42 percent.
The survey addresses another sensitive issue: Compliance to Ramadan. While 48 percent say they fast everyday of the Ramadan, 36 percent fast occasionally, while 7% admit voluntary abstention.
2007 Survey: sole survivor
Published by Algerian newspapers El Watan and Le Matin in August, it took three years to snatch the results from oblivion. In fact, it was only after Mohamed Abass, Director of the Institute, found part of the survey on an old USB stick that he decided to send the results to the newspapers.
And for good reason, the data is what is left of an informal 2007 survey. Everything else had been seized by the Algerian authorities.
"They took the 2,000 pages of this survey. We are only left with the draft. They took my computers, my software, my working tools and other studies that I had conducted for Algerian ministries," he says.
The Institute’s director paid dearly for his criticism against the Algerian government. Abassa, who authored Poutakhine, a book released in 2009 and quickly suppressed by the authorities, talks about the innumerable polls he had conducted on behalf of various provinces. These results, were never published. "I was tired that my work was never shown, that they gave me money to change figures. So I decided to talk," he fumed.
Even in its draft state, the 2007 survey highlights the negative consequences of Ramadan. Results that the government would never have validated, much less published. For in Algeria as in many other countries, the holy month should not be touched, for both religious and economic reasons.