Ramadan and crime: What Algerian authorities tried to hide

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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.

Mohamed Abassa answer three questions

Afrik-News: How did you manage to make this poll?

Mohamed Abassa: We seized the opportunity to conduct this survey after an Algerian Ministry had ordered a study. It was conducted during the month of November (2007) in 24 wilayas (provinces) with a representative sample of 3004 individuals from 16 years up. It was entirely self-funded and respondents were asked informal questions. We interviewed the staff of emergency services in various hospitals (13 points surveyed), police stations (6 points) gendarme offices (5 points) heads of both state and private enterprises (16 points). The data was hidden and studied a year later. In the final analysis we were able to produce a 2,000 page survey that included tables and graphs.

Afrik-News: Why did you decide to send it to Algerian newspapers?

Mohamed Abassa: I did not want it to end up in a drawer like all the others. Several departments asked me to carry out surveys that were never released. For once, I wanted people to know the results of this survey on the Ramadan, even if it is only a draft. I fought for the truth and I will continue.

Afrik-News: Do you still carry out surveys?

Mohamed Abassa: No, everything in my institute has been seized. I no more have computers, softwares, nothing. I can not return to Algeria (he is exiled in France). All because I wrote a book which has been censored. There is no freedom of expression in that country.

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