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Nur ar-Ramadan

Algerians Enjoy Peaceful Ramadan
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By Dr. Omima Ahmed, IOL Correspondent

ALGIERS, IslamOnline.net

With an increasing sense of security after a decade of bloodshed, Algerians are enjoying a peaceful Ramadan and spending their evenings in public parks and Ramadan entertainment shows.

"Thank God, we feel safer this Ramadan," young Bu Allam Mohammad told IslamOnline.net.

"We go to the mosque to perform the Tarawih prayers and then get together some place to enjoy the spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan," he added.

Mohammad recognized that the security conditions in the country have remarkably improved compared to recent years.

Algerian women also capitalize on the prevailing sense of security and go out to visit next of kin.

The country had fallen into a bloody circle of violence in early 1992 after the Islamic Salvation Front (ISF) won the first round of the 1991 legislative elections which were scrapped by the army.

The authorities then disbanded the ISF and unleashed a crackdown on its members, arresting scores of them.

Some 150000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and 5200 missing since then while at least 5200 others remain missing.

Estimates number at least 3000 the victims of violent incidents during Ramadan in 1997.

But numbers continue to decrease gradually year after another with the improvement of the security conditions in Algeria.Strict Security

Algerian authorities have stepped up security measures since the beginning of Ramadan in public parks, popular markets and main streets in Algerian towns.

Security Director General Ali Tonsi told reporters the authorities have taken secret security measures to prevent any assaults on people and properties during the holy month.

He asserted that militants are unable to break through the security belt hemming the capital and other cities.

Jelali Boudaleh, media officer in Algiers security department, also spoke of unprecedented security measures in the capital.

"Surveillance cameras have been placed in the main roads for the first time and additional security forces have been deployed in popular markets, bus stops and public parks."Poor Security

Some Algerians, however, said Algerian villages and remote areas suffer poor security measures.

"We feel safer in the capital, but in the villages and remote areas, there is no security," said Abdullah, an Algiers resident.

"I don’t believe strict security measures in the capital are applied in villages and rural areas."

Despite improved security, the first days of Ramadan have not passed entirely peaceful.

Eight people were killed and four others injured on Friday, October 22, in the Algerian city of Medea.

The attack occurred when militants set up a checkpoint and halted a vehicle carrying fans to a football match, Al Watan daily newspaper reported.

Four people were killed on the same day near the Algerian city of Blida, the Liberte newspaper said.

Algerian political analysts also voiced concerns that more acts of violence might occur in the coming few days.Beggars

Some Algerians also complained that Ramadan spiritual atmosphere was marred by the increasing number of beggars roaming the streets of the Arab country.

"Thank God, we have enough food during Ramadan but beggars are everywhere. Poverty rates have surged," said Al-Zahra, a 78-year-old woman.

Another Algerian had a different view.

"In the good old days, there were no needy people during Ramadan. Though we did not have Mawa’d Al Rahman or Ramadan packages we used to help each other not only during Ramadan but all year through," said Mohammad, 57.

"People have grown crueler than ever."

Others disagreed.

"People have lost self-esteem. Some have become professional beggars although they are not poor," said Zeilekha, another woman.

Sheikh Rasheed, a mosque imam, agrees.

"I saw a young man, around 30, begging people for money. I proposed to hire him to work in building a mosque for 200 dinars but he refused. He raises around 500 dinars a day from begging and sometimes 1000 dinars during religious occasions."

An Algerian expert cited many reasons for the phenomena.

"People from the underprivileged rural areas dream of better jobs in the major towns and we they fail to find any start begging to make a living," Malek Seray told IOL.

He also highlighted unfair distribution of wealth, with less than 20000 of the country’s 31 million controlling 80 per cent of its wealth.

According to the estimates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2003, 57 per cent of Algerians are considered poor.

However, the Algerian opposition argue that 70 per cent are living under the line of poverty, with 12 million making a dollar or less a day.

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