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ALGERIA: Fact-finding mission of a UN Special Rapporteur and FoRB

ALGERIA: Religious freedom to be on the agenda of a UN Special Rapporteur before his fact-finding mission

HRWF/ CAP (14.09.2023) – CAP/ Liberté de Conscience and Human Rights Without Frontiers, two NGOs active in Brussels, are deeply concerned about the situation of the members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light in Algeria and have addressed a report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Peaceful Assembly and Association before his fact-finding mission in Algeria planned from 6 to 16 September.

On the 6th of June 2022, 18 members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light in Algeria were charged with “participating in an unauthorized group” and “denigrating Islam”.


The First Instance Tribunal in Bejaia charged them under Article 46 of the Law on Associations and Article 144 bis 2 of the Algerian Penal Code. The judge ordered the immediate detention of three members, while the other 15 were released and were placed under house arrest pending further investigation.

Prison sentences for 18 members of the faith

On the 20th of September 2022, the Court of Bejaia sentenced Redouane Foufa, Khireddine Ahman and Cherif Mohamed Ali to one year in prison and the rest of the group to six months in prison, with fines.


The court verdict further confirmed that a religious decree was issued against the group by the council of religious affairs in the county of Bejaia on the 6th of April 2022. The decree held the group to be “a misguided group who are heretics and are out of the Islamic faith.” It further stated that the tenants of faith of the group are “a clear and direct violation of the laws of the true Islamic faith as stated clearly in the Holy Qur’an and the prophetic narrations”. The verdict cited specifically the following tenants of the faith as blasphemous:


  • The belief in Abdullah Hashem Aba Al-Sadiq, the leader of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light to be the legitimate successor of Prophet Mohammed and the awaited Mahdi in Islam.
  • The abrogation of the five daily prayers and that there is no specific ritual for it.
  • The month of Ramadan is set in December of every year.
  • The Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site to be in Petra, Jordan, and not in Mecca.


Redouane Foufa, the main target

The peaceful assembly of the group was specifically condemned in the court verdict, as it went on to elaborate how the group gathered in a house rented by Redouane Foufa, the coordinator of the group in Algeria, to discuss the teachings of a heretic religion – an action that the court deemed to be criminal and punishable under Article 46 of the Law on Associations.

Amnesty International has monitored the case and issued several press releases calling for the release of the group and that all charges against them be dropped[1]. In its press releases, Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said: “It is a travesty of justice that these individuals are being detained or prosecuted over their religious beliefs.”

Prior to their arrest, Redouane Foufa and the other members of the community reported being subjected to constant harassment and intimidation by the authorities in their place of residence in Bejaia since April 2022. Over a period of three months, the members of the group in Bejaia were interrogated by police a total of ten times. In one such incident, the house where Redouane Foufa and the families were living was raided by around 30 soldiers, who stormed the house and went through the personal and private belongings of the families, seizing documents such as ID cards and passports, as well as phones and laptops.


Repeated police interrogation

On 5 June 2022, police in Bejaia held the group for 13 hours, including six children and three elderly members. They were held in extremely hot temperatures and were denied access to food or water.


The investigation focused particularly on the point of the group’s gathering in the Bejaia house, accusing the women of immorality and that the group was running a brothel in the Bejaia house.


In an interview about their arrest, Youssra Bezai, another member of the group said: “We were living peacefully in our home. We never tried to take our beliefs outside. It is them who came to us and violated our privacy and our rights.”

The 18 adult members were told they would appear in court the next morning. During this interrogation which lasted another 14 hours, the group reported being threatened either to give up their faith or be sent to jail. After that the whole group was charged, and three of them — Redouane Foufa, and two other members, Khireddine Ahman, and Cherif Mohamed Ali [2]— were sent to Bejaia’s Oued Ghir prison.


During the five-months duration of the house arrest, the persecution against the other 15 members at the Bejaia house continued.


Pressed to give up their faith in prison

The three members who were in prison for the duration of the 5 months were subjected to various human rights violations, ill-treatment, and discrimination while in jail. The heads of all three were shaved, and they were put in solitary confinement with copies of the Qur’an and with daily visits from prison administration preaching to them and asking them if they had ‘repented’.


Prison guards instigated other inmates against them telling them they are “apostates”. They were strip-searched and were also subjected to extreme medical negligence. Redouane got a blood infection that spread from his arm to his back and received no medical treatment. This was followed by contracting COVID and then suffering a heart attack. If it wasn’t for the other two members shouting for help, Redouane would have died.

Released from prison but…

After Amnesty International’s public campaign on the case, the sentence was overturned by the High Court of Bejaia, dropping the charges and releasing the group. Despite this, the religious decree was still in effect and the court outlawed any further gathering of the group. Redouane Foufa reported in a video testimony that the day he was released from jail he was threatened not to speak about this case or his faith, and to not gather with any other members of the faith, or else he would be immediately sent back to prison. He was also ordered to vacate the Bejaia house. All business activities and records of Redouane and his wife were canceled by the chamber of commerce after his release, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs got in touch with previous employers and family members of the group ordering them to boycott the group on the basis of a standing religious decree stating they are “infidels.”


The religious decree which gave effectively a green light for possible vigilante violence, forced the group to flee Algeria and seek international protection in Europe where they could practice their faith freely.


In search of asylum in the EU through Turkey

They fled to Turkey in December 2022 and 15 of them[3] attempted to legally seek asylum in Bulgaria, together with other members of the faith who had fled to Turkey as well due to severe persecution in other Muslim-majority countries.


These countries are Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Palestine, and Thailand. The whole group involving 101 members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light were violently pushed back by Turkish authorities, beaten with batons, and detained, before being transferred to the Edirne Removal Center where they are in de facto detention for the past 60 days, suffering horrendous ill-treatment and grave human rights violations.[4] Deportation orders were issued against them to return them to their countries of origin, subjecting them to further persecution and violations of their rights, including the right to be free from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, and their right to life.


The most famous asylum-seeker stuck in Turkey is Redouane Foufa, the leader of the Algerian group. He would like to find a safe haven in France but he is now kept in the Immigration Detention Center of Edirne in Turkey.


15 Algerian members of the faith detained in Turkey

The 15 Algerians who had just successfully fled Algeria for religious persecution found themselves in detention again, this time in Turkey, denied their human rights because of their faith, and unable to safely practice their religion.


The severity of the human rights abuses enacted upon the group in the Edirne removal center is amplified by the extreme vulnerabilities among the detained members – 22 children aged from 1 to 17, at least 27 elderly or sick adults, and LGBTQ members.


Soumaya Foufa – a 58-year-old LGBTQ member from Algeria – fears persecution in Turkey for its crackdown on LGBTQ members. She also fears for her life if returned to Algeria. The case has also received considerable attention by the press,[5] including lodging an interim measure request at the European Court of Human Rights[6]. The case is also being monitored by United Nations experts: the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues are monitoring the case and have issued a public collective statement in its respect.[7]

The 15 Algerian members are now appealing against deportation orders and are in search of a safe haven in the EU where they can seek international protection and can practice their faith freely. They have family members in France and are looking for ways to apply for asylum there.


The coordinator of the religious group is Hadil El-Khouly, based in London.

She can be contacted by email (hadil.elkhouly@gmail.com) or telephone (+44 7443 106804) for direct contacts with members of the Ahmadi Religion in Algeria.


[1]https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/06/algeria-release-members-of-ahmadi-religious-minority/ and https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/09/algeria-drop-all-charges-against-members-of-a-religious-minority/

[2] https://www.uscirf.gov/religious-prisoners-conscience/forb-victims-database/redouane-foufa, https://www.uscirf.gov/religious-prisoners-conscience/forb-victims-database/khireddine-ahman, and https://www.uscirf.gov/religious-prisoners-conscience/forb-victims-database/cherif-mohamed-ali


[3] The names of the 15 members are: Asloune Nedjma, Belfiroud Ali, Belfiroud El Mehdi, Belfiroud
Mohamed, Benabdelmoula Fatima Zohra, Bensalah Ines Sabrina, Bensalah Rania, Bezai Youssra, Foufa Maryam, Foufa Redouane, Foufa Soumia, Habibi Mohammed Boudjelal, Lombarkia Rafik, Mazouzi Rabha, Salma Mihoub

[4]For footage of the violence at the border see https://www.eureporter.co/world/turkey/2023/05/24/over-100-church-members-beaten-and-arrested-at-the-turkish-border/, Also see statement of the Border Violence Monitoring Network https://borderviolence.eu/reports/follow-up-statement-on-the-situation-of-the-ahmadi-religious-group-in-turkey/

[5] Among others, see BBC Radio interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYoTa2PC_64 ) , EU Observer (https://euobserver.com/migration/157200) , EU Reporter (https://www.eureporter.co/world/turkey/2023/05/24/over-100-church-members-beaten-and-arrested-at-the-turkish-border/ ), European Times (https://europeantimes.news/2023/05/hrwf-un-eu-osce-turkey-stop-deportation-ahmadis/ )

[6] Among others, see EU Reporter article (https://www.eureporter.co/world/turkey/2023/07/15/ahmadi-religion-files-lawsuit-against-turkiye-at-european-court-of-hr-following-violent-pushback-at-turkey-border/) and EU weekly news article (https://euroweeklynews.com/2023/05/27/104-members-of-a-religious-minority-face-imprisonment-or-execution-on-the-turkish-bulgarian-border/)

[7] Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/07/turkiye-must-not-deport-members-ahmadi-religion-peace-and-light-seeking

Further reading about FORB in Algeria on HRWF website

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TURKEY: Over 100 members of persecuted religious minority held at the border

Members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light arrive at the Turkish-Bulgarian border on May 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light


TURKEY: Over 100 members of persecuted religious minority held at the border

Members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light seeking asylum in the European Union have been detained in Turkey since May.

By Kathryn Post

RNS (13.09.2023) – On May 24, 104 members of a minority religious group arrived at the Turkish-Bulgarian border expecting to find asylum. Instead, they were met with clubs and gunfire.

“They started getting attacked by the Turkish border guards. They started beating them with batons,” said Alexandra Foreman, a United Kingdom-based member who was at the scene. “And it was very much like a war zone. There was blood everywhere.”

Almost four months later, the asylum-seekers — including more than 20 children — are still being detained in Turkey, hoping to make their way into the European Union. The asylum-seekers say they left their countries of origin due to religious persecution. They are members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, a small minority religious group with thousands of members from around the world, many from a Muslim background.

Members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, which was established in 1999, see their faith as an extension of Islam. They believe one of their leaders, Abdullah Hashem Aba Al-Sadiq, is the “Mahdi,” a messianic figure and divine messenger who will bring salvation.

Abdullah Hashem Aba Al-Sadiq. Photo courtesy of Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light

The group is not connected with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a group of 10 million to 20 million believers called Ahmadis who have also been persecuted for their beliefs in Muslim-majority countries.

The asylum-seekers presented themselves at the Kapikule border crossing point hoping to gain entry into the European Union by way of Bulgaria, but were instead herded onto buses and taken to a Turkish police station. Witnesses, including Foreman, reported that at the station, several group members were beaten, and women and children were forced to stand outside — without sleep, and without sitting or lying down — for three days.

On May 29, the group was transferred to the Edirne migration center, where witnesses reported being crammed into rooms and having insufficient water and soap, no sanitary pads for women, poor food and inadequate medical care. Some reported beatings and sexual harassment.

Foreman, a freelancer who was at the border to create a documentary, was arrested along with the group and was released after two weeks.

“The weeks that I spent there was just so horrible. It was the worst experience I’ve ever been through. It was completely traumatizing,” said Foreman, who is now back in the United Kingdom. “We want to get them out and safe, somewhere they can be safe to practice their faith. It’s crazy that in 21st century they can’t practice faith peacefully.”

All but three of the members have been ordered to return to their countries of origin, including Thailand, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria and Azerbaijan, as well as the Palestinian territories. However, experts say these places are unsafe for the faith members.

“These followers are from a number of Islamic countries, and some are particularly brutal toward apostates,” said Paul Diamond, a religious freedom lawyer in the United Kingdom. He told Religion News Service that regardless of how people view the religion or how small the group is, the believers at the Turkish border are “in a perilous situation” and “have a right to religious freedom.”

Staying in Turkey isn’t an option for the group either, according to Diamond. “They have no status in Turkey. And they don’t want to claim asylum in Turkey because that’s an Islamic country. It doesn’t solve the problem.”

Turkish border guards use batons on members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light when at the Turkish-Bulgarian border on May 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light

Willy Fautré, director of the Brussels-based organization Human Rights Without Frontiers, has been advocating for the detained members to receive humanitarian visas in European countries. He plans to plead their case at the annual Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe human rights conference in Warsaw, Poland, next month.

“We will push day after day, week after week, so that they finally accept them as immigrants in need of special protection because of their religious practices,” Fautré told RNS.

On July 4, a group of U.N. experts, including Nazila Ghanea, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and Felipe González Morales, special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, issued a statement asking Turkey not to deport the members.

“Since the inception of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light in 1999, its members have been labelled as heretics and infidels and are often subjected to threats, violence, and illegal detention,” the experts said. “They are particularly at risk of detention due to blasphemy laws, in violation of their right to freedom of religion or belief.”

In August, Turkish officials responded that deportation decisions had been conducted lawfully, though the deportation procedures have been halted pending an appeal of the decisions.

The group’s leader, Aba Al-Sadiq, published “The Goal of the Wise” in 2022, a book of teachings faith members view as their gospel. Many of the faith’s teachings, including its affirmation of reincarnation, the belief that we are living in the end times and an assertion that the Kaaba is in Petra, Jordan, are viewed by outsiders as controversial.

In an April 2023 sermon, Aba Al-Sadiq declared that he is the messenger sent by God to invite humankind into the final covenant with God, a covenant that would save them from the imminent punishment of humanity via illness, meteors and global wars.

Abdullah Hashem Aba Al-Sadiq preaches in April 2023. Video screen grab

Hadil El-Khouly, the human rights outreach coordinator for the group, said the faith is often perceived as being radical because of its progressive teachings, including that women are not mandated to wear a headscarf, members don’t need to do the five daily prayers and the group is open to LGBTQ people. (These beliefs are held by some members of mainstream Muslim groups as well.)

“I would say it is incredibly liberating, it is profoundly inclusive, and it’s everything that I, as a human rights activist and person who seeks justice and freedom and peace in the world, was looking for,” El-Khouly told RNS.

Foreman said that in Turkey, asylum-seekers were interrogated about teachings in “The Goal of the Wise,” and some were sexually assaulted on the grounds that the faith accepts LGBTQ members.

“The aggression was just so extreme,” she said, adding that LGBTQ people were among those detained.

Members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light community mingle around a bonfire. Photo courtesy of Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light

On Aug. 22, after the arrest of eight members of the faith in Malaysia who protested in favor of LGBTQ rights, Aba Al-Sadiq released a video statement explicitly welcoming LGBTQ people who “believe in what we believe” to the faith. He had previously argued for the inclusion of LGBTQ people in his 2022 book.


One U.K.-based LGBTQ member of the faith, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, told RNS that growing up, he’d been taught his sexual orientation doomed him to hellfire. Though he’s now been a member of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light for years, he was encouraged by the video announcement. “I know what many people go through, how alone they can feel, how hopeless. The rates of suicide testify to this. I was extremely happy to know that they can find out that they are welcome into religion and to God and into faith without compromising their own person.”

Further reading about FORB in Turkey on HRWF website

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