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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08ALGIERS317 2008-03-17 10:57:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

DESPERATION FUELS INCREASE IN SUICIDES

Tags:   PGOV SOCI ECON AG 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ALGIERS 000317 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/16/2018
TAGS: PGOV SOCI ECON AG
SUBJECT: DESPERATION FUELS INCREASE IN SUICIDES

REF: 07 ALGIERS 1704

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas F. Daughton;
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (U) SUMMARY: Suicide, though a significant sin in Islam,
is on the rise in Algeria. Sociologist Nacer Djabi warned
that socioeconomic discontent was creating a developing
"suicide mentality" in Algeria (reftel) even among young
Algerians, and official statistics indicate suicide was an
increased concern in 2007. New attention has been paid to
the issue in mosque sermons and press conferences, as the
mentality Djabi spoke of provides fertile ground for
extremist recruiting and the acceptance of extreme risk to
flee the country by sea. Suicide attacks, a new phenomenon
in Algeria, have also brought more attention to the issue.
The phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by the international
community -- the French Cultural Center in Algiers organized
a February 21 conference, attended by several Algerian and
French sociologists, psychologists and students, to discuss
the increase in suicides in Algeria. Despite the recent
increase in the number of suicides, no formal prevention or
information campaigns have been launched to address the
problem. END SUMMARY.

SUICIDE IN ALGERIA: STATISTICS AND CONTEXT


--------------------------





2. (U) According to the November 2007 report by the national
police (DGSN), more than 450 cases of suicide were reported
in Algeria in 2007. This represented a more than 20-percent
increase over the 369 suicides recorded in 2006. The DGSN
report asserted that suicide was widely considered and
discussed as an option among Algeria's poor. 63 percent of
those who committed suicide in 2007 were jobless, according
to the DGSN report. The report also noted that 12 percent
were public servants, 8 percent were self-employed and 6
percent were university students.



3. (U) In a January 29 press conference, Kheira Messaoudane,
a senior member of the Judicial Police (a branch of the
DGSN), stated that between 2006 and 2007 the number of
suicides among minors between the age of 10 and 18 had
sharply increased, resulting in 16 deaths out of 114
attempts. A December 2007 National Gendarmerie report
stated that Bejaia, on the coast east of Algiers, was the
province most affected by suicide, followed by the province
of Tizi Ouzou in the violence-plagued Kabylie region.



4. (C) Dr. Mustapha Khiati, president of the Algerian health
NGO Forem, contests the official statistics released by the
DGSN. In a February 10 conversation, he asserted that the
actual number of suicides was higher than official figures
indicated. Dr. Khiati listed several ongoing problems in
Algeria, including the country's housing crisis, its high
rate of unemployment and "cultural vacuum," along with drug
use and mental health problems as factors that have driven
more Algerians to commit suicide. Since the April 11, 2007,
suicide bombings in Algiers, the local press has reported on
the living and social conditions of individuals involved in
suicide attacks throughout the country. Five suicide bombers
lived in the shantytowns of two Algerian suburbs, Ouad
Ouchayeh and Bourouba. Most of the bombers have been young.
In June 2007, the press reported that 13 potential
suicide-bombers aged 13 to 18 had been sentenced by a court
of Boumerdes (just east of Algiers) to three years'
imprisonment. The young people had been recruited by
terrorist groups to carry out attacks and they provided
logistical support to terrorist cells across the country.

SUICIDE IN A RELIGIOUS CONTEXT


--------------------------





5. (C) Algeria's religious community is sensitized to the
country's suicide phenomenon. Abdelhamid Qaba, imam of the
mosque in the Bab Ezzouar neighborhood of Algiers (where two
suicide bombs were detonated on April 11), told us February
23 that print media are largely responsible for suicides in
Algeria. Qaba opined that the print media publish the
methods and techniques of committing suicide and that this
incited young people to kill themselves -- including the
"harraga," Algerians who try to escape to Europe in small
boats (reftel). Qaba also ascribed the increase in suicides

ALGIERS 00000317 002 OF 002


to a spiritual emptiness among the population, which he said
was increasingly turning away from religion. Qaba added that
many of the individuals that have turned away from religion
have done so because of their misinterpretation of certain
key concepts, which has resulted in some individuals turning
to violence to justify their perspectives. Throughout the
past year, he said, several Friday sermons have been devoted
to the subject of suicide as a way to sensitize the
population.



6. (C) COMMENT: Algeria's political and economic situation
continues to stagnate, but instead of simply grumbling or
emigrating, a small but growing number of Algerians are
taking their lives. The Islamic taboo on suicide and the
dishonor it traditionally brings upon the family likely keeps
the official statistics artificially low, and the figures
would certainly be higher if all attempted suicides were
considered, according to Khiati. As the general population
continues to feel that there are few social and economic
opportunities for them in a stagnant economy, we expect to
see a continued increase in the number of people who opt to
remove themselves from Algerian society through suicide.
FORD