Algerian fans celebrate in Algiers in June after Algeria qualified for the knock-out round of the World Cup after their match with Russia.
Football and riots help relive tension for many young men in the North African country.
(Photo AFP/File) RABAH, a Chaoui Berber from Tiffelfel in the heart of the Aures mountains, has just completed the final year of his masters’ course in mathematics at the University of Batna. We split up a year ago, and I heard that she had a new boyfriend and had kissed him on the mouth.
He is 23, and like most young men his age whom I have interviewed about their sexuality, he mentions religion in the first five minutes. As far as I’m concerned, she’s just a tart now.” Premarital sex is “completely unthinkable” (it is a sin in the eyes of Allah), but he does admit to masturbating every day:“I know it’s than if a girl touches you.”Lines that won’t be crossed Rabah may not be telling the whole truth, but he can tell a foreign journalist things he couldn’t admit to a fellow Algerian without being judged, and what he says agrees more or less a with the testimony of the 50 or so other young people I have interviewed. In fact, we spend most of our time just walking and talking.
A newspaper story in 2006 led anthropologist Abderrahman Moussaoui to conclude that Algerians may be resorting to common-law marriage () as a way of getting around the Muslim ban on premarital sex, though without giving any indication of the scale of the phenomenon.
The testimony I have collected in 15 towns and cities (including Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Bejaia, Tizi Ouzou, Ouargla and Chelf) agrees, without significant regional variation, with the views of the researchers and professionals I have spoken to.
“In Algeria,” says Said, 24, whom I meet in a café in Bejaia, “you can’t break the rules — you can’t actually have sex with a girl, or swear at your parents.
Ait Sidhoum says: “We have a saying in Kabylia: ‘He who has hay in his belly is afraid of fire.’ When you tease people about the thing they have most trouble managing, they are quick to get angry.
If they want to hug or kiss, every city has its appointed spots: Galland Park and the Jardin d’Essai botanical garden in central Algiers, the seafront at Bejaia and Oran.
A romantic must for residents of the Algiers area is a trip to the Roman ruins at Tipaza.
Khaled Ait Sidhoum, a psychoanalyst in Algiers (and the only Algerian member of the International Psychoanalytical Association), says: “Young Algerians, men and women, are under great stress — unable to truly satisfy their desires and crushed by guilt after the few sexual experiences they allow themselves.
Islam offers them an explanation that is endorsed by society, for the prohibitions they impose on themselves, and a collective framework that allows them to regulate their tensions.