Slimane Bouhafs was in prison for 20 months because of his faith, subjected to inhumane treatment. He has a chronic disease that causes joint pain and swelling. “If you want to kill me, do it. That is what you are already doing by depriving me of resources. But, know this: I shall never stop my fight. The fight goes on.” He pleads with the Vatican and Europe for his life and that of Algerian Christians.
Algiers (AsiaNews) – His name is Slimane Bouhafs (pictured left). He is an Algerian Christian from Zerkun, in the municipality of Vuselam (Bousselam), Bouandes District, Setif Province, eastern Kabylia. He converted to Christianity in 1998.
Slimane is a fervent defender of human rights and president of the St Augustine Christian Coordination in Algeria. Aged 52 and father of three children, he has suffered for more than 20 years from a disease (chronic gout) that causes pain and swollen joints and has prevented him from working.
Because of this, he was deemed 80 per cent disabled, which has allowed him to receive a monthly allowance paid into his account. Everything was good for him and his family until his arrest in July 2016 by the security services and his imprisonment for 20 months for "attacking the Muslim religion".
Slimane has been released recently, but the Algerian state still has a tighter than usual hold on him. After poisoning and torturing him in prison, the authorities have deprived him of his disability pension after his release. Such an inhumane act will put his life and that of his three children in danger.
In a video he posted on Facebook, Slimane is very clear. Here is his letter on social media addressed to what he calls the “Algerian inquisition”.
"Good evening to you all. I am Slimane Bouhafs. I was detained for 20 months because of my Christian religion. I experienced great suffering. I was oppressed, insulted, deprived of prescribed diet. I slept on the floor with simple cardboard as bedding. I was poisoned which led to an eight-day stay in hospital. I cannot tell you everything.
“Currently, the Algerian state is withholding the pension I received because of my illness. I do not know what this system wants from me. If you want to kill me, do it. That is what you are already doing by depriving me of resources. But, know this: I shall never stop my fight. The fight goes on.
“This is the land of Saint Augustine, it is not yours. It is the land of Massinissa, Jugurtha and Dihya; it's not your homeland. I can say it, I am Kabyle, Amazigh, son of Saint Augustine. I am, I will be and I will remain once dead. My hope, my word of conclusion: I hope that this message will be translated into all the languages of the world to show the oppression to which the Christians of Algeria are subjected. The Algerian state seals and closes our churches, threatens our pastors and tries to corrupt them. Please stop all this.
“All laws proscribe starving people. You are starving my children. It is shameful, shameful. Imagine Europe blackmailing Muslims by depriving them of resources until they convert to Christianity. What would you do? Would you say it is legal?”
Slimane’s situation worries me as an activist for the rights of Christians and minorities in my country, I contacted him last night. He is very worried, terrified, and even afraid to leave his house. He told me he's scared and wants something done to save him from this slow death.
“I'm afraid they'll send someone to slaughter me while my kids are still small. [. . .] They terrorise me and I am very anxious. [. . .] I hope that Europe, especially the Vatican and international human rights organisations will do something for me."