“Salwa’s” husband started beating her in the early days of their marriage in 2006. She endured the punches until that fateful day in September 2011, when, she said, her husband hung her by the arms to a bar in the ceiling of their house with an iron wire and stripped her naked. He beat her with a broom, then slashed her breasts with scissors.
Bleeding and screaming, Salwa fainted. When she woke up, she was on the floor, freed from the wire. Her sister-in-law hovered over her, trying to wake her and give her something to wear. Then, her sister-in-law opened the door of the house and told Salwa to flee.
Salwa, a mother of two from Annaba, Algeria, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, is far from unique. In 2016, Algerian police recorded 8,000 cases of violence against women, half of which involved domestic violence. And, as with Salwa, many cases may not be reported. In a 2006 survey by the State Ministry for the Family and the Status of Women, 9.4 percent of Algerian women between the ages of 19 and 64 who responded said they often – or even daily – experienced physical violence within their family.
The violence Salwa endured is just the beginning of her story. As she tells it, Salwa had to fight her way through Algeria’s justice and social services system for the protection that she should have by right.
Fleeing her home, Salwa ran until she came to a hospital. She was covered with bruises, her face was swollen from her husband’s beatings, and her clothes were bloodied. The police guarding the hospital escorted her inside. At the emergency unit, they gave her first aid, but they told her she could not stay.