French Algerian actress attacked over feminist play

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By Expatica

A 45-year-old theatre actress was doused with petrol in an attack in Paris after weeks of receiving threats over a feminist play she wrote on Algerian women.

Paris – French police believe a theatre actress who was doused with petrol in an attack in Paris last week was targeted for starring in a feminist play she wrote on Algerian women, a judicial official said Friday.

The 45-year-old born in Algeria, who goes by the name of Rayhana, said two men approached her while she was walking to the theatre on Tuesday, grabbed her from behind, slapped her across the face and poured petrol on her.

"I could smell the petrol. A flame brushed my hat and then I ran," she said.

Rayhana has since been placed under police protection and the investigation into the attack being led by the anti-terrorism unit of the crime brigade, which has tackled many cases involving Muslim extremists.

Rayhana is starring alongside eight other women in "At my age, I still hide to have a smoke", a play she wrote about a group of women who chat about their lives during a visit to an Algiers hamman spa.

The play, which is a sell-out features some unflattering views about Muslim men.

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's attack, the actress said she had received threats and had filed a complaint with police on 5 January.

"Investigators strongly suspect" that there is a link between the attack and the play's subject matter, said a judicial source.

Theatre director Philippe Mourrat said the play gave a voice to modern Algerian women and that "this could annoy some Muslim men".

"I talk about women that I know well, about a culture that I know well. The play talks about women in general," Rayhana told AFP this week.

The actress said she would continue performing to show that "I'm not afraid of them" and that France is a country where "there is freedom of expression".

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand has expressed support for Rayhana and praised her "courage" for returning to the stage after the attack.

Born in a working-class area of Algiers, Rayhana studied and worked in her native country before moving to France a few years ago. The Paris play was her first written in French.

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