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(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Women were forced to have their FACES inked as children 'to look pretty' - but are now wracked with guilt after being told markings are a crime against Islam - Algeria latest news

Among the Chaouia people of the Aures mountains, a woman's beauty used to be judged by her tattoos.

The women are now old, their wrinkles and fading tattoos telling of a lifetime of experience, but they talk as if they're still 20 inside.

'It was the rule, it was fashionable too,' said Fatma Tarnouni, 106. 'To be beautiful, you had to be tattooed, so I did it.'

'I did it to be beautiful': Fatma Tarnouni, 106, is one of many Algerian women who had her faces tattooed in accordance with the fashion of the times - but many have since been told it was a sin to do so

Aisha Djelal, 73, was tattooed when she was 25. She wanted to be more attractive than other girls her age by using body art, a decision she regretted later in life.

Some believers told women including Djelal that, by allowing the tattoos, they had committed a sin according to Islam. To make amends, many have donated treasured possessions to the most deprived women they know.

'I've given away all my silver jewellery after turning the offering seven times on my tattoo while I was crying,' said Aisha. 'I feel like every tear has washed away a bit of my tattoo.'

Atonement: Aisha Djelal, 73, was tattooed as a young woman, and says she has given away all her jewelry to make amends for what she now sees as a sin

Shame: Djena Benzahra, 74, says she feels bad about her tattoo - even though it is small - because she has been told by others she is sinning

Djena Benzahra, 74, was forced to have a tattoo when she was nine years old by her mother, who wanted her to look beautiful. All the girls her age were tattooed, her mother said.

'I still remember, it was so painful and I was crying, refusing to be tattooed,' Djena said.

Today even if her tattoo looks small she regrets allowing her mother to do it, because religious people around her have told her that she has committed a sin.

'To ask forgiveness from God, I've given away all my silver jewellery after turning the offering seven times on my tattoo.'

'I did it because all the girls my age were tattooed,' said Fatma Haddad, 80, tattooed aged 18 by a local woman. Today she regrets that decision and has given away her silver jewellery to make amends.

Difficulties: Fatma Haddad, 80, was another woman who now wishes she had no tattoos

'At that time we were very young, even if we didn't have extensive knowledge about the religion, our thoughts were far from committing a sin,' Haddad said.

Fatma Badredine, 94, was tattooed aged 13 years old by a nomadic woman from the Sahara region.

'I had to endure excruciating pain just to look pretty,' Badredine said. 'I wanted to have the tattoo removed but my doctor advised against it, my age doesn't allow it.'

Long ago: Fatma Badredine, 94, had her tattoo done by a Saharan nomad in the mid-1930s. She asked for it to be removed, but was told her skin is so old she will have to live with it

'In my case it was different,' said Khamsaa Hougali, 68.

'My stepmother advised me to get tattooed to bring luck after the sudden death of my first three children.

'My cousin and sister-in-law tattooed me. I had the feeling that God would give me the children I wanted and save my marriage.

Good luck? Khamsaa Hougali, 68, said that she believes her tattoo was for the best as it 'saved her marriage'

It was not acceptable to be a wife without having children. Believe it or not, but what I know is, that after being tattooed I had six children and they are still alive.'

Hougali doesn't regret the tattoo, despite been told by religious people around her that she has committed a sin.

'I just followed the tradition of my ancestors and it was for a good purpose as it saved my marriage.'

Mazouza Bouglada, 86, was tattooed aged seven by a nomadic man from the Sahara region. She was advised by her mother to get tattooed. The more she got tattooed the more she showed off.

Even if she still remembers the pain, she felt beautiful once it was done, Bouglada said. She was very proud of her stars on her cheeks. Her eldest sister had been tattooed before her and she wanted to imitate her.

Under pressure: Mazouza Bouglada, 86, was encouraged by her parents to have the tattoo done

Bouglada said she has now given away all her silver jewellery to atone for the sin that believers told her she had committed.

Djemaa Daoudi, 90, was forced to have a tattoo by her husband just after their wedding when she was 15 years old because it was a fashion.

A local Berber woman tattooed her. Today Daoudi regrets being tattooed.

'Even if it was not my decision at the time to be tattooed, to ask forgiveness from God, I've given everything I consider precious, like my silver jewellery and my wool, as alms,' Daoudi said.

Marital: Djemaa Daoudi, 90, was told by her husband to get the tattoo - and bitterly regrets it

A local woman tattooed Fatma Benyadir, 75, when she was 12 years old.

'I did it without telling my parents. All the girls my age were tattooed,' Benyadir said. 'I had to endure excruciating pain, the anger of my parents later, just to look pretty.'

Benyadir regrets being tattooed and has given away her silver after rubbing it on her tattoos, which gave her the feeling that she was removing them.

'Excruciating pain': Fatma Benyadir, 75, said she has given away much of her wealth to atone for her tattoo

Khadra Kabssi, 74, was tattooed aged 21 by her cousin following Algeria's independence from France.

'I wanted to be beautiful for the independence of my country and all the girls my age were tattooed,' Kabssi said. 'At that time we were very young, our thought was far from committing any sin. I just wanted to feel pretty.'

Today she doesn't regret being tattooed, despite being told by religious people and friends around her that she will endure punishment after her death.

'I don't believe what they are saying at all,' she said. 'If the snake, as they said, wants to eat me then he is free to do it. I will be dead, I'll feel nothing.'

Political: Khadra Kabssi, 74, got inked to celebrate Algeria's independence from France - and says she still believes it was the right thing to do

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