In Algeria, Hirak marches despite ban on demonstrations

March in Algiers, October 5, 2020.

Marches and rallies were held Monday October 5 in Algeria, especially in Algiers and Kabylia, despite the ban on demonstrations, to mark the anniversary of the popular uprising of October 5, 1988 and to demand democratic rule.

Braving this ban on all public gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, protesters demanded the release of prisoners from Hirak, the anti-regime movement that erupted in early 2019.

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In Algiers, between 400 and 500 demonstrators tried to march through the city center before being quickly stopped by the police, an AFP journalist noted. The demonstration – the first in the capital since the interruption of the Hirak marches in mid-March – was dispersed and several people arrested, according to the journalist, forced to leave the scene at the order of the police.

The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), an association supporting prisoners of conscience, reported more than 20 arrests, including students. For this anniversary day, the police were on the alert in the center of Algiers and gendarmerie and police roadblocks had been erected on the roads leading to the capital, according to various accounts.

“Generals, you are traitors”

Marches also took place in the provinces, in particular in Béjaïa, a large town in Kabylia (northeast), where a wreath was laid in front of a stele in memory of the victims of October, in Beni Ourtilane, near Sétif, in Annaba and Constantine (northeast), according to social networks and the CNLD.

In Akbou, in the Béjaïa region, a crowd marched, waving portraits of Khaled Tazaghart, a former deputy and human rights activist in detention, and of the jailed journalist Khaled Drareni, according to residents contacted by phone.

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In M’Chedallah, in the region of Bouira, in Kabylia, groups of young people blocked the main road serving the region to protest against the arrest the day before of three people during a night march in memory of the riots in October 1988. The protesters used the flagship slogans of the protest movement: “Civil status, not military”, “The people want the fall of the regime”, “Generals, you are traitors, we will not stop! “.

On October 5, 1988, a violent protest erupted in Algeria, leading to unprecedented political reforms: multipartyism, trade union, association and press freedoms. In a context of strong social tensions, bloody riots took place on the night of October 4 to 5, 1988 in Bab el-Oued, a working-class district of Algiers. On the 5th, they spread to the rest of the capital and then to other cities in the country. A state of siege had been declared and the army tasked with restoring order.

A profound change in the “system”

The “Events of October 1988” have left 159 dead according to an official toll, and more than 500 according to human rights activists. An amnesty law has prevented the designation of those responsible for the repression.

“The Hirak is an extension of October 88”Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), who participated in the Béjaïa protest, told AFP. “After 32 years and in the midst of Hirak, because it is not over, we are witnessing repeated threats to democratic gains and freedoms”, lamented Mr. Salhi.

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The Hirak is an unprecedented protest movement, peaceful and without leadership, born in February 2019 out of the great fed up of Algerians who demand a profound change in the “System” in place since independence (1962). Its weekly marches were voluntarily suspended because of the health crisis, but attempts at mobilization are regularly emerging, especially in Kabylia.

On Sunday, more than a thousand Algerians and binationals marched through Paris to recall their “First spring” of October 1988 and demand a “Regime change” in power in Algeria. “You could say that February 2019 is the child of October 1988 and the struggles that followed for freedom and dignity. It was for freedom and dignity that Algerians fought before October, during October and until 2019, until today “, underlined Hakim Addad, activist of human rights and figure of Hirak, in the French daily newspaper El Watan.

The World with AFP

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