Algerian Protesters Are Still in the Streets 2019

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Algerian Protesters Are Still in the Streets 2019

Algerian Protesters Are Still in the Streets, Months After Pushing Out Longtime President Bouteflika

In Algeria, protests against corruption, the jailing of opposition leaders and the army’s powerful role in national politics have entered their ninth month. Tens of thousands filled the streets of the capital Algiers last Friday to mark the 65th anniversary of the war of independence from France and to demand a “new revolution” rather than an upcoming election they say will be rigged. Over 100 student protesters were arrested last night as the Algerian government intensified its crackdown on demonstrators ahead of the upcoming polls. Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah announced the country will hold a presidential election on December 12. This comes after longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April following weeks of protests. We speak with Mehdi Kaci, an Algerian-American activist who organized a protest last weekend in San Francisco in support of Algerians, and Daikha Dridi, a journalist based in Algiers. “There is a political uprising, but there is also a huge sense of pride, of self-love, that the Algerian people are experiencing,” Dridi says. “The Algerians are wanting a much, much deeper change, and they’re not going back home.”

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DAIKHA DRIDI: It all began on February the 22nd. It came completely as a surprise to everybody. People just rushed out on the streets a Friday after the prayer. It was a week or so after President Bouteflika announced, through a letter, because he is actually sick. He’s paralyzed. He had a stroke in 2013 and has been unable to talk or move or actually govern since 2013 but kept on being president. So, after the announcement of Bouteflika running for a fifth term, after 20 years in ruling the country, so, like 10 — a week or 10 days after that, people poured out on the streets of Algeria everywhere, in the capital, in all the big cities, demanding that he step down, saying, “No more of you. We don’t want you anymore. This is the end of it.” And the storm was so big, but very, very peaceful, that it took everybody by surprise. And the people kept on demonstrating in a very peaceful manner every Friday. And the students actually decided that they will demonstrate — they will have their own demonstrations on Tuesdays. So it became a ritual ever since the 22nd of February. The Algerians are on the street every Tuesday, every Friday, by tens of thousands, demanding — first they were demanding that Bouteflika step down, and then they were demanding a radical change. They want democracy. And this is why people are still on the streets. This is why, even though President Bouteflika resigned on April the 2nd, the Algerians didn’t go back home and kept on demonstrating....

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It is really important to understand that what’s happening in Algeria is there is something — there is like a political uprising, but there is also like a huge sense of pride, of self-love, that the Algerian people are experiencing. And that’s what I think — personally, I think that’s what’s keeping them on the streets. They were not answering the calls of political organizations. They were not calling the answers of any unions or political parties or opposition. They were just answering the call of what they call their dignity. And it’s still going on until now, because after the resignation of the president, the army decided to keep, through the chief of staff of the army, who is the General Ahmed Gaid Salah — to make as if the only issue was to remove Bouteflika and remove all the corrupt businessmen who were at the time of Bouteflika. But the Algerians are wanting a much, much deeper change, and they’re not going back home. So, the demonstrations are happening. And it’s pretty incredible to see how joyous, how fun they are and how — the proud of like people for being like peacefully determined, no matter how long it would take them to get rid of the entire system.

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AMY GOODMAN: — but also the effects of the protests in Lebanon, in Iraq, the mass uprising for a moment recently in Egypt, but what kind of effect this is having on Algeria? And what kind of effect did Algeria have, beginning these protests months ago, on the other countries?

DAIKHA DRIDI: Yes. As a matter of fact, the Algerian uprising happened long before the ones that are happening now in Lebanon, and the one that was hugely repressed in Egypt happened last month. What’s happening is, the Algerians did not think that — did not think, themselves, that this was possible to just like — to just go on the street, because it was always heavily repressed. But they discovered that there was a way for them to protest, to protest in a very clever and peaceful manner, just being on the streets twice a week and like also passively not accepting the ministers’ visits to their towns. All the representatives of the state are not welcome anymore. So, they discovered a new force. And they are like happy to use it, even though there is a repression. The repression is not bloody. The Algerian army did not — there were no orders to shoot the protesters. And until now, there was no — there was only one casualty, that happened on April the 2nd.

So, what’s happening in Algeria is just completely — is very, like, new to the Algerians themselves and new to what’s happening around them. So, they are also interested in — the Algerians were very curious about what was going on in Sudan. Sudan, the Sudanese protesters were on the streets at the same time, in February also and in March, as the Algerians. And now they are looking at what’s happening in Lebanon and Iraq. And the hopes is that actually to keep Algeria on the safe ground of peaceful protests and hoping that the repression never go into violent crackdowns against the demonstrators.