ALGIERS, 27 February 2021 – Thousands of people poured into the streets of the Algerian capital, Algiers, on Friday as the “Hirak” resumes after a hiatus imposed by COVID-19 restrictions.
The ban on public gatherings is still in place, but thousands gathered in several neighborhoods of the capital before marching towards the city center.
The “Hirak” – Arabic for “movement” – started on 22 February 2019 in protest against the attempt, at the time, by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to seek a fifth term in office.
The “Hirak” staged two protests a week, growing in strength every week, until Bouteflika was forced to step down in April 2019, ending over 20 years of rule.
The street protests continued even after he stepped down, with demonstrators calling for sweeping reforms.
Organizers continue to call for the dismantling of what they consider a governance system set on the foundation of colonization.
Everything should have been swept out when French colonization ended and Algeria gained independence in 1962.
The “Hirak” was only suspended in March 2020 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of restrictions on public gatherings.
The crowds on Friday chanted “Civil state, not military state”.
Organizers have lamented what they consider the stranglehold of the Algerian military on Algerian politics, with some going as far as describing the government of President Tebboune as the civilian façade of military rule.
“We Want a New Algeria,” some protesters chanted Friday.
Police fired tear gas and used truncheons to disperse protesters on Friday who tried to push past police barricades to reach the Grand Post Office, the main rally point of “Hirak” protests in the capital.
Reports say rallies were also held in some provincial towns across the country, including in Kabylie and Oran, in the northern parts of the country.
A prominent human rights activist and academic, Kadour Chouicha, was arrested during the rally in Oran, in northwestern Algeria, according to a statement issued Saturday by the prisoners’ rights group, CNLD.
The first of the twice weekly rallies in this round of protests held last Monday and brought out crowds estimated to be as large as the crowds which marched Friday.
The “Hirak” may yet be suspended, notably during the month of March, following the decision by Algerian authorities to ban public gatherings following the confirmation of two cases of the UK strain of the new coronavirus in the country.