Algerians in revolt

From the July-August 2019 issue of News & Letters

Algerians returned to the streets of Algiers and other cities, June 21, to keep the pressure on military chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, and demand the ouster of those he protects: interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

They are seen by the revolutionaries as merely a continuation of the regime of ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The revolutionaries call for the entire old ruling elite to answer for decades of authoritarianism and corruption. Beyond this, the masses are calling for freedom and dignity.

While General Salah has attempted to divide the crowds along ethnic lines by focusing attacks on the Berber minority, which makes up 10 million of Algeria’s 42 million people, demonstrators have rejected this. “No to regionalism, we are all brothers!” they answered.

When the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in 2010, demonstrations spread to Algeria. Then, the government was able to contain them. As in Sudan, now the people are in the streets, having learned many hard lessons from Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen in the interim.

FORCES OF REVOLUTIONARY REASON

Iconic photo of 17-year-old Melissa Ziad, dancing in support of the Algerian uprising. Photo: Rania.

One telling slogan in the demonstration was “The problem is the persistence of idolatry and not the replacement of the idol.” It is the voice of the social individual, calling for a creativity that is both individual and collective.

In that regard, the presence of women in the movement has been especially notable, despite attacks from police and, at times, from men who claim that feminist demands would split the movement.

Far from that, women have been involved in organizing the student and trade union movements. They were part of the nationwide general strike in March that saw teachers, transport and oil workers come out in opposition to the rulers.

A statement by the Algerian Women for Movement Towards Equality spoke of women’s role in Algeria’s history of freedom struggles. It said,

“Alongside men, women conceptualized, developed and conducted struggles in the hopes of building an egalitarian society…The active and unconditional participation of Algerian women in the February 22nd Movement encourages us to reaffirm our determination to change the system in place with all its components, including its sexist, patriarchal and misogynistic aspects.”

The creative presence of women, youth, workers and national minorities in the Algerian freedom movement promises much for the future.

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