Hirak Jayanti means how many years

Protest movement is back on Algeria's streets

Less than a month after the demonstrations on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Algerian protest movement (February 22nd) it is clear: The protest movement, in Arabic »Hirak«, is back and brings tens of thousands of people onto the streets every week. Even if the number of participants is not comparable with the millions of demonstrators of 2019, the movement has lost none of its determination and is successful: Not only that it chased long-term president Abdelaziz Bouteflika out of office in April 2019; In addition, the movement is also present in public - despite the ban on gatherings. For better or for worse, the leadership of the country must take this fact into account. For President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who has always spoken of the "blessed Hirak" since his election in December last year, his demands have "largely" been met. Meanwhile, a different message can be heard at the regular demonstrations on Friday and Tuesday. Instead of the early parliamentary elections scheduled by the president, the people are demanding a radical break with the old system. They insist on a constituent assembly. The protests are also a reaction to contradicting signals from those in power. The head of state had amnestied dozens of political prisoners shortly before the anniversary. At the same time, however, the police had again cracked down on peaceful demonstrators in the first demonstrations and arrested hundreds.

The UN Human Rights Commission recently expressed itself "very worried" about the "continuing and increasing repression against the democratic protest movement Hirak". According to its spokesman, Rupert Colville, 32 people are currently in custody for expressing opinions. "We have received reports from prisoners of torture and undignified treatment, including sexual assault," he said. In February, the regime critic Walid Nekkiche went public with allegations of physical and sexual abuse after his release. The 25-year-old student broke a taboo, which sparked a nationwide outcry. A "Committee Against Torture" founded by lawyers, journalists and human rights activists calls for an independent investigation into the incidents. The population also accepted an announcement by Justice Minister Belkacem Zeghmati as hardly building confidence. He is working on a bill to be able to expatriate Algerians who are critical of the regime abroad: an unequivocal threat against the millions living in the diaspora, many of whom support the hirak.

In this climate of restricted political freedom, many people are skeptical of the elections scheduled for the end of June. There are great fears that this vote, too, will be neither transparent nor fair. The movement is therefore faced with the question of whether and how it should position itself on the political agenda of those in power. The vice-president of the Algerian Human Rights League (LADDH), Said Salhi, wants to see the pressure of the street lead to concrete political actions. He calls for a national conference of Hirak. “That is the only perspective to give the peaceful marches that have started again a political continuation. Only in this way can we achieve a democratic and peaceful transition to a civil, democratic, social constitutional state, «he wrote. But: is the government ready for a dialogue? In the opinion of the government-critical newspaper »El Watan«, it would do well to give up its previous »catastrophic strategy of repression«. It should "no longer see Hirak as an enemy that needs to be eliminated when it can be an unexpected ally in the establishment of a state and a society in the direction of modernity," said the commentator.

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