More protest rallies followed last week’s demonstrations in Algeria, marking the completion of two years since the beginning of the Hirak movement protests. On Monday, February 22, demonstrations and marches were witnessed in multiple Algerian cities, including capital Algiers, Annaba, Oran, Béjaïa, Sétif, Bouira, Mostaganem, Constantine and Tizi Ouzou, reported Al Jazeera. Similar protest rallies were held last week on Tuesday in the city of Kherrata in the north, where the first Hirak protests against then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika had started before spreading to other parts of the country.
Monday’s protests in Algiers witnessed the participation of a large number of protesters after a long time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns that followed from March last year which had forced the protests to be temporarily suspended.
Protesters on Monday were seen waving flags and banners with slogans like “the fateful hour has arrived” written in Arabic. They raised slogans against the Algerian government, the military, and current president Abdelmadjid Tebboune, saying “we are not here to celebrate, but to demand your departure”, “A civilian state not a military state!”and “Enough is enough!”
Heavy police presence surrounded the protesters monitoring the situation. According to Algerian prisoners’ rights group National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), the security forces arrested approximately 26 people in Algiers and 59 others across the country during the protests for unspecified reasons. On February 23, protests continued and participants have demanded the immediate release of all detained in connection to Hirak protests.
RDV quotidien à 14:00 pour maintenir la flamme du #Hirak durant la pandémie et pour exiger la libération immediate et sans conditions des détenus de l'opinion #ما_تسكتوناش #يتنحاو_ڤاع #الحراك_مستمر #الحرية_لمعتقلي_الرأي #حراكنا_ثورة_لتغيير_شاملpic.twitter.com/Edgl1bTGj8
— Riad Kaced (@riadkaced) February 23, 2021
Security forces were deployed in different parts of the capital, including in the city center, and multiple security checkpoints were set up to carry out identity checks, causing heavy traffic jams in various parts of the city. The police reportedly undertook such stringent measures to prevent protesters from marching to the ‘Grand Poste’ or the Grand Post Office building, which was one of the epicenters of the initial Hirak protests in February 2019 against Bouteflika announcing his bid for a fifth consecutive term in office.
Due to the massive protests, Bouteflika was forced to withdraw his candidacy and subsequently resigned in the face of intense popular opposition and anger against him and his government. The Hirak movement protesters demanded a complete change of guard in the country with the removal of all Bouteflika era politicians, businessmen, military officers and other elites part of the corrupt government-business nexus. The protests continued even after Bouteflika’s exit for almost a year before coming to an abrupt end due to the pandemic.