Thousands of protesters returned to the streets in Algiers as Algerians mark the two-year anniversary of the Hirak protest movement that ousted the country’s long-term president from power in 2019.
The 2019–2020 Algerian protests, also known as Revolution of Smiles or Hirak Movement, began on 16 February 2019, six days after octogenarian Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention for a fifth presidential bid in a signed statement. A months-long movement demanding sweeping reform.
Algerian protesters massed up displaying flags in Kherrata, 200 kilometres east of the capital, chanting slogans against the government: “We didn’t come to celebrate but to set ourselves free,” demonstrating again where it all started two years ago.
The unprecedented leaderless protest is demanding a total overhaul of the ruling system, only suspended rallies in March last year as the coronavirus pandemic forced it off the streets.
Following the protests, especially in Kherrata where it started two years ago and quickly snowballed into nationwide demonstrations, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has announced a government re-shuffle and ordered the release of up to 60 people detained from the Hirak protest movement and vowed to meet all of the Hirak’s demands.
Tuesday’s rally was attended by prominent Hirak figures including Karim Tabbou, who was handed a one-year suspended sentence in December for “undermining national security”.
The past few weeks have seen renewed demonstrations in the build-up to the February 22 anniversary of the first nation-wide protests, particularly in the traditionally troubled Kabylie region.
The protests’ successes were first recorded when former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika gave in to public pressure, announcing in early April his decision to step down after ruling for 20 years.
More protesters have called for a removal of Algeria’s political elites, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression…calling the elections that followed Bouteflika’s resignation a sham.