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Algeria’s Remarkably Peaceful Protests Continue, Demand New Government

“Saeed, the president’s brother, is the ruler of our country. He is ruling behind the curtain, we won’t let this happen and the army is with us, we want now a radical change.”

Tens of thousands of Algerians protested Friday in several cities across the North African country calling for a complete political turnover despite the already announced resignation of current long-serving President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Protesters say that the resignation of President Bouteflika, which was announced last week, is not enough. They claim that corrupted key allies of his political regime are still in office, including Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, Constitutional Council President Tayeb Belaiz and the President of the Council of the Nation Abdelkader Bensaleh who is now the acting president. Protesters are unhappy with Bensaleh’s role in managing the transition.

What do the Algerian Protestors Say?

Many Algerians, such as 29-year-old Ph.D. student and protestor Soumia, are calling now for the whole government to resign as they say it doesn’t represent their hopes and aspirations for a new Algeria. Soumia told Citizen Truth that she doesn’t trust the current government of Prime Minister Badoui because he is part of the corrupted ruling gang according to her.

She added “they should all step down,” though she would support the assistance of the Algerian military on the condition that they would not intervene in the “democratic transition of the regime.”

Fatima, a 53-year-old court reporter, said that she hit the streets at the beginning of the protests along with colleagues because she felt that her country was hijacked by a gang since President Bouteflika suffered a debilitating stroke in 2013.

“Saeed, the president’s brother, is the ruler of our country,” she said. “He is ruling behind the curtain, we won’t let this happen and the army is with us, we want now a radical change.”

While for 32-year-old Salah, a day laborer, the deep roots of Algeria’s crisis lies in French intervention. “France has many interests in Algeria, they are interfering in everything. They have allies inside the regime,” Salah stated.

Salah added that Algeria is still under French rule, despite winning its independence in 1962, and that Algeria won’t be able to have a democratic government until they put an end to foreign involvement.

Algerian Protests Noted for Remarkable Calm

Remarkably, the Algerian protestations that sparked in the 22nd of last February have been peaceful and bloodless. Protestors persist in chanting “silmiya” (peaceful in Arabic) in protests across the country.

That’s what made “Marwa” 24, a makeup artist, have the courage to attend protests on Fridays.

“I decided to participate in the demonstrations when I saw that it was completely peaceful. I wanted to express my patriotism and defend my country against those who rob its destiny. I felt that we have to make our voices heard and show other nations how civilized we are”.

In fact, many international newspapers and channel stations expressed how inspirational the Algerian uprising is, saying that the success of this nonviolent movement to change a regime may be a revival to what was known as “the Arab spring”.

For example, ABC Australia recently ran an article about the Algerian protests using the title, “Algeria’s tidy revolutionaries take to the streets again after mass protests, this time to clean up.” The article’s subheading then says, “Algeria’s protest movement is unlike any other — after massive weekly pro-democracy demonstrations, the protesters return to roam the streets picking up bottles, papers and other detritus left behind.”

Algerian protests began February 22 in response to Bouteflika seeking a fifth term and running in the April 18th presidential elections. President Bouteflika has not been seen in public much since he suffered a stroke in 2013, leading Algerians to accuse him of a being a puppet for powerful players behind the curtain.

Though Bouteflika ultimately said he would resign, the momentum of the protests led to a larger scale protest of the whole Bouteflika administration which Algerians see as corrupt. Protests are likely to continue until Algeria holds its presidential election on July 4.

Amina Elidrissy

Amina Elidrissy is a freelance writer who was a former local journalist and photojournalist in Algeria. She is passionate about sharing people's stories and making their voices heard through her work.

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