algeria hirak

Thanks to Parti des Travailleurs (حزب العمال Akabar Ixeddamen) of Algeria for letting us know the cruel condition of life in which the majority of population are in. But before we go to that and start thinking what might happen, we should have a recap of last 3½ years.

The movement started on a Friday, February 16 and continued each Friday for months after months, just like the Gilet Jaunes movement in France every Saturday. Algerians named it (حراك) HIRAK, which also means a quality, to be ‘in motion’. On March 11 one of the most popular slogans was born: (يتنحاو ڨاع) Yetnahaw ga3 (spoken almost as ‘gaaa’) Let them all go, or as the Spanish speaking word says: ¡Que se vayan todos! – this was shouted by a bystander to a Turkish TV crew who was trying to tell what the people want. People burst out in movement after hearing the old president  nominating himself for a fifth run in the presidential election, and he was closely aided by the military and the whole state machinery.

As protests grew the government was quick in repression. If allowed to quote from an old CC piece by this author, “Dr Kamel Eddine Fekhar was arrested on March 31 by the authority in the de facto military rule that is continuing in Algeria. He started hunger strike and became very weak. His health was already fragile and he undertook several hunger strikes in the past when he was arrested protesting government injustices. Rightly he was honoured there not only as a practising doctor but also, or more, as a human right activist. Sadly, he when his health was much deteriorated the military jail sent him to hospital and he died on May 28 at an age of 55 only; and what an irony, the hospital where he died is named after that great Dr (Psychiatrist) and Algerian Revolutionary Franz Fanon.” It was also reported that, “Louisa Hanoune, the Secretary General of Workers Party …. is also under military custody since May 9. And she is not alone. Nobody knows exactly how many or how many hundreds of activists and protestors are under arrest. But arresting Madame Hanoune is a signifier, it shows that the authority is not ready to spare anyone. Louisa Hanoune is the first woman in the Arab world to contest in a presidential election, that was in 2004, and in 2009 presidential election she got 4.22% vote to be the runners up … She is now under arrest; the military court accused her for plotting conspiracy against the military and the state.”

But the protest continued. In November newspapers were reporting words like “Marée humaine” (Sea of People) and “nouvelle indépendance” (New Independence); in December people were overtly telling that they want to boycott elections (a photo of demonstrators with banner “No Aux Elections!”, for example, can be seen here). The president eager to get re-elected had to get out of race even if he managed to put one of his yes-men in the race. In mid-December, Abdelmadjid Tebboune became the next president creating a history or world record perhaps — more than 60% abstentions (!!) and among those voted about 42% voted against him! And protests still continued. In the first anniversary of the protest, while protest was still continuing each Friday, the new president declared and amnesty (decreed on February 16 and 22, 2021) and released thousands of arrested persons from jail.

But covid outbreak changed the situation. The government tightened some rules – dos and don’ts – but many protesters were adamant to continue defying government orders. However, considering probability of public health disaster, some prominent leaders (some still in jail) like imprisoned activist Karim Tabbou, human rights lawyer Mustafa Bouchachi requested people to withheld Friday protests. So, in March 2021, first time the protest chain was stopped.

In 2021 February some people gathered to celebrate the second anniversary, some, not many. And government also responded by releasing more prisoners.

Covid impacted the movement and the economy too was shattered.

We cannot at present give detail of happenings here due to scarcity of time. But now we should see the message of PT, posted at about 02:00 AM IST, August 26, 2022. As the message was in Arabic only and not also accompanied by French, we had to depend on machine translation:

“All the experts and observers know that the monthly wage that will allow a decent living for a family of 5 members that consume only local products is estimated at least 100,000 DZD.

“Whereas about 80% of workers and retirees earn a monthly income of less than 30 thousand Algerian dinars.

“In the face of settling in misery, malnutrition affecting large sections of society and even the looming famine, officials dare to talk about “control”” the situation!

“Waiting to monitor the prices of school supplies that exceeded all expectations (+300% for some supplies like the 96-page notebook which went from 30 to 100 Algerian dinars in one year), we publish on 25 August 2022 the prices of some basic food items that show how much they have declined. The purchasing power that It has reached unprecedented and unbearable records.

“…Here (we) pose a few legitimate questions:

“Where is the state to stop this infernal situation?

“How do you interpret such a paradox: a very rich country with a poor population?

“When is this sweeping machine (cost of living) going to stop.

“Vegetable prices

Pumpkin

220 DZD / kg

Carrots

160 DZD / kg

Sweet Pepper

120 DZD / kg

Chilli

200 DZD / kg

Eggplant

130 DZD / kg

Tomato

150 DZD / kg

Onion

70 DZD / kg

Cucumber

120 DZD / kg.

Watermelon

90 DZD / kg

Peach

350 DZD / kg

Dates

650 DZD / kg

Prices of meat and eggs

Egg tray / Egg tray

540 DZD

Chicken

500 DZD/Kg (2.5% of guaranteed national minimum wage)

Chicken breast

950 DZD / kg

Chicken leg

250 DZD / unit

Beef

2000 DZD/Kg (10% of guaranteed national minimum wage)

Lamb

2200 DZD / kg

Steamed Rice أرز مفور

215 DZD / kg”

And the party conjectured: “The silent fury that inhabits all stratum of the masses could erupt at any moment.”

PS:
1. 100 Algerian Dinar (DZD) = 57 Indian Rs as on today
2. Due to this hurriedly written report a misunderstanding may develop that the sole reason or main reason behind the start of the 2019 HIRAK was the decision of the ex-president to run for presidential election again — which does not reflect the whole of the reality.
3. Due to this hurriedly written report a misunderstanding may develop that the sole reason or main reason behind present economic condition and hardship of the people was due to covid — which does not reflect the whole of the reality.

Sandeep Banerjee is a researcher based in Kolkata, West Bengal


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