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Algeria: Is Revolt Contagious?

This post is part of our special coverage on Algeria Protests 2011.

Photo by John Perivolaris on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

For two days, hundreds of young people have demonstrated angrily in several Algerian villages to protest the high cost of living.  In Algiers, scenes of violence shook several working class neighborhoods, especially Bab El Oued [fr], the site of the bloody riots of October 1988.  These earlier demonstrations gave birth to a semblance of democratic life in the country, as the blogs Dzajair avant tout [fr], Algérie Politique [fr], and Scotfela [fr] remind us.

In an entry titled Le frisson de la révolte [fr], the blog It's Good to be Back [fr] links the current unrest with the situation in Tunisia :

La révolte est-elle contagieuse ? Si les situations politiques divergent radicalement en Tunisie et en Algérie [fr], les espoirs et les rêves brisés d’une jeunesse se sentant laissée pour compte de la croissance tendent à produire les mêmes effets.

Is revolt contagious?  Even if the political situations in Tunisia and Algeria [fr] are radically divergent, the broken hopes and dreams of a youth feeling  left out of economic growth tend to produce the same results.

During the night of Wednesday, January 5, young people took to the streets to the Algiers neighborhoods of Bab El Oued, Climat de France and Rais Hamidou to shout their anger at a socio-economic situation characterized by a high cost of living and unprecedented misery in such a rich country.
ALGERIE les emeutes 2011

Youtube video by user RelaxationDz

The youths targeted the police station before ransacking a Renault dealership and a Chinese automobile dealership.  The rioters also pillaged two mobile phone boutiques.  In the Cheraga neighborhood, young people set fire to tires not far from the national police barracks.  Similar scenes of violence were seen in Bordj EL Kiffane, Belcourt, and Kouba.  Demonstrators chanted slogans hostile to power and to Algeria's government leaders.

Several other cities in the country also saw rioting, especially Oran, located west of Algiers, where young people ransacked several public buildings.  The riots continued in other towns: Akbou and Tazmalt in Kabylie.

In the Chlef province, youths blocked the main road in the town of Chetia.  It should be noted that these riots coincide with a 50% salary increase for police officer.  Some observers suspect manipulation in certain circles of power.

Today, 7 January, the blog Vousnousils noted a return to calm in Algiers:

Toutefois, la police entou­rait les mos­quées des quar­tiers sen­sibles de la capi­tale, notam­ment en pré­vi­sion de la prière du ven­dredi après laquelle les mani­fes­ta­tions pour­raient reprendre, comme le craignent les habitants.

Still, the police surrounded the mosques in the tense neighborhoods of the capital, especially since, as residents fear, demonstrations could start up again after Friday prayers.

He points out that:

Ni la presse offi­cielle ni les auto­ri­tés n'ont com­menté jusqu'à pré­sent ces mani­fes­ta­tions, par­fois vio­lentes, contre les hausses allant jusqu'à 30% de cer­tains pro­duits de pre­mière néces­sité depuis le 1er janvier.

To this point, neither the official press nor authorities have commented on these sometimes violent demonstrations protesting price increases of up to 30% since January 1 on certain critical goods.

This post is part of our special coverage on Algeria Protests 2011.

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