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Will Algeria Follow Tunisia and Egypt?

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

Despite the fall of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali following a popular revolt and the forced departure of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Algerians have still not managed to own their streets.

The two attempts by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy to organize a march in Algiers on February 12 and 19, 2011, failed, mostly because of the security measures set up to prevent Algerians from protesting, but also due to the weakness of the organizations calling for the demonstrations.

Police out in force to prevent demonstrations from escalating in Algiers, Algeria on 12 February, 2011. Image by ENVOYES_SPECIAUX_ALGERIENS, copyright Demotix (12/02/2011).

Police out in force to prevent demonstrations from escalating in Algiers, Algeria on 12 February, 2011. Image by ENVOYES_SPECIAUX_ALGERIENS, copyright Demotix (12/02/2011).

For Algerian web surfer Dihya Roufi, the difference is obvious [now unavailable]:

tout le monde en Algérie
est conscient de la nécessité d’un changement mais les paramètres dans
les différents pays ne sont pas pareils donc la méthode sera
différente et spécifique à l'Algérie. En Tunisie: éclatement brusque
parce que les répressions des libértés étaient totales. Pour une
blague, une parole, une chanson contre le régime c'était la prison et
la torture…

Everyone in Algeria is aware of the need for change but the parameters in the various countries are not the same, so the methods will be different and specific to Algeria. In Tunisia, we saw a sudden outburst because in that country freedoms are completely repressed. A simple joke, a word, or a song against the regime meant prison and torture…

On February 12, 2011, nearly 2,000 people took part in the demonstration in May First Square in capital Algiers. Security forces prevented demonstrators from marching in the city's main streets.

The blogger R.Z writes [fr]:

If there were any gathering to speak of in Algiers today, it would undoubtedly be the police gathering, which numbered some 40,000 sent to stop and repress the march for change. The protest managed to draw only about 2,000 participants. Clashes broke out between the protesters and the police, who were armed to the teeth. They called in 16 people for questioning and immediately released them, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The security apparatus rolled out for the demonstration was not the only thing discouraging Algerians from participating. Some of the organizers of the march were discredited because they are members of parliament. Algerienmeskine writes [fr]:

Sorry guys, you were marching for the Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS), not for Algeria. We “Algerians” don't have a big problem with President Bouteflika because he's just a puppet. Yesterday was total confusion. Said Sadi, “a creature of the DRS,” took center stage everywhere, and no one else did… Said Sadi, the first one to loudly applaud the genocidal massacre of Algerians, just got ahead by stomping on the blood of Algerians.

Khaled Satour makes his case in an article entitled “Algérie : Le leurre de la « révolution arabe »” (Algeria: The Illusion of the “Arab Revolution” [fr]):

We have to free ourselves from this harmful siren call of the “Arab revolution” that deludes us into thinking the slate has been wiped clean and all alliances are possible. Sadly, we already know some of the apostles of “democracy” who are protesting once again; authorities didn't even bother to find a younger generation of the acolytes it secretly maintains! For the moment, the organized protest is just for show. People are waiting doggedly, almost indecently, for the spark that will enflame the nation's cities.  Under the present circumstances, I fear that this is for the worse rather than the better.

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

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