[All links forward to French sources unless otherwise stated]
Western embassies were targeted by protesters in many Arab nations after an anti-Islamic movie trailer was published online. Yet calls for protests in the capital of Algeria, Algiers, went mostly unnoticed. Here follows a review of the reactions online from the Algerian blogosphere.
L’appel sur Facebook pour un grand rassemblement devant l’ambassade US à Alger s’est avéré être un pétard mouillé.
The Algerian press, with the exception of one Arab-language publication, echouroukonline.com, has given very little attention to the event, or to its failure, to be exact. Such was this elwatan.com headline:
Tentative de marche avortée à Alger.
On the same subject, the publication revealed that about 100 protesters had denounced the film in question at Oran, the second most important city in the country. In fact, running into a very strong police presence, dozens of protesters at Oran were happy to just hang up a banner depicting a slogan they had adopted from broadcasts by Arab satellite television channels.
The other important French language news sites such as liberté-algerie.com, preferred to focus on the events unfolding in Cairo, Tunis, Sanaa, and Khartoum, while paying no attention to attempts to organize marches specifically in Algiers and Oran. Echourouk, a website known for its Islamist sympathies, stated approvingly that:
Les algériens se sont levés pour venir au secours du prophète.
On Thursday, 16 September, the site had practically taken over the calls that circulated on the web for protests against American diplomatic presence in Algiers. This publication, which has the highest circulation in Algieria, at about half a million copies per day, also stands out for the number of comments that are made by its readership. More than 200 readers shared their opinion on this subject alone, some going so far as to join law and order groups that were trying to prevent protests against Israeli forces prohibiting Palestinians from accessing the path to El Qods mosque in Jerusalem each Friday.
Furthermore, the warning issued by the United States Embassy in Algiers to US citizens to avoid travel in Algeria has attracted the attention of some newspapers, including those online. TSA (tsa-algerie.com) queried the silence of Algerian authorities concerning this alert.
Samir Allam wrote the following:
Depuis mercredi, les critiques à l’égard de la position algérienne se multiplient dans les réseaux sociaux et la presse. L’Algérie a réagi via le ministère des Affaires étrangères. Mais contrairement aux autres pays, ni le président de la République Abdelaziz Bouteflika, ni son Premier ministre, n’ont commenté publiquement l’affaire.
In the same article, the newspaper reported that Ali Bel Hadj, number two of the now dissolved ISF (Islamic Salvation Front) [en] attempted to protest before the US Embassy headquarters in Algiers, which resulted in him being pulled in by the police.
The website dna-algerie.com has focused on the attack on the US Embassy in Tunis and the fire at an American school in the same city, while not saying a word about the attempts to hold demonstrations in Algiers and elsewhere. This is also the case for algeriepatriotique.com which, on covering the clashes that took place in Tunis, addressed the issue with the help of a specialist who in turn compared the extremes back to back.
Sonia B added to the calls for demonstrations:
Les Algériens ne sont pas tombés dans le piège de la violence qui ne fait que ternir davantage l’image du monde musulman. De leur côté, plusieurs imams ont dénoncé les manifestations violentes qui secouent plusieurs pays arabes et musulmans
There is bickering on social networks between those who have called to occupy the streets and those who instead advocated moderation and self control. The Facebook page 123 viva Algeria, which distinguished itself in January 2011, taking a stand against what would be named the ‘Arab Spring’, yet again assumed the role of firefighter.
At the same time, other Facebookers have attempted to mobilize to get citizens on the street. It should also be noted that all the mosques of Algeria tried to calm Muslims during Friday prayer and called for restraint.
Is it the fact that the streets Algeria are not aligned with those of Benghazi, Tunis, Cairo and Khartoum which allows us to invoke ‘the Algerian exception’, loudly proclaimed during the Arab spring? That is a whole other debate.