Briefed: Algeria's Hirak Movement
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
In 1962, Algeria gains independence from France , after 132 years of French occupation.
Ahmed Ben Balla elected as first President, leader of the Front de Liberation National (FLN)
Overthrown by Colonel Boumedienne in 1965.
1988: Riots over economic instability
1992: After political freedoms are granted following riots, the FIS (Front Islamique du Salut) comes close to winning an absolute majority in the Algerian Parliament.
Army dissolves Parliament: it's the beginning of the civil war, also called "la salle guerre", (the dirty war)
1999: Former foreign minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika is elected president. Manages to bring relative peace to the country through the 2005 Charter for Peace and Reconciliation, which gives amnesty to former militia fighters.
The Algerian Civil War mainly opposed the Algerian government to Islamist factions, the most prominent one being the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA). Fatalities estimates range between 100,000-200,000.
The "Hirak" = “Movement” in English
After almost 30 years in power, Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he will run for a 5th term. This caused anger amongst many Algerians; indeed, not only was Bouteflika severely incapacitated after suffering a stroke in 2014, but he is also considered to be part of the corrupt military junta running the country. Algerians refer to the group of people running the country as "le pouvoir".
On March 1st, 2019, a million people take to the streets in Algiers, the capital. The protesters are asking for the entire system to come down. Decades of slow growth, high unemployment and a lack of political freedoms pushed people over the top.
The protests are unprecedented for a multitude of reasons: the number of protesters, peacefulness, perseverance, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and the large number of women present.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika running for a 4th term, following a stroke in 2014
The Hirak timeline
On April 2nd, 2019, Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigns, after being asked to do so by Army chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah.
Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah calls for elections to be held in December 2019.
Abdelmajid Tebboune is elected president. The election is seen as illegitimate: only 40% of registered voters went out to vote (even though people say that figure overestimated). Tebboune is seen as part of the "pouvoir" as he was Bouteflika's Prime Minister for a couple months in 2017. He is also a member of the ruling party, the Front de Liberation National (FLN).
On December 23, 2019, Ahmed Gaed Salah dies of a heart attack
Algerians take to the street, protesting the 2019 elections which they deemed illegitimate.
Protests have been going on for more than a year now. The protesters have made progress, but didn’t achieve what they want: a full overhaul of the system. The new President has made timid reforms, but it is impossible to dissociate him from the ancient regime
The current pandemic has put a halt on the Hirak’s main method of protest: long marches every Friday. The movement has agreed to suspend them due to public health issues.
The movement is continuing online, through social media movements.
The length and perseverance of this movement, as well as its overwhelming peacefulness, carries a lot of hope. The catastrophic situation in neighbouring Libya should be closely monitored. Although Libya’s situation and how it got there isn’t really comparable to Algeria, being in a bad neighbourhood is dangerous in these kinds of situations. A successful revolution in Sudan, against the 30 year reign of dictator Omar Al-Bashir, should inspire hope for Algerians.
Open ended question:
“Does a revolution need a leader in order to succeed?”
Tell us what you think in the comments.
The song of the Hirak: This song has came to be know as one of the symbols of the movement. Listen to the lyrics (if you speak French or Arabic) to understand the significance.