Despite the Coronavirus crisis and global warnings about large gatherings in public spaces, young Algerians are continuing to take to the streets in protest against the government.
Anti-government protests in Algeria have been persisting for over a year now, for 56 weeks in a row to be exact. However, the greatest challenge to these protests has come not in the form of a government crackdown, but the spread of the Coronavirus to the country, which has thus far seen 60 confirmed cases and 5 deaths.
Elements of the protest movement (Hirak) have refused to backed down in the face of the Cornavirus spread and have continued to organise street protests calling for radical changes to the country’s political system.
“The Algerian people have taken to the streets despite the Coronavirus. This confirms that the Algerian people are determined to completely change the regime, whatever the price”, asserted one of the protesters on the streets in Algiers.
Nevertheless, this approach has not been shared by all those participating in the protest movement. Some leading members have opposed the continuation of the protests during a health crisis.
“We agreed with a large group of leading members affiliated with the movement to suspend marches, gatherings, and all protests related to the movement for a definite period”, stated Said Irzi, an active participant in Hirak.
Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who has treaded carefully with the protest movement, announced on 17 March in a televised speech that street marches are temporarily banned amidst the Coronavirus crisis. In addition to this, Algeria has suspended air and sea travel with European countries and has closed mosques.
Not all members of the protest movement have heeded to the ban and to the warnings given by other members of Hirak. Those who are continuing to take to the streets claim that the government is using Coronavirus as an excuse to clamp down on the anti-government protests. Nevertheless, as the number of Coronavirus cases in Algeria rise, and considering the official ban on street marches, it is likely that the protests will temporarily wane in the coming weeks.