Breaking from years of relative political stagnation, Algeria has witnessed remarkable developments over the past year. On February 22, 2019, hundreds of thousands of Algerians defied widespread assumptions of a fearful or apathetic citizenry and took to the streets to oppose a fifth term for ailing autocratic president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. These were the largest anti-government protests since before the 1992-2002 civil war, a conflict that was precipitated by the government’s cancellation of an election that an Islamist party was poised to win and a subsequent bloody crackdown. The February 22 anti-Bouteflika mobilization, known as “Hirak,” quickly broadened into a popular movement against “Le Pouvoir”—the military-dominated elite that has ruled Algeria since independence from France in 1962—entrenched state corruption, and the army’s political dominance. On every Friday and most Tuesdays for more than a year, Hirak has brought out a cross-section of Algerians to march for rights and freedoms, accountable and civilian-led governance, and socio-economic justice in this oil- and gas-rich nation.
Hirak’s creative, sustained, and defiantly nonviolent street pressure not only forced Bouteflika to step down in April and delayed the presidential election twice, but reawakened public activism more broadly. Yet, the systemic change demanded by so many Algerians has been elusive in the face of an entrenched military and governing elite determined to preserve their power and make as few concessions as possible. While the regime has refrained from mounting a full-scale crackdown, it has arrested scores of peaceful activists and deployed other repression against Hirak. One year later, the contest of wills between Hirak and the regime continues. Concerns over the COVID-19 virus pandemic, however, could diminish street mobilization significantly in the weeks to come.
To document the extraordinary events of Algeria since February 2019, POMED has assembled this detailed timeline. We thank Yasmina Allouche, Rochdi Alloui, Zine Labidine Ghebouli, Bill Lawrence, and POMED staff for their valuable assistance.
Photo: Matt Seymour / Unsplash