Algerians took to the streets by the thousands on Monday to mark the second anniversary of the “hirak” protest movement, pressing for overall democratic reforms as many remained unimpressed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s call for new elections and the overtures to move forward in unity.
The protests remained peaceful, while activists stressed their concerns about increasing repression of movement leaders but remained undeterred in their demands for regime change.
“We are not asking for new elections or a new parliament, which was mainly an FLN main-party parliament,” said Ibtykar member Mehdi Brahimi, speaking with François Picard of France24. “What we want is a new regime.”
The protest movement began in 2019 as Algerians gathered to oppose former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s run for a fifth term, forcing to him resign. It continued on as a broader call to end the military-led government and establish civilian leadership, with little in the way of meaningful change.
“What we’ve been seeing is rounds of superficial and cosmetic reforms that have clearly reached their limits,” said Chatham House fellow Tin Hinan El Kadi during the same interview.
Some 40 opposition leaders were released over the weekend, including journalist Khaled Drareni, but that leaves dozens still detained ahead of Monday’s mass gatherings. “Many of those pardoned by President Tebboune in recent days were peaceful activists who were exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and should never have been detained in the first place,” said Amna Guellali, the regional Amnesty International director.