The crackdown on the « Hirak » movement by the Abdelmadjid Tebboune government is intensifying. Several hundred demonstrators have been arrested in Algeria as the authorities intensify their efforts to suppress a years-long protest movement that has demanded sweeping political reform.
Algerian authorities cracked down on weekly marches by the « Hirak » movement in Algiers and several cities across the country on Friday, carrying out hundreds of arrests for the second week running, according to human rights activists. Said Salhi, head of the Algerian League of Human Rights, said about 800 people were detained Friday in Algiers and 19 other governorates of the country.
« The majority have been released but 40 people are still in detention, » he wrote on Twitter. A heavy police presence in the capital prevented their weekly march, local media reported, with police blocking roads and regular protest routes early in the morning. Freelance reporters and photographers without media accreditation could not cover the march. In addition, internet outages hampered media coverage in some cities.
The largely leaderless and politically unstructured « Hirak » movement was launched in 2019 following the candidacy of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a fifth term as Algeria’s leader, while he was wheelchair-bound. The ailing leader was forced to resign weeks later, but the ‘Hirak’ continued its demonstrations, demanding a radical overhaul of the ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
The marches were suspended for about a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but protesters have been back on the streets since February and have given the movement new momentum. At least 133 people are currently detained in connection with the Hirak movement or freedom of expression cases, according to Algerian Detainees.