Algeria: protests demand “second independence”

Up to 2,000 marched in Algiers despite a ban on demonstrations in the city Feb. 12, and briefly pushed back against police who tried to bar the march with a cordon. Police flooded the streets with troops and armored vehicles to block the march, called by the recently formed National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD). “We want a second independence,” leading government critics demanded in an online video. “We are the generation of rupture.”

Demonstrators, who included Ali Bejadj, one of the leaders of the banned Islamic Salvation Front, chanted “Free Algeria” and “Regime out!” Among those arrested was a deputy from the opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), Othmane Maazouz. RCD president Said Sadi, said by telephone that he was outraged that 90-year-old veteran human rights campaigner Ali Yahia Abdelnour had been manhandled by police. He added the police had also suppressed street celebrations that broke out following the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. He said that police had already violently dispersed a gathering on Friday of people celebrating Mubarak’s downfall and made 10 arrests. “It wasn’t even an organized demonstration,” he said. “It was spontaneous. It was an explosion of joy.”

A 36-year-old unemployed father of six died Feb. 10 after setting himself on fire three weeks ago in regional council offices in eastern Algeria. He brought to four the number of Algerians who have died from self-immolation since January. At least a dozen Algerians have set themselves on fire so far this year—inspired by a similar act in neighboring Tunisia that was the catalyst for the current wave of Arab uprisings. (Middle East Online, Feb. 12; Middle East Online, Feb. 10)

See our last posts on Algeria, the Maghreb and the new Arab uprisings.

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