Algerian streets clear but protesters to 'be back stronger'
Activists proposing ‘virtual’ Hirak or demonstrations held on balconies as coronavirus
empties Algerian streets of anti-
March 23 2020
Middle East Online
Now the "Hirak" citizens movement -
"We will be back stronger than before," vowed independent journalist Khaled Drareni, who has been arrested several times for covering the demonstrations, on Twitter.
"This is an opportunity to go beyond the marches."
In a flurry of ideas being floated on the internet, activists have proposed a "virtual" Hirak on the web, or mass demonstrations held on balconies.
"Many proposals are being circulated on this subject -
"It is crucial that the flame of Hirak keeps on burning."
For now a major focus has been to harness the mass movement to help combat the pandemic threat and plug the gaps of the public health care system.
The North African country by Monday had 201 confirmed infections and reported 17 deaths. Many medical professionals fear the already strained hospitals will soon be overwhelmed.
Hirak's role should be one of "solidarity and, if need be, national mobilisation against corona," said Said Salhi of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights.
"We can set up solidarity, relief, aid, education groups," he wrote.
'Health the top priority'
The Hirak movement erupted on February 22 last year and scored a spectacular success when, within weeks, it forced the ouster of Bouteflika, now aged 83.
Bouteflika had announced plans to run for a fifth term after 20 years in power, despite being debilitated by a 2013 stroke.
The emboldened demonstrators stayed on the streets, demanded the dismantling of the
wider power structure Bouteflika had built, which they decried as a self-
A December election that installed one-
Since then the Friday rallies of the non-
As the virus has swept the world, the government banned demonstrations last Tuesday. But the protesters didn't need to be told and independently suspended rallies on public health grounds.
An initial claim made the rounds on social media that the virus was a regime plot
to end Hirak -
"Requesting a suspension of Hirak is not treason", wrote journalist Akram Belkaid in the Quotidien d'Oran daily newspaper.
"It is to recognise that in life, there are priorities -
'Anger will come back'
The decision by the protesters to suspend their rallies "revealed a maturity and
political consciousness," said Louisa Dris-
President Tebboune, meanwhile, faces huge political risk in the event of a botched
response to the outbreak, said Jean-
"Tebboune draws for now an unprecedented prestige as a head of state acting to forestall the crisis," said Filiu.
But "he risks paying very dearly for possible failures in the public response to
the pandemic -
Yamina Rahou, a researcher at Oran's Centre of Research and Social Anthropology, agreed that "the coronavirus will not kill Hirak but will lay bare the problems in our country's health sector".
The protest movement, she said, "lacks neither ingenuity nor intelligence. They will find other forms of expressing themselves and carry out other actions".
Belkaid, the journalist, wrote that as the coronavirus has temporarily ended the protests, "the regime rubs its hands like an undertaker anticipating a rise in business.
"But it alone is counting on the end of Hirak. What it does not know is that anger will come back and it will be much stronger."