Islamists lead aid efforts in Algeria

A man calls through a megaphone at a crowd milling around him in the central square in the Algerian town of Zemmouri, the epicentre of last week’s devastating earthquake.

    Islamists have been visibly active
    in the aid effort

    The man, known as one of the “bearded ones”, is one of Algeria’s Islamists who quickly mobilised in the aftermath of the earthquake to lend a helping hand to the shattered country.

    They have vigorously helped to distribute international and government emergency aid, pitched in with rescue and recovery efforts and dug graves.

    Zemmouri, about 60 kilometres east of Algiers, voted massively in favour of Islamist candidates in local elections in 1990 and again in legislative elections in 1991.

    The second round of elections in early 1992 was abruptly cancelled when it grew clear the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was poised to win, plunging the country into civil war.

    The fighting has claimed about 150,000 lives, although it has dropped since Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika introduced a blanket amnesty in 1999.

    Algeria’s Islamists, who gained popularity in the early 1990s, are proving to be highly organised. Food, medical supplies, blankets and clothing have been flowing into Zemmouri and as 

    soon as a truck appears young Islamists hurry to meet it and help in distribution.

    They have also taken to directing traffic along with local government workers and police.

    A local journalist said, “It feels like 1989 all over again,” in reference to an earthquake that struck the town of Tipaza, killing hundreds.

    the newly formed FIS built solidarity networks which appear to have been reactivated by latest disaster.


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.