Thousands of people have rallied in the eastern Algerian city of Kherrata to commemorate the beginning of demonstrations against former longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika two years ago.
Defying coronavirus restrictions, demonstrators in Kherrata, located some 300km (186 miles) east of the capital Algiers, shouted slogans on Tuesday against the country’s political class and powerful military.
They chanted “a civilian state, not a military state” and “the gang must go” as they brandished Berber and Algerian flags.
#Kherrata ce mardi 16 février célébrant l’an 2 du #Hirak. Pr rappel, 1 des 1ers rassemblements s'était tenu il y a 2 ans, le mardi 16/02/2019, ici même à #Béjaïa. Puis à #Alger et d’autres villes le 22/02/2019. Marches ininterrompues jusqu’au covid.
Crédit photo : @inter_lignes pic.twitter.com/Iq8UOvM4O0
— Moncef Ait-Kaci (منصف آيت قاسي) (@Moncefaitkaci) February 16, 2021
Translation: Kherrata, this Tuesday, February 16, is celebrating two years of the #Hirak. As a reminder, one of the first gatherings was held here two years ago, on Tuesday 02/16/2019, here in #Bejaïa [province]. Then to #Algiers and other cities on 02/22/2019. [The marches were] uninterrupted up until the COVID [pandemic].
Some of the demonstrators arrived from other provinces to take part in Tuesday’s rally in Kherrata where the first protests against Bouteflika took place on February 16, 2019.
On February 22 that year, tens of thousands of protesters marched in cities across the country to demand the octogenarian’s departure and later a sweeping overhaul of the ruling system that was in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
“We came to revive the Hirak that was stopped for health reasons. They didn’t stop us. We stopped because we care for our people. Today coronavirus is over and we will get the Hirak back,” Nassima, a protester, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
The rallies came to a halt in March last year as the coronavirus pandemic reached the North African country.
مظاهرات سليمة حاشدة في خراطة إحتفالا بالذكرى الثانية للحراك pic.twitter.com/vtEvZN9Tth
— Madjeda Zouine (@magdita88) February 16, 2021
Translation: Mass demonstrations in Kherrata to celebrate the second anniversary of the Hirak.
But demonstrations have been witnessed in recent weeks again, particularly in the traditionally restive region of Kabylie.
In recent days, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in December 2019, has been in talks with heads of political parties, during which he discussed the possibility of dissolving the parliament and holding early elections, according to politicians.
The move could be aimed at appeasing the Hirak protest movement which criticises Tebboune for belonging to Bouteflika’s old regime.
He was prime minister under Bouteflika but was sacked after three months in office.
While the protest movement has no clear leadership, its supporters have repeatedly discussed online how to rekindle its presence on the streets as an active force to press for change.
“It is a revolutionary process for a very precise goal, which is the departure of the regime, the whole regime with all its components,” said Hamid, a protester.