Home » Algerian opposition demands end of government’s ban on protests amid Gaza war
Algeria Defence Featured Global News Middle East News

Algerian opposition demands end of government’s ban on protests amid Gaza war

Opposition parties in Algeria are spotlighting the North African country’s double standards, namely how, despite being a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, people cannot gather in marches or demonstrations to express that support due to a ban on these gatherings.

“It is incomprehensible for the authorities to continue to ban marches and demonstrations in the streets and public squares in support of the Palestinian cause, which is our central issue,” said Louisa Hanoune, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party, during a political meeting in Setif last week.

Three years ago, the Algerian interior ministry decided that all protests would need a permit specifying the names of organisers and the start and finish times of the demonstrations. Such restrictions would mean naming specific individuals formally responsible for a hitherto leaderless protest movement, even if authorities granted permits.

These measures align with a clause in the constitution approved by Algerian voters in November 2020, in a referendum that drew only 25% participation, requiring organisers to give advance information before demonstrations. The interior ministry’s measures occurred in the aftermath of the Hirak, an uprising that toppled the regime of Bouteflika.

The new regime, still widely influenced by the military and fearing a similar fate, launched a crackdown on hundreds of activists, journalists, and supporters of the movement using an overly broad definition of terrorism. 

As of March 2022, 280 people were still in jail on terrorism charges.

In 2019, when hundreds of thousands took to the Algerian streets, protesters chanted “La casa del Mouradia,” an anti-military rule chant, and “Palestine martyrs,” both chants born in the country’s football stadiums. Supporting the Palestinian cause and advocating for a democratic outcome in Algeria are two inseparable demands of the Hirak, so authorising one would mean allowing the other.

Facing criticism, the authorities, with the support of the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) and allied parties, encouraged the population to take to the streets in an organised rally last October. Thousands of Algerians turned out for the rally despite it being “overseen by a regime that prohibits gatherings and continues to repress those who demand peaceful change. It is a duty,” said some protesters at the time.

However, since then, the streets in Algeria have once again become devoid of popular gatherings as the country prepares for a pivotal presidential election in September.

The ban has also impacted the political scene at the country’s universities. Known for their historical support for the Palestinian cause, Algerian student unions’ manifestations amid Israel’s war on Gaza were minimal amid the country’s harsh trials against those braving the state’s rules and bans.

Today, Algerian activists are demanding that the state lift the ban on the right to protest and allow pro-Palestine marches, pointing out the government’s double standards in regard to its stance on freedom and resistance, namely the disparity between its vocal support for Palestinian resistance and its repression of domestic peaceful protests.

“Authorities should allow the Algerian people to express their positions like other peoples of the world and to take to the streets in demonstrations in support of Palestine and the resistance,” added Abdelali Hassani, President of the Islamist Movement for the Society of Peace, during his party gathering over the weekend.

As the presidential election approaches, this protest ban remains one of the reflections of the broader oppression prevalent in Algeria amid the growing dissatisfaction with the current regime’s policies.

Source: The New Arab