Protests for the rights of veterans and a march for jailed journalist Khaled Drareni have emerged in Algiers to demand government action.
Rabat – Algeria is witnessing renewed calls for change after two separate protests in Algiers demanded government action on Monday. As large numbers of military veterans marched on the Ministry of Defense, a separate sit-in emerged in the capital in support of jailed journalist Khaled Drareni.
The Algerian government has stamped down on dissent under the cover of its COVID-19 measures. But as measures are slowly lifting, Algerians are back on the streets to petition their government and demand change.
Hundreds of veterans marched on the capital on Monday, August 31. The protest was organized by an association of army veterans and injured soldiers. The veterans set off from Reghaia, to the east of the capital, to march on Algiers to ask for increased pensions and compensation for disabled veterans. The protesters had planned to present their demands to the Ministry of Defense.
But as the veterans made their way to Algiers, they met dozens of checkpoints and roadblocks set up by the gendarmerie. Asharq al-Awsat reported that security services stopped the protesters from reaching the ministry and they could not deliver their demands to the government.
In March 2019, protests by Algeria’s veterans provided an early sign of the eroding support for former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Large national rallies led to his resignation one month later.
On Monday the streets of Algiers also filled with the noise of another public protest. Hundreds staged a “sit-in” at the Algerian Press Agency to express solidarity with Khaled Drareni. The jailed journalist is facing a September 8 appeal over his three-year sentence for “harming national unity.”
Hundreds wore shirts with Drareni’s face and held up posters saying “free the press” and “journalism is not a crime.” Students, activists, lawyers, and artists came out to join their voices together, according to local newspaper El Watan. Around noon protesters chanted “Khaled is a journalist, not a spy” and demanded the government “free the hostages.”
Drareni’s case has become a prime example of Algeria’s efforts to silence protests and limit press freedom, prompting demonstrations in Geneva, Paris, and New York. Drareni’s case has sparked renewed focus on the government’s efforts to stifle dissent and prosecute critics.
While observers expect no immediate response by the government, Algerians’ willingness to again organize protests and oppose government oppression can only be an encouraging sign.