Society

Finding Freedom In The Pages Of An Algerian Bookstore

The Librairie du Tiers monde, which has functioned as an important intellectual spot in Algeria since its founding in 1964, continues to have an open and critical outlook on the country, even at a time when power represses dissidents.

ALGIERS — There are books prominently piled on the tables: Aux Sources du Hirak; Libertés, Dignité, Algérianité, Avant et Pendant le Hirak, Hirak, Enjeux Politiques et Dynamiques Sociales … The Hirak, an Algerian "anti-system" movement that began in February 2019, may be suppressed on the streets, but it continues to be written and read about, making its way to the bookshop through cracks in the authoritarian regimes.

After Algerian voters massively rejected the June 12 legislative vote — an election that many believe was steered by the government —, the demand for freedom has gone from the voting booths to the bookstores. One of them is always full to the brim: La Librairie du Tiers Monde (The Third World Bookstore), and ranks among the most important places in Algiers's intellectual life.

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In Algeria, Ramadan Comes With COVID And Water Shortages

With water rationing, soaring food prices and an economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, Algerians begin the month of fasting in difficult conditions.

ALGIERS — "We have a president who talks to us about oil, meat and Semolina," says Hafid. Speaking from his farm in eastern Algeria, the comments refer to an interview given by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a week before the start of Ramadan on April 13. The Head of State assured that food products would be available, but also warned against speculators, accused in recent weeks of forcing the price of certain basic products — including oil — to soar.

The words apparently have not reassured ordinary Algerians, as the holy month of prayer, fasting and family gatherings begins. "It is not at the time of Ramadan that I will restrict myself," says Hafid, citing the additional expenses for the various dishes — dates, fermented milk, dried fruit, cheese — that will garnish the family table to break the daily fast. "Fortunately I have my sheep, so I will not have to buy imported meat."

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Algerian Farmer Digs For Water, Strikes Oil

While drilling deep for water last week in his field near Ouled Rahmoune, in northeastern Algeria, a farmer was surprised to see a liquid pouring from the pipes of a very different consistency, smell, color — and worth! Oil.

What makes the discovery all the more unusual is that Algeria's most important known deposits of black gold are located in the south of the country, as ObservAlgérie writes.

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Algeria, Hong Kong, India: COVID-19 Halts Protest Movements

A "pause sanitaire" is the phrase El Watan, the French-language Algerian daily, used. Such "health pauses' have been happening among popular protest groups in a number of countries, either imposed by the government or self-imposed by the demonstrators in the face of the threat of spreading coronavirus in the close proximity of street protests.

  • Algeria: Recently inaugurated President Abdelmadjid Tebboune banned street protests as of last week, bringing to an end regular mass anti-government demonstrations that began in mid-February last year after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced he would seek a fifth term in office. But few are criticizing the move: "It does not mark an abdication of the movement," El Watan"s editorial board wrote. "Just the opposite, it is the sign of true lucidity...facing the urgent question of saving thousands of lives."

  • Hong Kong: COVID-19 has in the last two months put a damper on the anti-government protests that defined 2019. But as the South China Morning Post reports, the outbreak has fueled further resentment against authorities that now fear even more violent clashes might occur as the spread of the virus dwindles.

  • Chile: The 90-day state of emergency announced by President Sebastian Pinera last week coincided with the five-month anniversary of nationwide mass protests against structural inequality. El Tiempo reports that the move was seen by many as a way of curbing the protests that had been escalating throughout March, especially as the government simultaneously postponed a referendum on a new constitution scheduled for April 26.

  • India: The government last week banned gatherings of more than 50 people, putting a stop to the long-running protest against a controversial law that bars Muslim refugees from citizenship. More bans have been imposed in other cities since, including south Mumbai, where a dispersing protester told the The Times of India: "We may have differences with the government ... but we are with the government in the fight against COVID-19."

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LE POINT
Natalie Malek

Battle Of The Ages In Algeria

-Analysis-

It's a striking contrast in both age and public exposure. Defying a sometimes repressive police force, a bold youth-led Algerian street protest movement has risen up against the North African country's aging and largely invisible leader.

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Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

Algeria Cocaine Bust Reveals New Global Hub In Narcotics Network

Authorities seized 701 kilograms of cocaine on a ship in the port of Oran. The record haul points to a growing network linking South America to Europe via Algeria.

ORAN — On May 29th, Algerian authorities discovered 701 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a meat container on a merchant ship in the port of Oran. The bust was one of the largest operations in Algerian history, leading to a police investigation that has identified Kamel Chikhi, an influential Algiers real estate mogul, as the ringleader of a drug trafficking network that distributes cocaine from Brazil to Spain by way of the ports on Algeria"s long Mediterranean coastline.

According to Algiers-based daily El Watan, drug traffickers in Algeria have a long history of using their political connections to evade arrest and expand their operations. Several powerful criminals — including Ahmed Yousfi Saïd "the emigrant" and Ahmed Zendjabil, aka "the Pablo Escobar of Oran" — dominated the drug trade in the 1990s and 2000s, acting with impunity thanks to their notable ties to the country's political elites.

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Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

Border Row Is Bad News For Moroccan Workers In Algeria

An estimated 15,000 undocumented Moroccans work in construction sites, bakeries, and in skilled trades across neighboring Algeria.

MAGHNIA — Already tense relations between Algeria and Morocco have taken a sharp turn for the worse of late, and pose a serious risk to the livelihoods of an estimated 15,000 undocumented Moroccan citizens who work for private and public companies across Algeria, the Algiers-based daily El Watan reports.

The shared border between the two North African nations has been closed since 1994. Recently, though, Algerian authorities added to the animosity by digging 7-meter-deep trenches along their side. In a tit-for-tat escalation, their Moroccan counterparts responded by erecting a two-and-a-half-meter tall fence on their side.

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Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

A New Migrant Gateway On Algeria’s Western Border

Algerian authorities have been accused of harsh treatment of asylum seekers.

MAGHNIA — The banks of the Wadi Jorgi river valley in western Algeria are littered with the remains of shacks built from branches, plastic, and sheet metal. The sprawling informal camp is home to hundreds of migrants from across Africa who are part of a growing wave of people crossing into Algeria from the nearby Moroccan border.

This latest twist in the African migrant itinerary was described in a recent reportage by the Algiers-based daily El Watan . Once the migrants arrive in the border town of Maghnia, some hope to take the "Algerian" route across the Mediterranean into Europe or instead detour through Algeria's eastern neighbor, Libya. Many instead choose to settle in Algeria but remain undocumented workers in the eyes of Algerian authorities.

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Bertrand Hauger

Peeking At The Pearl

From afar, the northern Sahara town of Ghardaïa, Algeria looks very quiet — and very dry. But once you get to the shade of its main square, you can relax, sit back and watch the camels grunt about.

Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

Algeria Cracks Down On Striking Medical Students

ALGIERS — Medical residents at the University of Algiers have been on strike since mid-November, taking to the streets surrounding the medical campus in the western suburb of Ben Aknoun. The Algerian students are demanding changes to a system that forces them to work in far-flung corners of the country after they gain their medical license, in addition to a year of mandatory military service for all men.

But this past week, as reported by Algiers-based daily El Watan, these long-running protests were met with a swift and violent response by Algerian security forces, leaving several students injured. Riot police units had fanned out across the area since the early morning, placing a security cordon in anticipation of a large protest. Once the protest was underway, witnesses reported seeing plainclothes policemen beating medical students near the campus as the situation turned more violent. Security forces took several doctors and students into custody, seizing their phones and documents.

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Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

Minority Rights In Algeria: Tension Among Tuareg Chiefs

TAMANRASSET — The rugged Hoggar mountains, stretching over an expanse of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria, are home to a large ethnic Tuareg population that has long been marginalized at the hands of the country's Arab majority. Algiers-based daily El Watan reports on a current dispute among Tuareg chiefs about how to challenge government authorities to demand their rights.

Some chiefs are set to hold a protest for Tuareg rights on March 17th at the provincial headquarters in the city of Tamanrasset. The rally was organized by Ahmed Idabir, the aménokal, or chief, of the Kel Ahaggar Tuareg confederation that dominates the Hoggar mountains. "This will be an occasion to publicly express that we've had enough, to denounce the exclusion and marginalization we've felt for years," he says to El Watan. Chiefs from each tribe in the confederation will meet in front of the offices of the provincial governor to demand greater economic, political, and cultural rights for Algeria's Tuareg population.

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Algeria
Giacomo Tognini

Algeria To Sardinia, A New Migrant Route To Europe

CAGLIARI — Just over 280 kilometers (174 miles) of Mediterranean water separates the Algerian port city of Annaba from the Sulcis on the southwest coast of the Italian island of Sardinia. As Italy continues to crack down on trafficking routes linking Libya to its other major island, Sicily, attention is shifting to new routes. Algiers-based daily El Watan reports that the Sardinian regional government is worried about an uptick in arrivals on the island, and has vowed to put an end to illegal immigration from Algeria. A new proposal includes plans to convert a former prison into a detention center.

Unlike refugees arriving from Syria and other war zones, migrants from Algeria cannot seek asylum in Italy and must leave within seven days of receiving an expulsion notice from Italian authorities. According to Sardinian newspaper La Nuova Sardegna, some 1,000 Algerians enter Sardinia illegally every year, with the number of arrivals already more than 1,200 for 2017.

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Algeria
Karima Moual

Algerian Bikini Revolt One Year After Burkini Battle In France

Some 3,000 women gathered on the beach of Annaba to protest the mandatory wearing of burkinis — a reminder that women must choose for themselves and their bodies.

ANNABA Could this summer go by without the inescapable brouhaha over burkinis and bikinis? Certainly not. Last year, it was France that was consumed by debate over the wearing of so-called burkinis by Muslim women to stay fully covered when swimming at the beach. This time, the news comes to us from Algeria, where in the seaside city of Annaba an army of 3,000 women agreed to meet on the beach all exclusively clad in bikinis. Over the course of several days small groups of women had been trying to join the demonstration here and there, but then, thanks to social media, the group grew much larger, enough so that it caught the attention of the press. What was the goal? To take on the pressure women face on Algerian beaches every time they decide to forego a burkini when taking a swim.

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Algeria
Lucie Jung

Cash For All In Developing World? Algeria Ponders Universal Basic Income

It's the big idea of the moment among certain economists and activists in the West: Universal basic income (UBI), a policy of allocating a fixed amount of money to every citizen, is seen by some as a way to confront rising unemployment — particularly in the face of automation — in developed countries.

But while UBI has been tested (with mixed results) in local experiments and national referendums in Europe, some are now considering whether it could also be a recipe in the developing world. Last week, the think tank NABNI (French acronym for "Our Algeria Built on New Ideas') laid out the case for a fixed monthly income in the North African country. The Algerian daily El Watan reports that the proposed monthly income would come to 60 euros, which is about one-third of the current minimum wage in Algeria.

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Mystical Marketplace

Ghardaïa is famous for its carpets. At the marketplace, there weren't any women — but there were plenty of fabrics in this corner of M'zab in Algeria.

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Algeria

In Algeria, Berbers Fight For Equal Amazigh-Arabic Language Status

Amazigh is spoken by around 10 million in Algeria. Despite its new official status, it is not mandatory in schools nor used in national government.

ALGIERS — Last year marked a milestone for the millions of Algerian speakers of Amazigh, the Berber language, when it was given official status equal to Arabic in the country's new constitution. The momentous decision came after years of activism by ethnic Berbers fighting for their native tongue's recognition. But according to Algiers-based daily El Watan, the new legal status has led to little change on the ground.

Amazigh is spoken by around a quarter of Algeria's 40 million people. Despite its new official status, it is not mandatory in public schools, nor is it used in national government. The Algerian Ministry of Education claims that Amazigh is taught in 23 of the country's 48 provinces, but El Watan reports that very few schools offer instruction in the language outside of the majority-Berber region of Kabylia. In higher education, universities await the establishment of dedicated Amazigh departments.

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