At NYC Algerian Demonstration, a Hope to Return

Algerian protesters in Union Square on Sunday. (Photo via French Morning)

“Get out! Get out!” Between 150 and 200 Algerians gathered on Sunday March 24 in Union Square to demand the resignation of their president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and in support of their “Algerian brothers” who took to the country’s streets for a fifth consecutive Friday on March 22.

Algeria is undergoing an unprecedented political crisis. On March 11, the people forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika to renounce running for a fifth term. But the Algerian president said that he would remain in power until the end of the year in order to organize a new election, a decision deemed unacceptable by a majority of Algerians who are hoping for an immediate departure of both “Boutef” and his party, the FLN (National Liberation Front).

“We demand his departure and the establishment of a constituent assembly, which would be the starting point of a second republic,” said Amara Challal, an organizer of the New York event. The 42-year-old man explained that he was forced to leave his country when he was 17 to look for work in the U.S. “I didn’t have any future in Algeria, in spite of the country being super rich. We are sick and tired of this mafia in power that is capable of spending a billion dollars in foreign countries over 20 years but can’t build a decent school inside.”

Sassia, originally from Tizi Ouzou, has lived in New York since 2007. She decided to join the demonstration, with her husband and a friend’s son, because “all generations are impacted by the poverty and unemployment in Algeria.” She explained that she left a country “without a future” in which its inhabitants’ only hope is to “take a boat or a plane and leave.”

As in other recent protests in Algeria and France, some signs in Union Square competed in creativity. For example, you could read: “The only mandate you deserve is that of arrest,” “The president is missing. Reward: A new republic,” or “We are not on Facebook, we’re on the street.”

However, within the crowd what was heard the most was criticism against Emmanuel Macron’s France. “France has helped the current government to stay in place, and is benefiting from free oil and gas in exchange,” said Noe Mellal, a 29-year-old architect. Salim Boukaïs, 23, said: “Macron said he supports a transition, but he wants to replace the current system with the exact same people only younger, in order to preserve France’s economic interest.”

All the demonstrators interviewed shared a common hope: that of a successful political transition that would allow them to return to Algeria. “Our main slogan here is: ‘Go away so we can come back to our country,’” said Mellal. “Of course I hope to return,” said Boukaïs. “My brothers and sisters are in Algeria. If I could choose, I would be with them back home,” said, for his part, Challal, before calling for a new meeting in Union Square for Sunday March 31, for yet another demonstration.

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