Algeria’s independence day: celebrating liberation, protesting authoritarianism, and standing with Palestine
Sixty years ago, Algerian women and men defeated a century-long and brutal French colonialism; today, they battle their regime's authoritarianism.
This Tuesday, July 5, marks the 60th anniversary of the end of an eight-year-long bloody guerilla war against the French army, where more than one million Algerians lost their lives in defence of their country. France remains reluctant to acknowledge crimes its army committed during the war.
The Algerian state has decided to celebrate this year's anniversary with a military parade, a tradition abandoned by the North African country during Bouteflika’s era.
The military show of force during the anniversary is also taking place amidst a growing rivalry between Algiers and Rabat, mainly over the disputed Western Sahara region.
Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Tunisia's President Kais Saied and Hamas' Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh are expected to attend the parade along with many other officials from the African continent.
On this occasion, Algeria's president Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced pardons for thousands of prisoners, reportedly mostly those with medical issues. Opposition figures and activists of the 2019 Hirak pro-democracy protests were not included.
Many Algerian people, in the homeland and the diaspora, celebrated the anniversary with a sense of anguish over a "liberation" stained with the fact those who protested for "a better Algeria" languish in prison.
In 2019, Algerians toppled the two-decade-long regime of Bouteflika, with many hoping for a new system where the criticism of politicians would not be censored.
The Algerian path to democracy was rapidly derailed by the newborn regime of current president Abdelmadjid Tebboune, with its violent crackdown on protests and arrests of over 240 activists.
Our revolution won't vanish.. 🇩🇿— Yaman ⵣ 🇩🇿 (@YamanBezzi) August 8, 2020
Let people know that #Algeria is being ruled by traitors since 1962.
We want freedom and dignity.
You won't keep our mouth shut. #ثورة_الشعب_السلمية_عائدة#دولة_مدنية_ماشي_عسكرية#لا_لحكم_العسكر_في_الحزائر#حرروا_المعتقلين#Free_the_detainees pic.twitter.com/hBU5evJ4JF
Last year, Tebboun expanded Algeria's already broad definition of "terrorism" in article 87 to also include "to work for or to incite by any means, to accede to power or change the system of governance by non-constitutional means" and to "harm the integrity of national territory or to incite doing so, by any means."
The authorities have used the expanded article to prosecute an increasing number of activists, journalists, and human rights defenders.
Human rights NGOs and activists say Algeria lives today in a "darker era" than that of the Bouteflika regime.
Meanwhile, on this historical day, many Algerians have also voiced solidarity with all the colonised and oppressed people around the world, particularly the Palestinian people.
Videos shared on social media showed members of the Algerian military holding Palestinian flags. A gesture that was widely applauded by Algerians and Palestinians over social media.