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article imageInspired by Tunisia and Egypt now Algerians take to the streets

By Gemma Fox     Feb 12, 2011 in Politics
Following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, people in Algeria have now taken to the streets despite a government ban on public demonstrations which has been in place since 1992.
On December 17, 2010, Tunisian street vendor Tarek el-Tayyib Mohamed Ben Bouazizi set himself alight in protest at the repeated confiscation of his goods. He was in debt as he tried to keep his small business afloat despite his goods being confiscated on a regular basis.
His act was a catalyst that sparked street demonstrations that saw the Tunisian people turn out to protest against the autocratic government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
They rallied against unemployment, corruption and the lack of freedom of speech and they remained on the streets protesting despite clashes with police and the military which saw many deaths and many injuries.
On January 14 this year their protests paid off and President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned after 23 years in power. Interpol have now issued a warrant for his arrest.
Unrest rumbled in the region and on January 25 this year the people of Egypt took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.
The world watched as the largely peaceful protest unfolded. Thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo and remained there even through attempts by the government to move them by sending out people to clash with them.
As with Tunisia the people wanted freedom from an autocratic regime, they want elections, they want jobs and on February 11 this year, despite saying he would stay until elections took place in six months, President Hosni Mubarak resigned after 30 years running the country.
Now the focus shifts to Algeria. The country has a long history of civil unrest and in January this year protesters took to the streets demonstrating against high food prices and high unemployment, which is rife amongst Algeria's youth. The government quelled these protests by lowering food prices.
Despite oil and gas finds lifting the Algerian economy in recent times, poverty is still a major problem as is corruption and poor living conditions and yesterday, in celebration of the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, Algerians took to the streets.
However, as they tried to celebrate with Egypt, security forces in Algeria prevented them from doing so. The Algerian authorities wanted to prevent uprisings similar to those seen in Tunisia and Egypt.
This morning Algerians defied the law against public demonstrations, which is in place due to the country continually being in a state of emergency, and gathered in May 1 Square in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. The president said earlier this month that the state of emergency would be lifted in "the very near future".
The protesters were heard to shout "Bouteflika out!" referring to the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
There was a heavy police presence surrounding the square with a reported 30,000 police on the streets.
Sky News is now reporting that there have been clashes with police and that over four hundred people have been arrested. There are reports that there are four MP's among those arrested.
There is also discrepancy about the amount of protesters who have turned out with officials saying that there is only around 1,500 people in the square. Anti-government campaigners say that the total is around 10,000.
Human right group, Amnesty International, today spoke out against the attempts to block the demonstrations, they said, "Algerians must be allowed to express themselves freely and hold peaceful protests in Algiers and elsewhere."
There have also been clashes in Yemen today as protesters took to the streets of Sanaa to demand a revolution there.
Supporters of the North African uprisings took to the streets across the world today. The events were organised by Amnesty International and were aimed at demanding respect for human rights across the North African and Middle Eastern regions.
Amnesty International write that: Rallies were held in cities across Australia, Benin, Canada, Germany, France, Mali, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, UK, the USA and many other countries.
Trafalgar Square in London was the scene of one rally and speaking from there was Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty, who led events in London. Salil said, "Across the Middle East and North Africa, and around the world, ordinary people who held little hope for a better future just two months ago are realising now that change truly is possible.
“Today, as we raise our voices and our placards and our fists, we have joined them in solidarity and defiance.
“We stand in defiance against all those who try to suppress this growing movement of people standing up for their rights, facing down injustice and offering hope for a better future.”
As evening draws in on another day of protests across the region it's clear that people are no longer willing to be suppressed by their governments. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, the people continue to rise.
More about Protests, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Abdelaziz Bouteflika
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