From Armed Struggle to Peaceful Protest, a Road Still to Travel

From Armed Struggle to Peaceful Protest, a Road Still to Travel

After a decade of bloodletting, Algerians accepted the rule of Abdelaziz Bouteflika because he offered a respite from violence. Even as the Arab world exploded in protests in 2011, Algeria remained quiet.

Then suddenly in 2019 Algerians blew up in anger when Mr. Bouteflika, wheelchair-bound and barely able to speak after a stroke, proposed to run for a fifth term as president. They haven’t stopped since.

“Now they are one year in the streets, on Tuesday the students and on Friday all Algerian people,” he said. “They are academics, workers, agricultural workers, ordinary people, scholars, lawyers, politicians, you cannot imagine, in the street, side by side, men and women, Islamists and non-Islamists, all repeating very simple slogans.”

He said the protesters, like those across the Arab world, want justice and rule of law. “If you have a legal state, a state of law, it is not a problem if you want to be Muslim Brotherhood, or Islamist, or secularist,” he said.

The protesters forced Mr. Bouteflika’s resignation and the arrest of his brother, but rigged elections brought in a new president from the same old ruling circle. “Completely the old and the miserable chapter,” as Mr. Anas put it.

Yet, he remains optimistic and insists the only way ahead is through dialogue, even if it takes five or 10 years to persuade the military to allow free elections. “The Algerian movement is not under pressure,” he said. “I am saying, ‘Hang on, be patient.’”

He remains engaged as well in Afghanistan, where he sees a new generation of Afghans who no longer care about old divisions.

“You have 30 to 35 million Afghans, most of them in the cities, it is not necessary to be Taliban, to be pro-American against Taliban, it is not necessary to be Communist,” he said. “We have initiatives, we have the minds of the new generation saying ‘listen to us, we have our own way, we can do it, we can solve the problem, but give us a chance.’”

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