Even as the Arab spring unfolds across the region, I learned with profound astonishment that Mr. Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, has been dismissed as “punishment” for allowing an artist invited to the Sharjah Biennial total freedom of expression. I am the artist in question. My installation “Maportaliche/Ecritures sauvages” [It has no importance/Wild Writings] has been censored and removed from the Biennial.
A hundred stalwart demonstrators stand on the Place de 1er Mai (First of May Square) in Algiers, at what has become their weekly Saturday gathering. They include activists from opposition political parties, women's rights advocates, and people who are just plain fed up. This small but resolute troop is surrounded (and vastly outnumbered) by police who push them around and try to make them go away.
Dear friends, the rally that took place on the occasion of 8 March, International Women’s Day, at Place de La Grande Poste, “Place Karima Belhadj” (in Algiers) was a great success according to the public – both young and less young, women and men. The list of women assassinated by Islamists gave rise to a very interesting debate between the women and passers-by in the square baptised ‘Karima Belhhadj” on the 8 March 13 years ago. Many citizens came up to us and said they didn’t find the names of women they knew on our lists. They were invited to supply us with the necessary information so that we could add it to our lists.
Chères amies, Le rassemblement tenu à l'occasion du 08 Mars, à la grande poste " place Karima Belhadj" a eu un grand succès auprès du public jeune et moins jeune, femmes et hommes. La liste des femmes assassinées par les islamistes a suscité un débat très intéressant entre les femmes et les passants de la place baptisée "Karima Belhadj " un 08 mars par les femmes, il y a 13 ans. Beaucoup de citoyens sont venus nous dire qu'ils ne trouvaient pas sur nos listes, les femmes qu'ils ont connues. Ils ont été invités à nous fournir les informations nécessaires, pour les ajouter sur nos listes.
Some 2,000 demonstrators again challenged the ban on protests in Algiers on Saturday. "On a marre de ce pouvoir" (we have had enough of this government!), they cried. An older man in the crowd told me, "What we want is a change of the system not a change in the system." I wish I could share the pictures I took of the protest, but my camera was stolen while I was surrounded by a debating circle of those for and against the march. Later, I am told that cameras are reportedly turning up at a nearby police station. A friend at the march, displaying typical Algerian hospitality, ran to the Rue Hassiba ben Bouali to buy me a replacement disposable camera. I filled it with more pictures – a woman in her sixties trying to inspire the marchers by singing at the top of her lungs; rows and rows of riot police banging their batons against their shields, injuries to the leg of a young protester – but that camera was then confiscated by hostile undercover policemen. So I will try to offer a few pictures in words. Those cannot be taken away.
Sunday 13 February 13 – The Day After: 1st of May Square, Algeria's "Little Tahrir", looks bizarrely normal the morning after the 12 February opposition protest that defied a massive police deployment. The fountain is back on and there are only a few ordinary cops around, compared with the thousands from the anti-riot squad who blanketed the space on Sunday, arresting hundreds. I am picked up in the square to attend the follow up meeting of the protest's organisers, the National Coordinating Committee for Change and Democracy (CNCD), at a union hall near the airport. The elderly lawyer Ali Yahia Abdennour opens the discussion: "They beat our old and young, our women and men." He calls for demonstrations the following Saturday and every Saturday thereafter until the entire Algerian population descends into the streets. The meeting ratifies his idea, declaring another protest 19 February on 1st of May Square.
In the wake of Friday's historic events in Cairo, over 1,000 peaceful demonstrators defied a ban on protests in Algiers on the Place de 1er Mai on Saturday. The goal of the National Coordination Committee for Change and Democracy, the organisers of what was supposed to have been a march to Martyr's Square, was to call for an end to the 19-year state of emergency, for democratic freedoms, and for a change in Algeria's political system. Invigorated by Cairo's great event, this Saturday in Algiers they chanted slogans like "Djazair Horra Dimocratia" ("A free and democratic Algeria"), "système dégage" ("government out") and indeed, "Yesterday Egypt, today Algeria".
Les images ont tourné en boucle sur les chaînes internationales. Elles ont illustré d’innombrables articles de la presse de la planète. Ces images sont celles de ces hommes et de ces femmes molestés par la police algérienne lors de la manifestation qui s’est déroulée samedi 12 février à Alger. Parmi ces personnes interpellées, rudoyées, maltraitées par la police, il y avait Manel, 25 ans, venue manifester pacifiquement. DNA a recueilli son témoignage. Le voici brut.
Cette semaine, Marianne laisse carte blanche à Fatma Bouvet de la Maisonneuve*, médecin psychiatre franco-tunisienne. Pour elle, il n'est pas question de revenir sur l’égalité de tous les citoyens. Et, avec la révolution tunisienne, il est temps de réclamer une séparation constitutionnelle de la religion et de l’Etat.