Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is Algeria Following Egypt and Tunisia?

At least the Algerian government is doing exactly what the Egyptian government under Mubarak did:

  1. Shutting down the Internet;

  2. Releasing the government-sponsored thugs to beat up on the protesters and journalists.

We know how that turned out for the regime; if anything, it further ignited wider protests, and hardened the resolve of the protesters.

But those in a government, despotic or otherwise, are very slow to catch on. (Isn't it, Madam Secretary of the US?)

Two things about Algeria that could make this uprising a bit more trickier for the West:

  1. Algeria has a huge reserve of natural gas (8th largest), and also of oil;

  2. A large Algerian population in western European countries, most notably in France

From Telegraph UK (2/12/2011):

Algeria shuts down internet and Facebook as protest mounts

Internet providers were shut down and Facebook accounts deleted across Algeria on Saturday as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in violent street demonstrations.

Plastic bullets and tear gas were used to try and disperse large crowds in major cities and towns, with 30,000 riot police taking to the streets in Algiers alone.

There were also reports of journalists being targeted by state-sponsored thugs to stop reports of the disturbances being broadcast to the outside world.

But it was the government attack on the internet which was of particular significance to those calling for an end to President Abdelaziz Boutifleka's repressive regime.

Protesters mobilising through the internet were largely credited with bringing about revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

"The government doesn't want us forming crowds through the internet," said Rachid Salem, of Co-ordination for Democratic Change in Algeria.

"Security forces are armed to the teeth out on the street, and they're also doing everything to crush our uprising on the internet. Journalists, and especially those with cameras, are being taken away by the police." President Hosni Mubarak had tried to shut down internet service providers during 18 days of protest before stepping down as Egyptian leader on Friday.

Mostafa Boshashi, head of the Algerian League for Human Rights, said: "Algerians want their voices to be heard too. They want democratic change.

"At the moment people are being prevented from travelling to demonstrations. The entrances to cities like Algeria have been blocked."


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