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Feminists on the front lines of the Algerian uprising

Saturday 7 September 2019, by siawi3

Source: https://roarmag.org/essays/feminism-algerian-uprising/

Photo: Saddek Hamlaoui / Shutterstock.com

Feminists on the front lines of the Algerian uprising

September 6, 2019

Movement & Mobilization

Since the start of the uprising, women have taken up an increasingly prominent role, demanding gender equality and the abolition of the patriarchal Family Code.

Author: Leïla Ouitis

Translation from French by Joshua Richeson

When in early February Algeria’s ailing octogenarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run for the presidency for a fifth term, millions of Algerians took to the streets in response. After weeks of rallies, Bouteflika was forced to resign on April 2, only to be replaced by a triad of government cronies: Abdelkader Bensalah as interim-president, Noureddine Bedoui as prime minister and Major General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the key power broker in the country.

Despite the arrests of two of the country’s former prime ministers and several business leaders on corruption charges, the protests have been continuing for over seven months now, with protesters demanding a radical overhaul of the military-backed regime. Fresh elections that were originally planned for July 4, were postponed by the constitutional council in early June, allegedly due to a lack of candidates.

The postponement of the elections was seen as a victory by the protesters, who feared that hastily organized elections in the short term would benefit the old powers and leave little opportunity for civic parties to prepare. Proposals for a national dialogue led by former speaker of the lower house Karim Younes to pave the way for presidential elections have been met with little enthusiasm by the opposition. Gaid Salah has demanded that the date for the elections should be announced by mid-September.

Leïla Ouitis, a feminist, housing activist and a French-Algerian teacher working in Seine-Saint-Denis, close to Paris, regularly travels to Algeria to visit her family. She has witnessed the protests first-hand, and in this three-part series she offers her reflections on the socio-economic roots of the popular uprising, the background of the different groups and individuals involved with the movement, and the role played by feminists and women’s rights activists in the protests.

In this second part of the series, Ouitis looks at the popular movement that has filled the streets since February 22. How are people organized? Who is protesting? Can we even talk about a “popular movement” in which people are following a common program beyond the demand for an end to the regime of Bouteflika and his cronies?

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1st part:

Source: https://roarmag.org/essays/the-revolt-of-the-fearless-generation/

Anti-government protest in Algiers in mid-March, 2019. Photo: Saddek Hamlaoui / Shutterstock.com

The revolt of the fearless generation

June 23, 2019

Movement & Mobilization

Eight years after the Arab Spring caused little stir in Algeria, a new generation has since come of age and is taking on the old guard — but the problems run deep.

Author: Leïla Ouitis

Translated from French by Joshua Richeson.

When in early February Algeria’s ailing octogenarian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced his intention to run for the presidency for a fifth term, millions of Algerians took to the streets in response. After weeks of rallies, Bouteflika was forced to resign on April 2, only to be replaced by a triad of government cronies: Abdelkader Bensalah as interim-president, Noureddine Bedoui as prime minister and Major General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the key power broker in the country.

Despite the arrests of two of the country’s former prime ministers and several business leaders on corruption charges, the protests are continuing with protesters demanding a radical overhaul of the military-backed regime. Fresh elections that were originally planned for July 4, were postponed by the constitutional council in early June, allegedly due to a lack of candidates. The postponement of the elections was seen as a victory by the protesters, who feared that hastily organized elections in the short term would benefit the old powers and leave little opportunity for civic parties to prepare.

Leïla Ouitis, a feminist, housing activist and a French-Algerian teacher working in Seine-Saint-Denis, close to Paris, regularly travels to Algeria to visit her family. She has witnessed the protests first-hand, and in this three-part series she offers her reflections on the socio-economic roots of the popular uprising, the background of the different groups and individuals involved with the movement, and the role played by feminists and women’s rights activists in the protests.

In this first part of the series, Ouitis looks at why Algeria remained relatively undisturbed during the Arab Spring that started in 2011, but is now — eight years later — rocked by some of the largest protests the country has witnessed in history.

Although Algeria shares similar characteristics with other countries in the region — massive unemployment among the youth, who account for half the population, polarization of job opportunities over just a few sectors, systemic corruption by clan-like oligarchies in a rent-seeking management of resources — we should be careful with the expression “Arab Spring,” which has been used to describe the current uprising. Commentators tend to forget that it actually refers to a second wave of popular contestation in the Arab world.

The first wave occurred between 1985 and 1989; it began in Sudan and came to Algeria in 1988. Forgetting that first wave means omitting the specificity of Algerian history: 40 years of perestroika in the context of a rentier economy dependent on gas and oil. When Algeria gained independence, it chose the path of socialism, but despite the Algerian bourgeoisie’s developmental projects — surely the most extensive in the region — the Algerian economy has remained totally dependent on hydrocarbon-generated wealth.

What would at first seem to be a source of wealth turns into the opposite: the so-called “Dutch disease,” which refers to the link between exporting natural resources and the decline of the local manufacturing industry. Increased export revenues lead to currency appreciation. In all other sectors, exports become less favorable than imports.

Algeria remains locked in a rent economy, completely dependent on hydrocarbons. Gas and petrol generate 95 percent of external revenue and 60 percent of the state budget, so any changes in the price of oil affects state revenue and the real economy. The country finds itself stuck in growth concentrated in few sectors: manufacturing industry is declining, as are formal occupations, which today account for less than 10 percent of jobs in the country. Manufacturing value added per capita is the lowest in the region and has been dropping since the 1990s. As a result, the employment rate is 40 percent, one of the lowest in the world. Rent allows for reductions in poverty during oil booms, but it does not improve the employment rate.

To keep the peace in this context, the state absolutely must provide support for basic necessities (flour, milk, oil) and it must tolerate the black market, the trabendo, which employs hundreds of thousands of youth. In general, when someone tells you they do not work, what that means is they are caught up in one form or another of informal business and related frauds.

From the Black Decade to the Black Spring

For nearly 40 years, the history of Algeria has been profoundly determined by the price of hydrocarbons. In the 1980s, Algeria began transitioning to a market economy, but in 1986, the price of oil collapsed. The state coffers ran dry as income inequality surged. The 1988 riots, savagely repressed, brought an end to the single-party system. Political Islam emerged as both an expression of marginalization and a way to manage and maintain social polarization.

One year after the 1991 military coup d’état, Algeria was in default and resorted to financial institutions that imposed a structural adjustment plan and new liberalization measures. Those 10 years of austerity devoted to paying off the debt were also the years of the decade-long civil war that left between 100,000 and 200,000 people dead.

During that décennie noire (the “Black Decade”), privatization continued in bouts of clientelism and corruption, allowing for the formation of a rentier oligarchy: state property was ceded to certain dignitaries, some of the public companies were privatized, the old state monopolies on foreign trade were destroyed and replaced with a system of agreements authorizing certain venders and wholesalers to import consumer goods and industrial material to sell back to the state. These monopolistic positions were adopted from within the state, allowing each group to collect a kingly rent. In this way, behind each fraction of the bourgeoisie specialized in this or that import sector, there was a multinational, a major capitalist state and a major Algerian bureaucrat and/or general. This is what is called “the system”: a mechanism supplied with oil revenues that flow into all the little hustles of the informal economy.

At the end of the Black Decade, the explosion in hydrocarbon prices as well as a policy of valuing natural resources following the opening to foreign direct investments (FDI) made it possible for Algeria to stay on schedule and pay off its debt after 10 years of austerity. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who came to power at that time, had the advantage of full state coffers, which allowed him to launch a series of stimulus plans in the early 2000s and again with accelerating public investment programs between 2005 and 2009.

Compared to the civil war, Bouteflika’s first four mandates seemed relatively peaceful. This, however, would be forgetting all the regional struggles of the 2000s: the Black Spring of 2001 in Kabylie; the 2003 “movement of the children of the south for justice,” whose members were reduced to silence and terrorism; the struggles of the Mozabite minority; the struggles of the unemployed since 2011, notably those of the Ouargla activists who have suffered police and legal repression for years; the resistance in Adrar and Béchar; and the protests of In Salah locals against fracking.

So actually, over the last 20 years, Algeria has seen myriad struggles and dissent, but these fights have not yet converged. Still, despite the repression, there have been some victories. In 2010 alone, the national military counted 11,500 riots, public demonstrations or gatherings throughout the whole country. These riotous contestations play an almost natural role in the forms of rent negotiation and redistribution as they are both repressed and implicitly accepted by the state. The class struggle is expressed in a rather clear way for everyone involved, and you could say that the power relations are laid bare: given all the money here from gas and petrol, everyone should be rich, were it not for the system hoarding so much of the wealth.

A new generation

In this context, the riots in the winter of 2011 decidedly resonated with the international situation and the Arab Spring, but their frame of reference, if not origin, was the attempt of a fraction of the state’s liberal bourgeoisie to limit the informal economy. Indeed, since the mid-2000s, the boom in oil prices has reinforced a bourgeoisie made up of private entrepreneurs working in construction and industry, making it more rebellious in its confrontations with a bureaucratic bourgeoisie that maintains control of administrative authorizations; with what Algerians call the “system.”

In reaction to measures to control and tax a portion of the informal economy, the barons of the black market immediately included the new value-added tax (VAT) in their prices. The price of basic necessities (notably oil and sugar) exploded, instantly ruining thousands of youths working in the informal economy. Riots spread like wildfire. With the help of the international community, the Algerian government, which in 2011 still possessed an enormous amount of foreign currency reserves, immediately lifted its measures and released several billions in social aid: raising salaries and offering a series of micro-credit initiatives.

So what changed in 2019, eight years later? First, generational renewal. The population is exploding. And this new generation is experiencing what has been called the exhaustion of a dual rent system based on political and oil rents. Algeria is a very young country, with nearly half the population under the age of 25. During the civil war, people put off having children and the birth rate practically doubled after the Black Decade. The increase in oil prices during the 2000s allowed for home construction and rising salaries. The fertility rate reached 3.1 births per woman in 2015.

In addition, this new generation is not afraid like the previous one. The attempts by those in power to instrumentalize the specter of civil war no longer work on the younger generations: at the beginning of the demonstrations we saw people over the age of 40 crying with emotion. As Adlène Meddi aptly put it, “Our generation was too traumatized by those years of civil war to dare to go out and protest. And then we saw all these young people in the streets. … We felt so old, but we were so happy!”

This generation, who grew up knowing only Bouteflika, is today old enough to demonstrate. In Meddi’s telling, the humiliation of having a bedridden president was the trigger, but it quickly became obvious that they were not protesting against a man, they were protesting against a “system that wants to survive on the back of a living corpse.” In fact, since independence, all the presidents of the republic come from the “November generation” of 1954 — the start of Algeria’s war of independence — which has until now been the foundation of all political legitimacy in Algeria.

Any conflict between successive governments was immediately associated with the war of national revolution. But this is over now. That generation is coming to its end: Bouteflika was practically the last survivor of that generation of combatants, apart from Ahmed Gaid Salah, head of the Algerian army. It is the end of political rent.

Also, this new generation is the most educated in Algerian history, with more women than men in higher education. Despite the deterioration in the quality of education and health — the privatization of both has been constant — the oil boom of the 2000s has nevertheless made possible an increase in spending in these domains. Today there are over 1.8 million students. We are talking about a youth population that cannot afford to travel but reads the news and is very active on social networks. So the situation is very different from the one in 1988 when the coffers were empty. At that time, when young people from poor neighborhoods and workers from large metro areas rioted, they were fiercely repressed.

Now, the social bases of the revolt have expanded, and the popular movement, the hirak, includes both the middle classes and part of the bourgeoisie. On this point, there are effectively quite a few aspects in

Next stop: demanding bread?

Even if what triggered the hirak is not immediately connected to the economic situation, the economy has always been of central importance. The demographic boom of 2000 has encountered the progressive exhaustion of the oil rent. The new generation has been hit with a rate of structural unemployment and a slow but steady pauperization that also affects the middle classes. Since 2014, oil prices have again sharply declined ( 65 percent for Brent between July 2014 and February 2016).

The Algerian state is no longer in the financial position to buy social peace. The foreign currency reserves have dwindled from $200 billion in 2014 to just $95 billion in 2016. And in 2015, unemployment hit a new high, further limiting the prospects of young people. The term dégoutage has resurfaced in daily language to express disgust and frustration with poor living conditions. Inequality between regions has deepened with major difficulties in the interior where the unemployment rate can reach 60–70 percent.

Hundreds of thousands of youth are stuck where they live, in the less developed mountains, countryside or urban zones, because the exorbitant cost of housing, especially in Algiers, prevents them from working in the cities where jobs might be had.

In these conditions, as was pointed out in Le Monde, Algerians have started to leave their country again: both legal and illegal emigration are on the rise. As far as legal migration is concerned, we are observing a very significant “brain drain” that includes young people who have completed their studies and are under few illusions about the possibility of finding a qualified job in France. With regards to illegal migration, Kouceila Zerguine, lawyer of the Collective of families of disappeared harragas — undocumented migrants — has remarked that “It used to be adult men who migrated by sea, but in the last year or two, there there have been young girls and families leaving, too.” There are even minors among them. It is a both a social and a global tragedy.

In short, for the moment, we are still looking at a large-scale movement that is very political, interclassist, against corruption and for a reform of the state that would give each social segment its say in proportion to its role in the society. But inflation continues to rise (4.3 percent in 2018, 5.6 percent in 2019, projected at 6.7 percent in 2020). The middle classes and the proletariat keep growing poorer. If images of dancers continue to appear, along with pretty signs demanding “freedom and democracy,” then in three or four years, we could very well expect to see signs demanding bread.

2nd part:

Source: https://roarmag.org/essays/feminism-algerian-uprising/

No specific group is directing these demonstrations. On the contrary, as was the case in other countries in the region in 2011, this moment is one of sudden upheaval (even though some analysts tried to sound the alarm mere weeks earlier). Some have attempted to attribute the beginnings of the contestation to the stadiums and homes of football supporters, given the sport’s long political and decolonial history in Algeria.

The first calls in December 2018 to demonstrate in the working-class neighborhood of Bab El Oued in Algiers went unheeded. Mid-February, larger marches took place in Kherrata (near Béjaïa), in Khenchela, then in Annaba, where the portrait of the president was torn down and trampled.

The extent of the February 22 demonstrations was really surprising: the protests emerged simultaneously across the country in most of the major cities and several mid-sized cities. The movement even reached scarcely populated oases and wilayas (provinces) like Djelfa, Adrar and Tamanrasset.

Unlike the recent uprising in Sudan, which is more politically homogenous, in Algeria no organization or leadership has taken shape. This facilitates a mass movement: at their peak, according to police figures, the weekly protests brought together nearly 10 million people, or nearly a quarter of the population. Their democratic and peaceful nature is notable given the more riotous forms of past decades (see the first part of this interview).

One of the slogans is “silmiya, silmiya” or “peaceful, peaceful.” Another is “handeriyya” or “civilized.” These are protests where volunteers maintain order and clean the streets after the demo, where families protest together with children and babies in strollers — which reassures the older adults among them — where bottles of water and candy are handed out, and until recently, where freedom of speech had been reclaimed by protesters and relatively respected by authorities.

But since the government’s failed attempt in June to divide the movement by banning the Amazigh (Berber) flag, repression has been intensifying at an alarming rate [this will be elaborated upon in the upcoming third part of this interview].

Nevertheless, in the streets, people are talking: small public forums take place each Friday before the demos in some of the major cities. For example, Oran’s main square, Place du 1er Novembre, is still the site of frequent public debates. During Ramadan, the wilaya decided to judiciously set up a craft fair there but the next day, protesters came in mass and took down the fair tents.

“All of them must go!”

Responses to the political class’s participation in the protests are proportional to the politicians’ proximity to power. We have seen figureheads close to the regime, like Saïd Sadi, founder and former leader of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, or Louisa Hanoune, founder and current leader of the Workers’ Party, get expelled from demonstrations.

It is remarkable how hostile the movement has proved to any type of ideological or political slogans. It has found icons in figures like Djamila Bouhired, a celebrated national liberation militant, or Ramzi Yettou, a 23-year-old protester who died Friday, April 19 after being beaten by police. In early June, Kamal Eddine Fekhar, a Mozabite minority activist who had protested segregation in the south of the country, died from his two-month hunger strike, drawing wider attention to lesser-known prisoners of conscience beyond the activist circles of Algiers.

Embryonic organizing efforts are no doubt afoot with labor and interest groups, but people march individually or as a family, side by side with feminists, victims of the civil war, recognized veterans or forgotten members of “Patriot” militias from the décennie noire (Black Decade). Generally, constituents from across Algerian society come together to protest every Friday, united by one slogan: Yatnahaw ga’ (“All of them must go, every last one”).

Indeed, over several decades now, Algerian society has become polarized between a social minority dependent on the rentier state who continue to get richer thanks to their deep ties to the global valuation of capital and a large majority who continue to be pauperized in different ways. The rent-seeking nature of the economy lends a political tenor to all the social demands. In this context, the “everyone must go” slogans, both radical and vague, allow for a unification of all the social segments into a vast interclass movement.

From the young women and men of the informal proletariat to the middle classes and even the bourgeoisie [see the upcoming third part of this interview], each class has for the moment used this movement as a way to denounce the pressure it has suffered under an incredibly corrupt system.

Shoulder to shoulder, veil or no veil

Although there were few at the very beginning, women have been massively present since February 22, and even more so since International Women’s Day on March 8. Women of all ages and classes have been extremely visible, but the majority are young, urban and highly educated. And despite their degrees, they find themselves unemployed, like many men, but in even greater numbers. So every Friday, they have been protesting shoulder to shoulder, veil or no veil, in the dense demonstrations.

Their very presence in public spaces has changed the movement. Now, when some women launch general slogans, men are following their lead and chanting alongside them. These women are unafraid of being arrested by the police.

From the first weeks of the movement, feminist collectives have been organizing meetings in major cities across the country. Tactics are discussed in French, Arabic or in Darja, the local Arabic dialect. Some women wear the veil, others critique the religious norm as part of their demands for more equality. To grasp what is at stake in Algerian Islamic feminism, see Feriel Bouatta’s recent work.

Most women are asking for the abolition of the Algerian Family Code but don’t know how to accomplish that. These feminist collectives are well aware of the greater risk they face of being accused of dividing the movement.

On March 16, the Algerian Women for Change Toward Equality collective decided to organize a feminist square in front of the Central Faculty in Algiers. Journalist Daïkha Dridi later reflected, “No one asked me for my opinion on the feminist square, and it isn’t an idea that I would have defended if I had participated in the organization, but now that this square exists, I support it totally in solidarity.”

Two weeks later, on March 29, the square was overtaken by several men who tore up signs and verbally attacked some women. The feminists held their ground. On April 3, an Algerian man living in England posted a video on Facebook threatening women who demand equal rights of acid attacks. His identity was quickly verified, activists lodged complaints, and he immediately apologized.

Toward a repeal of the Family Code?

Despite the fact that demands for gender equality do not please everyone, feminist groups large and small continue to march and coordinate; new groups pop up each month. Most of them demand the abolition of the Family Code.

The duality of secular and religious sources has prevailed in Algerian law ever since the colonial period. Juridically, Algerian women are torn between two worlds: a constitutionally defined status as equals to men and an inferior status under the domination of the father and the husband, as defined by the 1984 Family Code, which forces them to seek approval from a walī, or guardian, in order to be married.

Divorced women lose custody of their children if they remarry, a marriage is nullified if the husband is a confirmed apostate and certain forms of polygamy are still recognized, as are repudiations. The law of succession remains subject to normative religious law, creating inequality between inheritors on the basis of their gender.

Pressure from women and feminists has led to some improvement of the law over the last 10 years, like the 2015 law that allows women to press charges in cases of domestic violence. Still, that law contains an unacceptable clause in which the charges against the aggressor are dropped if the victim “pardons” him. This law opens a back door to all sorts of pressure.

In a context where the West — that is, the centers of accumulation threatened by the crisis — uses feminism to strengthen its grip at home and abroad, several antagonisms become clear when Algerian women mobilize as feminists. Algeria is a rentier country, dominated by the rent seeking that allows it to participate in global capitalism. Entire sectors of its economy have yet to be privatized and thus entice the appetites of international powers.

Given the West’s obsession with culturalist and racist lies about Islam (see our text on this topic and especially Issue 26 of Théorie Communiste), we need to consider critically how the Family Code was part of the perestroika in the 1980s.

During the so-called “socialist” period, Algerian women benefited from the campaign for public education. Widely unemployed, they do not benefit from a more proactive national employment policy for women. As the feminist economist Fatiha Talahite has shown, “without abandoning the ideal of emancipation through work, generations of women were sacrificed in exchange for the promise that future generations of women would be able to work.”

And yet, contrary to some Latin American countries where industrialization has led to jobs for women, the Algerian economy remains a prisoner of rent. In the early 1980s, faced with an immense reserve of educated yet unemployed women’s labor power, government leaders would use the pretext of tradition to put the Family Code into place: the powerful status it accords men over women functions to mask the trouble with unemployment and housing in a context of accelerated liberalization.

The rigid structuring of the family as site of reproduction is a trend that accompanies general pauperization. In this way, leaders at the time deliberately chose to juridically accentuate the submission of women to men in order to ease the shock of the transition to a market economy. When rent revenues collapsed in 1986, women had no other choice but to go look for work in a market in crisis, in a situation of deindustrialization where only precarious, low-paying, mostly informal jobs were still available. This was the terrible Black Decade.

After the civil war, the increase in oil profits allowed for a reduction in poverty, and with that, a soaring birthrate. Since 2001, female employment has considerably declined. More and more women have been limited to informal labor. According to the National Office of Statistics, of Algeria’s 11 million workers, only 1.9 million are women.

Women make up 60 percent of Algerians with college degrees, yet over half of them are unemployed and identify as such. Indeed, despite the re-Islamization of the country, gender relations have enormously evolved over the last 20 years, especially in the major cities where women manage to establish themselves through work. As Fatma Oussedik has observed, “With or without a hijab, the women are out.”

Despite laws that are still unfair for women, and to the great chagrin of the most conservative Algerians, divorce has skyrocketed in recent years, notably in urban areas.

The fight is far from won

After a marked absence during Ramadan, women have returned for Friday marches. But in a context of generalized unemployment and diminished oil profits as the rent economy teeters, in a context where publicly advocating for abortion rights remains a punishable offense, the debate with some self-proclaimed representatives of “civil society” over equality before the law and at work continues to be tense.

For example, the Wasilla network, which brings together women’s rights organizations, had to announce its withdrawal from June 15’s national conference that took place and brought together several groups, organizations and unions — often autonomous — to propose “a way out of the crisis and a democratic transition.”

The fact remains that, as the sociologist Nacer Djabi points out, “Unions are conservative. They reflect Algerian society. They are middle class and coming from across the country, not only from major cities.” So the political tendencies covered everything from the secular extreme left to Islamism. The Wasilla network pulled out of the conference, rightly in our opinion, because it “does not clearly and without ambiguity state the fundamental and non-negotiable political principle of equality between men and women.”

However, June 20–22 in Tigrhemt (near Béjaïa) representatives from around 20 women’s organizations and collectives, as well as independent participants, met. As W. Zizi put it, such a variety of ideological tendencies, with leftist feminists, right-wing feminists, underground LGBTQI activists and women who do not separate religion from the state, can create debate that sometimes resembles “a huge mess.”

In addition, new collectives from the South (Ouargla, Ghardaïa and Tamanrasset) could not come for logistic reasons but managed all the same to issue a common declaration against precarious work and for the repeal of the Family Code. Some collectives have even managed to organize in the villages with working-class women around issues of domestic work or the lack of childcare services for employees in the public sector, for example.

The fight is far from won, though. Despite efforts during the socialist period, and due to its specific colonial history of “Dutch disease,” Algeria didn’t have the economic development in the 1970s and 1980s that had emerged in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Hence mass unemployment and a severely heteronormative society in which reproduction is still often guaranteed under pressures of an extended family or even clan.

The sociologist Rose Schembri, who recently described the “difficult homosexual affirmation in Algeria,” uses as a counterpoint the work of the historian John D’Emilio, who correlates the emergence of a gay identity in the United States with the long history of the industrial revolution. D’Emilio shows how the arrival of a labor market and mass employment partially permitted a break from the family structure in capitalist centers of accumulation (which are still today structurally racist and patriarchal): exactly what was not able to take place in Algeria.

A bitter fight ahead

In a situation of declining rent and general unemployment, one can imagine the extent of the task of Algerian feminists. Though few in number, these women are very visible and must struggle in an international context where Western capitalists instrumentalize feminism to racist and Islamophobic ends, while at the same time pressing for an economic “opening” and an acceleration of privatization on the backs of poor Algerian women.

Above all, they must confront a national context where the Islamists play the “dialogue” card and mobilize women around feminine affirmation that is totally essentialized, perverse, but frightfully effective.

Now that the elections have been canceled, some on the left are calling for a national conference or a constituent assembly, but no one can predict what will happen. Fortified by the long history of Algerian feminism (brilliantly evoked by a new generation of women filmmakers and oral history documentarians), feminists will perhaps be able to rely on new generations recruited from the hirak to oppose liberal elites and to brave the negotiations with a largely conservative Algeria.

But with the economic crisis accelerating in Algeria, which, like everywhere else, is being negotiated on the backs of women, the fight will be bitter.

Leïla Ouitis is a French-Algerian feminist, housing activist and a teacher living in Paris and working in Seine-Saint-Denis.