The massive demonstrations of the Hirak - movement, in Arabic - have once again flooded the streets of Algeria.
After 11 months of lethargy due to the pandemic, thousands of people marched this Monday in the main cities of the country with the same slogans that were already heard at the birth of Hirak, on February 22, 2019: “Thieves, you have swallowed the country ”,“ For a civil state and not a military regime ”,“ We are fed up with generals ”,“ Independent justice ”.
At the end of the protest was heard: "Tomorrow, with the students."
And the next day the same thing happened that happened every Tuesday in Algiers before the covid: dozens of university students marched again in the center of the capital, although they were dispersed by the police.
At least 15 students were detained, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD).
These days the same fears, the same uncertainties and hopes of two years ago are lived: nobody knows how the authorities will react.
And nobody knows until the last moment if the response from the street will be massive.
This Monday, the day of the second anniversary, in the center of the capital at 11 in the morning only policemen were seen, according to various local media.
Two hours later, however, Maurice Audin Square was packed with protesters.
Where do they come from?
This is the magic of the Hirak ”, explained the chronicler of the Algerian digital medium TSA, which has been blocked in his country for 20 months.
The street seemed to take the initiative again.
But it remained to be seen if the capital's students would come out to demonstrate on Tuesday.
University students were the engine of Hirak, in a country where 45% of the population is under 25 years of age.
Hundreds of policemen were deployed in the center.
And, again, the students have retaken the center of the capital.
The political scientist Adlene Mohammedi, based in France, told this newspaper via the Internet: "The factors that motivated the birth of Hirak are still there: the same political system, the same leaders, the same illegitimacy, the same unbearable practices."
To these reasons must be added, according to Mohammedi, the deterioration of social conditions during the pandemic.
"The reasons for detesting the leaders are more present than ever," he concludes.
Two years ago, after forcing the resignation of President Abdelaziz Buteflika, the Algerian government launched the judicial persecution of the statesman's collaborators.
But Hirak activists were calling for a true justice reform and an assembly to draft a new constitution.
The then Chief of the General Staff, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, the country's strongman, ignored the Hirak and promoted a presidential election.
Elections to which no opponent appeared and which were won by his favorite, the technocrat Abdelmayid Tebún.
So on the second anniversary of the Hirak one of the most heard slogans was: "Illegitimate Tebún."
In these two years of protests, justice has processed 2,500 people, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD).
Most of them were released within a few days.
But many others spent months in prison.
Abdelmayid Tebún decreed a presidential grace on January 2, 2019 for 76 Hirak supporters.
But while they were released, others were jailed.
This Thursday, February 18, he also announced another grace for 50 or 60 activists.
Among them, journalist Khaled Drareni, who had been sentenced to two years in prison, was released.
Now, anyone who decides to demonstrate knows that they run the risk of being imprisoned.
And the regime has learned that only the pandemic managed to prevent activists from taking to the streets.
The authorities recognize 2,964 deaths so far in a country of 42 million inhabitants.
But the pandemic is still there.
And the Hirak is back.
In many cases, without a mask and without social distance.