1988 October Riots
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The 1988 October Riots were a series of street-level disturbances and riotous demonstrations by Algerian youth, which began on October 5, and continued for some days, which indirectly led to the fall of the country's single-party system and the introduction of democratic reform, but also to a spiral of instability and increasingly vicious political conflict, ultimately fostering the Algerian Civil War. The riots were "the most serious" since Algeria's independence", and involved thousands of youth who "took control of the streets". Hundreds were killed and many more injured by police who were taunted as "Jews" by the demonstrators (a comment on the intifada in Israel).
The targets of the anarchic protests, which included Air Algeria agencies, buses, road signs and other symbols of the state, any automobile that looked expensive and the expensive Riad al Fath shopping mall on the heights overlooking the capital. In general the riots were directed at the increasing social despair – to a large extent the result of oil prices dropping sharply the preceding years – and at the slow pace of economic and political reform. The protests were violently repressed, but set in motion a process of internal power struggles and public criticism that eventually led to the downfall of the Algerian single-party system, which had kept the military-dominated Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) party in power since 1962. A new constitution was promulgated in 1989, as President Chadli Bendjedid accepted the introduction of a multi-party democracy (stunted by the outbreak of the Algerian Civil War in 1992).
The simultaneous and unexpected nature of the protests, as well as their monumental consequences, has led many Algerian observers to trace their origins to intrigues within the ruling elite, with military factions exploiting the frustration of Algerian youth, and the widespread popular discontent with corruption in the state apparatus, to discredit the Presidency or force its hand. However, little evidence exists to prove or disprove this thesis.
- Kepel, Jihad, 2002: p.160-1
- Kepel, Gilles (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Harvard University Press.
- "Black October" Riots in Algeria 1988, Armed Conflict Events Database
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