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 started on 5 October 1988 and ended on the 11th.[1][2] The riots were "the most serious" since Algeria's independence", and involved thousands of youth who "took control of the streets".[3] Riots started in Alger and spread to other cities, resulting in about 500 deaths and 1000 wounded.[2][4] The riots indirectly led to the fall of the country's one-party system (Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) party had been in power since 1962) and the introduction of democratic reform, but also to a spiral of instability and increasingly vicious political conflict, ultimately fostering the Algerian Civil War.

Rising prices, the high rate of unemployment among youth and the measures of austerity announced by the government were the main reasons for the riots.[2][5]

The targets of the anarchic protests, included shops, offices, official vehicles and buildings - which were set on fire[1][6][7]—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.[3]

The police and the civil administration were put under military control[6] and torture of detainees has been reported at the police academy.[8] The state of emergency was decreed on October 6th and a curfew established that ran from midnight to six o'clock in the morning (starting on October the 8th the curfew was not enforced until 8 o'clock at night).[1] Police were taunted as "Jews" by the demonstrators (a comment on the intifada in Israel).[3]

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. Following the riots, the President Chadli Bendjedid government promised political reforms with a "greater democratisation of political action" and "political and institutional changes".[8] The Constitution of 1989 was submitted to a referendum on the 23rd of February 1989.[9] The reference to socialism is not found in the new constitution and the recognition of freedom of the individual replaces the recognition of the freedom of the people found in the previous constitution.[9] The constitution of 1989 gives a new role to the army relegating it to defending the national independence of Algeria.[9] Finally, the new constitution puts an emphasis on religion in its preamble, stating that Algeria is a "land of Islam".[10]

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.[citation needed] However, little evidence exists to prove or disprove this thesis.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "La semaine sanglante", Jeune Afrique. 19 Octobre 1988. PP. 10-16.
  2. ^ a b c "Algeria: Riots of October 1988". Refworld. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Kepel, Jihad, 2002: p.160-1
  4. ^ "Algeria calls for vote on political changes", Globe and Mail. Thursday, October 13, 1988.
  5. ^ "Troops fire on Algerian protesters", The Toronto Star. Monday, October 10, 1988.
  6. ^ a b "Death toll climbs in Algerian riots", Globe and Mail. Saturday, October 08, 1988.
  7. ^ "Algeria uses armed forces to curb riots over prices", Globe and Mail. Friday, October 07, 1988.
  8. ^ a b "When Algeria lost patience", The Middle East. November 1988. p.6.
  9. ^ a b c François Soudan, "Algérie: l'adieu au socialisme", Jeune Afrique. 1er mars 1989. P. 24
  10. ^ François Soudan, "Algérie: l'adieu au socialisme", Jeune Afrique. 1er mars 1989. P. 25

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