The hunger strikers in front of the council building of Hassi R'mel. The banner reads "Hunger strike".

 

A group of unemployed young people have been on hunger strike since 3 August in Hassi R’mel in the Algerian Sahara. They’re protesting against favouritism in employment procedures in the region.

Located in the heart of the Algerian desert, Hassi R’mel is home to the most important natural gas reserve in the whole of Africa. However, the demonstrators are protesting against their precarious economic situation. Having started with just a handful of young people, this movement has grown in size and gained the support of the population.

"A case of not what you know, but who you know"

Youcef Boumidouna is the spokesperson for the hunger strikers movement.

Our main reason for starting our hunger strike on the third of August is to protest against unemployment. Hassi R’mel is rich in natural gas, yet we are unemployed. This hunger strike and sit-in is to denounce political favouritism: workers come from other regions of the country and are employed while we live in a precarious situation.

We are all Algerians, we do not hold a grudge against anyone. We just want President Bouteflika to carry through with the promises he made; to give priority to unemployed young people from the region. Some workers who come from elsewhere are not even as qualified as us. They just have better connections which allows them to gain the favour of employers. It is clearly a case of ‘not what you know but who you know’.

The level of education of the hunger strikers is varied. Some of us have university degrees and still can’t find work. The first thing we want is permanent contracts. We then call on the authorities to resolve the housing problem and finally to establish an independent committee to investigate the hiring process.

There were 12 of us on strike a few days ago now there are 36. It has to be said that the population of Hassi R’mel is showing solidarity with us. They have even threatened to come with their wives and kids before the council building until we regain our rights.

It has come to this because of the false promises of the local authorities. The council told us they couldn’t do anything for us. Our elective representatives never stop telling us that their power is limited.

We hope that the strike means that our demands will stop falling on the deaf ears of the authorities. Yesterday, five of our comrades were taken to the hospital and today another went to accident and emergency department in a worrying condition. Media coverage and popular support was needed before the authorities finally agreed to negotiate with us.”

Photos and video of the protest camp

The banners read (from left to right) "No to unemployment, hunger strike" and "Peaceful and democratic 'sit-in'"

One of the hospitalised hunger strikers.

 

 

Video showing the hunger strrikers awaiting the ambulance which will take their comrade, who is in a critical situation, to hospital. It is understood that the taxi was called at 15h15 but did not arrive until 16h22.