A four-year-old girl was among the protesters arrested in Algeria on Friday 19th June. The girl named “Sidra” was taken into a police van with her mother when the authorities violently charged pro-democracy demonstrators who had come out to call for the fall of the regime in power.
Speaking on the events, one of Sidra’s aunts, described to Algérie Part, an investigative journalism media, how the arrest had unfolded. Below is the testimony in full:
“Responding to calls to resume the pro-democracy protests (Hirak), we joined at noon. We stayed around observing until around 2:00 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. There was a significant security reinforcement, many uniformed police officers and even more plainclothed officers. They are almost more recognizable than those in uniform. Around 2:00 p.m., we saw people running towards the Cours de la Révolution. These were the people who managed to escape from the George Ishak square (formerly Alexis Lambert square). They were chased by the police, but they managed to lose them to join us. So we started walking from the court to the theatre.
We wore masks and were very careful to strictly follow the barrier measures for prevention against Covid-19. We had to be exemplary and leave no possibility for the regime’s media and its official and unofficial propaganda organs to attack us. We made barely 50 meters when dozens of police officers surrounded us. We got down on our knees to show that we were not violent and that we wanted the protests to remain peaceful. But that didn’t seem to interest them at all. Some immediately began to use brutality and excessive force against us, regardless of age or gender. One of the women was strangled by a police officer who brutally tore a flag which she had tied around her neck, as everyone does when going out to demonstrate. He even went so far as to tell her that it was forbidden to carry the national flag. It looked like a scene from the Battle of Algiers. Soumaya [Sidra’s mom] was mistreated when a police officer tried to snatch the national flag from her while she was carrying her daughter in her arms.
Sidra was shocked to see her family members being abused in this way. We were put in the police van. We were fifteen. We were cramped. Needless to say, there, social distancing measures were far from being in force. We tried to convince the police to release Soumaya and Sidra, but they replied that they had to bear the consequences of their actions and that no one had forced them to go out.
We were taken to the central police station and then we were dispatched to several police districts. We were taken to the 9th arrondissement. Sidra was very scared, but the police were very nice to her. Some even tried to make her laugh. It’s human. It was rather at the central police station that she was mistreated. We were sent back to the Wilaya’s security headquarters, and when taking fingerprints and photos, Soumaya was abused, physically and verbally, by a policewoman. While two other police officers were trying to calm their colleague. This is when Sidra exploded in tears. It was not until around 7:00 p.m., when the man who appeared to be the police chief arrived, that Soumaya and Sidra were released. The rest of the protesters followed nearly 30 minutes later”.
It has been reported by local NGOs that over 500 demonstrators were arrested on Friday alone. Many have been released late at night on Friday, however, dozens of other activists have been subjected to immediate appearances in front of judges. According to one security source approached by the Algiers Herald, the arrest of children and women is a strategy deployed by the regime to intimidate the families who usually take part in the pro-democracy protests, it is to “tell them no one is safe“.