Green Sundays in Paris: Algerian Diaspora’s Commitment to “the Revolution of the Smile”

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On February 16, 2019, massive revolutionary protests started in Algeria, which ultimately led to the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika — the revolution continues since then. The role of the Algerian diaspora in France has been significant, as explains one of its members, Kenza Talmat.

Talmat Funambulist4
Algerian gathering on Place de la République in Paris / Photo by Léopold Lambert.

On February 22, 2019, several Algerian cities rose against the fifth term of the president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in place since 1999. Supported at first by the youth, the protest gradually ignited all the bodies of the civil society, and extended to a radical critique of the political regime and the call for a second Republic. By February 23, the Algerian diaspora took the street worldwide to show its support to the “Revolution of the smile.” The historical “Wilaya VII,” i.e. the Algerian emigration in France who actively participated in the war of independence (1954-1962), is in its 2.0 version finding support in various parts of the world and flooding social networks. In France, after the “Yellow Saturday” of the Yellow Vests movement, the Algerian “Green Sunday” has been established since February 24 as a day of weekly mobilizations. Immigrants are joining the struggle, along with their children.

Same tune, every Sunday, at the still overcrowded Place de la République in Paris. At noon, from the subway, we can hear the clamor of the excited crowd as it welcomes passerby and demonstrators. People make haste. Some faces turn solemn, as others burst in resounding laughter. Here begins the parade of immigrants and their descendants, answering the call from all over Paris and elsewhere in France. The canes of the elders pound the ground in rhythm, as they lead with their aura, everyone towards the exit. Children are held up on shoulders or cling to strollers. Young people stick together and move arm in arm, with Amazigh or Algerian flags tied around their necks. These same flags are displayed at the exit of the metro station, joined by the Palestinian one, and by those of their Tunisian and Moroccan neighbors who came in solidarity.

In the air, it is a mix of cologne, optimism, and coal cooked meat. At La République, people eat, drink, dance, sing, paint and scream a lot. The harragas, the young adults who have reached Europe without a visa on makeshift boats, are here masters of ceremony. From the highest point on the statue of La République, conquered every Sunday from 12 PM to 7 PM, they stir up crowds as they do in Algerian football stadiums.