22 February 2020 marked the one-year anniversary of the Hirak in Algeria. Over the past twelve months, the massive popular movement in Algeria has demonstrated a remarkable resolve in the face of various attempts to break its momentum. Despite significant blows, the ruling coalition—often designated under the term le Pouvoir—has retaliated through the implementation of multiple tactics that include the deployment of massive police numbers, and the closure of symbolic gathering points. The regime has also blocked the main roads that lead to both to the capital city of Algiers as well as the “unofficial” capital of the Hirak, Bordj Bou Arreridj. The most direct strategy of le Pouvoir has been to imprison protestors, often on spurious charges. Despite all these challenges, however, the movement has proved extremely resilient and remained true to its initial principles of peacefulness and creativity.
The Hirak has maintained constant pressure on the regime, resulting in significant changes. This did not stop with the stepping down of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on 2 April 2019 nor with the arrest of top-level political figures and corrupt oligarchs. The movement continues to demand a total overhaul of the system of governance, and each week of protests provoked a new response, as well as concessions, from le Pouvoir. This pattern has established an undeclared dialogue between those who occupy the street and the ruling coalition. From April onwards, Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and head of the army Ahmed Gaid Salah acted as spokespersons for the regime. In December Abdelmajid Tebboune won elections that were marked by an extremely low turnout, and which some protestors called to boycott. Later that month, Gaïd Salah died of a heart attack and was replaced by Saïd Chengriha, yet this contentious dialog continues.
Despite its resilience over the past year, and the milestones it has achieved, the Hirak has seen divisions emerge within the movement. The possibility of engaging in direct discussions with the presidency or the army has become a durable point of disagreement between opposition groups. Since Tebboune’s election, rifts have continued to grow. Some have turned into animous between many of those who once marched together. While the reasons for the lasting fragmentation of Algerian opposition movements are outside the scope of this article, these disagreements—combined with the absence of a political elite capable of rallying the hirakiyyeen—are essential in order to understand the various uses of terms and slogans by the movement.
What follows is an updated list of the various slogans and terms used by the Hirak in Algeria. Unlike the previous list published by Jadaliyya which covered the movements in both Algeria and Morocco, this article is exclusively related to the Algerian context.
Arabic: عدالة التيليفون
Literal Meaning: Phone call justice
Usage/Relevance: Signifies a selective/dependent judiciary system that receives orders from "above"
Arabic: أئمة السي سي بي
Literal Meaning: Salary Imam
Usage/Relevance: A term used to refer to the imams who deliver a Friday sermon in support of the regime.
Arabic: الراية الصفرا
Literal Meaning: The Yellow Flag
Usage/Relevance: The flag of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK)
Literal Meaning: Wheelbarrow man
Usage/Relevance: A nickname given to Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Bu Sba‘ Azraq
Arabic: بو صبع أزرق
Literal Meaning: The one with the blue finger
Usage/Relevance: A term used to mock those who voted during the 12 December elections.
Literal Meaning: Democracy of Mokrane Ait Larbi
Usage/Relevance: A term used to mock the process which Mokrane Ait Larbi, a lawyer and campaign coordinator of former presidential candidate, Ali Ghediri, suggested for solving the current political crisis. His plan consisted of creating a presidential committee whose members are appointed through a public survey rather than a ballot box. During the weekly Friday marches, people get to approve or disapprove of any candidate by raising green cards (for approval) or red cards (rejection).
Arabic: الدولار المسدوري
Literal Meaning: Mesdourian Dollar
Usage/Relevance: Fares Mesdour is often hosted on TV shows to discuss the current economic situation in Algeria. He tends to use exaggerated numbers to criticize the regime. The currency he uses often is US dollars. Many believe that the dollar he's talking about is imaginary. Mesdourian Dollar is invoked to refer to any populist promising an unattainable economic growth.
Arabic: فخامة الشعب
Literal Meaning: Their excellency, the people
Usage/Relevance: Used as a response to the old too familiar expression of "his excellence Abdelaziz Bouteflika", to celebrate the ongoing achievement of keeping the protests peaceful.
Arabic: فليطوكس إليكتروني
Literal Meaning: Electronic Insecticide
Usage/Relevance: A person or a piece of information which fights/debunks fake profiles or false information
Literal Meaning: Fork
Usage/Relevance: An offensive term used to describe the Amazigh flag.
Arabic: غار حراك
Literal Meaning: Cave Hirak
Usage/Relevance: A tunel at the centre of Algiers protestors used during the first weeks of the Hirak. It was closed shortly after by the police. The naming contains a wordplay on Gharu Hira, the place where the prophet Mohammed and his friend Abu Bakr Assiddiq hid when they were being chased by Quraysh.
Literal Meaning: Lickers
Usage/Relevance: Blind supporters of the army
Literal Meaning: El Harrach
Usage/Relevance: El Harrach is a suburb of Algiers. It contains a prison which held most of the corrupt figures, ministers and oligarchs as they were waiting for trial.
Arabic: حكومة العار
Literal Meaning: Government of shame
Usage/Relevance: The name given to Noureddine Bedoui's government.
Arabic: ابن صالح
Literal Meaning: Son of Salah
Usage/Relevance: A name given to Interim President Bensalah as a way to say that AGS controls him.
Jama‘at Hurra Dimuqraṭiyya
Arabic: جماعة حورة ديمقراطية
Literal Meaning: The group of free, democratic Algeria (a deliberately distorted pronunciation of the word free)
Usage/Relevance: A term used to refer to the political parties/figures who supported the abortion of the electoral process of 1992 yet call for democracy since the beginning of the Hirak.
Arabic: جنرالات الدم
Literal Meaning: Blood Generals
Usage/Relevance: Army officials who used deadly force against civilians in order to enforce order during the Black Decade.
Arabic: كابرانات فرانسا
Literal Meaning: Corporals of France
Usage/Relevance: "Kabran" is Darija for Caporal (French). The full term is used to refer to high-ranking Algerian army officials who were part of the French army before independence and those who have been trained under their supervision.
Literal Meaning: Hat
Usage/Relevance: Used to describe anyone working in the security sector (except the intelligence). it is used in "Naḥḥi l kaskiṭa w arwaḥ m‘ana" chant towards the police. It means take off your hat (uniform) and come with us (join the protest).
Arabic: خاوة خاوة
Literal Meaning: Brothers, Brothers
Usage/Relevance: It started as “Jīsh sh’ab … Khawa Khawa” Army, People .. Brothers, brothers. It was then altered by those displeased with AGS and became
Jīsh sh’ab Khawa Khawa .. w l’Gaid Sālaḥ ma’ lkhawana (Gaid Salah among/is with the traitors). On 21 June, after the issue of an order to seize all flags in the Hirak, except the Algerian national flag, it became Qbāyel, ‘rab .. Khawa, Khawa w l’Gaid Sālah ma’ l’Khawana. The first part “Kabyle, Arab … brothers” was added.
Literal Meaning: Traitors
Usage/Relevance: The regime
Literal Meaning: Liberty
Usage/Relevance: A song originally by Ouled el Bahdja with ULTIMA VERBA as a title (in reference to a poem by Victor Hugo). It addresses multiple topics related to the Algerian youth. A month after its release the group collaborated with Soolking, a popular Algeian singer, and produced a new one: La Liberté.
Ma Tahdarsh B Ismi
Arabic: ما تهدرش بإسمي
Literal Meaning: Do not speak for me.
Usage/Relevance: A term used to reject any attempt by any politician, association or political party to represent Algerians who remained loyal to the Hirak or those who abandoned it.
Literal Meaning: The sickle
Usage/Relevance: Used to describe the purge, either the process or those conducting it.
Arabic: مغرّر بهم
Literal Meaning: Those who have been deceived
Usage/Relevance: An expression used by AGS to describe those who took the streets. Since then, people started to refer to themselves as such proudly. Mugharrar bihi (masculine) mugharrar bihā (feminine) were added to people's profiles and comments on social media.
Arabic: نترباو قاع
Literal Meaning: We shall all behave better
Usage/Relevance: It came from Yetnaḥḥaw Ga'. The Hirak, especially during its early months, generated a desire for change on all levels. People cleaned the streets after the protests believing in netrabbaw ga'. It was used to criticize any form of bad behaviours in public.
Arabic: قصر الشعب
Literal Meaning: People's Palace
Usage/Relevance: a name given to an old building in Bordj Bou Arréridj. The space next to it, the place where people gather, has been named Sahat Asha‘b (People’s Square).
Arabic: قنوات الزيقو
Literal Meaning: Sewage channels
Usage/Relevance: Used to describe major news channels and their selective and often misleading coverage.
Literal Meaning: Tell him
Usage/Relevance: A new song adopted by the hirak since the 21st Friday. Click here for song.
Literal Meaning: Military boots
Usage/Relevance: Used to describe the army. It can also hold a negative meaning as ’abīd Arronjāss slaves of the military (supporters of AGS).
Literal Meaning: a small group
Usage/Relevance: A term used by AGS, in one of his speeches, to refer to protestors small and insignificant numbers. People started to refer to themselves as such in a proud manner.
Arabic: شكون سبابنا؟
Literal Meaning: Who is responsible (for our situation)?
Usage/Relevance: A song by USMH football club fans which found its way to the Hirak.
Teraḥlu ya'ni teraḥlu
Arabic: ترحلو يعني ترحلو
Literal Meaning: Leave means leave
Usage/Relevance: A slogan used to signify the refusal of any dialogue or negotiations with the regime. The only option is for the corrupt figures to leave.
Arabic: تتمنجلو قاع
Literal Meaning: You shall all be purged
Usage/Relevance: Used in relation to El Menjel, an expression that translates to sickle or scythe. It mainly refers to the purge aimed at corrupt politicians and businessmen. It is also used to refer to AGS, sometimes to Gen. Mohamed Kaidi, or to those in the army roumered to be supervising the process.
Ulash Smah Ulash
Arabic: أولاش السماح أولاش
Tamazight: Ulaç Smah Ulaç
Literal Meaning: No forgiveness, none
Usage/Relevance: The expression has a long history attached to the Amazigh struggle. It still holds the same meaning of "we will not forgive the regime's atrocities" but used for a wider context that goes beyond the Amazigh cause alone.
Literal Meaning: Yogurt
Usage/Relevance: former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahiya infamously stated that “not all Algerians need to eat yogurt” when discussing the often elevated expectations Algerians have towards the country’s economic situation. After his arrest, every time Ouyahia attended court, people waited for him with bottles or pots of yogurt. In some instances, yogurt was thrown on the vehicles that transported him.
Zaman Al Jahiliyya
Arabic: زمن الجاهلية
Literal Meaning: Period of Ignorance
Usage/Relevance: Used to refer to the period before the Hirak
Arabic: زيت إيليو
Literal Meaning: Elio oil
Usage/Relevance: A term used to refer to the avid supporters of Isaad Rebrab, CEO of the successful Cevital industrial group that produces, among many other products, Elio, a cooking oil.
Literal Meaning: the Zitoutians
Usage/Relevance: A term used to (mockingly) refer to the followers of Mohamed l'Arbi Zitout, a previous Algerian diplomat residing in the UK. Currently. He is the most followed political influencer on social media with 1.5m on Facebook.
Literal Meaning: The Zouaves
Usage/Relevance: A term used to refer to Algerian "traitors" and "loyalists" to France. As the Hirak prolonged and the tension in Kabylia reached its peak, the term acquired a racist connotation that aimed at labelling the entire region as such. The process was conducted through multiple influential figures on social media loyal to the regime as well as certain political figures.
[Click here to read Part 1 of this glossary]