Algeria continues to restrict religious freedom
Earlier this week, Algerians celebrated as the government eased COVID-19 regulations in another 29 provinces. The order allows travel and shortens curfews, bringing these provinces in line with the rest of the country, which relaxed restrictions in July. However, the loosening of the sanitary rules does not stop the persecution to which local Christians are still subjected to.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who took office in December on promises of social reform and economic rejuvenation, has his work cut out for him if he is to make good on his campaign promises.
Of first importance in the attempt to enact social reform in Algeria is the restoration of freedom of thought and conscience. Article 42 of Algeria’s constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of thought and conscience to all Algerians, but in practice these rights are severely restricted.
On the 10th of August, just one day after announcing that it would ease lockdown restrictions, Algeria sentenced a prominent Algerian journalist to three years in prison for the crime of reporting on anti-government protests. His sentencing drew sharp criticism from the international community.
Just last month, Tebboune’s administration collected the religious affiliations of teachers in Tizi Ouzou Province. The move has been seen as an attempt to intimidate Tizi Ouzou’s Christian and atheist teachers as the list of religious affiliations was subsequently forwarded to the national Department of Intelligence and Security.
When this week’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions is fully implemented on Saturday, worshipers in Algeria’s larger mosques will be allowed to return to places of worship that stood empty for nearly five months as the pandemic raged through the country. However, members of Algeria’s two largest churches – both forcibly closed last fall – will not be so lucky.