North Africa

Before the Storm

The ambulance convoy carrying the coffin of Hocine Ait Ahmed, who spent nearly a quarter-century in exile in Europe, arrives for a burial ceremony in his native village, Ath Ahmedh, Friday Jan.1, 2016, a day after his remains arrived in Algiers, the Algerian capital. Tens of thousands of Algerians massed in a mountain village for a chaotic burial ceremony of a national hero of the brutal independence war with France and the country's leading opposition figure. Hocine Ait Ahmed died Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland, aged 89. (AP Photo/Toufik Doudou)
The ambulance convoy carrying the coffin of Hocine Ait Ahmed, who spent nearly a quarter-century in exile in Europe, arrives for a burial ceremony in his native village, Ath Ahmedh.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    • Millions of refugees have already left from trouble spots and wars in the Mideast and North Africa and fled to Europe, and an Algeria in crisis would likely exacerbate the flow of asylum-seekers.
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  • Facts

    Facts

    • Germany, by far the biggest destination of refugees in Europe, is in close talks with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to expedite the return of failed asylum applicants.
    • Located on the Mediterranean coast, Algeria shares borders with Libya to the east, Morocco to the west, and Mali to the southwest, all of which have struggles of their own.
    • Algeria is run by an authoritarian regime, is economically dependent on sales of oil and natural gas, and has an unemployment rate of about 25 percent.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

 

Young men are deserting their homeland of Algeria by the thousands. Some are drawn north across the Mediterranean, others into Libya, into jihad. It’s slowly becoming clear to Europeans that they need to take a look at Algeria, the largest country in Africa by land mass but among the continent’s most unobtrusive nations. What they see doesn’t bode well.

Bab el Oued, a poor man’s district in the heart of the country’s capital, Algiers, is on the square of the three clocks. Today, on a sunny Thursday in January, the whole world is out and about because all the stores close on Friday. You see old women with white triangular scarves covering their mouths and noses. The scarves taper to a point in front; the women look like birds while wearing the traditional aâjars.

Two men are sitting in a café, discussing politics. They do so without looking to the right or the left – a characteristic precautionary measure in most nations run by dictatorships. The two laugh over a joke that’s going round: The government has raised gas prices to prevent the unemployed from immolating themselves.

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