Suzanne Ruta in Berfrois:
Le Quotidien d’Oran is one of Algeria’s most widely read French language dailies. People say they buy it just to read Kamel Daoud’s page three chronique or column, Raina raikoum, (my opinion, your opinion). In a country where the lone TV station is state controlled and investigative reporting is just about impossible, Daoud has fought for the right to offer a daily “dose of subversion.” He is the paper’s editor and a gifted novelist as well. (O Pharaon, 2005, a portrait of a small town war lord, reads like Garcia Marquez minus the butterflies.) But, he was once a street reporter, covering the surreal atrocities of Algeria’s recent civil war. The chroniques are savvy and down to earth but also capable of great leaps of faith or despair, depending on the day.
After ten years of civil war and another ten of political lockdown, Algerians have not taken the same risks as their amazing neighbors in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Daoud reveals what Algeria – once a beacon to oppressed nations – has these days instead of revolutionary stirrings; the harraga – the many thousands of young men who risk their lives each year, trying to reach Europe in flimsy boats, and an endless succession of ad hoc riots. A youth riot in early January left several dead and the gerontocratic regime nervous, but when in the weeks following, a new coalition of human rights activists and labor leaders, tried to start a Tunisian style uprising at home. They failed, because the oil rich Algerian regime can throw money at its problems and because timid political demonstrations have been blocked by massive deployments of police and hired thugs. At the first pro-democracy march on February 12th, 2011, Daoud was dragged through the street in Oran and crudely insulted by the police. That became the subject of his next pithy column…