Lecturers were attacked yesterday by a group of “thugs” at the University of Algiers whilst a general assembly was being held about setting up an office for the National Council of Higher Education Lecturers (CNES).
“We were about to give the results of the vote when more than a dozen assailants entered the professors’ room,” said Professor Louisa Ait Hamdouche. “They attacked lecturers and those who filmed with their smartphones.” The meeting was being held at the faculty of political science and information when the attackers barged in and tried to take the ballot box, unsuccessfully, explained Hamdouche.
Mohamed Rezig, the coordinator of CNES at the University of Algiers, was wounded in the head when an “an army of security guards and baltaguia [an Egyptian word used to refer to thugs] were sent to us. They presented themselves as part of the student organisations, but in reality they had nothing to do with the university.” Rezig pointed the finger of blame at the university rector, whom he has described as the “mafia” and who was informed that an elective general assembly would be held at the university on 16 February.
“Never would it have been thought that the rector could send baltaguia to harm us,” said Rezig. “Yet, one should have expected it because of the threats they throw at us frequently.”
Pointing out that the group of attackers were “strangers” unknown to the organisation and not seen before, his colleague Professor Toufik Bliouta said that “[the thugs] ransacked the equipment then beat and insulted the teachers.” Bliouta required stitches for his injuries, while Professor Sami El Aïta received a blow to the heart. Both were sent to hospital for treatment.
“This is a disastrous precedent,” said Hamdouche, “not just for the university, the academics, the students and all those who work there, but for the whole country. The banalisation of violence has no limits, and this has only been possible because of the scandalous levels of… impunity.”
A statement issued by the National Union of Education and Training Personnel (UNPEF) announced that a strike has been organised on 21 February to protest against the repression of lecturers. A general assembly will then be held to determine by a vote whether the strike should continue and for how long.
The lecturers’ union also initiated a strike last Wednesday where more than 500 of its members marched through the streets of Algiers calling for the resignation of the director of education. A riot squad broke up the protest and prevented its peaceful assembly, wounding several protesters in the process.
According to the union, the director is responsible for the damaging situation prevailing in the education sector. “The aggravating factor in this situation is the freezing of more than 900 files of retired teachers and lecturers, preventing them from benefiting from the old regulations that required them to retire immediately,” a spokesperson explained.