Algiers — In an attempt to offer an outlet for Algerian youth, a trio of journalists on Saturday (September 7th) transformed the "suicide bridge" in the heights of Algiers to a "bridge of love".
Inspired by the "Pont des arts" in France and other bridges around the world, the organisers invited lovers to hang a padlock on the highly symbolic bridge in Telemly.
The operation was a huge success. Even the mayor of Algiers hung a padlock.
There were, of course, lovers but also people who wanted to express their love for Algeria, or for a child, or to celebrate a lasting friendship. The three initiators wanted to create a symbol for young people, who constantly suffer humiliation and who think only of migration.
And then the salafists showed up.
Armed with pliers, they cut the padlocks. They also unfurled their salafist flag.
Idir Tazerout, one of the organisers, could not hide his disappointment. He told Magharebia that although the operation was a failure, it opened up a debate on love in Algeria.
"It will remain a case study that has allowed us to speak about love without complexes and to face each other," he said, noting this was symptomatic of two clashing social projects. "If we have to do again, we will," he added.
"I stopped on a bridge where 25 suicides had taken place so far including that of a journalist from APS. If only our colleague had not committed suicide. If only she had waited for this day, to see that the youth of her country still believe in tomorrow, still believe in love and want Algeria to move forward," Tazerout wrote in L'Expression.
He responded to those accusing him of launching an initiative copied from the West, saying "No, we are not launching a war against religion. No, we are not at war with our customs."
"We are against obscurantism which prefers to silence noble sentiments in favour of expressions of hatred, which prefers Jihad Annikah to an innocent couple who hangs a padlock and promises to always love each other," he said.
Journalist and co-organiser Mehdi Mhenni said that a salafist wanted to spoil the celebration by describing the action as "heresy" but love had triumphed - at least for a day - over "hysteria".
Some could not hide their disappointment at the salafist reaction.
"It is unfortunate that in a country where dirt piles up on the sidewalks, corruption is rampant and crimes continue to gain momentum, there is nothing better to do than condemn love and pull down its symbols," Telemly resident Noria Rahmouna told Magharebia.
Mourad Mouhoubi, an executive, said that it was necessary to draw lessons from this initiative. "It concerns us insofar as it is essential to be aware that when we no longer sow love, hate takes over with all that its implied consequences, including terrorism," he said.
"Algerians are just a little too conservative and shy. This western action offended their customs and they feel a bit attacked. For once, we tried to make sense of love away from taboos in a country wounded by violence and permanently sowing hatred," said Karim in a hurt voice.