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Wit and grit: Algeria's sizeable youth lead fight for change

They're on the peaceful front line of the protest movement that toppled Algeria's longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes — and fearless calls for shampoo.

Oil-rich Algeria is one of the most youthful countries in the world with two-thirds of the population under 30.

They are politically engaged, educated, on social media and funny. And they initiated nationwide protests in mid-February that toppled the only leader they've ever known — former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power since 1999.

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, young Algerians confront a police cordon during a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

"We are raising awareness, all the youth is," said Sofiane Smain, a 23-year-old computing student. "We are trying to make all the Algerian people follow us so we can be unified to make a better Algeria, God willing."

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, a young Algerian woman leads the chants during a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, a young Algerian takes part in a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Tuesday, April 9, 2019 photo, an Algerian student confronts a police officer during a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, young Algerians who are part of soccer fan groups chant songs and slogans during a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Tuesday, April 9, 2019 photo, Algerian students take part in a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo, young Algerians take part in a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, young Algerians gather to discuss and protest before a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Wednesday, April 10, 2019 photo, young Algerian women pose next to street art supporting the protest movement in Algiers, Algeria. The writing in Arabic reads "The people are the authority". They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)

In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, young Algerians carry a photo of Rachid Taha, an iconic Algerian singer, during a demonstration against the country's leadership in Algiers, Algeria. They’re on the peaceful frontline of the protest movement that toppled Algeria’s longtime ruler, facing down water cannons with attitude, memes _ and fearless calls for shampoo. Two-thirds of Algeria’s population has no recollection of any leader other than former-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been driven out of the post he’d held since 1999 following nationwide protests since mid-February. (AP PhotoMosa'ab Elshamy)