Algeria is located in northern Africa, right next to Libya and above Mali, and spans across 2.5 million square miles. Algeria was originally part of the Ottoman empire, where it enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy. In the early 1800s Algeria was conquered by Imperial France and it remained a colony until after the Algerian War (1954-1962). Algeria declared independence in July 1962. The freedoms enjoyed by the new republic lasted less than a year. In 1963 the military took over the government, and has retained power to this day. The government espouses Islam and no laws may be passed that do not adhere to its tenets. However, these measures are insufficient for a fraction of society. In the 1990s the government was engaged in a bloody civil war with militant Islamic factions. Protests occur with relative frequency. Despite ongoing efforts to liberalize society and improve the economy, the society is still characterized by a high cost of living, corruption, inadequate employment opportunities, sub-par housing, and a lack of political and societal freedoms. These challenges are pressing, given that more than a quarter of the population is under the age of 15.