Kabyle people: Wikis


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Kabyle people.png
Total population
6-9 million (est.)
Regions with significant populations
 Kabylie (Algeria) 4 million (est.)
 Algeria (Algiers) 2 million (est.)
 Algeria (Other regions) 700,000 (est.)
 United States 60,000 (est.)
 France 2 million (est.)
 Canada 80,000 (est.)



Islam (sunni), Roman catholic, some protestant minorities

19th century Kabyle vessel

The Kabyles (in kabyle: Iqbayliyen (/IqvɑːjlI'jɜn/), or Leqbayel (/lɜqvɑːjɜl/), respectively ⵉⵇⴱⴰⵢⵍⵉⵢⵏ and ⵍⵇⴱⴰⵢⵍ in Tifinagh) are Berber people whose traditional homeland is Kabylie (or Kabylia) in northeast of Algeria. Since the beginning of the 20th century, they're also very present in the Algerois (Algiers's region). Around 40% of Algiers's population is kabyle.

There is also, due to emigration during 19th and 20th centuries, a large kabyle communities in France and in the Americas, especially in the United States and Canada.

Their name derives from the name of the mountainous region in the north of Algeria, which they traditionally inhabit. It originates from the Arabic word qabîlah, meaning tribe, the plural form of which is qaba'il.

Kabyles speak the Kabyle variety of Tamazight, the generic name for the Berber languages. Since the Berber Spring in 1980, they have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of the Berber language in Algeria (see Languages of Algeria).

The Kabyle region is colloquially referred to as Al Qabayel ("tribes"), but its inhabitants call it Tamurt Idurar ("Land of Mountains") or Tamurt Leqvayel ("Land of Kabyles"). It is part of the Atlas Mountains and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.



The principal language used by the Kabyle is Kabyle, which is spoken both at home and professionally. Speakers take pride in the Kabyle language


Most Kabyles are of typical Mediterranean or European appearance

  • The Y chromosome is passed on exclusively through the paternal line. The composition of their Y chromosome is: E1b1b1b (E-M81) (47.36%), R1*(xR1a) (15.78%), J (15.78%), F*(xH, I,J2,K) ( 10.52% ) and E1b1b1c (E-M123) (10.52%)[1]. The North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation (including both E1b1b and J haplogroups) is largely of Neolithic origin.
  • The mtDNA, by contrast, is inherited only from the mother and is: H (30.65%), U* (29.03% with 17.74% U6), preHV (3.23%), preV (4.84%), V (4.84%), T* (3.23%), J* (4.84%), L1 (3.23%), L3e (4.84%), X (3.23%), M1 (3.23%), N (1.61%) and R (3.23%). The mtDNA makeup of Kabyles is : 70.96% general Western Eurasian (H, J, U, T, K, X, V, N and I), 20.97% specific North African (U6, M1) and 8.07% sub-Saharan gene flow (L)[citation needed].
  • Gm immunoglobulin allotypes : in 2004, the Gm immunoglobulin allotypes were analyzed in a Kabyle population of 227 individuals. Results revealed that Kabyles have a GM profile with high frequencies of Europeans GM haplotypes (80%) and relatively high frequencies of sub-Saharans GM haplotypes (20%)[2].


Kabylia has always been a land of religious tolerance and cohabitation. In general, kabyle society is secular, and religions plays a little role in social and political affairs.

Most of the kabyles are muslims (sunni) or nominal muslims. Some others are catholic.[citation needed] Since recently, some protestant (evangelist) communities appeared.[citation needed]

However, the main Berberist political parties, the Front of Socialist Forces (FFS), the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) and the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (MAK) all claim secularism. These three parties together garner nearly 95% of the vote in the region.{fact}} Kabyles amongst all Algerians are the only people who ban religion from politics, at a personal level as well as political organizations and parties.[citation needed] A permanent trait in the personality since the 4th century with the Donatists, opposing Catholicism. Similarly, the Arab and Moslems from Arabia, never set foot in Kabylia. The construction of mosques was undertaken by Napoleon III as part of the Arabia Islamic commonwealth Project followed by colonial France between 1871 and 1962 in the valleys.[citation needed] Recent mosque construction and synagogue and church destruction is a phenomena that has appeared only since independance in 1962, with the pan-arabist regime in Algiers. Not a single place of worship has been financed by worshipers - All by Oil money.[citation needed] The line between politics and religion does not exist, as the revised Algerian Constitution proclaims Islam as the religion of the State.[citation needed]


The traditional economy of the area is based on arboriculture (orchards, olive trees) and on the craft industry (tapestry or pottery). The mountain and hill farming is gradually giving way to local industry (textile and agro-alimentary).


  • Two political parties dominate in Kabylie and have their principal support base there: the FFS, led by Hocine Aït Ahmed, and the RCD, led by Saïd Sadi. Both parties are secularist, Berberist and "Algerianist".
  • The Arouch emerged during the Black Spring of 2001 as a revival of a traditional Kabyle form of democratic organization, the village assembly. The Arouch share roughly the same political views as the FFS and the RCD.
  • The MAK (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie) also emerged during the Black Spring, and is a political association that militates for the autonomy of Kabylie.



Middle Ages

The Fatimid dynasty of the 10th century originated in Petite Kabylie, where an Ismaili da'i found a receptive audience for his millennialist preaching, and ultimately led the Kutama tribe to conquer first Ifriqiya and then Egypt. After taking over Egypt, the Fatimids themselves lost interest in the Maghreb, which they left to their Berber deputies, the Zirids. The Zirid family soon split, with the Hammadid branch taking over Kabylie as well as much of Algeria, and the Zirids taking modern Tunisia. They had a lasting effect on not only Kabylie's but Algeria's development, refounding towns such as Bejaia (their capital after the abandonment of Qalaat Beni Hammad) and Algiers itself.

After the Hammadids' collapse, the coast of Kabylie changed hands regularly, while much of the interior was often effectively unruled. Under the Ottoman Turks, most of Kabylie was inaccessible to the Deys, who had to content themselves with occasional incursions and military settlements in some valleys. In the early part of the Ottoman period, the Belkadi family ruled much of Grande Kabylie from their capital of Koukou, now a small village near Tizi-Ouzou; however, their power declined in the 17th century.

Modern age

The French colonization

The area was gradually taken over by the French from 1857, despite vigorous local resistance by the local population led by leaders such as Lalla Fatma n Soumer, continuing as late as Cheikh Mokrani's rebellion in 1871. Much land was confiscated in this period from the more recalcitrant tribes and given to French pieds-noirs. Many arrests and deportations were carried out by the French, mainly to New Caledonia (see : "Kabyles du Pacifique"). Colonization also resulted in an acceleration of the emigration into other areas of the country and outside of it.

Algerian immigrant workers in France organized the first party promoting independence in 1920s. Messali Hadj, Imache Amar, Si Djilani, and Belkacem Radjef rapidly built a strong following throughout France and Algeria in 1930s and actively developed militants that became vital to the future of both a fighting and an independent Algeria. During the war of independence (1954-1962), Kabylia was one of the areas that was most affected, because of the importance of the maquis, aided by the mountainous terrain, and French oppression. The armed Algerian revolutionary resistance to French colonialism, the National Liberation Front (FLN) recruited several of its historical leaders there, including Hocine Aït Ahmed, Abane Ramdane, and Krim Belkacem.

After the independence of Algeria

Singer/activist Lounes Matoub with friends. His assassination in 1998 caused riots in Kabylie.

Tensions have arisen between Kabylia and the central government on several occasions, initially in 1963, when the FFS party of Hocine Aït Ahmed contested the authority of the single party (FLN). In 1980, several months of demonstrations demanding the officialization of the Berber language took place in Kabylie, called the Berber Spring. The politics of identity intensified as the regime's policy of Arabization instated the Arabic Only to appease Islamists in the 1990s. In 1994–1995, a school boycott occurred, termed the "strike of the school bag". In June and July 1998, the area blazed up again after the assassination of singer Matoub Lounes and at the time that a law generalizing the use of the Arabic language in all fields went into effect. In the months following April, 2001 (called the Black Spring), major riots — together with the emergence of the Arouch, neo-traditional local councils — followed the killing of a young Kabyle Masinissa Guermah by gendarmes, and gradually died down only after forcing some concessions from the President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Arredi B, Poloni ES, Paracchini S, Zerjal T, Fathallah DM, Makrelouf M, Pascali VL, Novelletto A, Tyler-Smith C. (2004). "A predominantly neolithic origin for Y-chromosomal DNA variation in North Africa.". Am J Hum Genet. 75 (2): 338–345. doi:10.1086/423147. PMID 15202071. 
  2. ^ GM Haplotype Diversity of 82 Populations Over the World Suggests a Centrifugal Model of Human Migrations, Dugoujon et al. 2004

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Kabyles are a Berber people whose traditional homeland is highlands of Kabylie (or Kabylia) in northeastern Algeria.


  • Berbers are undoubtedly the descendants of the races known to the Greeks and Romans under the generic name of Libyans. The Kabyles of the hills between Algiers and Bougie, and the Shawia of the Aures Mountains are very similar to one another and may be taken as typical Berbers. They are distinctly white-skinned, even when sunburned. Usually they have black hair and brown or hazel eyes, some have yellow hair and blue eyes. In the royal necropolis of Thebes of about 1300 B.C., certain Libyans are depicted as having a white skin, blue eyes and fair beards. Blonds are represented on Egyptian monuments from 1700 B.C. and were noted by the Greeks in the fourth century B.C. In the east the blonds have quite died out, but there are patches of this race in the west of North Africa. This fair race still remain an unsolved problem. Some students bring them from Spain, other authors from Italy, others again from the east. Perhaps they were a sporadic invasions and formed an aristocratic class. One suggestion is that they were Proto-Nordics who formed a part of the various groups of Asiatics who raided Egypt about 1300 B.C. and moved westwards.
    • Alfred Cort Haddon, The Races of Man and Their Distribution (1924), University Press, 1924, p.36
  • Part of my time had been passed of what is called "La Grande Kabylie", that portion of the province of Algiers which is inhabited by he Kabyles, the most direct descendants of the Ancient Libyans. They are strange people these Kabyles, both in customs and physical aspects. Native of Africa time out of mind, many of them present the purest type of the blonde races, blue or gray eyes, tawny beard, fair complexion, curly light or reddish hair, muscular in build and often tall in stature. When I came to look at the many evidently portraits busts on the tombs of the ancient Etruscans, there was something in the features, in the shape of head and face, which reminded me of these Kabyles.
    • Daniel Garrison Brinton, The Ethnologic affinities of the Ancient Etruscans, Proceedings, American Philosophical Society, vol. 26, 1889, p.504
  • Africa north of the Sahara, from a zoological point of view, is now, and has been since early Tertiary times, a part of Europe. This is true both of animals and of the races of man.The Berbers of north Africa to-day are racially identical with the Spaniards and south Italians.
    • Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, Scribner's sons, 1916, p.137
  • In north Africa there are large areas with a predominantly Mediterranean population : the whole of the northern edge from Egypt to Morocco, and beyond Morocco a tract along the coast southwards and reaching over to the north-west African islands. The Spaniards have always been astonished at the likeness of their Berber foes in Morocco with themselves. In all these regions of north-west Africa, however, there are found also Oriental, Negro, and (especially, it would seem, in Algeria and Morocco) Hither Asiatic strains. Among the Berbers, particularly the Kabyles in the Riff and in the Aures range, a Nordic strain shows itself clearly, and in the Canary Islands there seems to be a strain of the Cro-magnon race.
  • The Berbers, among whom even today one finds light skins and blue eyes, do not go back to the Vandal invasions of the fifth century A.D., but to the prehistoric Atlantic Nordic human wave. The Kabyle huntsmen, for example, are to no small degree still wholly Nordic (thus the blond Berbers in the region of Constantine form 10 % of the population; at Djebel Sheshor they are even more numerous).
  • Of the Berbers there is much good to be said. Whether in the olive-clad mountains of Kabylia or the terraced valleys of their Aurasian fastnesses, they are white men, and in general act like white men. Among them the virtues of honesty, hospitality, and good-nature are conspicuous. It is not their misfortune alone that the lowlands know them no more ; not their misfortune only that Mohammedanism has debarred them from entering as they would otherwise have entered on the path of European progress and liberality : it is the misfortune of the whole civilised world. Descendants of a mighty race whose culture once spread from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and the Hauran, from Crete to Timbuctoo and the Soudan, there are still to be found among them the vestiges of the arts and sciences, of the spirit of conquest, of the capacity for self-government which, if developed, would make them again a great nation.

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