Kabylie: Wikis


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This article focuses on the region in Algeria. For the ethnic group, see Kabyle people. For their language, see Kabyle language.
Tamurt n Leqbayel  (Kabyle)
Location of Kabylia in Algeria
Capital Tizi-Ouzou (political), Béjaïa (economical)
Largest Béjaïa
Official languages Kabyle
Widely known French
Ethnic groups  Kabyles
Demonym Kabyle
Government No autonomous government
 -  25,257 km2 
9,752 sq mi 
 -   estimate 1 965 548 - 5 682 520 
 -  Density 225/km2 
582.7/sq mi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)

Kabylie or Kabylia (Kabyle: Tamurt Iqbayliyen, Tamurt n Leqbayel or Tamurt idurar), is a historic and ethnic region in the north of Algeria.

It is part of the Tell Atlas and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Kabylia covers several provinces of Algeria: the whole of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia (Bgayet), most of Bouira (Tubirett) and parts of the wilayas of Bordj Bou Arreridj, Jijel, Boumerdes, and Setif. Gouraya National Park and Djurdjura National Park are also located in Kabylie.

As the essential modern heir of the historical Berber culture, Kabylie is considered to be one of the cradles of Western civilisation[1].

It is important not to confuse "Kabylia" and the global "Kabyle nation" elsewhere: around 25% of Kabyle people live in the Algiers capital region. This article concerns only the historical "Kabylie" region, and does not include Algiers's Kabyle population and society.





Kabylia was part of Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC).

Condensed Introduction

By the hypothesis that North Africa was once covered with water, the only land left for people to have inhabited is what appears to now be the Atlas Mountains. The Kabyle people have always inhabited the peaks of the Algerian Highlands, a part of the Atlas Mountains located in eastern Algeria. Several sources, from anthropology to the genome, conclude that the Kabyles are autochthonous inhabitants of this territory, also commonly referred to as "Homeland". Except for the Germanic clan known as the Vandals, no other peoples have ever cohabitated with them on their territory - neither the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Turks or the French. While most of these invaders established military forts on seashore cities (originally built by Phoenicians), the contact with the local peoples past the Atlas chain, which constitutes an impressive barrier, has remained minimal. In Kabyle lands, Roman troops lost their advantage, and local insurgents found refuge. No invader succeeded in imposing its rule over the Kabyle people until the French, late in the middle of the 19th century - a cohabitation which eventually led to a conflict of sovereignty, resulting in the notorious Algerian War, which lasted eight years from 1954 to 1962.

Not even after the independence from the French could any Algerian government impose its authority without the full consent of the Kabyles, for they possess one of the oldest forms of republican and decentralized government, called the AArhs system. This is a temporary structure raised only as needed, with a system of limited-term elected bodies, starting at the family and village level, up to the regional level. The term of a delegate is equal to the length of time necessary for the resolution of the conflict for which the assemblies has been called.

Post-independence, the Kabyles have been in conflict with the central government of Algiers since its inception in 1962, leading into a 1-year civil war. This resulted from the choice the leaders of the Liberation Army had to make, between a federated assembly of regions advanced by the Kabyles, or a Jacobin form of republic imposed through coups and internal betrayal (sponsored by the Pan-Arabist movement of Nasser). This conflict remains very much alive, and has resulted in several Kabyle incursions against the dictatorship of the Algiers government. Despite the existence of two locally based political parties (the Socialist Forces Front and the Rally for Culture and Democracy, the majority of Kabyles are in favour of regional autonomy; this is proclaimed (and demanded) by the Movement for the autonomy of Kabylie, a group which is portrayed by the regime as worse terrorists than the Islamists.

Middle Ages

The Fatimid dynasty of the 10th century originated in Lower Kabylie, where an Ismaili missionary (dā‘ī) found a receptive audience for his millennialist preaching, and ultimately led the Kutama tribe to be accepted as a voluntary tax contribution collected in Ifriqiya and then Egypt. After taking over Egypt, failing to raise the moneys hoped for, they left for Egypt. A Berber Family emerged as a formidable leader in the Unique Berber form of Elected Delegates form of Government, the Zirids. Beyond their immediate Zirid territory(aarch/Congragation) another Aarch and Family Hammadid emerged in Kabylia with influence covering most of today's Algeria, whereas the Zirid's territory extended estward to cover the area modern Tunisia. The indifference towards Islam Kabyles express had a lasting effect on the entire region's development. The difference in religious views and alliegences resulted the founding of towns such as Béjaïa and Algiers itself. and the evolution of two distinct Peoples, recognized by bothe the Turcs and the French as two distinct Berber Peoples, and thus resulting in two separate independances, and modern Countries. A similar scenario also developed in the Western regions, resulting in the separate country of Morocco. The Kabyle country remained as unconquerable as it is inaccessible to both the Ottaman deys, who had to content themselves with coastal military settlements from which they earned the name of "Barbary Pirates" and in some valleys where Islam was readily accepted. As result of the new face of the Islamist adventurers under the Ottaman flag, the Velkadi Clan emerged as a formidable Aarch congregation with influence over much of the Highlands of Kabylia from their base Tizi-Wezzou baptized by the French as Koukou. The Aarch Congregation self-desolved as soon as the Ottaman threats disappeared with the arrival of the European and American Navies to put an end to the Islamic piratry from bases on the coast of North Africa.

Modern age

19th century Kabylie jar, National Museum of African Art

Though the region was the last stronghold against French colonization[2], the area was gradually taken over by the French from 1857, despite vigorous local resistance by the local population led by leaders such as Faḍma n Sumer, continuing as late as 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. 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 the 1920s. Messali Hadj, Imache Amar, Si Djilani, and Belkacem Radjef rapidly built a strong following throughout France and Algeria in the 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), Kabylie was one of the areas that was most affected, because of the importance of the maquis (aided by the mountainous terrain) and French repression. The FLN recruited several of its historical leaders there, including Hocine Aït Ahmed, Abane Ramdane, and Krim Belkacem.

After independence

Tensions have arisen between Kabylia and the central government on several occasions, initially in 1963, when the Socialist Forces Front party of Hocine Aït Ahmed contested the use of the name of a popular resistance movement as a political party, by Nasserian agents, of lower grade within the FLN, incapable of organizing their respective regions to provide delegates for the establishment of the 1st Legitimate Algerian Constitution. Organized as a temporary Government a Junta with alliegiance, and military support from Nasser and other Panarabistssucceeded in preventing such a convention and a legitimate Constitution voted by a legitimate parliament. A year armed confrontation resulted, in which most FLN leaders from Kabylia and the eastern provinces were either eecuted or pushed to exile. In 1980, several months of demonstrations demanding the officialization of the Tamazight/Berber language, known as the Berber Spring, took place in Kabylie and Algiers, resulting in an extra-judiciary imprisonment of thousands of pro-Berber Algerian intellectuals. The Government security forces sieged and violently prevented a Berber poetry recital organized by the faculty and student of the main city of Kabylia, Tizi-Wezzu.

The politics of identity intensified as the imposed but rejected Arabization government program in Algeria intensified with the assignment of a religion (Islam) to a secular government followed by the sponsoship of Egyptian clerics as teachers, and the consacration of Arabic as the only official language in Algeria. Soon afte, in 1994–1995, a full-year school boycott was followed by the ten million population of Kabylia, termed the "strike of the school bag." In June and July 1998, the area blazed up again after the assassination of singer Lounès Matoub and at the time that a law generalizing the use of the Arabic language in all fields of eduction went into effect. In the months following April 2001 (called the Black Spring), major riots — together with the emergence of the Arouch, ancestral local councils confederation as the only Authority in the region — followed the killing of a young Kabyle (Masinissa Guermah) by gendarmes, and gradually transformed into the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia MAK, today the only political organization recognized in the region. The traditional political parties left to their own devices in a government which has faced one boycott after another, in the region.

Since 23 March 2007, the Military of Algeria has conducted extensive searches in the Kabylie region in search of members of the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (QOIM). Two major roads, between Béjaïa and Amizour and between El-Kseur and Bouïra, have been partially closed. The bombings in Algiers on 11 April 2007 rendered this search all the more urgent, as the QOIM has recently become the Maghrebin arm of the al-Qaeda Network

Christian Berbers: increased persecution and repression in Kabylia (Algeria) The Kabylia (Algeria) Berber Christian minority has inaugurated the new year and decade by facing once again brutal repression and persecution. The Kabylian population was preparing the celebrations of the Amazigh (Berber) New Year on January 12, 2010 when officials prohibited Christian Kabylians to hold their religious event. Defying the interdiction, the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (MAK) the leader of which is exiled in France called for a rally in Tizi Ouzou, Kabilia’s capital city, on January 12 to protest against the persecution they are the victims of. Dozens were arrested whose families are without any news since. Security forces fired rounds of rubber bullets and salvagely beat up participants. These events not only reflect the clear continuous rejection of the Berber identity (native population of the Maghreb North African region) but also the rising “Islamic fundamentalism” drift of the regime in place since the independence of the country in 1962. The vast country Sahara desert region has sheltered the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) now allied to Al-Qaida. Their most recent mischief was the hijacking of Air France flight 8969 on which the head of the MAK was travelling. Muzzled by the oil and natural gas riches of Algeria the international community and the media remain silent on a problem that is several decades old. January 13, 2010


Landscape of Kabylie.
Landscape, near Azazga

Main features:

  • The Great Kabylia, which runs from Thénia (west) to Bejaia (east), and from the Mediterranean Sea (north) to the valley of Soummam (south), that is to say, 200 km by 100 km, beginning 50 km from Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
  • Kabylia of Bibans and Kabylia of Babors, which form the Little Kabylia.

Three large chains of mountains occupy most of the area:

  • In the north, the mountain range of maritime Kabylia, culminating with Tifrit n'Ait El Hadj (Tamgout 1278 m)
  • In the south, the Djurdjura, dominating the valley of Soummam, culminating with Lalla-Khedidja (2308 m)
  • Between the two lies the mountain range of Agawa, which is the most populous and is 800 m high on average. The largest town of Great Kabylia, Tizi Ouzou, lies in that mountain range. Larbaa Nat Iraten (formerly "Fort-National" in French occupation), which numbered 28,000 inhabitants in 2001, is the highest urban centre of the area.


There are a number of flora and fauna associated with this region. Notable is a population of the endangered primate, Barbary Macaque, Macaca sylvanus, whose prehistoric range encompassed a much wider span than the present limited populations in Algeria, Morocco and Gibraltar.[3]


The area is populated by the Kabyles, the second most populous Berber people after the Chleuhs in Morocco. Their name means "tribe" (from the Arabic "qabîlah" قبيلة). They speak the Kabyle variety of Berber. Since the Berber Spring in 1980, Kabyles have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of the Berber language in Algeria (see Languages of Algeria).


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).

Today Kabylie is the most industrialised part of Algeria[4]. Kabylia product 60% of Algerian GDP (excluding oil and gas).[5 ] Industries include: pharmaceutical industry in Bejaia, agro-alimentary in Ifri and Akbou, mechanical industry in Tizi Ouzou and other little towns of western Kabylia, and petrochemical industry and refining of petrole in Begaia.[5 ]

Bejaia's port is the second biggest in Algeria after Algiers, and the 6th largest of the Mediterranean Sea.


“Berber flag”, by berber cultural movement.

Since the Black spring kabyle politics can be divided into 2 sides: the "kabyle movement", or kabyle nationalists, which fight for a large autonomy statut, or independence of Kabylie, and "algerianists", which are kabyle political supporters of reminding part of Algeria.

These last years, the Movement for the autonomy of Kabylie, the most important nationalist party, became the biggest party in Kabylia[6]


  • Feraoun, Mouloud, The Poor Man's Son, Menrad, Kabyle Schoolteacher, a classic autobiographical novel set in Kabylia in the early 20th century. (Alger: 1950, France: 1954, English translation: 2005)
  • Mohamed Dahmani, Economie et Société en Grande Kabylie (Alger: Office des Publications Universitaires, 1987)
  • Makilam, The Magical Life of Berber Women in Kabylia (New York: Peter Lang publishing USA, 2007)
  • Makilam, Symbols and Magic in the Arts of Kabyle Women (New York: Peter Lang publishing USA, 2007)

See also


  1. ^ "Le berbère, lumière de l'occident", Vincent Serralda
  2. ^ From the "Kabylia" article in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) Barbary Macaque: Macaca sylvanus, Globaltwitcher.com, ed. N. Strõmberg
  4. ^ "Tmurt Iqvayliyen ass-agi", Maxime Ait Kaki
  5. ^ a b "Tadamsa taqbaylit", Saεid Duman
  6. ^ "De la problématique berbère au dilemme kabyle a l'aube du 21e siècle", Maxime Ait Kaki

External links

Coordinates: 36°49′01″N 4°18′00″E / 36.817°N 4.300°E / 36.817; 4.300


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