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Kabylia (Algeria)

Last modified: 2009-04-24 by
Keywords: kabylia | berbers | crescent (red) | star (red) | letter: ezza |
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The Berbers in Kabylia

In Kabylia, Berbers are represented by two political parties and one cultural association (as of 2001, see below for more recent movements):

The Berbers expected acknowledgement of their specificity after their participation to the independence war (1954-1962). Anyway, president Ben Bella said in 1962: "We are all Arabs".
Following the arrestation of the writer Mouloud Mammeri, who had attempted to give a lecture on classical Berber poetry, the "Kabyle Spring" started in Tizi-Ouzou in 1980 (with the birth of MCB), and thousands of demonstrators were arrested. President Chadli claimed: "We are all Berbers arabized by Islam".
In 1994-1995, the "satchel strike" involved thousands of Berber students who stopped attending classes. Following the strike, teaching Berber language in the Berber-speaking areas was proposed and the High Commission for Amazighity, attached to the Presidency of Republic, was created. However, lack of funds made teaching of Berber more virtual than real.
In 1996, President Zeroual revised the Constitution, but the main claim of the Berbers, the acknowledgement of Berber as the second national language of Algeria, was once again rejected.
On 30 April 2001, President Bouteflika said: "Identitary revendication also has a constitutional component, which can be accounted for only by a constitutional revision", but his loose speech strongly disappointed the young Kabyls. The situation is still very explosive.

Source: Courrier International #549 (10 May 2001)

Ivan Sache, 29 May 2001

Flags seen during the commemoration of the "Kabyle Spring"

[Kabyle flag, 2000]         [Kabyle flag, 2000]

Flags seen during the commemoration of the "Kabyle Spring" - Images by Nicolas Rucks, 20 April 2000

TV5 showed images of the Kabyle people commemorating the "Kabyle Spring" today in what seems to have been a huge demonstration. One flag was quite similar to other Berber flags, only the shade of blue was darker and the symbol was definitely drawn at right angles.
The other flag I saw was the Algerian national flag defaced with the same symbol, in yellow, on the white portion of the flag.

Nicolas Rucks, 20 April 2000

Kabyle flags outside Algeria

[Kabyle flag in Montreal]

Kabyle flag seen in Montreal, Canada - Image by Luc Baronian, 20 June 1997

I saw this flag in a nice litte Kabyle restaurant in Montreal, L'étoile Kabyle. The owner first told me it was the Berber flag, but when I asked him if it was used outside Algeria, he said he didn't know.
The flag is 2:3 (approx.), gold, with the black symbol that was reproduced everywhere in the restaurant (on a calendar, on the walls, on the ceiling with colourful clothes). The owner told me that the flag is a symbol of liberty, democracy and prosperity.

Luc Baronian, 20 June 1997

Proposal of Kabyle flag

[Kabyle flag proposal]

Proposal of Kabyle flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 2 January 2009

A flag supposed to represent specifically Kabylia has recently popped up on the Internet, as vertically divided light blue-yellow. One of the main Kabyle movements, MAK (Mouvement pour l'Autonomie pour la Kabylie, Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia) uses it, graphically, on its new website. In the past, the flag used during demonstrations organized by MAK, especially in France, was the "usual" Berber flag, horizontally divided blue-green-yellow with the red azza letter in the middle.

MAK was founded by the singer Ferhat M'henni and the linguist Salem Chaker in Kabylia in 2002, during the "Black Spring", a period of unrest that followed the unexplained death of a Berber student in an Algerian gendarmerie post. The movement held its first congress at Ighil Ali in August 2007.
MAK calls for the wide autonomy of Kabylia, not accounting for the other Berber areas. In his book Algérie : La question kabyle (2004), M'henni, President of MAK, writes: "It is not the duty of the Kabyles to liberate the Chaouias, the Chleuhs and the Berbers from the oasis of Siwa. [...] The grievances of Kabylia should be considered only within its natural borders." This is a clear (counter) reference to the ideology of MCB, an organization that claimed in the 1980s to be part of the "Movement of the Amazigh people, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Egyptian oasis of Siwa".
According to the sociologist Abdenasser Djabi, the "withdrawal to Kabylia" of MAK is a consequence of the failure of MCB. The historian Daho Djerbal considers MAK as a radicalized Kabyle movement, mostly operating outside Kabylia and not supported by the local elites, who accuse MAK to try to solve the Kabyle question from abroad. Daho further adds that the "natural borders" of Kabylia claimed by MAK were indeed set up by the French colonial administration and that population transfers ordered by the Ottoman administration prevents a clear definition of the "Kabyle people".

After an article by Yassim Temlali, Le fruit amer du déni identitaire, 31 July 2008

MAK has issued a "Project for the autonomy of Kabylia", within Algeria, including:

Chapter III. Regional autonomy.
5. Kabylia shall be entitled to have its own coat of arms and flag, that shall fly along with the Algerian flag.

Ivan Sache, 10 January 2009

"Christian Kabyle" flag


"Christian Kabyle" flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 7 January 2009

Association pour la Culture Franco-Kabyle 'Tafat Umasihi', founded on 16 May 2007, presents on its blog a proposal of flag expected to represent the Christian community of Kabylia ("Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals"). The other contents of the blog clearly show the Evangelicalist orientation of the association.
The flag is shown in proportions 4:5, yellow (the traditional colour of Kabylia), with a thin red cross throughout (representing the Christian religion) and blue diagonal stripes (representing the ezza letter found on the "standard" Berber flag). The flag should therefore represent the union of religion, identity and culture. The association calls for a "graphic chart", which means that the flag does not exist yet in the cloth.
Reactions on the website are quite fresh and sometimes taunted with religious intolerance. While, as claimed by the association, Kabylia was once evangelzed by Sts. Cyprian and Augustine, the main religion there is today Islam and one might question the need of such a flag.

Ivan Sache, 7 January 2009