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Colonised by the Arabs, Abandoned by the World

Paying homage to the Amazigh singer Ferhat Mehenni’s son Ameziane in Maraghna, in Kabylia region in Algeria. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

Paying homage to the Amazigh singer Ferhat Mehenni’s son Ameziane in Maraghna, in Kabylia region in Algeria. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

TIZI OUZOU, Aug 7 2012 (IPS) - Untamed stone villages line up over imposing green valleys. In winter they are white with snow. The luckiest have a view to the deep blue sea. “It’s gorgeous, isn’t it,” says Amzi from his yellow cab. “Nobody would say we’re living in an open-air prison.”

The road signs in Arabic blotted with graffiti are of little help to the unexpected foreigner. But they are a graphic reminder of a latent political conflict since Algeria gained independence from France in 1962.

Located on the northern Mediterranean coast of Algeria, Denmark-sized Kabylia was an independent country throughout the Middle Ages and during the Ottoman days. It became a part of Algeria under French colonisation in the mid-19th century. Its more than six million inhabitants are the Amazigh – also called Berbers. They were present long before the Arabs came in the seventh century C.E.

“Arab Algeria replaced French Algeria, it was just a transfer of power during which our people were left aside,” says Razik Zouaoi at a cafeteria in Tizi Ouzou, Kabylia’s administrative capital 110 kilometres east of Algerian capital Algiers.

Zouai is an activist struggling for the rights of Amazigh language still spoken from Morocco’s Atlantic coast to the west bank of the Nile, in Egypt. The Touareg tribes in the interior of the Sahara desert share the same ancient tongue.

“We have all been subjected to a centuries-long Arabisation process that has had a devastating effect on us,” says Zouaoi.

On a map, the most obvious traces of the alleged assimilation are the Arabised names: Vgayett became “Bejaia”; Tubirett is known as “Bouira”…

Deep in the Kabylian hinterland, 35 miles southwest of Tizi Ouzou, lies the small village Beni Yenni – Ait-Yenni in Amazigh language. In its tiny but busy square, a young man who asks not to be identified complains about the numerous controls across the mountain region.

“The police even use explosive detectors at every checkpoint. Today they made me open the trunk three times on the way back from Tizi. How come the Islamist gangs operate here, and with heavy weapons and ammunition?”

“We live behind the walls of an immense barracks,” Bouaziz Ait-Chebib, president of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (MAK) tells IPS at the same location. “Over 40 percent of the Algerian security forces are stationed in Kabylia; there’s the army, the gendarmerie, the police, the DRS (Department of Information and Security) agents.”

Ait-Chebib defines the movement he leads, founded in 2001, as “a group that seeks to shake off the Arab-Islamic yoke and fight for the right of self determination.” He adds: “We are the leading political force in the region.”

After a bloody civil war that erupted in 1991 and resulted in about 200,000 dead, Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika initiated a reconciliation process that included an amnesty for Islamists. But in June, Algerian police chief General Abdelghani Hamel said the “terrorist threat is still present throughout the country,” in clear reference to groups paying allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

Attacks by suspected Jihadist groups have seemingly become an endemic phenomenon in Kabylia. In June, 14 Islamists were killed during clashes with the security forces.

The MAK president has little doubt about the reasons behind the increasing number of armed gangs. “While they are often described as opposing forces, both the government and the fundamentalists have never hesitated to join forces when it comes to wiping out our people, just because we are neither Arab nor Islamic. Both are but sides of the same coin.” But the two do seem to share an uneasy relationship.

“To the enforced disappearances and indiscriminate arrests by the security forces we have to add the hostages taken by the armed bandits,” Hocine Azem, chairman of the Amazigh League of Human Rights (LADH) tells IPS. “Only in Tizi Ouzou 69 people have been kidnapped since 2005 amid the indifference of the police.” Azem talks of a “programmed campaign of extortion against local entrepreneurs” and of a campaign of deforestation in Kabylia.

“The police are setting fire to acres of olive trees under the pretext of what they call “anti-terrorist operations”, Azem says. “Ours is a rural area, hence our oil comes from olives. These actions are designed to stifle our people economically and force them to abandon their land.” These developments, he says, were included in a report his organisation produced and handed to Geneva’s Human Rights Commission in mid-July.

International organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have noted hundreds of cases of torture and other ill-treatment. Both NGOs have reported that many of these abuses have been committed by the DRS in secret detention centres where inmates are denied any contact with the outside world.

The tiny village Maraghna, 25 kilometres southeast Tizi Ouzou, is the hometown of Ferhat Mehenni, a well-known Amazigh singer who was first chairman of the MAK. His 19-year-old son Ameziane Mehenni was killed in Paris in 2004, in an action many have understood as an act of punishment for Mehenni’s political activities. Ferhat Mehenni remains president of the Paris-based ‘Provisional Government of Kabylia’.

The PGK said in a statement late July that the Algerian police had turned into an “Iranian-type Islamic morality militia” after the security forces brutally beat up a young man for breaking the fast during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.

“Algeria is a huge minefield,” says jeweller Mohamed Akbal from his little studio in Beni Yenni. “You never know where or when something will go off under your feet.”

 
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  • Katharina Sri

    I met a Moroccan Berber lady who had became a Muslim fanatic, in Germany here. I asked her what language she speaks and she told me, Arabic. I asked her again if she has a native language and she was surprised and then after a long pause, told me, Berber language. I told her she should be proud of her native culture but her fanatical Arabicized-Islamicize mind have taken over so much of her own thinking and free will. It’s sad.

    The most arrogant and dangerously racist, sexist, and supremacist
    Arabs, think they can subject forever women/girls to sexual slavery at will
    under their evil Satanic-Arabic cult, Islam – it is why they impose their most
    evil Saudi-Arabic veil! This is why the Arabic Saudi/Qatar’s most vicious and
    murderous footsoldier Islamic Nazis, the Muslim Brotherhood, are conquering all
    over (including through their local political agents especially in the
    Opposition parties), the non-Arab but OIL/MINERAL-RICH Islamic-ruled
    regions/countries, from Asia such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern
    Thailand/Mindanao of Philippines, Afghanistan, Central Asia), Africa (Mali,
    Yemen, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan,
    Kenya etc), the whole Mid-East (Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and now,
    Syria – next will be Lebanon), and all the way to the West (starting with the much hijacked White House).
    They are on the way into achieving three fundamental goals (just like the
    Arabic founder of Islam, the Pedophile rapist, mass murderer, robber and slave
    owner of the Jews, Mohammed, did) – the robbery of massive wealth of
    oil/mineral/land, the absolute Arabicizing of the conquered and the sexual
    slavery/rape of the women/girls including normalizing Pedophilia rape in child-marriages
    and caging women/girls forever as sex-slaves in the Saudi-Arabic veils (I was forced to
    wear one myself as a very confused non-Arab Muslim teenager, who lost so much
    of my youth and freedom, and then went on to become self-destructively rebellious
    for a long time)! But the hypocrite Western REGIMES who support them like the
    Obama/Sarkozy/Cameron’s REGIMES, are much worst evil. Because they’re supposed
    to be civilized and enlightened! I cannot wait for the day, no matter how long
    it takes, when these Western leaders will be convicted like the German Nazis in
    the Hague for
    War Crimes/Crimes against Humanity! Amen to justice and truths!

  • just_me

    How I wish Kabyle people were going live in peace and freedom!

  • just_me

    How I wish Kabyle people were going live in peace and freedom!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Join me with One heart that may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will turn hardened hearts to soft hearts in these areas of the world. And, may there will be no hungry child go to bed hungry, tonight. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • http://yahoo.com/ mSamuelle

    Amen!

  • sught hail

    a german callin’ others NAZI, HAHAHA that’s rich

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