Kabyle people

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Kabyle people
Ahmed Ouyahia 2011.jpg
Mouloud-mammeri 349003.jpg
Zidane 2008.jpg
Total population
c. 5.5 to 6 million e[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Algeria c. 5.5 million e[1]
 France c. 1 million e[1]
Kabyle (native), and French (as a result of immigration or language shift)
Sunni Muslim, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism

The Kabyle people (Kabyle: Iqbayliyen) are a Berber ethnic group native to Kabylia in the north of Algeria, one hundred miles east of Algiers. They represent the largest Berber-speaking population of Algeria and the second largest in Africa.

Emigration, influenced by factors such as the French conquest of Algeria, deportation, and latterly industrial decline and unemployment, has resulted in Kabyle people living in numerous countries. Large populations of Kabyle people settled in France and, to a lesser extent, Canada.

The Kabylians speak the Kabyle Berber language. Since the Berber Spring of 1980, they have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of Berber languages in Algeria.


Lalla Fatma N'Soumer of Tariqa led the resistance against French colonization 1851–57.

The Kabyle were relatively independent of outside control during the period of Ottoman empire rule in North Africa. They lived primarily in three different kingdoms: the Kingdom of Kuku, the Kingdom of Ait Abbas, and the principality of Aït Jubar.[2] The area was gradually taken over by the French during their colonization beginning in 1857, despite vigorous resistance. Such leaders as Lalla Fatma n Soumer continued the resistance as late as Mokrani's rebellion in 1871.

French officials confiscated much land from the more recalcitrant tribes and granted it to colonists, who became known as pieds-noirs. During this period, the French carried out many arrests and deported resisters, mainly to New Caledonia (see: "Algerians of the Pacific"). Due to French colonization, many Kabyle emigrated into other areas inside and outside Algeria.[3] Over time, immigrant workers also went to France.

In the 1920s, Algerian immigrant workers in France organized the first party promoting independence. Messali Hadj, Imache Amar, Si Djilani, and Belkacem Radjef rapidly built a strong following throughout France and Algeria in the 1930s; they developed militants who became vital to the fighting for an independent Algeria. This became widespread after World War II.

During the Algerian war of independence (1954–1962), Kabylie was the area of much fighting due to the maquis, whose resistance was aided by the mountainous terrain, and catalyzed by French oppression. The armed Algerian revolutionary resistance to French colonialism, the National Liberation Front (FLN), recruited several of its leaders there, including Hocine Aït Ahmed, Abane Ramdane, and Krim Belkacem.

Since the independence of Algeria, tensions have arisen between Kabylie and the central government on several occasions. In 1963 the FFS party of Hocine Aït Ahmed contested the authority of the FLN, which has promoted itself as the only party in the nation.

In 1980, protesters mounted several months of demonstrations in Kabylie demanding the recognition of Berber as an official language; this period has been called the Berber Spring. The politics of identity intensified during the 1990s as the regime initiated Arabization due to growing Islamist power. In 1994–1995, a school boycott occurred, termed the "strike of the school bag". In June and July 1998, there were violent protests after the assassination of singer Matoub Lounes and the law requiring use of the Arabic language in all fields.

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 Masinissa Guermah, a young Kabyle, by gendarmes. The protests gradually decreased after the Kabyle won some concessions from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


The geography of the Kabyle region played an important role in the people's history. The difficult mountainous landscape of the Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia provinces served as a refuge, to which most of the Kabyle people retreated when under pressure or occupation, thus preserving their cultural heritage from other cultural influences. The area was occupied by Romans, Arabs during the spread of Islam, functionaries of the Ottoman Empire, and French beginning in the late 19th century.

The Djurdjura chain


Algerian provinces with significant Kabyle-speaking populations include : Tizi Ouzou and Béjaïa, where they are the majority, as well as Bouira, Boumerdes , Setif , Bordj Bou Arreridj , Jijel . Algiers also has a significant Kabyle population.

The Kabyle region is referred to as Al Qabayel ("tribes") by the Arabic-speaking population and as Kabylie in French. Its indigenous inhabitants call it Tamurt Idurar ("Land of Mountains") or Tamurt n Iqvayliyen/Tamurt n Iqbayliyen ("Land of the Kabyle"). It is part of the Atlas Mountains and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean.

Topographic map of Kabylia.

Culture and society[edit]


The Kabyles speak Kabyle, a Berber language of the Afro-Asiatic family. As second and third languages, many people speak Algerian Arabic, French and, to a lesser degree English.

During the first centuries of their history, Kabyles used Tifinagh writing system. Since the beginning of the 19th century, and under French influence, Kabyle intellectuals began to use the Latin script. It gave the modern Berber Latin alphabet.

After the independence of Algeria, some Kabyle activists tried to revive the old Tifinagh alphabet. This new version of Tifinagh has been called Neo-Tifinagh, but its use remains limited to logos. Kabyle literature has continued to be written in the Latin script.


The Kabyle people are mainly Muslim, with a large Christian minority. Since the 19th century, there has been a large nominal Sunni Muslim community.[5] Among Kabyle Muslims, the main tradition is Maraboutism,.[6] Many Zaouia exist all over the region; the Rahmaniyya is the most prolific.

Some Catholic Kabyles moved to France during and after Algerian independence as pied-noirs. Recently, the Protestant community has experienced significant growth, particularly among Evangelical denominations.[7]


The traditional economy of the area is based on arboriculture (orchards and olive trees) and on the craft industry (tapestry or pottery). Mountain and hill farming is gradually giving way to local industry (textile and agro-alimentary). In the middle of the 20th century, with the influence and funding by the Kabyle diaspora, many industries were developed in this region. It has become the second most important industrial region in the country after Algiers.[citation needed]


The Kabyle have been fierce activists in promoting the cause of Berber (Amazigh) identity. The movement has three groups: Kabyles who see themselves as part of a larger Berber nation (Berberists); those who identify as part of the Algerian nation (known as "Algerianists", some view Algeria as an essentially Berber nation); and those who view the Kabyle as a distinct nation separate from (but akin to) other Berber peoples (known as Kabylists).

  • Two political parties dominate in Kabylie and have their principal support base there: the Socialist Forces Front (FFS), led by Hocine Aït Ahmed, and the Rally for Culture and Democracy (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 the village assembly, a traditional Kabyle form of democratic organization. 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, It works for the autonomy of Kabylie. On 21 April 2010, Ferhat Mehenni, leader of the MAK, proclaimed a Provisional Government of Kabylie in exile (ANAVAD). It was established officially on 1 June 2010 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.[disambiguation needed] He was elected President by the National Council of the MAK, and he named nine Ministers.[8]


For historical and economic reasons, many Kabyles have emigrated to France, both for work and to escape political persecution. They now number about 1.5 million.[9][10] Many notable French people are of full or partial Kabyle descent, such as Zinedine Zidane, Karim Benzema, Marcel Mouloudji, Malik Zidi, Dany Boon, Jacques Villeret, Daniel Prévost, Marie-José Nat, Isabelle Adjani, Alain Bashung, Marion Cotillard, etc.

Genetics and physical anthropology[edit]

A study by Arredi.et al (2004) includes the frequencies of lineages among one Kabyle population from Tizi Ouzou province.

  • Y-Dna haplogroups, passed on exclusively through the paternal line, were found at the following frequencies in Kabylie: E1b1b1b (E-M81) (47.36%), R1*(xR1a) (15.78%) (later tested as R1b3/R-M269 (now R1b1a2)[11]), J1 (15.78%), F*(xH, I, J2,K) ( 10.52% ) and E1b1b1c (E-M123) (10.52%).[12] The North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation of J haplogroup is largely of Neolithic origin.[13]
  • MtDNA Haplogroups, inherited only from the mother, were found at the following frequencies: H (32.23%), found throughout Europe; U* (29.03% with 17.74% U6), common to North Africa; preHV (3.23%), preV (4.84%), V (4.84%), T* (3.23%), J* (3.23%), L1 (3.23%), L3e (4.84%), X (3.23%), M1 (3.23%), N (1.61%) and R (3.23%).

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Kabyles around the world". Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  2. ^ E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 4, publié par M. Th. Houtsma, Page: 600
  3. ^ Bélaïd Abane, L'Algérie en guerre: Abane Ramdane et les fusils de la rébellion, p. 74
  4. ^ Le Djurdjura à travers l'histoire by Ammar ou Said Boulifa 1925
  5. ^ Abdelmadjid Hannoum, Violent modernity: France in Algeria, Page 124, 2010, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  6. ^ Amar Boulifa, Le Djurdjura à travers l'histoire depuis l'Antiquité jusqu'en 1830 : organisation et indépendance des Zouaoua (Grande Kabylie), Page 197, 1925, Algiers.
  7. ^ Lucien Oulahbib, Le monde arabe existe-t-il ?, page 12, 2005, Editions de Paris, Paris.
  8. ^ www. kabylia-gov.org, Kabylia Government website
  9. ^ Salem Chaker, "Pour une histoire sociale du berbère en France", Les Actes du Colloque Paris - Inalco, Octobre 2004
  10. ^ James Minahan, Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: D-K, Good Publishing Group, 2002, p.863. Quote: "Outside North Africa, the largest Kabyle community, numbering around 1.5 million, is in France."
  11. ^ Adams et al. 2008, " The genetic legacy of religious diversity and intolerance: paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula"
  12. ^ 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. PMC 1216069. PMID 15202071. 
  13. ^ Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald Neal Yates. When Scotland Was Jewish: DNA Evidence, Archeology, Analysis of Migrations ... (quot: Haplogroup J is found at highest frequencies in Middle Eastern and North African). p. 32. Retrieved August 5, 2012. 

External links[edit]