Algeria: Indigenous March for Autonomy

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights.

On Tuesday, January 12th, Kabyles, the indigenous people of Algeria, marched in the country's northeastern region of Kabylie, ahead of the celebration of the Berber new year (Yennayer), demanding more autonomy from the central state. The Movement for the Autonomy in Kabylie (MAK) organizing the protest explains that what started as a peaceful march was rapidly confronted heavy handedly by the authorities who imposed a media blackout. As the world's attention turned to Haiti and the tragic aftermath of a horrendous earthquake, little news about the protest appeared on mainstream media, prompting protesters and their supporters to report on the Net.

The Kabylie region has a long history of confrontation with the Algerian government, as indigenous demands evolved from calls for outright independence from the central state to a recently proposed plan of autonomy [Fr], culminating in the year 2001 in what is known as the Black Spring when riots broke out throughout the region leading to deadly confrontations between protesters and the Algerian army.

Tilanum posted this video on the video sharing website Youtube, allegedly showing a violent clash between protesters chanting “Murderous Power!” and the security forces:

The event was followed by microbloggers like Kabyle who tweeted the march and linked to pictures of the demonstration:

Kabyle on Twitter

Victorious march of the MAK in Kabylie: more than 10,000 people in the street.

Saiduali blogging on Le Portail des Hommes Libres [Fr] posted pictures of a march that took place in the coastal city of Bejaia:
Bejaia Marchers
Bejaia Marchers
Bejaia Marchers

On the social networking website Facebook, a group [Fr] was created attracting over 800 members and bringing together supporters and opponents of the autonomy in Kabylie. Lee Loo comments on the group Wall explaining that although she's a Berber herself, she opposes autonomy. She writes:

Vous nous faites honte. Je suis Amazigh mais mon pays reste l'algérie […] Vous n'avez aucune chance, alors là zero chance […] Tout le reste des Kabyles sont contre çà!

You bring us shame. I am Amazigh but my country is Algeria. You have no chance whatsoever in achieving this. All the rest of Kabyles are against it.

Allas Di Tlelli, blogging on [Fr] contradicts that claim. He writes:

[L]es forces existantes en Kabylie sont, plus ou moins, acquises pour l’autonomie de la Kabylie avec une différence d’approche qui relève beaucoup plus de l’idéologie politique.

The existing forces in Kabylie are generally supportive of the autonomy, with the difference of approach having much to do with political ideology.

These events come with the backdrop of recent moves by neighboring Morocco to grant its Amazigh population more rights (indigenous languages are being taught in school and a Berber language TV channel has recently been launched), in addition to a broader plan that will bring, the Moroccan authorities claim, more autonomy to different regions including the contested territory of Western Sahara.

This post is part of our special coverage Indigenous Rights.

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