Kabylie, or Kabylia (Berber languages: Tamurt en Yiqbayliyen ;
Tazwawa; ⵜⴰⵎⵓⵔⵜ ⵏ ⵍⴻⵇⴱⴰⵢⴻⵍ), is a
cultural region, natural region, and historical region in northern
Algeria. It is part of the
Tell Atlas mountain range, and is located
at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
Kabylia covers several provinces of Algeria: the whole of Tizi Ouzou
Bejaia (Bgayet), most of
Bouira (Tubirett) and parts of the
wilayas of Boumerdes, Jijel,
Setif and Bordj Bou Arreridj. Gouraya
National Park and
Djurdjura National Park
Djurdjura National Park are also located in Kabylia.
1.2 Middle Ages
1.3 Regency of Algiers
1.4 French colonisation and resistance
1.5 In the Algerian War
1.6 After independence
6 See also
8 External links
Topographic map of Kabylia.
Further information: North Africa during Antiquity
Kabylia was a part of the Kingdom of
Numidia (202 BC – 46
BC). It was later taken over by the Roman Empire, and
became split between the provinces of Africa and Mauretania
Caesariensis. In AD 289, the Quinquegentiani, a Berber tribe from
Kabylia, rebelled against Roman rule; the rebels were defeated in a
year-long Roman offensive in the years 297-298, in which the
Quinquegentiani were driven from their homeland in Kabylia, into the
The Kabyle country remained as unconquerable as it was inaccessible to
the Ottoman deys. They generally established a few coastal military
settlements and some in valleys, where they enforced the rule of the
Islamic Ottoman Empire. The mountainous core land, however, remained
independent. Islam was gradually adopted through peaceful means,
Marabout movement. Some scholars argue that this is the
reason of the Kabyles' indifference towards Islam.
Regency of Algiers
During the Regency of Algiers, most of Kabylia was independent.
Kabylia was split into two main kingdoms, the
Kingdom of Kuku in
modern Tizi Ouzou, and the
Kingdom of Ait Abbas
Kingdom of Ait Abbas in modern Béjaïa.
French colonisation and resistance
19th century Kabylian jar, National Museum of African Art, Washington,
Though the region was the last stronghold against French
colonization, the area was gradually taken over by the French after
1830, despite vigorous local resistance by the local population led by
leaders such as Faḍma n Sumer, until the battle of Icheriden in 1857
marked a decisive French victory, with sporadic outbursts of violence
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 in response to uprisings, mainly to
New Caledonia (hence
the origins of the Algerians of the Pacific.) Colonization also
resulted in an acceleration of the emigration into other areas of the
country and outside of it.
Algerian migrant 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 trained militants who became key
players during the struggle for independence and in building an
independent Algerian state.
In the Algerian War
During the War of Independence (1954–1962), the FLN and ALN's
reorganisation of the country created, for the first time, a unified
Kabyle administrative territory, wilaya III, being as it was at the
centre of the anti-colonial struggle. As such, along with the
Aurès, it was one of the most affected areas because of the
importance of the maquis (aided by the mountainous terrain) and the
high levels of support and collaboration of its inhabitants for the
nationalist cause. Several historic leaders of the FLN came from this
region, including Hocine Aït Ahmed, Abane Ramdane, and Krim Belkacem.
It was also in Kabylia that the
Soummam conference took place in 1956,
the first of the FLN. The flipside of being such a critical region for
the independence movement was being one of the major target of French
counter-insurgency operations, not least the devastation of
agricultural lands, lotting, destruction of villages, population
displacement, the creation of forbidden zones, etc.
From the moment of independence, tensions had already developed
between Kabyle leaders and the central government, with the Socialist
Forces Front (FFS) party of Hocine Aït Ahmed, strong in wilayas III
and IV (
Kabylie and Algiers), opposing the FLN's Political Bureau
centred around the person of Ahmed Ben Bella, who in turn relied upon
the forces of the border army group within the ALN commanded by Houari
Boumediene. As early as 1963 the FFS called into question the
authority of the single-party system, which resulted in two years of
armed confrontation in the region, leaving more than four hundred
dead, and most of the FLN leaders from Kabylia and the eastern
provinces either executed or forced into exile.
In April 1980, following the banning of a conference by writer Mouloud
Mammeri on traditional Kabyle poetry, riots and strikes broke out in
Tizi Ouzou, followed by several months of demonstrations on university
campuses in Kabylia and Algiers, known as the Berber Spring, demanding
the officialisation and recognition of the Tamazight language. These
resulted in the extrajudicial imprisonment of thousands of Kabylie
intellectuals, along with other clashes in Tizi-Ouzou and
1984 and 1985. With the opening up and establishment of the
multi-party system in 1989, the RCD (Rally for Culture and Democracy)
party was created by Saïd Sadi, at the same time as identity politics
and the cultural awakening of the Kabylians were intensifying in
reaction to the increasingly hard-line Arabization. In the midst of
the civil war, there was an act of massive civil disbedience beginning
in September 1994 and lasting the entire school year until mid 1995
where the ten-million strong population of Kabylia conducted a total
school boycott, known as the "schoolbag strike". In June and
July 1998 the region flared up again after the assassination of
protest singer and political activist
Lounès Matoub at the same time
that a law requiring the use of
Arabic in all fields of education
entered into force, further worsening tensions.
Following the death in April 2001 of Massinissa Guermah, a young high
school student, in police custody, major riots took place, known as
the Black Spring, in which 123 people died and some two thousand were
wounded as a result of the authorities' violent crackdown.
Eventually, the government was compelled to negotiate with the Arouch,
a confederation of ancestral local councils over the situation,
alongside wider issues such as social justice and the economy, which
was deemed by the government as 'regionalist' and dangerous for
national unity and cohesion. Nevertheless, Tamazight was
recognised in 2002 as a national language of Algeria, and as of 7
February 2016, an official language of the State alongside Arabic.
Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie
Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), founded in June 2001,
has called for self-government for the region since 2011. The MAK is
re-baptised as "Mouvement pour l'Autodétermination de la Kabylie"
seeking indépendance from
Landscape near Azazga
Greater Kabylia, which runs from
Thénia (west) to
(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.
Lesser Kabylia, comprising Kabylia of Bibans and Kabylia of Babors.
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,
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. At Iraten (formerly
"Fort-National" in French occupation), which numbered 28,000
inhabitants in 2001, is the highest urban centre of the area.
The region's size is similar to that of Denmark.
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
Main article: Kabyle people
The area is populated by the Kabyle, a Berber ethnic group. They speak
the Kabyle variety of Berber. Since the
Berber Spring in 1980, Kabyles
have been at the forefront of the fight for recognition of the Berber
language as an official one 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 Kabylia is one of the most industrialised parts of Algeria.
Kabylia produces less than 15% of Algerian GDP (excluding oil and
gas). Industries include: pharmaceutical industry in Bgayet
Bejaia, agro-alimentary in Ifri and Akbou, mechanical industry in Tizi
Ouzou and other small towns of western Kabylia, and petrochemical
industry and oil refining in
Bgayet Bejaia's port is the second biggest in
Algeria after Algiers,
and the 6th largest on the Mediterranean Sea.
Kabylie football team
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