Kabyle people

Kabyle people
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), Maghrebi Arabic and French (as a result of immigration or language shift)
Islam (Sunni), Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism)

The Kabyle people (Kabyle: Iqvayliyen) 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.

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.


Regions of Kabyle settlements in Algeria

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 support of local dynasties (Numidia, Fatimids in the Kutama periods, Zirids, Hammadids and Hafsids of Bejaïa) or Algerian modern nationalism and the war of independence. The region was also occupied by various conquerors. Romans and Byzantines who controlled the main road and valley during the antiquity and avoided the mountains (Mont ferratus).[4] The Arabs during the spread of Islam controlled plains but not all the contryside (called el aadua : enemy).[5] The Regency of Algiers under ottoman influence try to have indirect influence (makhzen tribes of Amraoua, and marabout).[6] The French gradually and totally make the conquest of the region and set up a direct administration.

The Djurdjura chain

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


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.[7] Among Kabyle Muslims, the main tradition is Maraboutism,.[8] 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.[9]


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.


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).


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.[11][12] 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.


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

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 "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. "Ebook LA KABYLIE ORIENTALE DANS L'HISTOIRE - Pays des Kutuma et guerre coloniale de Hosni Kitouni". www.harmatheque.com. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  5. Abdelfettah Lalmi, Nedjma (2004-01-01). "Du mythe de l'isolat kabyle". Cahiers d’études africaines (in French). 44 (175): 507–531. doi:10.4000/etudesafricaines.4710. ISSN 0008-0055.
  6. Universalis, Encyclopædia. "KABYLES". Encyclopædia Universalis. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  7. Abdelmadjid Hannoum, Violent modernity: France in Algeria, Page 124, 2010, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  8. 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.
  9. Lucien Oulahbib, Le monde arabe existe-t-il ?, page 12, 2005, Editions de Paris, Paris.
  10. www. kabylia-gov.org, Kabylia Government website
  11. Salem Chaker, "Pour une histoire sociale du berbère en France", Les Actes du Colloque Paris - Inalco, Octobre 2004
  12. 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."
  13. Adams et al. 2008, " The genetic legacy of religious diversity and intolerance: paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula"
  14. 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 1216069Freely accessible. PMID 15202071.
  15. Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman; 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.
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