Kabyle people

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Kabyle people
Total population
c. ~5.5 million e[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Algeriac. 3-5 million e[1]
 Francec. ~1 million e[1]
Kabyle language
Second languages: French, Arabic[2]
Predominantly Islam, with minorities of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism

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

Many of the Kabyle have emigrated from Algeria, influenced by factors such as the Algerian Civil War[3], cultural repression by the central Algerian government[4], and overall industrial decline. Their diaspora 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.


Martinus Rørbye : A seated Kabyla.

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.[5] 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.

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

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.[6] 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 Algeria gained independence in 1962, 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. In 1994–1995, the Kabyle conducted a school boycott, termed the "strike of the school bag". In June and July 1998, they protested, in events that turned violent, after the assassination of singer Matoub Lounes and passage of the law requiring use of Arabic in all fields.

In the months following April 2001 (called the Black Spring), major riots among the Kabyle took place followed the killing of Masinissa Guermah, a young Kabyle, by gendarmes. At the same time, organized activism produced the Arouch, and neo-traditional local councils. 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. They were able to preserve their cultural heritage in such isolation from other cultural influences.

The area supported 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 repeatedly occupied by various conquerors. Romans and Byzantines controlled the main road and valley during the period of antiquity and avoided the mountains (Mont ferratus).[7] During the spread of Islam, Arabs controlled plains but not all the countryside (they were called el aadua : enemy by the Kabyle).[8]

The Regency of Algiers, under Ottoman influence, tried to have indirect influence over the people (makhzen tribes of Amraoua, and marabout).[9]

The French gradually and totally conquered the region and set up a direct administration.

The Djurdjura chain
Topographic map of Kabylia.

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 make up 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 Iqbayliyen/Tamurt n Iqbayliyen ("Land of the Kabyle"). It is part of the Atlas Mountains and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean.

Culture and society[edit]


The Kabyle 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 the Tifinagh writing system. Since the beginning of the 19th century, and under French influence, Kabyle intellectuals began to use the Latin script. It is the basis for 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 small Christian minority. Since the 19th century, there has been a large nominal Sunni Muslim community.[10] Many Zaouia exist all over the region; the Rahmaniyya is the most prolific.

Catholics of Kabyle background generally live in France and result from intermarriage with the French. Recently, the Protestant community has had significant growth, particularly among Evangelical denominations.[11]


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: those Kabyle who identify 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 consider the Kabyle to be 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 around 1 million people.[13][14] Some notable French people are of full or partial Kabyle descent.

Notable people[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)[15]), J1 (15.78%), F*(xH, I, J2,K) ( 10.52% ) and E1b1b1c (E-M123) (10.52%).[16] The North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation of J haplogroup is largely of Neolithic origin.[17]
  • MtDNA Haplogroups, inherited only from the mother, were found at the following frequencies: H (32.23%) mainly H1 and H3; U* (29.03% with 17.74% U6), found in ancient Iberomaurusian specimens; 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. ^ Frawley, William J. (2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: AAVE - Esperanto, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 221. ISBN 0195139771. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  3. ^ https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/201321913479263624.html
  4. ^ http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a585705.pdf
  5. ^ E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 4, publié par M. Th. Houtsma, Page: 600
  6. ^ Bélaïd Abane, L'Algérie en guerre: Abane Ramdane et les fusils de la rébellion, p. 74
  7. ^ "Ebook LA KABYLIE ORIENTALE DANS L'HISTOIRE - Pays des Kutuma et guerre coloniale de Hosni Kitouni". www.harmatheque.com. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Universalis, Encyclopædia. "KABYLES". Encyclopædia Universalis. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  10. ^ Abdelmadjid Hannoum, Violent Modernity: France in Algeria, Page 124, 2010, Harvard Center for Middle Eastern studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts.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.
  11. ^ Lucien Oulahbib, Le monde arabe existe-t-il ?, page 12, 2005, Editions de Paris, Paris.
  12. ^ www. kabylia-gov.org, Kabylia Government website
  13. ^ Salem Chaker, "Pour une histoire sociale du berbère en France", Les Actes du Colloque Paris - Inalco, Octobre 2004
  14. ^ 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 million, is in France."
  15. ^ Adams et al. 2008, " The genetic legacy of religious diversity and intolerance: paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula"
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

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