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Location of Kabylia in central Algeria (northwestern Africa)
Location of Kabylia in central Algeria (northwestern Africa)
Coordinates: 36°48?N 4°18?E / 36.8°N 4.3°E / 36.8; 4.3Coordinates: 36°48?N 4°18?E / 36.8°N 4.3°E / 36.8; 4.3
Region Algeria
Provinces - Wilayas
 o Total25,000 km2 (10,000 sq mi)
 o Total3,450,000[1]
Time zoneUTC+1
 o Summer (DST)UTC+1 (CEST)
ISO 3166-2
Area code+213 (Algéria)
LanguagesKabyle (Kabyle)

Kabylia (Tamurt n Leqbayel or Yiqbayliyen, meaning "Land of Kabyles") is a cultural, natural 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 two provinces of Algeria: Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia. Gouraya National Park and Djurdjura National Park are also located in Kabylia.


Topographic map of Kabylia.


Kabylia was a part of the Kingdom of Numidia (202 BC - 46 BC).[]

List of Empires/Dynasties created by the Kabyle people

Middle Ages

The history of Kabylie started to appear in the classical books during the fourth century AD with the revolt of the commander Firmus and his brother Guildon against the empire.

The Vandals, a Germanic people, established a kingdom in North Africa in 435. They were conquered by the East Roman Empire and afterward assimilated into the local Berber population of Kabylia.[6][7] During the rule of the Romans, Byzantines, Vandals and the Carthaginians, the Kabyle people were one of the few Imazighen in North Africa who remained independent.[8][9][10][11] The Kabyle people were so resistant that even during the Arab conquest of North Africa they still had control and possession over their mountains.[12][13] In fact it was only until 1857 that Kabylia as a whole, was fully and entirely conquered and subdued.[14][15][16][17][18]

Origin and conquests of the Fatimids

Between 902 and 909 the Fatimid state had been founded by the Kutama Berbers from Little Kabylie whose conquest of Ifriqiya resulted in the creation of the Caliphate.[19][20][21][22][4][5][23] After the conquest of Ifriqiya the Kutama Berbers conquered the realm of the Rustamids on the way to Sijilmasa which they also then briefly conquered and where Abdull?h al-Mahd? Billa, who at the time was imprisoned, was then freed and then accepted as the Imam of the movement and installed as the Caliph, becoming the first Caliph and the founder of the ruling dynasty.[24][25][26] The historian Heinz Halm describes the early Fatimid state as being "a hegemony of the Kutama and Sanhaja Berbers over the eastern and central Maghrib" and Prof. Dr. Loimeier states that rebellions against the Fatimids were also expressed through protest and opposition to Kutama rule.[27][28] The weakening of the Abbasids allowed Fatimid-Kutama power to quickly expand and in 959 Ziri ibn Manad, Jawhar the Sicilian and a Kutama army conquered Fez and Sijilmasa in Morocco.[29] [28] In 969 under the command of Jawhar, the Fatimid Kutama troops conquered Egypt from the Ikhsidids, the Kutama Berber general Ja'far ibn Fallah was instrumental in this success: he led the troops that crossed the river Nile and according to al-Maqrizi, captured the boats used to do this from a fleet sent by Ikhshidid loyalists from Lower Egypt.[30] The Kutama general Ja'far then invaded Palestine and conquered Ramla, the capital, he then conquered Damascus and made himself the master of the city and then he moved north and conquered Tripoli.[31][32] It was around this time period that the Fatimid Caliphate reached its territorial peak of 4,100,000 km2.[33]

A Berber family emerged as formidable leaders in the unique Berber form of elected delegates form of government (through financial contribution and thus influence), the Zirids. Beyond their immediate Zirid territory (aarch/Congregation), another aarch and family Hammadid and its associates emerged in Kabylia with influence covering most of today's Algeria, whereas the Zirid's territory extended eastward to cover the area of modern Tunisia. Both the Hammadid and Zirid empires as well as the Fatimids established their rule in the Maghreb countries. The Zirids ruled land in what is now Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Spain, Malta and Italy. The Hammadids captured and held important regions such as Ouargla, Constantine, Sfax, Susa, Algiers, Tripoli and Fez establishing their rule in every country in the Maghreb region.[34][35][36] The Fatimids conquered all of North Africa as well as Sicily and parts of the Middle East.

Map showing territories that were controlled by the Zirid Dynasty
Map showing territories that were captured or controlled by the Hammadid Dynasty

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 in modern Béjaïa.

Kingdom of Beni Abbas in the 16th century during the reign of Ahmed Amokrane

French colonisation and resistance

First mass in Kabylia during the French conquest of Algeria, 1837

Though the region was the last stronghold against French colonization,[37] the area was gradually taken over by the French after 1830, despite vigorous local resistance by the local population led by leaders such as Fa?ma n Sumer and Cheikh Mokrani, 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.[38] 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.[39]

After independence

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.[40]

Demonstration by Kabyles in 2014

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 Algiers in 1984 and 1985.[41] 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.[42] In the midst of the civil war, there was an act of massive civil disobedience 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".[43][44] 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.[45][46]

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.[47] 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.[48] 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.[49]

The Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK), founded in June 2001, has called for self-government for the region since 2011. The MAK was renamed as "Mouvement pour l'Autodétermination de la Kabylie" seeking independence from Algeria.[50]


Landscape near Azazga

Main features:

  • Greater Kabylia, which runs from Thénia (west) to Bgayet (Bejaia) (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, culminating with 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.



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 Gibraltar.[51]


The area is populated by Kabyles, a Berber ethnic group. They speak the Kabyle variety of Berber.[52] 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 Kabylia region is home to dozens of zawiyas affiliated with the Rahmaniyya Sufi brotherhood, including the following:


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.[53] Kabylia produces less than 15% of Algerian GDP (excluding oil and gas).[54] 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.[54]

Bgayet (Bejaia)'s port is the second biggest in Algeria after Algiers, and the 6th largest on the Mediterranean Sea.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20170806080156/http://www.centrederechercheberbere.fr/kabyle.html
  2. ^ African Foreign Policy and Diplomacy from Antiquity to the 21st Century, Volume 1: Pg 92
  3. ^ An Atlas of African History by J. D. Fage: Pg 11
  4. ^ a b International Journal of Economic and Social History, Volume 8
  5. ^ a b Chroniques des années algériennes
  6. ^ "North Africa - The Vandal conquest". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020.<
  7. ^ Day, Alan (July 2001). "The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. XIV:2001400Averil Cameron, Brian Ward-Perkins, Michael Whitby, editors. The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. XIV: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, AD 425-600. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001. xx+1,166pp, ISBN: 0 521 32591 9 £110.00 ($160.00)". Reference Reviews. 15 (7): 43-44. doi:10.1108/rr.2001. ISSN 0950-4125.
  8. ^ The Middle East and North Africa: Pg 156
  9. ^ Sketches of Algeria During the Kabyle War By Hugh Mulleneux Walmsley: Pg 118
  10. ^ The Kabyle People By Glora M. Wysner
  11. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 1: Pg 568
  12. ^ The art journal London, Volume 4: Pg 45
  13. ^ The Barbary Coast By Henry Martyn Field: Pg 93
  14. ^ Scottish Geographical Magazine, Volume 10; Volume 1894
  15. ^ The Twentieth Century, Volume 71
  16. ^ Walks in Algiers and Its Surrounding
  17. ^ The United Service Magazine
  18. ^ The art journal London, Volume 4
  19. ^ Governance and Pluralism under the Fatimids (909-996 CE) - Dr. Shainool Jiwa
  20. ^ The Shi'i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity
  21. ^ Nanjira, Daniel Don (2010). African Foreign Policy and Diplomacy from Antiquity to the 21st Century. ABC-CLIO. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-313-37982-6.
  22. ^ Fage, J. D. (1958). An Atlas of African History. E. Arnold. p. 11.
  23. ^ Fatimid's legal system
  24. ^ Gall, Timothy L.; Hobby, Jeneen (2009). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life: Africa. Gale. p. 329. ISBN 978-1-4144-4883-1.
  25. ^ Studies, American University (Washington, D. C. ) Foreign Area (1979). Algeria, a Country Study. [Department of Defense], Department of the Army. p. 15.
  26. ^ Orientalia, Volumes 54-55
  27. ^ Halm, Heinz (2014). "Fimids". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.
  28. ^ a b Muslim Societies in Africa: A Historical Anthropology - Roman Loimeier Indiana University Press,
  29. ^ Heinz Halm (1996). Der Nahe und Mittlere Osten. BRILL. p. 399. ISBN 90-04-10056-3.
  30. ^ Lev, Yaacov (1979). "The Fimid Conquest of Egypt -- Military Political and Social Aspects". Israel Oriental Studies. 9: 315-328. ISSN 0334-4401.
  31. ^ First Crusader: Byzantium's Holy Wars
  32. ^ The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British India and Its Dependencies, Volume 24 Black, Parbury, & Allen,
  33. ^ Turchin, Peter; Adams, Jonathan M.; Hall, Thomas D (December 2006). "East-West Orientation of Historical Empires". Journal of World-Systems Research. 12 (2): 222. ISSN 1076-156X
  34. ^ Saladin, the Almohads and the Ban? Gh?niya: The Contest for North Africa: Pg 42
  35. ^ Islam: Art and Architecture: Pg 614
  36. ^ Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen): Pg 55 & 56
  37. ^ "Kabylia - Oxford Islamic Studies Online". Oxfordislamicstudies.com. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 2015.
  38. ^ Stora, Benjamin (5 July 2004). "Veillée d'armes en Kabylie". Le Monde.fr (in French). ISSN 1950-6244. Retrieved 2017.
  39. ^ Harbi, Mohammed; Stora, Benjamin (2005). La Guerre d'Algérie. Hachette. p. 324. ISBN 978-2-012-79279-1.
  40. ^ Le Saout, Didier; Rollinde, Marguerite (1999). Émeutes et Mouvements sociaux au Maghreb. Karthala. p. 46. ISBN 978-2-865-37998-9.
  41. ^ Mourre, Michel (ed.), 'Kabyles', Dictionnaire encyclopédique d'Histoire, Paris, Bordas, Vol. 3, (1996 [1978]), p. 3082.
  42. ^ Jacques Leclerc, "Algérie: Données historiques et conséquences linguistiques" sur L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, Université Laval, 14 January 2012.
  43. ^ Temlali, Yassin (1 May 2006). "Petite histoire de la question berbère en Algérie". Babel Med (in French). Retrieved 2017.
  44. ^ Chaker, Salem (2001). "Berber Challenge in Algeria: The State of the Question". Race, Gender & Class. 8 (3): 135-156. JSTOR 41674987.
  45. ^ Jacques Leclerc, "Algérie: Loi no 91-05 du 16 janvier 1991 portant généralisation de l'utilisation de la langue arabe" sur L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, Université Laval
  46. ^ Jacques Leclerc, "Algérie: Les droits linguistiques des berbérophones", in L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, Université Laval, 20 April 2010
  47. ^ "Report No. 15" (PDF). Algeria: Unrest and Impasse in Kabylia. International Crisis Group. 10 June 2003. p. 9. Retrieved 2017.
  48. ^ Addi, Lahouari (2012). Algérie: Chroniques d'une expérience postcoloniale de modernisation. http://www.algeria-watch.org/farticle/analyse/addi_plateforme_elkseur.htm: Barzakh. ISBN 978-9-947-85199-9.
  49. ^ "ALGERIA: Tamazight Recognised". Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series. 53 (1): 20850B-20850C. 1 February 2016. doi:10.1111/j.1467-825X.2016.06822.x. ISSN 1467-825X.
  50. ^ Zirem, Youcef (2013). Histoire de Kabylie: Le point de vue kabyle. Yoran Embanner. p. 179. ISBN 978-2-914-85598-3.
  51. ^ "Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus) - iGoTerra.com". Globaltwitcher.auderis.se. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 2015.
  52. ^ Jane E. Goodman (3 November 2005). Berber Culture on the World Stage: From Village to Video. Indiana University Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-253-11145-5.
  53. ^ "Tmurt Iqvayliyen ass-agi", Maxime Ait Kaki
  54. ^ a b "Tadamsa taqbaylit", Sa?id Duman

External links

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