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This article focuses on the region in Algeria. For the ethnic group, see Kabyle people. For their language, see Kabyle language.

Kabylie or Kabylia (Kabyle: Tamurt Iqbayliyen, Tamurt n Leqbayel or Tamurt idurar), is a historic and ethnic region in the north of Algeriamarker.

It is part of the Tell Atlasmarker and is located at the edge of the Mediterranean Seamarker. Kabylia covers several provinces of Algeria: the whole of Tizi Ouzoumarker and Bejaiamarker (Bgayet), most of Bouira (Tubirett) and parts of the wilayas of Bordj Bou Arreridjmarker, Jijelmarker, Boumerdesmarker, and Setifmarker. Gouraya National Parkmarker and Djurdjura National Parkmarker are also located in Kabylie.

As the essential modern heir of the historical Berber culture, Kabylie is considered as one of the cradles of Western Civilisation.

It is important to not confuse "Kabylia", and the global "Kabyle nation" elsewhere: around 25% of Kabyle people are living in the Algiersmarker capital region. This article concern only the historical "Kabylie" region, and does not include Algiersmarker's Kabyle population and society.



Kabylia was part of Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC).

Condensed introduction

By hypothesis that North Africa once was covered with water, the only land left for people is what appears now to be the Atlas mountains chain. The Kabyle People has always inhibited the peaks of the Algerian Highlands,part of the Atlas located in eastern Algeria. Several sources from Anthropology to the Genome, conclude that the Kabyles are an autochtonous inhabitants fo their territory, also commonly referred to as Homeland. Except for the Germanic Clans known as the Vandals, no other peoples have ever cohabitated with them on their territory. Neither the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Bizantics, the Turks or the French. While most these envaders established military forts on seashore cities originally built by Phoenicians, the contact with local peoples past the Atlas chain which constitutes an impressive gate has remained minimal. It is where ROman troops lost advantage, and local insugents found refuge. Non invader has succeeded to impose its rule over the Kabyle People, until the French late in the middle of the 19 century. A sohabitation which eventually led to a conflict of sovereignty, resulting in the notarious 8 years war 1954-1962. Not even after the independance from the French could any government impose its authority, with the full consent of the Kabyles, for they possess one of the oldest form of republican and decentralized form of governance, called the AArhs system. A temporary structure raised only as needed. A systen of limited term elected bodies starting at the family and village level, up to the region. The term of the delegate spans the length of time necessary for the resolution of the conflict for which the assemblies are called. Post indep endance, the Kabyles have been in conflict with the central government of Algiers since its inception in 1962, leading into a 1 year civil war, resulting from from the choice the leaders of the Liberation Army had to make. A choice between a federated assembly of regions advanced by the Kabyles or a Jacobin form of republic imposed through coups and internal betrial sponsored by the Pararabist movement of Nasser. A conflict which very much alive until today, which resulted in several incursions of the Kabyles against the dictatorship of the panarabist government of Algiers. Despite the existence of two locally based political partys, the majority of Kabyles are for a regional autonomy proclaimed and demanded by a Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia, ortrayed by the regime as worst terrorists than the islamists.

Middle Ages

The Fatimid dynasty of the 10th century originated in Lower Kabylie, where an Ismaili missionary (dā‘ī) found a receptive audience for his millennialist preaching, and ultimately led the Kutama tribe to be accepted as a voluntary tax contribution collected in Ifriqiya and then Egyptmarker. After taking over Egypt, failing to raise the moneys hoped for, they left for Egypt. A Berber Family emerged as a formidable leader in the Unique Berber form of Elected Delegates form of Government, the Zirids. Beyond their immediate Zirid territory(aarch/Congragation) another Aarch and Family Hammadid emerged in Kabylia with influence covering most of todays' Algeria, whereas the Zirid's territory extended estward to cover the area modern Tunisia. The indifference towards Islam Kabyles express had a lasting effect on the entire region's development. The difference in religious views and alliegences resulted the founding of towns such as Béjaïamarker and Algiersmarker itself. and the evolution of two distinct Peoples, recognized by bothe the Turcs and the French as two distinct Berber Peoples, and thus resulting in two separate independances, and modern Countries. A similar scenario also developed in the Western regions, resulting in the separate country of Morocco.The Kabyle country remained as unconquerable as it is inaccessible to both the Ottaman deys, who had to content themselves with coastal military settlements from which they earned the name of "Barbary Pirates" and in some valleys where Islam was readily accepted. As result of the new face of the Islamist adventurers under the Ottaman flag, the Velkadi Clan emerged as a formidable Aarch congregation with influence over much of the Highlands of Kabylia from their base Tizi-Wezzou baptized by the French as Koukoumarker. The Aarch Congregation self-desolved as soon as the Ottaman threats disappeared with the arrival of the European and American Navies to put an end to the Islamic piratry from bases on the coast of North Africa.

Modern age

The area was gradually taken over by the French from 1857, despite vigorous local resistance by the local population led by leaders such as Faḍma n Sumer, 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, mainly to New Caledoniamarker. Colonization also resulted in an acceleration of the emigration into other areas of the country and outside of it.

Algerian immigrant 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 developed militants that became vital to the future of both a fighting and an independent Algeria.

During the war of independence (1954–1962), Kabylie was one of the areas that was most affected, because of the importance of the maquis (aided by the mountainous terrain) and French repression. The FLN recruited several of its historical leaders there, including Hocine Aït Ahmed, Abane Ramdane, and Krim Belkacem.

After independence

Tensions have arisen between Kabylia and the central government on several occasions, initially in 1963, when the Socialist Forces Front party of Hocine Aït Ahmed contested the use of the name of a popular resistance movement as a political party, by Nasserian agents, of lower grade within the FLN, incapable of organizing their respective regions to provide delegates for the establishment of the 1st Legitimate Algerian Constitution. Organized as a temporary Government a Junta with alliegiance, and military support from Nasser and other Panarabistssucceeded in preventing such a convention and a legitimate Constitution voted by a legitimate parliement. A year armed confrontation resulted, in which most FLN leaders from Kabylia and the eastern provinces were either eecuted or pushed to exile. In 1980, several months of demonstrations demanding the officialization of the Tamazight/Berber language, known as the Berber Spring, took place in Kabylie and Algiers, resulting in an extra-judiciary emprisonment of thousands of pro-Berber Algerian intellectuals. The Government security forces sieged and violently prevented a Berber poetry recital organized by the faculty and student of the main city of Kabylia, Tizi-Wezzu.

The politics of identity intensified as the imposed but rejected Arabization government program in Algeria intensified with the assignment of a religion (Islam) to a secular government followed by the sponsoship of Egyptian clerics as teachers, and the consacration of Arabic as the only official language in Algeria. Soon afte, in 1994–1995, a full-year school boycott was followed by the ten million population of Kabylia, termed the "strike of the school bag." In June and July 1998, the area blazed up again after the assassination of singer Lounès Matoub and at the time that a law generalizing the use of the Arabic language in all fields of eduction went into effect. In the months following April 2001 (called the Black Spring), major riots — together with the emergence of the Arouch, ancestral local councils confederation as the only Authority in the region — followed the killing of a young Kabyle (Masinissa Guermah) by gendarmes, and gradually transformed into the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia MAK, today the only political organization recognized in the region. The traditional political parties left to their own devices in a government which has faced one boycott after another, in the region.

Since 23 March 2007, the Military of Algeria has conducted extensive searches in the Kabylie region in search of members of the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (QOIM). Two major roads, between Béjaïamarker and Amizourmarker and between El-Kseur and Bouïra, have been partially closed. The bombings in Algiers on 11 April 2007 rendered this search all the more urgent, as the QOIM has recently become the Maghrebin arm of the al-Qaeda Network.


Main features:

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 Djurdjuramarker, 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 Ouzoumarker, lies in that mountain range. Larbaa Nat 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 Gibraltarmarker.


The area is populated by the Kabyles, the second most populous Berber people after the Chleuhs in Moroccomarker.Their name means "tribe" (from the Arabic "qabîlah" قبيلة). They speak the Kabyle variety of Berber. Since the Berber Spring in 1980, Kabyles have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of the Berber language 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 Kabylie is the most industrialised part of Algeriamarker. Kabylia product 60% of Algerian GDP (excluding oil and gas). Industries include: pharmaceutical industry in Bejaiamarker, agro-alimentary in Ifri and Akboumarker, mechanical industry in Tizi Ouzoumarker and other little towns of western Kabylia, and petrochemical industry and refining of petrole in Begaia.

Bejaiamarker's port is the second biggest in Algeriamarker after Algiersmarker, and the 6th largest of the Mediterranean Sea.


“Berber flag”, by berber cultural movement.

Since the Black spring kabyle politics can be divided into 2 sides: the "kabyle movement", or kabyle nationalists, which fight for a large autonomy statut, or independence of Kabylie, and "algerianists", which are kabyle political supporters of reminding part of Algeria.

These last years, the Movement for the autonomy of Kabylie, the most important nationalist party, became the biggest party in Kabyliamarker


  • Feraoun, Mouloud, The Poor Man's Son, Menrad, Kabyle Schoolteacher, a classic autobiographical novel set in Kabylia in the early 20th century. (Alger: 1950, France: 1954, English translation: 2005)
  • Mohamed Dahmani, Economie et Société en Grande Kabylie (Alger: Office des Publications Universitaires, 1987)
  • Makilam, The Magical Life of Berber Women in Kabylia (New York: Peter Lang publishing USA, 2007)
  • Makilam, Symbols and Magic in the Arts of Kabyle Women (New York: Peter Lang publishing USA, 2007)

See also


  1. "Le berbère, lumière de l'occident", Vincent Serralda
  2. C. Michael Hogan (2008) Barbary Macaque: Macaca sylvanus,, ed. N. Strõmberg
  3. "Tmurt Iqvayliyen ass-agi", Maxime Ait Kaki
  4. "Tadamsa taqbaylit", Saεid Duman
  5. "De la problématique berbère au dilemme kabyle a l'aube du 21e siècle", Maxime Ait Kaki

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