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The Tamazight Issue in Algeria

   In Algeria, the Berber-speakers (Imazighen) represent approximately 35% of the whole population. The word Tamazight designates their language (Berber) and Tamazgha, the territory to which they belong.

   Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Algeria has been the focus of the Berber identity claim; the Berbers have regularly claimed their right of having Tamazight (their identity) as a national language in the same way as Arabic. However, they have no chance to be heard. As a result, since 1989, a number of spectacular mass actions have confirmed the identity affirmation of the Berbers of Algeria: several general strikes in Kabylia, large-scale demonstrations in Tizi-Ouzou, Bejaia and in Algiers. In 1991, the adoption of Law No. 05-91 on the widespread use of the Arabic language had the effect of a bomb among the Berbers of Algeria, especially the Kabyle peoples. It has sent down tens of thousands of Berbers to the streets for the biggest demonstration that the capital has ever seen. Their slogans were: "Stop intolerance" and "No to racism". In 1994, Kabyles adopted the general school boycott which paralyzed the education sector in Kabylia for one year.

   After many years of struggle, the Berber population of Algeria obtained that its language, Tamazight, is recognized as an official language, a notch below the Arab that remains that of the State. Tamazight as an official language was welcomed by the High Commission for Amazighity (HCA), an official body that is responsible for the promotion of the Berber language, since 1995. Teaching of Tamazight was thus introduced in schools in 1995 in certain regions of the country where Berber is the mother tongue.

   In 2002, after bloody riots in the kabylia regions which killed 126 people, Tamazight was recognized as the second "national language" by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The will to reform the Algerian constitution since 2015 constitutes a perspective for its formalization. On January 5, 2016, the Algerian Presidency unveiled a draft constitutional reform, including Tamazight, an official and national language.

   The teaching of Tamazight language has increased considerably, especially in Kabylia. Tamazight is taught at universities and is gradually introduced to high schools, colleges and primary schools, especially in the Kabylia regions. Tamazight textbooks have been written. Also, the Tamazight departments at universities of Bejaia, Tizi Ouzou and Bouira received the enrollments of thousands of students. The teaching of Tamazight becomes possible in certain countries or regions with a strong Berber-speaking immigrant community, such as France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain or Canada.

    Above all, a television channel broadcasting programs in Tamazight language in its declensions was launched in 2009 in Algeria. Besides, Chaine 2 which is a national radio broadcaster in Algeria, broadcasting its programs in five Tamazight language variants such as Kabyle Chenoui, Chaoui, Mozabite and Targui. The local radio stations of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia are almost entirely Berber-speaking. Other local radio stations (Bouira, Khenchela, Batna, Tipaza, Oum El Bouaghi ...) offer some programs in the Tamazight language. Even abroad, Berber Television, a private channel was launched in January 2000, which broadcasts its programs in Kabyle and French. In addition to Beur TV and Beur FM that offers some programs in Berber language.

The Tamazight Issue in Algeria (Written by ARAB Sabrina)


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