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Dihya, the Berber Queen

Dihya, the Berber Queen 

    In a time when women in India worth nothing, girls were buried alive in the Arab world and women were isolated alone in China, the Berbers placed the crown on the head of Dihya as their queen, empress and knight of North Africa. So, the Amazigh people were the first people who honor women and even crown them with the highest positions.

    The Queen Dihya is the historical, cultural and the identity figure of Amazighs and the Chaouis, alongside Massinissa, Jugurtha, etc. She symbolizes also the soul and icon of the Amazigh resistance against Muslims conquests in North Africa. She came from the Zenata tribe whose way of life was pastoral and semi-nomadic. She was born in the early 7th century and died fighting in Tebessa (Algerian Province) during the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb around the end of the 7th century. She nicknamed by her Muslim opponents as Kahina (the priestess and soothsayer) because of her reputed ability to foresee the future.

      For five years, she ruled a free Berber state from the Auras Mountains to the oasis of Gadames (695-700 AD) thanks to her remarkable intelligence .She used to ride a horse and seek among the people from Auras to Tripoli, wandering around Africa carrying arms to defend the land of her ancestors. In addition to her fascinating beauty, Queen Dihya managed to gather Imazighen, the local inhabitants of North Africa, under her power of conviction and her great intelligence to fight against the Muslim conquest. Because her kingdom remained the only obstacle to the advancement of Muslims in the west, Hassan Ibn Numan resumed the offensive against the Imazighen.

      In 697, under Dihya’s command, Imazighen (Amazighs) crushed the army of Ibn Numan. The Imazighen troops make so many casualties that the Arabs call the place "Nahr Al Bala"(the river of suffering). It is said that the river was red with the blood of Arab fighters. After this victory the Imazighen pursue the Muslims, and impose a second defeat on them. 

Ibn Numan withdrew because he became aware of the strong resistance he will encounter during his conquests in North Africa, he undertakes a systematic conquest of the country. Thus, he called for reinforcements from Caliph Abd Al Malik in 702. After two years of war, the final battle took place in 704, in Tabarqa. The battle of Tabarqa is finally won by the Muslims, but it is not easy victory for them. The Imazighen, although very inferior in number, oppose a fierce resistance.  Dihya Faced with such a force had no choice; she accepted death with courage. Finally, she was captured and decapitated at the locality Bir El Kahina (The well of the Kahina). . Dihya's two sons (Ifran and Yezdia) had joined the Muslim camp before the battle. 

Hassan Ibn Numan shows great respect for the Amazigh people after his victory. He does not make prisoners and does not commit any looting. His great tolerance makes him also one of the figures of the Islamization of Imazighen. 

     In contemporary Algerian literature, this legendary woman, Dihya or Kahina is mentioned in the works of Kateb Yacine and other writers as an icon of Amazigh people of North Africa.

Written by ARAB Sabrina


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