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Chronology for Berbers in Algeria

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Berbers in Algeria, 2004, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Oct 1988 The FLN's domination of Algeria begins to unravel with nationwide riots. To help quell the riots, Pres. Chadli Benjadid promises multi-party democracy.
Jul 1 - Dec 31, 1989 The Algerian government passes a law legalizing opposition parties. The FFS, which had not been officially legal up to this point received official recognition in November. Also the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), a new Berber party calling for separation of church and state, the amendment of the Algerian constitution to remove the part which makes Algeria an Arab state and the official recognition of the Berber language, was officially recognized in December.
Jan 23, 1990 Algeria agrees to set up a specialized institute to teach Berber beginning in the 1990-91 academic year in Tizi-Ouzou. (100 km. east of Algiers in the Kabaliyah mountains.)
Jan 25, 1990 About 50,000 Berbers peacefully demonstrate in Algiers to demand the official recognition of the Berber language and the teaching of the Language in Algerian Universities. This rally is organized but the FFS and "criticized" by the RCD.
Apr 20, 1990 More than 200,000 Berbers peacefully protest in Tizi-Ouzo to, protest the 10th anniversary of bloody anti-government riots.
May 10, 1990 Over 100,000 Algerians, including many Berbers, engage in a peaceful pro-democracy march in Algiers.
May 31, 1990 Over 100,000, mostly Berbers, peacefully march in Algiers to denounce the upcoming elections as a fraud and to condemn the national assembly.
Jun 15, 1990 RCD wins in 87 municipalities (out of 1500) in local elections, mostly in Berber dominated regions. The FIS wins in 850. The FFS boycotted the elections.
Jul 5, 1990 Enabling legislation is passed which allows for the formation of political parties. Many parties immediately apply for official recognition including the RCD, headed by Dr. Said Sadi, which considers itself a major defender of Berber cultural rights and individual rights in general. The FFS, which had never disappeared is also legalized.
Jul 26, 1990 A spokesman for the RCD cites a series of intimidations against the RCD by Islamic fundamentalists including: attempts to set fire to party offices and the driving out of Berber activists planning a peaceful exhibition in an Algerian suburb.
Sep 1990 A FIS leader at Ain Taya, near Algiers, calls for Jihad, or holy war, to be declared against Kabylia to bring it back into the Islamic fold "even if a third of its population is exterminated."
Dec 27, 1990 Over 100,000, mostly Berbers bussed in from the Kabylia region, march in Algiers against the imposition of Arabic as Algeria's official language.
Feb 13, 1991 A law making Arabic mandatory in virtually all spheres of public life is signed by Pres. Chadli Benjadid.
Apr 25, 1991 About 200 Islamic fundamentalists stone a Berber language concert. They are subsequently arrested, convicted and jailed. This is just one example of the general intolerance of Berbers displayed by Islamic fundamentalists.
May 27, 1991 8 opposition groups, including the RCD, threaten a strike over changes in the election laws that favor the dominant FLN.
Jun 10, 1991 Several Islamic extremists are arrested for carrying offensive weapons in an attempt to prevent a performance of Berber Music.
Jan 3, 1992 About 200,000 Algerians, including many Berbers, march in Algiers in opposition to the FIS.
Jan 7, 1992 The FIS announces that if it takes power it will impose Islamic law in all of Algeria including Kabylia.
Jan 8, 1992 It is announced that the FFS won 25 out of 450 seats in the first round of national elections. The FIS won 188 and would probably gain an absolute majority in the second round runoffs.
Jan 11, 1992 Pres. Chadli Benjadid is forced to resign in a "constitutional Coup" and a five-man High Council of State is appointed as a collective presidency headed by Mohammed Boudiaf. They scrap the upcoming elections and postpone any future elections indefinitely. This is in reaction to the expected FIS victory in the now-scrapped elections.
Feb 9, 1992 The government declares a state of emergency to quell spreading fundamentalist unrest.
1993 A Berber French-language author is murdered by Islamic fundamentalists.
Apr 20, 1993 A massive strike and protest is staged on the anniversary of the 1980 anti-government riots. The protesters demand the teaching of Berber in Algerian schools and the official recognition of the Berber language and identity. The strike is peaceful in Tizi-Ouzo but riot police disperse protestors with gas in Benjaia.
Jan 17, 1994 At least 150,000 Berbers peacefully march in Tizi-Ouzo in protest against Islamic fundamentalists and the ruling authorities and demand official recognition of their language.
Apr 20, 1994 Over 100,00 Berbers peacefully march through central Algiers and in several town in Kabylia on the anniversary of the 1980 anti-government riots. Calls for a strike are ignored in Algiers but are heeded in Tizi-Ouzo and Benjaia. In Bouira the strike is partial. The strike includes a boycott of classes by school children. The protestors demand the official recognition of the Berber language and blame the rise of Islamic fundamentalism for the suppression of their culture.
Jul 31, 1994 Berber villagers fight off Islamic militants who raid their community in the Kabylie region to steal the villagers' shotguns. This is the first report of fighting between Islamic militants and Berbers since the civil strife in Algeria began about 30 months ago.
Aug 5, 1994 Reuters reports that Berber villagers in the Kabylie region have set up armed self-protection groups.
Sep 1, 1994 - May 31, 1995 About one million Berber students in the Kabylie region boycott schools and colleges to demand that their "mother tongue" be taught as an official language.
Sep 21, 1994 Berbers in the Kabylie region go on strike to demand official recognition of their language. The strike is called by the Berber Cultural Movement (MCB) as part of its ongoing campaign for the recognition of the Berber language. The strike primarily affects the main towns of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia.
Sep 26, 1994 Matob Lounes, a leading Berber singer, is kidnapped in the Kabylie region by militant Islamic gunmen. The MCB threatens "total war" if he is not returned. Note: Many militant Muslims oppose the speaking of any language other than Arabic and consequently target Berber singers who perform in the Berber language.
Sep 29, 1994 Gunmen, suspected to be Islamic militants, shoot dead Cheb Hasni, a Berber singer.
Oct 1, 1994 About 10,000 Berbers march through Tizi Ouzou to demand the return of Berber singer Matrob Lounes.
Oct 10, 1994 Islamic militants sentence kidnapped Berber singer Lounes to death and then release him unharmed.
Oct 16, 1994 A journalist working for Algerian state radio's Berber-language service is shot dead outside his house by gunmen believed to be Islamic militants.
Nov 12 - 14, 1994 Berbers in the Kabylie region strike to demand official recognition of their language. The strike is called by the MCB.
Jan 12, 1995 Police break up a 1,500 strong rally in Algiers in support of the Berber language.
Feb 6, 1995 Gunmen believed to be Islamic militants shoot dead 2 people in a cafe in the Berber town of Tizi Ouzou. Suspected Islamic militants also firebomb another cafe in the town.
Feb 15, 1995 Gunmen believed to be Islamic militants shoot dead the president of a Berber women's association in the Berber town of Tizi Ouzou.
Feb 21, 1995 Algerian riot police seal off the main university in central Algiers preventing Berber students from holding a protest in support of Berber language rights.
Mar 22, 1995 7 Islamic militants are killed in an armed clash with Berber villagers in the Kabylie region.
Mar 31, 1995 A car bomb believed to be set by Islamic militants kills one in the Kabylie region.
Apr 1995 The government, in a deal to end the 8-month-long school strike in the Kabylie region, agrees with one faction of the MCB to create a body to oversee the teaching of the Berber language in school and its use in the official media. Another faction of the MCB opposes the agreement.
Apr 22, 1995 A march by Berbers to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the "Berber Spring" protest for the recognition of the Berber language is broken up by police.
May 3, 1995 A faction of the MCB calls for a general strike in Algiers to press for recognition of the Berber language.
May 28, 1995 Algeria creates an official body called the High Commissionership to introduce the Berber language into school curricula and the media.
Aug 13, 1995 A Berber singer and her husband are shot dead and have their throats cut by suspected Islamic militants.
Aug 24, 1995 Suspected Islamic militants blow up a water tower which supplies 2 villages in the Berber region of Kabylie.
May 12, 1996 The President proposed an amendment to ban parties with religious or ethnic appeal. (ABC)
Nov 29, 1996 Anti-referendum strikes, organized by the Berber Cultural Movement and the Rally for Culture and Democracy, were held in Berber regions. (BBC)
Nov 29, 1996 A majority of Algerians voted for a referendum that proposed a new constitution that bans Islamic parties and those based on language or regions. (Washington Post)
Jun 6, 1997 The president's party was victorious in June 5 elections for national legislature. (ABC- CLIO)
Oct 24, 1997 Government parties swept local elections amid fraud charges. (ABC- CLIO)
Jun 11, 1998 The Paris based Congres Mondial Amazigh (CMA) that includes Berber movements throughout the world called on the government of Algeria to repeal the law generalizing the use of Arabic due to be implemented July 5. (BBC)
Jun 28, 1998 The killing of Berber entertainer Lounes Matoub by Muslim Fundamentalists led to protests by Berbers against both the Islamic movement and the government, and new language law. (ABC-CLIO)
Jun 29, 1998 Violent rioting was reported at the burial of Lounes Matoub with government buildings burnt and at least one person killed by gunfire. (San Diego Union - Tribune)
Jul 1, 1998 The new constitution restricts ethnic parties even though the 1996 national charter agreed to accept Berber culture as part of Algerian culture and allowed it to be taught. (Political Risk Service)
Jul 2, 1998 Police confronted crowds of more then 2000 people taking part in a protest organized by the Rally for Culture and democracy (RCD) protesting the killing of Berber singer Lounes Matoub. (BBC)
Jul 6, 1998 Berbers protested in large numbers against the law that took effect July 6 requiring the use of Arabic for all official business.
Jul 7, 1998 The Socialist Forces Front (FFS) denounced the creation of the Armed Berber Movement. (BBC) At rallies organized by the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) and the Berber Culture Movement, 15,000 people protested against the law. (DPA, 7/9/98)
Jul 11, 1998 Reports of creation of Berber Armed Movement (MAB) for violent resistance. They have made threats to kill those trying to impose new law. (BBC)
Jul 13, 1998 The government announced that the language law will be imposed in the universities by the year 2000. There are riots against the law. (US News and World Report)
Dec 14, 1998 Economic troubles forced the resignation of the government (ABC- CLIO)
Jan 14, 1999 The High Commission for Tamazight (the Berber Language) held a coordinating meeting that reported on the decline of sales of books in the Berber language and the marginalization of the language continues in some regions of the country. . (BBC)
Feb 5, 1999 Rally for Culture and Democracy (a mainly Berber party) called for an election boycott. (BBC)
Mar 7, 1999 The High Commission for Tamazight (the Berber Language) announced that the language issue is being overlooked in the campaign or has been used to express a nationalist identity point of view. BBC
Apr 7, 1999 The Berber cultural Movement (MCB) announces that it is against a boycott of the presidential elections. (BBC)
Apr 22, 1999 A march was held to commemorate the introduction of the Berber language into schools. Berber leaders have protested that the language is still being taught in only 16 provinces and there is a need for more television in the Berber Language. (BBC)

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