Dr. Dahmane At Ali.
Associated Professor, University of Pisa, Italy.
1. EVERLASTING PROMISES OF APRIL
Here is April! Here is spring passing by! Once again, it reinvigorates the insatiable instinct of life that always drives the mankind soul since the time beginning. A spring hunts another. It brings in the renewal bleeding of its natural colours and shimmering green, green as the hope which pulses the human deep heart and exhaling again its invigorating scents to stimulate further the everlasting human desire to live in harmonious societies throughout the world.
For the Kabyles, the historic date of April 20th has a much deeper sense. For, this event seems intimately merged within their long chain of peaceful, but so decisive, hopeful fights in their permanent request of specific cultural identity recognition, self-ruled existence, real democracy, secularism and freedom.
Indeed, contemporary processes of globalisation have stimulated and reinforced further a specific Amazigh socio-political identity. Overall, the current Kabyle discourse often seems profoundly consistent with the Western liberal-humanist values, but always remains strongly condemnatory of the predominant monocultural order, based on Islam and Arabism, in the independent Algeria. Notwithstanding, globalisation’s homogenising effects could be seen as a threat to indigenous peoples’ cultural identities, modern Kabyle imagining is bound up with a secular modern vision of the future. As a result, the pioneer Kabyle cultural militants seek nowadays to accommodate larger outside forces, while placing an explicit emphasis on their collective “self”, thus posing a decisive challenge to the prevailing local geopolitical order not only in Algeria but also throughout the whole North African area.
Back to the beginning! In April 20th, 1980 indeed, the collective “soul” of the Kabyle people, of nearly three thousand years aged, in a fabulous and unprecedented popular communion gushed from beneath the tombs of silence, the dismissed calends and the contemptible rule of the established political order in which the human stupidity had, for a moment, thought to lock their still alive burial forever.
This unexpected sudden popular uprising was accompanied by such a shrilly cry, for to tear away the thick and heavy veil of silence wrapping up their real existence, just as does a woman to relieve the excruciating pain following the childbirth, that it was heard, for the first time, by the deeply amazed international community!
That was the “Amazigh Spring” (also known as the “Berber Spring”)! The spring of the rebirth of mankind’s hopes: The hopes of the afflicted, the hopes of the continually oppressed and the damned indigenous peoples. This was to claim loudly before the civilised world that their people too deserve the human right of existence and that their Amazigh people are still alive forever! Thus, at that time, the Kabyle people openly claimed their eternally thwarted aspirations, knowingly kept within the forgetfulness, since the dark centuries!
The term of “spring” was chosen and adopted only to set an analogy with the “Prague Spring ” in the beginning of 1968, when the Czechoslovakians rebelled against the dictatorship of the former USSR over their country, fighting for freedom and democracy. Indeed, at that time (1980), there was a profound similarity of partisan monolith in the two countries. Indeed, the official doctrine of each country was socialism, under which the one-party system justified continuously itself. The former Czechoslovakia was a bastion, on the scale of an empire, in the questioning of an oppressive political system, as was too the Kabylie in 1980; being the one and only permanent contestation centre throughout the country. A strong symbolism remains thus attached to the term “spring”, full of hope, revival, rebirth of freedom and democracy, for all world’s nations.
However, for the Kabyles, Amazigh Spring was, at the same time, the birth and explosion, in full daylight, of a unique movement claiming to the power holder party the fair recognition of the Amazigh language, identity and culture, and seeking to merge explicitly their specific ancestral identity elements within the state constitution rule. Thereafter, the informal “Berber Cultural Movement” (MCB) triggered a new peaceful fight period against the official national movement which stubbornly still wants, that the Kabyles must reconvert themselves into “Arabs” to be fully recognized by the newly independent Algeria ! Indeed, by the beginning of the 70’s the militarily established dictatorial system initiated exclusive arabisation policies at the expenses of the Francophone community of which the Kabyles were a leading part. The passage of a law in 1976 compelling the arabisation of the Algerian society, beginning in a first step with the public schools, drew latent protests in Kabylia and also among scholars and french speakers in general. The statement by the Amazigh author Kateb Yacine summed up the language–identity question vis-à-vis those marginalizing state policies: « Si je suis Arabe, pourquoi m’arabiser, et si je ne suis pas Arabe, pourquoi m’arabiser ? ».
To this regard, it is worthy recalling that from the beginning of its recorded history, North Africa has never ceased to be buffeted by cross-currents emanating from the northern side of the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Near East. Interacting with local realities, these external influences have decisively shaped up Tamazgha politics and societies. The Amazigh-speaking peoples of antiquity, having already met the Phoenicians in Carthage, encountered the original ‘globalisers’ (i.e., the Romans), which later morphed into Byzantium. This was followed, most profoundly, by Islam. The initial incorporation of the Amazigh peoples, among which the Kabyles, into the Islamic domain was however not pain free by any means! Nonetheless, linguistically, Arabic gradually spread, not only through the dissemination and institutionalisation of Islam, but also thanks to the arrival of new waves of the Banu Hilal tribes from the East in the Xth–XIIth centuries. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Arabic had come to predominate throughout today’s Algeria, while exclusively Amazigh-speaking tribes retreated to the mountain areas (Kabylie, Aurès), away from the Ottoman authorities in Algiers and Constantine.
So to say that, by the end of the 1970s, the Kabyles knew instinctively that there remains no worthy speech to hold, but to courageously initiate popular street actions to refute openly this unacceptable denial. So, after suffering numerous humiliations, a drop of water overflowed the glass. A Mouloud Mammeri conference (on ancient Kabylian poetry) was forbidden on March 10th, 1980 at the University of Hasnaoua. The day after, a great protest march, the first in the history of the independent Algeria, took place in Tizi Ouzou. A spark of hope appeared in the country’s long lethargic night, which set the region around the Kabylia locality ablaze in the space of 50 days. The bell of the one party system had irreversibly tolled.
One has to retroactively remind that down from the beginning of the “nationalist” movement in the 1930s, the specific “Berber” component of Algerian society was put on the defensive. The emerging nationalist movement have proclaimed officially Islam and the Arabic language be the exclusive components of the Algerian identity in construction, setting-up a symmetrical opposition to the 100-year-old French colonial rule. In reality, this was only a knee-jerk and mindless reaction against the French propaganda “Kabylian Mythe”, which posited that “Kabylian Berbers were really European in origin and only nominally attached to Islam”. The purpose was obviously to isolate the most active Kabyle component by rendering any particular assertion of Kabylian Amazigh identity extremely suspect in the rising “nationalism” discourse. As a consequence, the Kabyles, who today constitute approximately 10 million people (about two-thirds of all Algerian Amazighs, who, in turn, constitute about 30 per cent of the total Algerian population), were thus progressively marginalised, suspected as a faithless group, during the armed struggle for independence (notwithstanding their decisive initial leadership role and also their massive an fair commitment). This marginalisation continued with greater force again within the postcolonial state.
From the birth of the “Amazigh spring”’, in a nearly cyclic temporal process, every decade a new Kabyle generation takes again over the relay, to loudly recall, in turn, this permanent “Kabyle Wills”, which the history would seem to renew them the oath, as if this was intimately “written” in their deep collective memory. The 2010 Kabyle generation will sign again their own legend, just close to that bloody freshly left on the walls of Kabylia by the 128 martyrs of the 2001 “Black Spring”. Undoubtedly, it will be another fingerprint of triumphant juvenile, taking up a sweet revenge against the irony of the time passing by.
For this XXXth “Amazigh Spring” solstice, the Kabyle people have to negotiate a great new deal appointment with their local history. This does not mean only that this particularly active people will have to inaugurate another year of their long-lived existence, another year that would extend over the pain of their wounds, the languor of their sufferings, the chain of events during their long and impassive passion, but also, and above all, the special sparkle that will certainly take this “thirtieth spring” will remind them that, in no way, they should miss this capital appointment. Since so far, it was so constantly and so implicitly deferred from one year to next, always following an everlasting renewable edition, aiming at the achievement of their ideal.
A new milestone, bearing great new fight challenges will subsequently follow up. The Kabyle people will hence grasp another decisive chance to accomplish their legitimate ancestral national aspirations, sustained up by the rhythm of the passing centuries. These challenges constitute for each Kabyle, the everlasting April’s promises which, each new spring, bring him a very special offer of “Easter egg”.
2. THE KABYLE SECULAR MESSAGE
The vicissitudes experienced by the Kabyle people certainly constitute a unique history in itself. In many aspects, it looks very similar to that characterising the Jewish people throughout too many millenaries, until they succeeded to legitimately found their Israel STATE !
Indeed, the kabyle people question is chiefly the singular history of a nation, whose persistent incubation process has never been able to reach the ultimate stage for the last outbreak, letting him to emerge into the existence as a modern and a free self-ruled entity. An historical ideal that diverse contingencies, many tribulation swarms of various kinds, the fury of the element and event adversities, and the irony of circumstances have made that this objective was usually thwarted.
Here is indeed a nation, doted by authentic attributes consisting in freedom, secularism and real democracy, fair friendship and actual solidarity with other peoples, and whose specific identity could be entirely reduced in no particular regional civilization, neither eastern nor western. Moreover, this nation does neither claim itself to be the depository of any religious testament or any sacred privileges, nor is opposed to evolution. In its way, it is intrinsically fair humanist because it remembers a distant past when it was well represented in the concert of Mediterranean cultures by figures such as Terence-Afer, Juba II, Apuleius, Tertullian, Saint Augustine, and pope Saint Gelasius, etc. In short, Kabyle culture can enter and benefit from the worlds of politics, economics, society and justice without a single risk of real prejudice to any religious faith. For, the Kabyles since the past centuries, embraced successively Judaism, Christianity and Islam, without these religions came neither to modify considerably their original social structure organisation nor to alienate their language or their intrinsic secular values, up to the present day.
So, with an irreclaimable stubbornness, the Kabyle people sometimes seem to want whimsically fun by surviving after the collapse of many Human civilizations they saw born, growing and declining, and scrolling on their own territory or within its immediate neighbourhoods of the Mediterranean shores, continuing relentlessly, doggedly to over-exist after these have vanished down! However, the Kabyle people has always used his profound genius to integrate themselves smoothly but resolutely in the contemporary era, by fairly re-anchoring themselves within the context of the global civilizations prevailing at those periods. In doing so however, never were the Kabyles tempted to compromise their intrinsic personality or to hypothecate dangerously their specific identity values. So, they always remained equal to themselves, building-up a so rich socio-cultural heritage, language and diversified civilization cultures, spreading over centuries of time and embracing large parts of ancient civilizations, to which they had greatly contributed.
To this regard, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu considers that the Kabyle society as a living conservatory of the conscious and the unconscious Mediterranean civilizations and its actual contribution is a crucial paradigmatic realization of all the Mediterranean traditions in their various substrates. In effect, the permanent Kabyle people played a fundamental role in transmitting knowledge between the eastern and western ends of the Mediterranean. One could take an even broader view: ethnically, culturally and genetically, the Amazighs as a whole may approximate a “Mediterranean” ideal type, in the sense of the Mediterranean being more a crossroads of civilizations than an emanation source. The Kabyle people local history is naturally intertwined with those of the Mediterranean bordering peoples. And as such, the Kabyle people maintained their culture and language, constantly renewed, letting them to bear the influences of many cultures, Greek, Phoenician, Latin, Arabic, French ... The reverse is also true.
To understand the outset objective reasons that could shed light on this curious enigma, that characterizes the Kabyle people’s permanent time constancy which results in the currently observed sociolinguistic homogeneity and globally the same political views, we are led to postulate a consistent assumption. According which, the Kabyle people likely seem bear in themselves, as if this was incised deeply in their common memory, such a dense identity heritage and such a strong collective conscience that these characters are inextricably intertwined along with the Time. This results then in their insatiable and constant emancipation predisposition, letting them to accommodate readily the prevailing civilization they kept close to. This disposal appears nearly consubstantial with their social entity body. This heritage is particularly strong and so irrepressible that the Kabyle nation tirelessly had always been specially targeted by all the external aggressions it suffered. The Kabyle nation indeed had recurrently undergone by domination experienced from foreign powerful enemies, accosted on its welcoming shores over past centuries.
Thus, despite the myriad factors of adversity that they were confronted to and neither the imposed assaults of tragic and brutal historical upheavals, nor the raging and tumultuous storms of the history that the Kabyles faced over the ages have led to break neither their unity and social cohesion, nor could ever definitively destroy their people entity by shutting-down their unrepentant breath of survival that animates their collective soul and which still duly characterizes them, since more than two millenaries.
The Kabyle people, doted by so uncommon persistence virtue, were likely driven by an impressive ability to suitably adapt themselves to counter successfully any harmful threat and were able to survive in aggressive surrounding environments, often characterized by an extreme hostility against them. This led them to develop a great built-in resilience, letting them to triumph against the worst of relentless adversity, even endogenous or exogenous.
In this way, the Kabyles could save their ancestral identity values from the alteration, obviating all the destructing perils targeting their social organisation. They faced both the law of nature and the successive hegemonic foreign dominations, which always stigmatized the integrity of their nation. Thus, these recurring intrusive bouts, instead of destroying their entity body or to weaken it, had paradoxically contributed to greatly strengthen it, allowing them to harden furthermore their tenacity.
This nearly constant adversity, in which the Kabyle people has evolved and matured, has indeed come to induce in their social body, such as does any inveterate hormone secretion, an impressive ability to withstand any external harmful threat. The Kabyle people also dispose a permanent adaptability faculty to initiate readily at any moment their social renovation with efficient moral resources. This allows them to suit better the prevailing context conditions on the one hand and, on the other hand, to triumph against their conjuncture adversaries or potential enemies who could evenly threat their collective existence, try to alienate their freedom.
In this way, the Kabyle people could maintain their independence safe and their social cohesion strong, resulting thus in the nowadays great socio-cultural homogeneity and the markedly deep sociolinguistics uniformity, during more than twenty centuries.
3. THROUGH THE FOUNDATION OF A SELF-RULED KABYLE STATE
What consistent meaning can be drawn up today from this singular persistence in time of the Kabyle people? And what would be their concrete and active contribution from the History accomplishment point of view? If this indigenous people of North Africa, belonging to the great Amazigh family, has consistently refused to irreversibly melt among the various peoples who invaded North Africa in the course of history (and why did they so?) and, secondly, if they do claim neither to be depositary of any sacred Testament nor any religion privilege holder, what would they feel so perfect bearer for Humanity? So, what is the content of the civilisation message the Kabyle people want to deliver to the Universality? To what extent the efficiency of this synergistic memorial transmission could be materially and technically afforded? What institutional instrument should they give themselves allowing them to efficiently carry out their self-dedicated ideals? What the Kabyle people expect in return from the international community alongside whom they claim to share the present and future perils and challenges and also to aim interactively at the same purposes?
Here are some fundamental questions intended not only for the Kabyle scholars, but also and especially to sociologists, ethnologists and anthropologists worldwide, who should try to provide rational answers to better help the Kabyles themselves to objectively and rationally get a clear understanding of their singular destiny. Meanwhile, some ones, using an unbearable lightness, perhaps being in a lack of arguments, used to explain this fact by a so reductive as misleading concept of “Kabyle myth” ? We remember indeed, that the Kabyle people and nation, have given birth, or have hosted among them, so many illustrious philosophers, famous scholars, scientists and a lot of artists that these short lines are insufficient to exhaust their full citation.
The citizens of the Kabylia, and its illustrious guests throughout the immemorial times, have greatly contributed and always follow up with a commitment perseverance and getting themselves further involved, selfless, even in Kabylia their homeland or wherever they are hosted among many societies of the civilized world. They are thus redoubling their imagination to actually sit the high ideals of peace, justice, social harmony, friendship tolerance, scientific and knowledge progress and welfare for the sake of the Humanity as a whole.
So to comfort the Kabyle people in this way of their social and political emancipation they have supremely self-drawn, and to enable them to further increase their valuable contribution into the promotion and the consolidation of the noble universal values, they are now seeking a formal recognition and a moral support from the civilized world. They are expecting that the international community could provide them with the necessary and fair political support. This is indeed deeply needed, letting them to fulfilling resolutely and decisively their historical wills, consisting in the foundation of their own self-ruled protector STATE to safeguard their secular entity from irreversible dissolution. Led by the earlier MCB pioneer activist, the famous poet/singer Ferhat Mehenni, who heads now the Mouvement pour l’Autonomie de la Kabylie (MAK) formed during the 2001 “Black Spring”, the Kabyles are today looking forward to sensitive hearing from the Western nations beside which tey are faithfully engaged and with which they share almost the same fundamental endeavours and rational values, consisting in the achievement of a peaceful world ideal. Notwithstanding, they consider their homeland, the Kabylie, worthy of a legitimate access to its decisive political and institutional emancipation, with regard to the extent of sacrifices they impassively, conscientiously suffered in order to preserve from the total extinction, their millenary language and culture, enriching thus the humankind diversity.
Perhaps in the future, the MAK’s efforts to carve out a more explicit Amazigh-centred universe, harmoniously connected to the civilisations on both shores of the Mediterranean will bear fruit, and even help breathe new life into the fragile yet compelling Mediterranean ideal. In the meantime, in an age of accelerated globalisation and intensified identity politics, the West-centred Kabyle emancipation movement appears to have found its voice. Regime policies, as well as the MAK’s own actions and above all, the West foreign policies attitude, will determine the degree of the Kabyle success in the years ahead.
Dr. Dahmane At Ali,
University of Pisa, Italy.
Pisa, 12th April, 2010
Readers comments : NB: Please note that the commentaries represent the views of their authors and that AmazighWorld don't endore them
|Kewl you should come up with that. Ecexlelnt!
|Kewl you should come up with that. Ecexlelnt!