Berber Spring

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an uprising, from march to june 1980, for linguistic and cultural rights in berber-speaking kabylia in northeastern algeria.

Between March and June 1980, the northeastern Algerian provinces of Kabylia became the site of a violent social and political drama that would become known as the Berber Spring (Printemps Berbère in French, or Tafsut n Imazighen in Berber/Tamazight) and set the stage for the modern transnational Berber/Amazigh cultural movement. Kabylia has a history of resistance to state authority and since independence has been the center for advocacy of Berber cultural and linguistic rights in an officially Arab-speaking state.

On 10 March 1980 local authorities banned a lecture on ancient Berber poetry, which was to be given at the University of Tizi-Ouzou by the writer and ethnologist Mouloud Mammeri. In response, students went on strike, demonstrating across the country for an end to "cultural repression," and on 7 April they occupied the university. When on 20 April the military stormed the university, arresting and injuring hundreds of demonstrators, a series of violent confrontations between Kabyle youth and police broke out, which together with a four-day general strike shut down the region for nearly a week. Although calm was subsequently restored, antigovernment protests continued until the last of the arrested students was released on 26 June.

The Berber Spring made Berberism a political force in postcolonial Algeria and more broadly in North Africa. Commemorations of the events have become the indispensable activity of Berber cultural associations worldwide and have been moments for the elaboration of political programs and, in the case of the April 2001 Black Spring, for new confrontations with state authorities.

see also black spring; kabylia; rassemblement pour la culture et la dÉmocratie (rcd).


Roberts, Hugh. "Towards an Understanding of the Kabyle Question in Contemporary Algeria." The Maghreb Review 5, nos. 56 (1980): 115124.

Paul Silverstein