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Clashes as Algeria students march in support of Berber language

December 13, 2017 at 2:43 pm

Algerian students can be seen protesting against the proposal to curb Berber language development

Algeria’s Parliament’s rejection of an amendment on the generalisation of Tamazight’s teaching earlier last month in the framework of the draft of the 2018 Budget Law, has provoked a series of demonstrations and strikes in the Berber region in the last week.

At the end of November, an amendment under the draft Budget Law 2018, was drawn up by MP Nadia Chouitem, it proposed the introduction of a new article which stipulates that “the State shall ensure the generalisation of Tamazight teaching in all public and private schools and that such teaching be mandatory…”

The Finance Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) rejected the amendment by stating that “public authorities have and continue to make considerable efforts in teaching Tamazight” and that “educational programmes include teaching programsme of this national language”.

The rejection was received badly in Algeria’s Berber region; demonstrations were organised by autonomous student committees and trade unionists in the cities of Tizi Ouzou and Béjaïa in the last week. Marches also took place yesterday in Bouira and Batna where clashes erupted between demonstrators and the police.

Read: The politics of being Berber

Police were called to the march in Batna organised by activists and joined by students from the Batna 1 University. The activists claimed they were repressed by police who used force to prevent the march, justifying the intervention by the lack of authorisation and calling the action unlawful assembly.

Protesters expressed their anger against the authorities’ “double standards” for allegedly repressing their march but allowing protests across the country against America’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week.

Bouira saw violent clashes yesterday between students and police at the Akli Mohand Oulhadj University after students snatched a giant portrait of former president Houari Boumedienne.

Riot police reportedly used force to prevent students from walking from the university precinct to the headquarters of the wilaya with clashes between protesters and police lasting several hours.

Read: Algeria’s repression of the Berber uprising

Stones were thrown at police officers who responded by firing tear gas, according to marchers who denounced the use of the repression to prohibit a peaceful demonstration.

According to El Watan, it was the Bouira wali, Mustapha Limani, who allegedly instructed the police to forbid students from walking in the streets of the chief town of wilaya. A climate of tension also prevailed outside the campus, where several people were searched and loaded into police vans to the central police station. High school students who came to walk with the students were reportedly beaten by elements of the riot police.

Thousands of university students and high school students also answered the call of the student group of Abderrahmane Mira University in Bejaia to chant: “Tamazight everywhere and for all, from preschool to university!”

Students reiterated their attachment to a single and plural Algeria with Amazigh as the base of the nation by writing on a banner: “Who touches my amazighity [sic], touches my Algerianity [sic]“.