Creating new perspectives since 2009

Italy: Euro MP condemns Algeria's 'oppression' of Amazigh minority

July 3, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Algerian women wearing traditional Amazigh (Berber) dress walk to a demonstration in the capital Algiers during the weekly Friday protests against the government on June 28, 2019 [RYAD KRAMDI/AFP via Getty Images]

An Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has accused the Algerian government of “suppressing” the indigenous Amazigh community in the Kabylie region following the passing of two laws which endanger their freedoms, Minority Rights Groups International has revealed.

Massimiliano Salini presented a letter to the European Parliament on Monday which was addressed to the vice-president of the European Commission and the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. “The Algerian Government is increasing its grip and is conducting acts of suppression using emergency lockdown measures,” said Salini.

The MEP highlighted “numerous protests” staged by the Amazigh community over “discontent due to limits on freedom of expression and religion” in Kabylie, where the largest Amazigh population lives. The Amazigh community there is the second largest in North Africa. Since the so-called Berber Spring of 1980, they have been active in demanding official recognition of their language. Many have long-demanded autonomy or even independence.

Algeria: Consultations to amend the constitution are ongoing

Salini, who is a member of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, also expressed concerns over “threats of instability and authoritarianism” in North Africa amid Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan conflict and Algeria’s exploitation of Covid-19 lockdown measures. His letter also mentioned the plight of the Christian minority within the community, “who suffer persecution.”

According to the Unrepresented Nations and People Organisation (UNPO), the Amazigh are the indigenous people of North Africa, with around 30 to 40 million spread across Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. They often face segregation and discrimination in their home countries and deliberate attempts are made to destroy the Amazigh culture. After decades of activism, the Amazigh language was officially recognised in Morocco last year, where there are three main dialects.

Read: Algeria, Italy unite to market gas production