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UK gov’t officials including pro-Israel lobby member meet with Algeria separatist group

June 10, 2024 at 2:49 pm

President of the Berber separatist movement, the Movement for Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK), Ferhat Mehenni, (C) meets with members of the UK Tory government including long-serving Director of Conservative Friends of Israel, Stuart Polak, (R) in London on 6 June 2024 [MAK]

Members of the UK Tory government and House of Lords, including a long-standing leader of the pro-Israel lobby, met, last week, with Ferhat Mehenni, president of the Berber separatist movement, MAK ( Movement for Self-Determination of Kabylia) and the Provisional Government-in-Exile of Kabylia.

The meeting is said to be part of the organisation’s ongoing global diplomacy efforts to advocate for the Kabyle cause and seek international recognition.

Photos of the meeting shared with MEMO revealed the presence of Stuart Polak, the long-serving director of Conservative Friends of Israel. Polak was embroiled in the high-profile scandal involving the visit of former Home Secretary Priti Patel to Israel, he was rewarded with a peerage by former Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Kabyle people, an ethnic group primarily residing in the mountainous Kabylia region of northern Algeria, have been striving for greater autonomy and recognition of their rights within Algeria. The Kabyles have long complained of marginalisation, discrimination and neglect by the Algerian central government.

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MAK, founded by Ferhat Mehenni in 2001, claims to be dedicated to the self-determination of Kabylia and the realisation of the rights of the Kabyle people. The movement has been engaged in a political struggle to defend Kabyle freedoms, and on 20 April, Mehenni declared the rebirth of the Kabyle state at a ceremony in New York.

However, the Algerian government has labelled MAK as a terrorist organisation, accusing it of involvement in violent incidents and of receiving foreign support. The government has cracked down on Kabyle activists and protesters, leading to heightened tensions.

According to a press statement of the meeting shared with MEMO, Lord Eddie Udny-Lister, former chief of staff during the tenure of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, expressed his concern about the lack of public awareness regarding the Kabyle dispute, stating: “I am ashamed that this was a dispute I had no knowledge of. It needs to become more public and talked about.”

Lord Polak, CBE, also voiced his support for the Kabyle people, saying: “I was fascinated to hear of the struggle of the President and the Kabyle people to maintain their culture and identity. Far too often we overlook those who face persecution as a minority. I for one will be looking to ensure their voice is heard within the UK.”

Mark Fullbrook, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Liz Truss, praised what he called the peaceful nature of the Kabyle struggle, commenting: “The story the President told of his people’s peaceful struggle for independence was a remarkable one. Anyone who believes in the rights of oppressed people anywhere in the world should read the story of the amazing Kabyle people.”

Mehenni expressed his gratitude for the meeting, calling it “historic” and stating: “We were honoured to have this first meeting with British lords and ladies in support of Kabylie and its peaceful struggle for independence. I was impressed with their openness and attentiveness which truly matches the greatness of the United Kingdom. I look forward to moving forward.”

MAK seeks to end what it calls the “colonial fait accompli” imposed by the Algerian government. The movement claims that Algiers is turning increasingly toward Russia, eschews Western democratic values, and systematically violates the human rights of the Kabyles.

In the press release, MAK said that it plans to continue its diplomatic missions to African countries and North America to further raise awareness and support for the Kabyle cause.

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