Inside Story

Berbers in North Africa

Would a unified Berber entity be a threat to the existing regimes in the region?

Last week, Berbers across North Africa celebrated their New Year. Yennayer, as it is known, is the first day of the Berber calendar and is marked by various events from throwing parties to collecting food for the poor.

But the festivities were marred by protests in Northern Algeria. Activists took to the streets calling for autonomy for the Kabylie region.

For centuries the Berber people have complained about discrimination and marginalisation of their culture and heritage.

They have many languages that have been spoken since before Arabs or Europeans arrived – but they are yet to be recognised as official languages.

The New Year’s protests were organised by the MAK group, the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia.
Just how achievable is a unified Berber entity in this fragmented part of the world?  And is the Berber issue a threat to the existing regimes there?
Inside Story, with presenter Sohail Rahman, discusses with guests: Marnia Lazreg, a professor of sociology at City University of New York, Dr Hugh Roberts, an independent writer and expert on Algeria, and Khalid Lum, a specialist on Berber issues.

This edition of Inside Story aired from Thursday, January 21, 2010.