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THE ORIGINS OF AMAZIGH SPRING

translated for WAAC by Fatma Saddok
original (French) by Ferhat Mehenni, published in Le Matin, April 19, 2000


Amazigh Spring, as we call it today, was originally referred to in the official press as "the events of Tizi Ouzou," just as the French press called the war of national liberation (1954-1962) "the events of Algiers."

We have chosen this term of Spring as an analogy of the "Spring of Prague" in 1968, when the Czechoslovakians rebelled against the dictatorship of the USSR over their country, fighting for freedom and democracy.

There was this similarity of partisan monolith in the two countries. The official doctrine was socialism, under which the one-party system justified itself. Czechoslovakia was a bastion, on the scale of an empire, in the questioning of an oppressive political system, as was Kabylia in 1980, as a region in a country. But the comparison stops here.

A strong symbolism remains attached to the term "spring," full of hope, rebirth, of freedom and democracy, in all the world’s nations. Even when we remember the "events of October 1988" in Algeria, we do not hesitate to talk about "a spring in autumn." However, for us, Amazigh Spring is the birth and explosion, in full daylight, of a movement demanding the Amazigh language, identity and culture, fighting against the official national movement of alienation that wanted, and which stubbornly still wants, that we be "Arabs."

The Algerian independence had established arabo-islamism at the expense of an "Algerian Algeria," nationalist militants excluded from the PPA/MTLD (independence movement) in 1949 under the pretext of "berberism." What followed was a hardening of the official group invaded by the pan-arabist ideology and the exclusionist Baathist ideology against anything Amazigh. Moreover, this was reinforced by casting the FFS [as a regionalistic party] against the "personal regime of Ben Bella...[which] could only have reality and depth in Kabylia." This latter, beaten in 1965, and unjustly accused of secession, will have, to this day, a difficult time in ridding itself of this terrible image of a dangerous specter constantly threatening national unity. In the name of this latter, the Tamazight language is ferociously fought by the "Arabization" policy, the citizen recruitment institutes (FLN and its mass organizations), as well as security services such as police, gendarmes, customs and military security. History is falsified; it only starts in the 8th century with the advent of Islam.

The names of localities with Tamazight sounds were either renamed or the names were Arabized (Inamenas=Ain Oum Nnass, Amachras=Mecht Erras…). Amazigh first names were prohibited.

The militants for Amazighity were fired from their jobs, denied job promotions, and spied on night and day when they were not arrested, tortured, imprisoned, often without a judgment. What haven’t these zealots of a racist ideology done to kill the soul of this Algerianity that comes to us from the beginning of the ages: Amazighity? How much energy was spent and means mobilized for the service of a nonsense which consisted of erasing the identity landmarks of a generation to turn them into "Afghanis"? How much evil was done to national unity which was manipulated against itself? The pouvoir, instead of favoring national integration within the framework of the constitution, moved in a military direction.

However the citizen knows instinctively that there is no greatness in denial. So, after numerous humiliations, a drop of water overflowed the glass. A Mouloud Mammeri conference was forbidden on March 9, 1980 at the University of Hasnaoua. Two days later, a protest march, the first in the history of an independent Algeria, took place in Tizi Ouzou.

A spark of hope appeared in the country’s long lethargic night, which set the region around that locality ablaze in the space of 40 days.

The bell of the one party system had tolled. Tamazight screamed like a child being born, for whom we commemorate today its 20th birthday. It brought us human rights and democracy.

Algeria remains ungrateful, but our language will end up helping itself and will one day become, with all due respect to those who swear the opposite, a national and official language.

Headquarters: Amazigh World (Amadal  Amazigh), North America
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