Northern regions of Algeria witnessed protests by Berber communities on Friday calling for promoting and preserving their indigenous language after a 2018 amendment to formalise the teaching of the Tamazight language was rejected.
“A social upheaval is coming,” Lemnouar Hamamouche, sociology student at Abderrahmane Mira University of Bejaia, in Algeria’s northern region of Kabylie where a majority of the protests have taken place, told Al Jazeera.
Hamamouche added that “the popular masses are starting to protest” because they “reject the fact that [the state] is marginalising a mother tongue” like Tamazight.
The dean of the University of Bouira released a statement officially postponing lectures with no further notice, fearing a possible escalation. The decision came after clashes broke out between students and police during protests that took place over the past week.
The Berber communities continue to show dissatisfaction with the marginalisation of their language and cultural heritage, despite the fact that their language is officially recognised in the country, alongside Arabic.
Moroccan intellectual and author of the Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen), Hsain Ilahiane, is sceptical about the actual implementation of the language’s official status.
He said, “We have Tamazight in the constitution, but the central question then becomes, what do you do with Tamazight once it’s officialised?
“It’s great to say that it’s official. We are all happy, we clap. But you need a budget, you need funding.”
Photo credit: Mr Seb [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr.