Tafsut Imazighen Commemoration
around the World
To Commemorate the fifteenth Anniversary of Tafsut n Imazighen, the Amazigh
Spring, tens of thousands marched in Algeria.
The fifteenth anniversary of the Amazigh Spring, April 20th,
1980, was marked by two demonstrations in Tizi Wezzu and Bgayet.
Tens of thousands of people took part in the two events to
support the institution of Tamazight as an official language of Algeria.
According to the organizers of the Amazigh Cultural Movement (MCB), more than
150,000 people marched in Tizi Wezzu alone.
Responding to the call made by the MCB, the demonstrators in Tizi Wezzu
demanded that the government officially recognize Tamazight. In Bgayet,
150 miles East of Algiers, tens of thousands marched in the streets, shouting
"Tamazight in schools." Thousands of marchers had come from the Amazigh
speaking villages of Setif, 50 miles South-East of Bgayet, such as Bousselam,
Ait Ourtilane and Ait Yala.
Matoub Lounes, the Amazigh singer who was kidnapped
for 15 days by the GIA, the Armed Islamic Group, last
September, performed in Tizi Wezzu on Thursday April 20th and
in Bgayet the day after. Although the GIA had forbidden him
to sing, Matoub, who had lived the last six months in seclusion in Paris,
went to Algeria to specifically take part in the commemoration
of the Amazigh Spring. Thousands of fans had taken over the
stadium field early in the morning.
In addition, the call for a general strike made by the MCB was largely
followed in the main towns of Tizi Wezzu and Bgayet and in other cities such as
Bouira, 60 miles east of Algiers. In these towns, the shops, the banks and
administration offices were all closed.
In contrast, according to the newspaper El Watan, the march in the Capital
city, Algiers, was savagely reprimanded by the security forces who attacked the
demonstrators with clubs, injuring ten Amazigh militants and arresting twenty
more. Earlier in the day, police forces tried to prevent the Amazigh militants
from gathering. Several police vans had parked near "Place du 1er Mai" in
downtown Algiers, the starting point of the March called by the MCB.
Several policemen armed with clubs had prevented any gathering and had driven
away people waiting at bus stops.
In the Aures region, throughout the fall and the spring, a multitude of
cultural and scientific activities were organized by several associations
(Thurza of Ain Fekroun, Tkout, Massinissa, and Ighzer Amellal of Batna,
Ain Kercha and Thawmet of Oum El Bouaghi, and Numidya of Biskra) in
collaboration with the MCA, the Amazigh Cultural Movement of Aures. These
activities included conferences and seminars to increase the identity awareness
of the Chaoui population, festivals, exhibitions (Foire nationale du livre
Amazigh), and demonstrations in support of the Amazigh revendications.
Also, these associations have signed declarations in which they denounced the
alienation of the Amazigh militants by the government through its maneuvers
of intimidation and division. The associations also offered total and
unconditional support to the MCB.
In France, several associations teamed up to commemorate together Tafsut n
In Paris, the Association de Culture Berbere (ACB) organized an awareness day.
Included in the program were an exhibition of books and articles pertaining to
the event and several conferences to discuss the school boycott, teaching of
Tamazight, MCB, revendication issue, and the political parties.
In Grenoble, six associations organized a three-day commemoration with
the following activities:
- Exhibition: Crafts and paintings by Mokrani.
- Cinema: Projection of the films "La Colline Oubliee" by A. Bouguermouh
and "Le Voyage du Kabyle" by B. Tatem.
- Les Arts Traditionnels chez les Berbers (Amazigh Traditional Art) by the
ethnologist A. Sayad.
- Qui sont les Berberes? (Who are Imazighen?) by the archeologist and
director of the "Encyclopedie Berbere" G. Camps.
- Langue, Culture, et Identite Berberes (Amazigh Language, Culture, and
Identity) by the linguist S. Chaker.
- Poetry and Tales reading: with the poet Ben Mohamed and the writer Amar.
- Theater: The theatrical group "La Colline d'At Yenni" presented
"Si Lehlu", an adaptation of the French play "Le Medecin Malgre lui"
- Music: with the band "Les Rappeurs de Roubaix."
On April 22nd, ACAA commemorated Tafsut n Imazighen by "celebrating
Literature and Poetry." The commemoration of the east coast region took place
in Washington D.C and that of the west coast in Palo Alto, California. The two
events were attended by more than two hundred and fifty members and guests and
lasted from 3:00 PM to 1:00 AM. More than an hour of poetry reading enabled many
members and guests to read poems by well-known Amazigh poets or their own.
This was intended to answer the wishes of the late great Amazigh scholar
Mouloud Mammeri (known to Imazighen as Dda Lmulud) who wanted Imazighen all
over the world to read and write in Tamazight. Nowadays, many do write poetry
in Tamazight and read it aloud. With this commemoration, ACAA expressed thanks
to Dda Lmulud for all his contributions to the Amazigh culture, in general,
and poetry, in particular.
Washington DC The highlights of the event included:
- A speech by the president describing the significance of this day and the
struggle of many Amazigh activists.
- An exhibition: More than three hundred items, namely books, magazines,
newsletters of associations, newspapers, articles, paintings, posters,
photos, postcards, greeting cards, pottery, and traditional
costumes were exhibited. The exhibition was organized primarily to expose
ACAA members and the Amazigh-American community to the existing Amazigh
publications. In addition, posters of newspaper excerpts describing the
events of April 20th, 1980 were displayed to bring back memories of those
events and inform the visitors of what happened that day.
- Conference and debate: A talk was given by an ACAA member who had
participated in the cultural uprising in Tizi Ouzou. He presented a
chronological witness account of the events, then spoke about the current
state of the Amazigh revendication issue in Algeria and the challenges ahead.
The talk was followed by a debate on the school boycott and on how ACAA can
help promote the Amazigh culture in the U.S. and abroad.
- Slide show: The slide show was presented by another ACAA member, a
very talented amateur photographer. The show was a beautiful panoramic
journey into Algeria's scenery, people, and culture.
- Poetry reading: The poet Ali Akkache read some of his own poetry and
other ACAA members read from Si Muhend U Mhend and Amar Mezdad's poetic
- Video projections of a documentary on pottery-making in Kabylia
and one of Ait Menguellat's concerts in Olympia (Paris).
California The California event included the following activities:
The event ended with a fundraiser to purchase a sound system.
ACAA would like to thank all the people who made these two events possible.
Special thanks go to DJ Chaab i Sabah (known as Serge) with the "Majun Traveler"
at KPFA radio, Mary Miller at KZSU radio, Barbara with the African Hotline,
and Henri-Pierre Koubaka and Dore Stein of KALW radio.
- Radio programs: ACAA members of the California region organized two radio
programs: a one-hour program, aired on KPFA, Berkeley, and a two-hour program,
aired on KZSU, Stanford. The discussion centered around the Amazigh people,
their culture, and the events of 1980. The participants got a chance to
publicize the Tafsut commemoration in California through these radio
stations as well as KALW (San Francisco) and gave free tickets to interested
- Internet: The event was also publicized through e-mail on the campus of
the University of California, Berkeley, Amazigh Net, and soc.culture.berber.
- Commemoration: The commemoration began with an opening statement made by
ACAA's representative in California and the organizing committee. This was
followed by a talk on the Amazigh people and the historical events of the
Amazigh Spring. An extended written summary of the talk and a brochure on
Amazigh contacts (ACAA's addresses, information on Amazigh-net, and the
Amazigh World Wide Web) were handed out at the door.
- Exhibit: Amazigh pottery, jewelry, and rugs from different regions of North
Africa were exhibited. Traditional dresses were shown as well as worn. Also
displayed were artistic photographs, slides of the Imazighen of Morocco (by
Cara Gardner), posters, postcards, and original art.
- Music: Beautiful traditional and modern Amazigh music was played by local
singers and musicians.