Today April 20th, marks 37 years since the student and the Amazigh people of kabylia in Algeria were violently handled by the government forces in an effort to express their legitimate cultural demands. On April 1980, special forces stormed the Tizi Ouzou campuses and broke into the student dormitories many were beaten up while asleep hundreds were wounded and hundred others were jailed.
Below is a chronology of important events dates of Tafsut Imazighen, Amazigh Spring, as they unfolded;
- March 1-2, 1980:
Mouloud Mammeri is interviewed by Liberation on his last book published by Maspero: “Les poèmes kabyles anciens (Old Kabyle Poems).”
- March 10, 1980:
The local authorities canceled a conference on old Amazigh poetry by Mouloud Mammeri at the University of Tizi-Ouzou.
- March 11, 1980:
Out of Tizi-Ouzou University’s 1700 students, 1500 of them demonstrated for more than two hours in front of the wilaya (regional) offices, the offices of the unique party (FLN). They shouted slogans, such as: “stop the cultural repression,” “Amazigh culture is Algerian culture,” “Tamazigh is our language,” “Enough injustice.” They denounced all attempts of political recuperation of their movement. The University is on strike.
- March 12, 1980:
Tizi-Ouzou’s high school students go on strike in support of the university students.
- March 13, 1980:
FFS slogans scribbled on walls appear in Kabylia and the Algiers region. The slogans were in support of the students’ actions: “Democracy, freedom of expression, people’s languages = national languages.” The students’ movement spreads. In Larbaa Nat Yiraten, signs written in Arabic were taken down. The demonstrators blocked the police chief in his car. He was forced to shout the slogan: “a nerrez wala a neknu” (“I’d rather break than kneel,” a verse in the poem by popular Amazigh poet, Si Muhend U Mhend.). The demonstrators invaded the military post. The soldiers sympathize with the demonstrators. The major arrives. The demonstrators ask him for buses so they can inform people in the more remote villages. He apoligizes for not having any available.
A public inauguration by President Chadli scheduled for March 15 in Tizi-Ouzou was canceled. The regional administrator (wali),* Sidi Said calls in the heads of schools in the entire region for a meeting. During the meeting, the head of the Islamic Institute honors Kharroubi, the previous administrator of Kabylia, by referring to him in these terms: “as Kabyle as he was, he was a patriot.” He added: “as far as I am concerned, we should fire on the crowd.”*** (Wali is the Algerian Arabic for the administrator of a region. He was appointed by the unique party. At the time, there were 48 administrative regions or wilayas.)
**(Kharraoubi is known to be against Tamazight and a supporter of arabization. He is considered by many responsible for the failure of the educatoinal system in Algeria.)
- March 15, 1980:
A “Committee for the defense of cultural rights in Algeria” (CDDCA) is formed in Paris. It is housed in the offices of the review Esprit: 19 rue Jacob, Paris, 75006.
- March 16, 1980:
200 students demonstrate on Larbi Ben Mhidi Street in Algiers, for the Amazigh culture and for the “Amazigh language, a national language.” They are violently dispersed near the Grande Poste. About 40 people were arrested. Five of the arrested were detained while the others were released.
- March 18, 1980:
The local governor visits the town of Azazga. The population expressed its distress in a violent fashion. The governor leaves in a hurry. School kids and high school students flood the streets and assail the Gendarmerie building. The FLN offices are sacked. In Ain El Hammam (formerly Michelet) workers demonstrate in the streets in support of the students’ movement. High school students demonstrate in Draa El Mizan. There were 70 arrests. In another locality, 120 high school students were arrested during another demonstration. Additional troops were brought into the region’s military posts.
- March 20, 1980:
The Algerian press speaks of the Tizi-Ouzou demonstrations for the first time. This was done in very obscure terms in an article titled, “les donneurs de leçons” (the lesson givers) by K.B. (Kamel Belkacem), which appeared in the El Moudjahid newspaper.
- March 20-26, 1980:
The Algerian authorities receive numerous petitions protesting the repression.
- March 30, 1980:
Aït-Menguellet gives a concert at Porte de Pantin in Paris. The Committee for the Defense of Cultural Rights in Algeria calls for a silent gathering in front of the Algerian embassy in France.
- April 6, 1980:
General meeting of the students in Hasnaoua*** (Tizi-Ouzou). The students decided to occupy the copy center. They also called for a demonstration on April 7th in Algiers.***(Hasnaoua is the name of the neighborhood where University of Tizi-Ouzou’s main campus is located.)
- April 7, 1980:
Algiers, May 1st Plaza, 10:00 a.m.: 500 demonstrators (students and professors) gather mid-morning to claim the right to exist for the Amazigh culture. The banners carried slogans, such as: “For the people’s cultures,” “freedom of speech,” “Isn’t Tamazight an Algerian language?,” “cultural democracy.” The police intervene as soon as the gathered demonstrators started marching. The demonstrators march while chanting, “mindjibalina” (from our mountains came the cry for freedom). They are brutally repressed by the police. Nearly 200 of them are shoved in vans with the help of clubs. Many demonstrators were injured. Five people went into a coma. One demonstrator died from injuries inflicted by the police. The students of the University of Algiers voted to strike. The University of Tizi-Ouzou is on strike and is being occupied by the students.
11:30 a.m.: Meeting of the students at the Faculté Centrale of the downtown campus to decide on a march in front of the central police station to protest the repression.
3:00 p.m.: 1000 people gathered peacefully in front of the Algerian embassy in France. The gathering was initiated by the CDDCA. A motion prepared by CDDCA was sent with a delegation to the Ambassador. The latter refused to receive the delegation and called the protesters “not Algerian.” An open letter to President Chadli was initiated and signatures were collected.
Evening: General meeting of the students. A general unlimited strike is decided. The students decide to occupy the university as well.
- April 8, 1980:
Demonstration in Algiers. More than 1000 students demonstrate while chanting, “Enough repression,” “police assassins,” “free the prisoners,” “Algerian people’s culture.” They also chant patriotic songs. They are forcefully pushed back inside the university where the demonstration continues for nearly two hours. The majority of the persons arrested by the police were released.
In Kabylia, many thousands of peasants from Ain El Hammam and Larbaa Nat Yiraten marched on Tizi-Ouzou. The army established roadblocks and forced them back. The persons arrested the day before were released. The students of the higher education institutes of Boumerdes go on strike. The students of the Faculté Centrale of the University of Algiers issued a motion of support to the students of Tizi-Ouzou. A coordination office was established for Algiers.
- April 9, 1980:
The movement spreads in Kabylia. Many demonstrations in favor of the right to existence of the Amazigh culture take place in Ouadhias, Aït-Yanni, Djemaa-Saaridj, Dellys, Bordj, Menaïel, Sidi-Aïch, etc. In Sidi-Aïch, a concert by the singer Ferhat (Imazighen Imoula) was forbidden. The police summoned the singer.
- April 10, 1980:
The FLN party in Tizi-Ouzou organize a demonstration against the movement.
- April 9-15, 1980:
Village Watch and student support committees are set up in every village of Kabylia.
- April 11, 1980:
Mouloud Mammeri responds to El Moudjahid’s article: “Les donneurs de leçons.” Mammeri’s response was rejected by the newspaper, but was published by the French newspaper, Le Matin. Duplicated, it was distributed by the students to people in Algeria and France.
- April 13, 1980:
The minister of higher education received a delegation of professors from Tizi-Ouzou. The students of Tizi-Ouzou’s Amirouche High School go on strike and occupy the school. The hospital workers of Tizi-Ouzou sent a motion of support to the students of the University who are still on strike. They also sent a letter to President Chadli asking for an end to the repression. A flier attributed to the FFS party called for a general strike on April 16.
- April 15, 1980:
- The CDDCA calls for a peaceful march on April 26, in front of the Algerian embassy in Paris, and another one on May 1st from the “Filles du Calvaire” to the Bastille.
- April 16, 1980:
A general strike was declared and followed in Kabylia. The singer Ferhat from the Amazigh Imoula band was abducted in Dar El Beida at 2:30 p.m. The ministry of Higher Education gives the students of Tizi-Ouzou an ultimatum to go back to classes on April 19. In the evening, a joint meeting for coordination between the workers of Sonelec, Sonelgaz, the Hospital, Sonitex, Casoral, the students, the professors and the high school students was organized. They set up a people’s coordination committee. The employees occupy the Tizi-Ouzou Hospital.
- April 18, 1980:
A gathering was held in front of the Algerian embassy in Ottawa. A symbolic march was also held in front of the Canadian parliament.
- April 20, 1980:
1:00 a.m.: The Mizrana action was triggered. The forces of repression invaded all the occupied areas (hospital, university, manufacturing plants). The students, caught in their sleep, were clubbed in their beds. Dogs were thrown after the fleeing students. Many students jumped many floors in their underwear.
Many professors were arrested in their homes. All the employees of the hospital, including nurses and doctors were arrested and replaced by army doctors. According to rumors there were as many as 32 dead and many hundreds injured. A spontaneous general strike was triggered by the population of the city of Tizi-Ouzou. No street names remained; neither did any sign that was written in Arabic.
Kabylia was cut off from the rest of the world. Access was forbidden to anyone, in particular to the press.
- April 21, 1980:
Sentencing of the 21 of El Kseur. Barricades are set up in the upper side and at the bus station in Tizi-Ouzou. The forces of repression patrol Tizi-Ouzou with the bayonet on their rifles’ muzzle. The main department store in Tizi-Ouzou was sacked (could it be a provocation?). The Folk Art Center was ravaged. The same hapened to the bus station and to the second home of education Minister Kharroubi. The population of the surrounding villages marches on Tizi-Ouzou to protest against repression and the deaths.
- April 22, 1980:
A three-day-long general strike was observed. More barricades are seen in the upper side of the city. Demonstrators go around the city with banners asking for an end to the repression and the release of the prisoners. Other banners simply state “Imazighen.” The riot police charges the demonstrators from behind. Fighting breaks out all over town. The villagers come back to town and set up barricades. The offices of APS (Algeria Press Service), SAA (Algerian Insurance Company), the FLN party, the Balloua Hotel, the Mondial Movie Theather are sacked. A strike is started at the Mustapha Hospital in Algiers, in support of the movement.
- April 23, 1980:
A fourth day of the general strike was observed. Massive arrests are conducted everywhere. Demonstrators originating from Tigzirt go head to head with the forces of r
- April 24, 1980:
epression at the city’s entrance. Violent confrontations take place in Drâa Ben Khedda.
Peace returns progressively. In the afternoon, grocery shops begin to open. Violent confrontations take place between the demonstrators (from Ouadhias, Larbaa and Ain El Hammam) and the forces of repression. The city’s main department store reopens with its shelves fully restocked.
- April 25, 1980:
The forces of repression set up a tight net covering the entire city. The Algerian Radio and Television Company films the damaged areas. 5:00 p.m., the Algerian ambassador is received at the Quai d’Orsay. 5:050 p.m., the police commissioner informs the CDDCA of the interdiction of the demonstration scheduled for the next day.
- April 26, 1980:
Despite the interdiction of the demonstration in Paris by the police commissioner under the pretext of “disturbing the public order,” the CDDCA reiterates its call for a demonstration through the media. Nearly 500 people come to demonstrate. 400 among them were arrested and taken to Vincennes where they were searched, photographed, and recorded. The Amicale des Algeriens (Association of Algerian Friendship in France, a government-controlled organization) sent 200 provocateurs to the demonstration. They were brought to Paris by bus and received a daily honorarium.
- April 29, 1980:
The prefect of Paris prohibits the silent demonstration planned by the CDDCA for May 1st in fear of “disturbing the public order.”
- May 10, 1980:
Concert by Lounes Matoub at the Olympia in Paris. A minute of silence was observed in support of the people’s movement in Algeria.
- May 12, 1980:
The University of Algiers is on strike.
- May 16, 1980:
El Moudjahid publishes a list of 24 prisoners. Their trial in the State Security Court of Medea was announced.
- May 18, 1980:
A general strike in Tizi-Ouzou was massively followed by the population, except for the main department store.
- May 19, 1980:
A demonstration against the repression takes place in Algiers.
- May 24, 1980:
Government agents assaulted a general student meeting at the Central University of Algiers.
- May 25, 1980:
The CDDCA publishes its letter to Chadli with 3522 signatures.
- June 3, 1980:
The International Committee for the Support of the Victims of Repression in Algeria publishes a petition. Prepared by the CDDCA it included 140 signatures of eminent personalities from the academic and art world.
- June 21, 1980:
2:00 p.m.: Meeting held at the Bourse du Travail in Paris in support of the prisoners in Algeria. Organized by the CDDCA and the International Committee for the Support of the Victims of Repression in Algeria. The meeting’s motto was – End to the repression, – Immediate unconditional release of all prisoners, – People’s languages (Tamazight and Algerian Arabic) are national languages. Many organizations and personalities were invited to the meeting, French and Algerian. Those who paticipated and subscribed to the principles cited were: CDDCA, ASEAP, UNEF, LCR, FEN, FO, OCI, FFS, International Human Rights League, CITA, Harbi, Idir, Lounes Matoub. Djamal Allam and Djurdjura rejected the invitation by CDDCA. Ferhat and Aït-Menguellet could not leave Algeria.
- June 25, 1980:
A day of support to the prisoners was organized in Tizi-Ouzou. 8:00 p.m.: APS announces the temporary release the next day of the 24 prisoners of Berrouaghia.
- June 26, 1980:
A delegation from Tizi-Ouzou went to get the prisoners who were welcomed by a festive Tizi-Ouzou.
Hsen Larbi for The Amazigh Voice