Algeria: Situation of the Kabyle and their treatment by the authorities and society outside of Kabylia, especially in Algiers, Oran and Annaba; access to housing, income, education and health care; state protection (2020–July 2022) [DZA201104.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. Overview

Sources indicate that Kabylia is a region in Algeria where the majority of the population speaks Kabyle [Taqbaylit; Taqbailith] (Founding Director 19 Jan. 2021) or is inhabited by the Kabyle people, one of the Amazigh [Berber] groups indigenous to North Africa (UNPO July 2017, 1). In correspondence with the Research Directorate in January 2021, the Founding Director of the Centre d'études maghrébines en Algérie (CEMA), an Algeria-based overseas research centre of the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) [1] (CEMA n.d.), stated that Tizi Ouzou and Bejaïa, the wilaya [wilayah] (governorates [or provinces]) with an "absolute majority" of Kabylophones are considered "'Kabylia proper'" (Found Director 19 Jan. 2021). The same source added that parts of the neighbouring wilayas of Bordj Bou Arreridj, Boumerdès, Bouira, Jijel and Sétif, with a mixed population of Kabylophones and Arabophones, are also considered part of Kabylia (Founding Director 19 Jan. 2021). A 2003 report by International Crisis Group similarly describes Tizi Ouzou and Bejaïa as the "heartland of Kabylia" but adds that some districts in Bordj Bou Arreridj, Boumerdès, Bouira and Sétif are also considered a part of the region (International Crisis Group 10 June 2003, 1).

Ça m'intéresse, a French magazine that broaches various topics, including history, culture and society (Prisma media n.d.), explains that the name "Kabyle" comes from the Arabic term "'Qabail'," which means [translation] "'tribe'" and refers to the Berberophone people who live in Kabylia, in northern Algeria (Ça m'intéresse 11 Aug. 2021). The same source states that there are [translation] "3.5 to 4 million" Kabyle, who occupy the mountains and coastline of Djurdjura, the Bibans and the Babors, but are also scattered outside of Kabylia, particularly in Algiers and Oran (Ça m'intéresse 11 Aug. 2021). According to Le Monde diplomatique, a monthly based in France that provides analyses, reports and investigations into world news (Le Monde diplomatique n.d.), the Kabyle are part of the Berber people, who are [translation] "an indigenous people" that live scattered in several North African countries, including Algeria, the population of which is 25 to 30 percent Berberophone (Le Monde diplomatique Mar. 2021). The World Factbook 2022 published by the US CIA reports that "about" 15 percent of the population identify themselves as "primarily" Berber and that this group lives mostly in Kabylia (US 27 June 2022).

The World Factbook 2022 states that the Algerian Berbers have "long" agitated for autonomy, "sometimes violently" (US 27 June 2022). Le Monde diplomatique also reports that Kabylia has remained [translation] "in the foreground" of Berber groups in Algeria with respect to Berberophone identity claims (Le Monde diplomatique Mar. 2021). According to sources, the Berber language, also called Tamazight, has been one of the official languages of Algeria (US 27 June 2022; Le Monde diplomatique Mar. 2021) since 2016, but its status [translation] "remains a notch below Arabic, which maintains its preeminence by being 'the state national and official language'" (Le Monde diplomatique Mar. 2021). The Founding Director of CEMA stated in correspondence with the Research Directorate in July 2022 that "the Algerian state promotes the Tamazight language – an official language – in the state-run schools both within and outside of Kabylia" (Founding Director 19 July 2022).

2. Treatment of the Kabyle by the Authorities

Information on the treatment of the Kabyle by the authorities outside of Kabylia was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In correspondence with the Research Directorate in January 2021, a representative of the Amazigh World Congress (Congrès mondial amazigh, CMA), an international NGO working to protect the rights of Amazigh people (CMA n.d.), stated that the gendarmes are [translation] "very present" and "very aggressive" in Kabylia, compared to other parts of Algeria (CMA 19 Jan. 2021). Without providing further details, the CMA representative added that the military and gendarmes [translation] "closely monitor" the Kabyle people and patrol the villages, roads, fields, and forests "night and day" (CMA 19 Jan. 2021). During an interview with Rachid Ouaissa, professor of political science at the University of Marburg in Germany, TV5MONDE, a French-language international television network, reported that Algerian authorities accuse the Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (Mouvement d'autodétermination de la Kabylie, MAK) [a Kabyle separatist group identified by the Algerian government as a [translation] "terrorist" organization (TV5MONDE 21 Aug. 2021; AFP 6 Sept. 2021)] and the Rachad Islamist group of causing the fires that ravaged northern Algerian in August 2021 (TV5MONDE 21 Aug. 2021). According to Professor Ouaissa, this accusation towards MAK, an organization that has no [translation] "significant mobilizing force," is "a way to blame Kabylia" for trying to prevent the "rebuilding" of Hirak, a "peaceful" protest movement that had been born in the region and that had continued there even during the pandemic when it had halted "everywhere" else in Algeria (TV5MONDE 21 Aug. 2021). La Relève, a [translation] "general information » Internet site based in Morocco (La Relève n.d.), reports that the coordination of committees of Kabylia villages made a statement taking offence at a "stigmatization campaign" orchestrated against the region by the Algerian authorities since the fires occurred (La Relève 28 Nov. 2021).

Associated Press (AP) reported in September 2021 that since the fires, dozens of individuals accused of being MAK members have been arrested (AP 15 Sept. 2021). According to an article by France Culture, a public radio station in France (CSA n.d.), published in September 2021, since August 2021, the Algerian authorities have carried out [translation] "questioning" and "arrests" in Kabylia, with the arrested persons being "presented" as belonging to the MAK (France Culture 24 Sept. 2021). Similarly, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports the arrest on 6 September 2021 in Kabylia of 27 people [translation] "suspected of belonging" to the MAK (AFP 6 Sept. 2021). AP reports that in September 2021, authorities arrested a journalist and a Berber linguist from Kabylia, accusing them of being MAK members, which they denied (AP 15 Sept. 2021). According to the same source, for the activists, these detentions represent an effort by the Algerian government to suppress the desire for separatism and the residual opposition coming from the Hirak movement that made it possible to impeach the president [Bouteflika] in 2019 (AP 15 Sept. 2021).

However, in correspondence from July 2022, the CEMA Founding Director stated that "Algerian authorities, many of whom are Kabyle, treat [the] Kabyle in the same way as they treat other [Algerian] citizens" (Founding Director 19 July 2022). According to the same source, "many high state cadres, politicians, and military elite are ethnically Kabyle" (Founding Director 19 July 2022). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a journalist working on human rights in Algeria similarly stated the following: [translation] "There is no special treatment reserved for the Kabyle in Algeria," neither in Kabylia nor the other wilayas (Journalist 24 July 2022). The same source also stated that the official documents make no mention of the ethnicity of citizens (Journalist 24 July 2022). The source indicated that many individuals were arrested by the Algerian authorities [translation] "for protesting with a Kabyle flag or for belonging to the MAK, but not for merely being Kabyle" (Journalist 24 July 2022).

2.1 The Naïma Salhi Affair

L'Express DZ, an online Algerian newspaper, reports in an article published in June 2019 that a member of parliament and the President of the Equity and Proclamation Party (Parti de l'équité et de la proclamation, PEP), Naïma Salhi, has [translation] "in the past few months," "significantly increased racist attacks against Tamazight but also against the Kabyle people, whose elimination she has called for" (L'Express DZ 6 June 2019). The Algerian news site Tout sur l'Algérie (TSA) further reports that during a televised broadcast on the channel El Bilad on 4 October 2017, Salhi stated that Ferhat Mehenni [founder and president of the MAK (L'Express DZ 6 juin 2019)] is a [translation] "'terrorist'" and that it is the duty of the state to "'execute traitors'" (TSA 5 Oct. 2017).

El Watan, a French-language Algerian newspaper, also reports that in 2020, Salhi was the subject of four complaints before the Algerian courts, particularly for her [translation] "hate speech" towards the Kabyle, but that she was protected by her parliamentary immunity (El Watan 10 Aug. 2020). According to the same source, [translation] "some of her statements and appeals fall within the scope of the anti-discrimination and hate speech legislation" enacted in April 2020 (El Watan 10 Aug. 2020).

According to sources, Salhi is being prosecuted for [translation] "'inciting racial hatred'" and "'calling for murder'" following a complaint filed in 2019 by a group of lawyers (TSA 10 June 2019) or lawyers and activists (El Watan 11 Mar. 2021). Some sources specify that the calls for murder targeted Kabyle citizens (Le Soir d'Algérie 8 Feb. 2022; TSA 10 June 2019). TSA reports that the complainants stated that they filed a complaint because of [translation] "'the silence of the authorities'" with respect to the Member of Parliament's statements (TSA 10 June 2019). El Watan reports that according to the complainants, the matter was [translation] "'blocked for months'" by Salhi's parliamentary immunity but that the investigation was relaunched in 2021 after the former Member of Parliament lost that protection following the dissolution of Parliament (El Watan 11 Mar. 2021).

2.2 Treatment of of Individuals Who Display the Kabylia Flag

Sources report that the Algerian general Ahmed Gaïd Salah, [army chief of staff and [translation] "the country's strongman" (Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019)], informed the public that as of [mid-June 2019 (Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019)], no flag other than the national flag would be tolerated during demonstrations (Le Parisien with AFP 5 Aug. 2019; France 24 27 June 2019; Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019). According to some sources, the General was targeting the Amazigh (Berber) flag that is carried at some demonstrations, although he did not refer to it by name (France 24 27 June 2019; Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019). Le Monde reports the following:


Although he did not specifically name the flag in question, the Chief of Staff seems to clearly be referring to the Amazigh (Berber) flag … . The flag appears prominently alongside the national colours in the demonstrations that have been calling for a change in regime since 22 February. (Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019)

The same source cites the chief of staff as stating that [translation] "'strict instructions have been given to law enforcement to rigorously apply the laws'" in this regard (Le Monde with AFP 19 June 2019).

TSA reports that in June 2019, [translation] "at least" 18 protesters were arrested and charged with "'disrupting national unity'" for brandishing the Amazigh flag (TSA 25 June 2019). According to Jeune Afrique, these protesters faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 3,000 to 70,000 Algerian dinars [C$27 to 616] (Jeune Afrique 26 June 2019). In that respect, the same source reports the statements of an Algerian lawyer and law professor, who notes that the protesters who brandished the Palestinian and Sudanese flags are not worried and finds that [translation] "'Gaïd Salah wants to equate the flag with Kabyle "separatism" by opposing it to the Algerian flag'" (Jeune Afrique 26 June 2019). AFP also reports that, according to a [translation] "support association," in November 2019, a court in Algiers sentenced 28 protesters to six months in prison, finding them guilty of "'disrupting the integrity of the national territory'" following their arrests from 21 June 2019 for possessing an Amazigh flag (AFP 13 Nov. 2019).

Le Parisien, a French daily newspaper, reports that on 5 August 2019, nearly 60 people across Algeria were arrested and taken into custody for reasons related to carrying the Kabyle flag (Le Parisien with AFP 5 Aug. 2019). According to the same source, two of the detainees were tried and sentenced that same day to a two-month suspended prison term (Le Parisien with AFP 5 Aug. 2019). Le Parisien reports the case of a protester who was carrying the Berber flag [translation] "during a rally against the regime" and who was arrested on 5 July 2019 for "'disrupting national unity'" (Le Parisien with AFP 5 Aug. 2019). According to the same source, the court called for him to be imprisoned for 10 years (Le Parisien with AFP 5 Aug. 2019). However, sources note that the protester was acquitted in August 2019 (El Watan 8 Aug. 2019; TSA 8 Aug. 2019).

L'Avant-Garde, a news website dedicated to [translation] "democratic and progressive struggles" in Algeria (L'Avant-Garde n.d.), citing statements from human rights advocates, and El Watan, report that a MAK activist [who carried the Kabyle flag during a demonstration in Laaziv (L'Avant-Garde 30 Nov. 2019)] was arrested on 26 November 2019 by plainclothes officers who went to his home at night and was charged with "disrupting national unity" (L'Avant-Garde 30 Nov. 2019) or "disrupting the integrity of the national territory" (El Watan 30 Nov. 2019). According to El Watan, the activist's lawyer stated that the activist [translation] "'was arrested for possessing the MAK emblem'" (El Watan 30 Nov. 2019). Sources report that the activist was [translation] "torture[d]" while detained (DzVid 1 Dec. 2019; Kab News 2 Dec. 2019; L'Avant-Garde 2 Jan. 2020). Other sources note that he was provisionally released on 2 January 2020 (L'Avant-Garde 2 Jan. 2020; Radio M 2 Jan. 2020).

The journalist also stated that the Algerian authorities [translation] "banned the Amazigh flag" and that "many people were arrested for protesting with a Kabyle flag" (Journalist 24 July 2022).

2.3 Situation in Algiers, Oran and Annaba

Information on the treatment of the Kabyle by the authorities in Algiers, Oran and Annaba was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The information in this section was provided by the journalist:


For economic reasons, there is a great number of Kabyle outside of Kabylia; they work in the areas of administration, education, health, oil companies and tourism (catering, hotel business), and they are treated like other citizens.

"[S]everal" neighbourhoods and towns in [the wilaya of] Algiers are mostly Kabyle, such as, for example, the village of Tixeraine and the commune of Aïn Benian.

In the city of Oran "there are also many Kabyle—those who were born there and others who left Kabylia to work there. An important association, 'Numidia', created by these Kabyle, organizes cultural activities" (Journalist 24 July 2022).

3. Treatment of the Kabyle by Society

Information on the treatment of the Kabyle by society outside of Kabylia, including in Algiers, Oran and Annaba, was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Concerning the treatment of the Kabyle by society, the journalist stated that [translation] "in the last three years, there has been anti-Kabyle racism expressed on social networks, and there is even a group that organized a meeting called 'Zero-Kabyle,' but it did not go beyond social networks" (Journalist 24 July 2022).

4. Access to Housing, Income, Education and Health Care

Information on access to housing, income, education and health care for Kabyle outside of Kabylia was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Founding Director of CEMA, the regional differences do not affect the operation of state institutions vis-à-vis Algerian citizens, and these differences do not have a great impact on access to state institutions or resources for specific citizens (Founding Director 19 July 2022). The journalist also stated that [translation] "[b]eing Kabyle does not prevent them from accessing housing, an income, education and [health] care" (Journalist 24 July 2022).

5. State Protection
5.1 Legislation

The Algerian Constitution provides the following:


Art. 37. – All citizens shall be equal before the law and shall be guaranteed the right to equal protection. There shall be no pretext for discrimination on the basis of birth, race, gender, opinion, or any other personal or social condition or situation. (Algeria 2020)

The Founding Director of CEMA also stated that Algerian citizens are treated equally by the law (Founding Director 19 July 2022).

5.2 Government Measures

Information on government measures concerning the Kabyle in Algeria could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to the Founding Director of CEMA, all Algerian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or primary language, have the same access to state recourse for mistreatment (Founding Director 19 July 2022). The same source states that "many" Algerians consider the recourse provided by the state to be "sub-par" (Founding Director 19 July 2022).

5.3 Support Services

Information on support services provided to the Kabyle in Algeria was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The journalist stated that there is no state support service specifically for the Kabyle or for any other group (Journalist 24 July 2022).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


[1] According to its website, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS) is a private, non-profit educational organization working to promote research and information-sharing between academics from the US and the Maghrib [Maghreb] region (AIMS n.d.).


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 13 November 2019. "Algérie : peine de prison pour 28 manifestants ayant arboré un drapeau berbère." [Accessed 22 July 2022]

Agence France-Presse (AFP). 6 September 2021. "La police algérienne arrête 27 membres présumés d'un groupe séparatiste." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022]

Algeria. 2020. Constitution de la République algérienne démocratique et populaire. [Accessed 10 Aug. 2022]

The American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS). N.d. "AIMS History." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2021]

Associated Press (AP). 15 September 2021. "Algerian Journalist, Others Detained in Growing Crackdown." [Accessed 22 July 2022]

L'Avant-Garde. 2 January 2020. Mokrane Gacem. "Le détenu d'opinion Sofiane Babaci libéré provisoirement." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2020]

L'Avant-Garde. 30 November 2019. Samia Djouder. "Un militant du MAK placé en détention provisoire à Boumerdes." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

L'Avant-Garde. N.d. "À propos." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

Ça m'intéresse. 11 August 2021 (amended 24 September 2021). "D'où viennent les Kabyles?" [Accessed 12 July 2022]

Centre d'études maghrébines en Algérie (CEMA). N.d. "À propos." [Accessed 19 July 2022]

Congrès mondial amazigh (CMA). 19 January 2021. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Congrès mondial amazigh (CMA). N.d. "Le Congrès mondial amazigh en bref." [Accessed 19 Jan. 2021]

Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA). N.d. "Les radios en France." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022]

DzVid. 1 December 2019. Kader Houali. "Sofiane Babaci: 'Ils m'ont roué de coups au commissariat'." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2020]

El Watan. 11 March 2021. Mokrane Ait Ouarabi. "Plainte contre Naïma Salhi : l'instruction relancée." [Accessed 22 July 2022]

El Watan. 10 August 2020. Mokrane Ait Ouarabi. "Qui protège Naïma Salhi?" [Accessed 22 July 2022]

El Watan. 30 November 2019. Ramdane Koubabi. "Naciria (Boumerdès) : Sofiane Babaci mis sous mandat de dépôt." [Accessed 10 Feb. 2020]

El Watan. 8 August 2019. "Arrêté pour port de drapeau amazigh à Annaba, Nadir Fetissi acquitté." [Accessed 6 Feb. 2020]

L'Express DZ. 6 June 2019. Saïd Farhi. "Naima Salhi appelle à éliminer Ferhat Mehenni et ses partisans." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

Founding Director, Centre d'études maghrébines en Algérie (CEMA). 19 July 2022. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Founding Director, Centre d'études maghrébines en Algérie (CEMA). 19 January 2021. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

France 24. 27 June 2019. "Pourquoi les autorités algériennes interdisent le drapeau berbère dans les manifestations." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

France Culture. 24 September 2021. Les Enjeux internationaux. "Les Kabyles, éternels boucs émissaires du pouvoir algérien?" [Accessed 14 July 2022]

International Crisis Group. 10 June 2003. Algeria: Unrest and Impasse in Kabylia. Middle East/North Africa Report No. 15. [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020]

Jeune Afrique. 26 June 2019. Mourad Kamel. "Algérie : 'Les arrestations de porteurs de drapeaux amazigh sont anticonstitutionnelles'." [Accessed 22 July 2022]

Journalist, Algeria. 24 July 2022. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Kab News. 2 December 2019. "Traitement des détenus politiques : Des avocats dénoncent la torture." [Accessed 11 Feb. 2020]

Le Monde with Agence France-Presse (AFP). 19 June 2019. "En Algérie, seul le drapeau algérien sera toléré dans les manifestations." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

Le Monde diplomatique. March 2021. Arezki Metref. "Algériens … mais pas arabes." [Accessed 18 July 2022]

Le Monde diplomatique. N.d. "Qui sommes-nous?" [Accessed 8 Aug. 2022]

Le Parisien with Agence France-Presse (AFP). 5 August 2019. "Algérie : Un manifestant brandit le drapeau berbère, dix ans de prison requis." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

Prisma media. N.d. "Abonnement au magazine Ça m'intéresse." [Accessed 4 Aug. 2022]

Radio M. 2 January 2020. "76 détenus du Hirak remis en liberté provisoire." ˂˃ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2020]

La Relève. 28 November 2021. "Kabylie : Une coordination dénonce la campagne de stigmatisation de la région." [Accessed 20 July 2022]

La Relève. N.d. "Contactez-nous." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022]

Le Soir d'Algérie. 8 February 2022. Abla Chérif. "Naïma Salhi en liberté provisoire." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2022]

Tout sur l'Algérie (TSA). 8 August 2019. "Drapeau berbère : Nadir Fetissi est sorti de prison." [Accessed 6 Feb. 2020]

Tout sur l'Algérie (TSA). 25 June 2019. Hassane Saadoun. "Lors de leur 18e mardi, les étudiants, solides et unis, maintiennent la mobilisation." [Accessed 10 Aug. 2022]

Tout sur l'Algérie (TSA). 10 June 2019. Nadir Azmal. "Naïma Salhi visée par une plainte pour 'incitation à la haine raciale'." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

Tout sur l'Algérie (TSA). 5 October 2017. Riyad Hamadi. "Naima Salhi qualifie Ferhat Mehenni de 'terroriste'." [Accessed 19 Dec. 2019]

TV5MONDE. 21 August 2021. N'daricaling Loppy. "Algérie : pourquoi Alger accuse le Maroc et des indépendantistes kabyles d'être derrière les incendies?" [Accessed 18 July 2022]

United States (US). 27 June 2022. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "Algeria." The World Factbook. [Accessed 28 June 2022]

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). July 2017. Member Profile: Kabylia. Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia - Anavad. [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Abu Nawas Algérie; Africa Center for Strategic Studies; Algeria Solidarity Campaign; Algeria – Embassy in Ottawa, Consulate General in Montréal, Gendarmerie nationale; BBC correspondent in Algeria; history professor at an American university conducting research on contemporary Algeria; Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'homme; PhD student at an American university researching Algeria; Tizi-Ouzou – representatives.

Internet sites, including: Africa Center for Strategic Studies; Algeria – Gendarmerie nationale, ministère de la Défense nationale, ministère de la Justice, ministère de l'Intérieur, des Collectivités locales et de l'Aménagement du territoire, ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Sécurité sociale; Algérie Focus; Algérie patriotique; Algérie Presse Service; Al Jazeera; AllAfrica; Arab News; Austrian Red Cross –; L'Authentique; BBC; Belgium – Commissariat général aux réfugiés et aux apatrides, Cedoca; Le Citoyen; Le Courrier d'Algérie; La Dépêche; Deutsche Welle; EU – EU Agency for Asylum; L'Expression; Fédération internationale pour les droits humains; Le Figaro; France – Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides; Freedom House; The Guardian; Human Rights Watch; International Peace Bureau; Journal de Montréal; Liberté; Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'homme; Midi Libre; Minority Rights Group International; The New Humanitarian; Quotidien d'Oran; Radio France internationale; Reuters;; SOS femmes en détresse; Le Temps d'Algérie; Transparency International; La Tribune; UN – UNDP, UNHCR, Refworld; US – Embassy in Algeria, Library of Congress, Overseas Security Advisory Council; Voice of America.