• Indigenous peoples in Algeria

    Indigenous peoples in Algeria

    The Amazigh are the Indigenous Peoples of Algeria that has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Still, the Indigenous status of the Amazigh is not recognised by the Algerian government, and they continue to face a number of challenges.


The Amazighs are the Indigenous People of Algeria and other countries of North Africa. However, the Algerian government does not recognise the Indigenous status of the Amazigh and refuses to publish statistics on their population. Because of this, there is no official data on the number of Amazighs in Algeria.

On the basis of demographic data drawn from the territories in which Tamazight-speaking populations live, associations defending and promoting the rights of Amazigh people estimate the Tamazight-speaking population to be around 12 million people, a third of Algeria’s total population.

The Amazigh peoples

The Amazighs of Algeria are concentrated in five territories: Kabylia in the north-east (Kabyls represent around 50% of Algeria’s Amazigh population), Aurès in the east, Chenoua, a mountainous region on the Mediterranean coast to the west of Algiers, M’zab in the south (Taghardayt), and Tuareg territory in the Sahara (Tamanrasset, Adrar, Djanet).

Many small Amazigh communities also exist in the south-west (Tlemcen, Bechar, etc.) and in other places scattered throughout the country. It is also important to note that large cities such as Algiers, Oran, Constantine, etc., are home to several hundred thousand people who are historically and culturally Amazigh but who have been partly Arabised over the years, succumbing to a gradual process of acculturation and assimilation.

Tamazight, the language of the Amazigh peoples

The Indigenous populations can primarily be distinguished from Arab inhabitants by their language (Tamazight) but also by their way of life and their culture (clothes, food, songs and dances, beliefs, etc.). After decades of demands and popular struggles, the Amazigh language was finally recognised as a “national and official language” in Algeria’s Constitution in 2016.

But, in the facts, the Amazigh identity continues to be marginalised and folklorised by state institutions. Officially, Algeria is still presented as an “Arab country” and “land of Islam”, and anti-Amazigh laws are still in force (such as the 1992 Law of arabisation).

Main challenges for the Amazigh peoples

Internationally, Algeria has ratified the main international standards, and it voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. However these texts remain unknown to the vast majority of citizens, and thus not applied, which has led to the UN treaty-monitoring bodies making numerous observations and recommendations to Algeria urging it to meet its international commitments.

The Amazigh peoples face arbitrary arrests in different regions of the country. For example, in 2016, the total number of Mozarabic and Amazigh people in the M'zab region arrested and sent to jail normally without trial was around 140. In protest against their illegal detention and inhuman detention conditions, some prisoners of Mozabite resorted to repeated hunger strikes.

In Kabylia, traditional activities and events of the Amazigh organized by non-governmental organizations such as Yennayer, Amazigh Year Year or Amazigh Spring, have been interrupted, forbidden or prevented by force by the police. Members of the Amazigh World Congress (CMA) living in Kabylia have been arrested, interrogated and then released several times. In police custody, they were threatened with imprisonment and violence against their families if they do not stop their activism.

The obstacles in relation to free movement on the Algerian border with northern Mali and the Niger continue to impede traditional exchanges between indigenous populations and deprive them of family and community relations.

Indigenous World 2020: Algeria

The Amazigh are the Indigenous people of Algeria and other countries of North Africa who have been present in these territories since ancient times. The Algerian government, however, does not recognise the Indigenous status of the Amazigh and refuses to publish statistics on their population. Because of this, there is no official data on the number of Amazigh in Algeria.

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