Amazigh, also known as Berber, are an indigenous group living across North and West Africa. In Algeria, they are referred to as the Algerian State of the Amazigh. Depending on the town or region. Most Amazigh of Algeria live in the north-eastern town of Kabylia. Some also live in the eastern Aurès region, the coastal Chenwa region or the southern M’zab region.
In 2019, Algeria experienced significant political instability due primarily to a power struggle at the highest level.
When the President of the Algerian Republic, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82 years of age, announced in February that he intended to run for a fifth consecutive term of office, popular protests first broke out six days later in Kherrata, in the east of Kabylie.
In the days that followed, further demonstrations were organised in different towns around Algeria. People from across Algeria, including the Amazigh regions, protested to demand an end to the system that has governed Algeria for more than 60 years.
Mr. Bouteflika was forced to step down as President on 2 April 2019, to be immediately replaced by an interim President.
On 21 and 28 June 2019, police arrested at least 41 people, including one woman and 40 men, for carrying the Amazigh flag at different protests across the country demanding “political change.” Of these, 18 were arrested in Algiers in two separate groups of five and 13 protesters, four were arrested in Oran and three were arrested in Tamanrasset on 21 June. Another 16 protesters were arrested on 27 and 28 June, says Amnesty International on a statement.
On 5 July 2019, Amnesty International stated that: “Arresting, harassing and intimidating a person or prosecuting them simply because they are carrying a flag constitutes a flagrant violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful association and of the cultural rights of the Amazigh community, these rights being guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution and by the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Algeria is a party.”
Ten of the Amazigh prosecuted for carrying their flag were quickly released, particularly in Tamanrasset, Constantine, Chlef and Annaba, but some 40-odd more were sentenced to prison terms of between six months and two years. This resulted in the European Parliament adopting a resolution on Algeria on 28 November 2019 in which it called particularly for “the immediate and unconditional release of 42 protesters arrested for carrying the Amazigh flag.”