Algeria: racism looming over Mozabite minority

Berber group protesting against Arab violence in south

07 July, 14:27

    (ANSAmed) - ROME, JULY 7- Mozabite people, a Berber ethnic group, were the absolute majority - politically, socially and economically strong - in a number of important southern Algerian provinces until independence from France.

    That golden age is over for this proud population of Berbers, as proven by the language they talk. Now, with pride and outrage, they are taking to the streets to ask central authorities in Algiers to end a wave of violence over the past ten months, which the minority is convinced is racially-motivated.

    In Algiers, in front of the press house, as well as in other Algerian provinces, dozens of community members have protested to recall to Premier Sellal his government's many broken promises.

    The situation has turned more violent at the end of last year, when clashes between Mozabite and Chamba Arab factions have become more frequent and more violent. Over the past five decades, the community has boosted its presence in provinces once inhabited almost exclusively by the Mozabite minority, which now feels in danger.

    When night falls, the communities' different neighbourhoods are guarded by groups of youths who are ready to signal the arrival of ''enemies'' who often vandalise and ransack homes and stores.

    The last protest of the Mozabite community followed the murder last Friday of a 19-year-old who was reportedly killed because he rode his motorcycle through Ghardaia, a forbidden district for the minority. Yassa's death, according to his community, brought the number of victims attacked by Arabs to nine.

    Mozabite people also claim their traditional districts are increasingly surrounded as housing for the Champa population is being built around them.

    They are demanding more protection for their community and their places of worship, including a number of mausoleums, which have been destroyed. And the tension between the two sides is also strong on web forums, where tones are harsh and racism looms. (ANSAmed)
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