The word "Kabyles" is derived from the Arabic word qabila (plural qaba'il) for "tribes." It is used in European languages for the Berber groups stemming from the ancient Sanhaja stock. The Kabyles inhabit the northern Algerian mountain region extending from about Algiers, or the Mtitja plain, eastward to the Oued al-Kabir. It is divided by the Soummam River valley into a western section, called Greater Kabylia, or Kabylia of the Jbal Jurjura, with the capital town of Tizi Ouzou, and an eastern section, called Lesser Kabylia, or Kabylia of the Jbal Babor. By extension, the name of the largest group in the Jurjura, the Zwawa (Zouaoua in French), is often applied to the entire Kabyle population.
   At the start of the 10th century, from the midst of the Kutama tribe in the Lesser Kabylia emerged the Fatimid dynasty. However, for the following four centuries or so, the Kabyle people seem to have remained withdrawn in the seclusion of their mountains, untouched by the stormy history of Ottoman and European competition. At the time, the population appears grouped in three "states": the sultanate of Kuko (a village of the Aït Yahya) in the Jurjura, extending down to the coast with the small port of Azzefun; the sultanate of Labes (Banu Abbas) in the Lesser Kabylia, founded by marabouts, with Qal`at Banu `Abbas as the seat of the strong clan of the Banu Muqrani; and the principality of the Banu `Abd al-Jabbar on the coastal area east of Bijaya (as well as the Zwawa confederation). They were all drawn into the struggle between Spain and the Ottoman Empire for supremacy in this part of the Mediterranean, which ended in the demise of the Hafsid dynasty in 1575 and the establishment of the Turkish regency in Algiers.
   The occupation by France of Algiers in 1830 and of strategic points on the coast, soon followed by the withdrawal of the Turks from Algeria, opened new chapter in Kabyle history. In general, the Kabyles refused to become a party to the long-drawn-out combat between the French and Emir `Abd al-Qadir, suspecting both of designs running counter to that particularism that they felt to be the essence of their social and moral foundations. In 1871, on the defeat of France by Germany, a new revolt, instigated by the Muqrani clan, rapidly spread throughout the Soummam Valley and, under the call to jihad by Sheikh Mohammad Amzian Ibn al-Haddad, stirred the entire Kabylia country into violent resistance. The revolt was repressed after fierce fighting, and the French imposed draconian measures, such as the imposition of heavy contributions, the confiscation of large tracts of landed property that was distributed to French settlers, and the abolition of the autonomy of the villages, which were placed under French military control.
   During the pacification stages, village self-governance was reestablished, confiscated land was repurchased, and new rural schools offered a few the road to higher education. Thus there emerged in the mid-20th century a generation of teachers whose modest review, La Voix des Humbles, opened a space for the most varied philosophic and intellectual currents. Soon also institutes and universities in Algeria and France trained a Kabyle intellectual elite at home as much in its native mountains as in the world of French letters and the professions: the writer and literary critic Jean Amrouche; the poet and writer Mouloud Feraoun; the writer Yacine Kateb; the lawyers Ahmed Bumanjel, Hashim Sharif, and `Abd al-Rahman Farès; and the physicians Dr. Charqawi Mustapha and Dr. Mohammad Lamine Dabbaghin, all of whom sooner or later joined the ranks of the Algerian Revolution. Kabyle, too, were some of the revolutionary leaders, such as Aït Hammouda Amirouche, `Omar Amran, Abbane Ramdane, Belkacem Krim, and Hocine Aït Ahmed. It was in the Kabyle Mountains and during the Soummam Valley Congress in 1956 that the foundation was laid down for the military and political structure of the revolution and, after the war, the organization of the Algerian Republic.
   Historically, the Kabyles are peasants and more particularly cultivators of fruit trees, mainly figs and olives. They dwell in moderatesized villages (thaddart), and they are organized into democratic communities where authority resides in the hands of the village assembly called thajma`t. Kabyle land has poor and stony soil, limiting the productivity of crops and trees, making most of the peasantry dependent on remittances from their members working abroad, where they constitute the majority of the Algerian labor force in France, Belgium, and Germany.
   See also Rahmaniya.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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