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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Berbers protest in Algeria
Berber protester stones police in Tizi Ouzou
Berbers are still fighting for their rights
Thousands of Algerian Berbers have brought towns to a standstill in the eastern region of Kabylie, in a mass demonstration for cultural and linguistic rights.

They were marking the anniversary of riots in 1980 in the provincial capital, Tizi Ouzou, when protesters demanded recognition for their separate identity from the Arabic-speaking majority.

A general strike closed down businesses and shops in Tizi Ouzou, Bejaia and Bouira on Sunday and in Algiers, several hundred students also demonstrated.

The protests were mainly peaceful but riot police clashed with students outside a theatre in Tizi Ouzou when a 10,000-strong march was diverted away from a prison holding Berber leader Belaid Abrika.

In the Algerian capital, student protesters were prevented by police from leaving campus.

Berber protester stones police in Tizi Ouzou
Marchers in Bouira carried black banners and shouted slogans including "Release the prisoners", "No to oppression" and "No to the arrest of youths and demonstrators".

The demonstrations also commemorated protests in April 2001, when dozens of people were killed in clashes with police.

Berbers are believed to make up about 20% of Algeria's population of 30 million.

Demonstrations to mark the Berber Spring are an annual event.

Country profile: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Algeria
03 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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