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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Police move to block Berber march
Berber riots
Kabylie province has been engulfed in violence
Police in Algeria have blocked off main roads from the Berber province of Kabylie to the capital Algiers in an attempt to prevent an anti-government march.

The march was called by Berber organisations to protest at the opening of an international youth festival in Algiers.

The Berbers want the festival called off as a mark of respect for the dozens of young Berbers who died during unrest in the Kabylie region earlier this year.

They say the authorities intend to use the 15th World Youth Festival to win international approval and hide their poor human rights record.

March banned

The police successfully prevented a 5 July march from going ahead by sealing off roads around the capital.

They have banned today's march, and are searching all vehicles heading towards the capital from the Kabylie province, where the town of Tizi Ouzou witnessed pitched battles earlier this year.

Map showing Kabylie region around Tizi Ouzou

Berber activists say they will go ahead with the march, despite the tightened security measures.

One of the organisers, Mustapha Mazouzi, said: "It will be a peaceful march, and we won't respond to provocations".

Violence in the Kabylie region, east of Algiers, erupted in April when a young Berber died in police custody.

More than 50 people are said to have been killed by security forces in Kabylie during the protests from April to June.

Cultural rights

In June, a march of up to one million people to Algiers left several dead.

The Algerian President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, set up a commission of enquiry to investigate the causes of the unrest and the way the police responded.

Berber activists say they have no confidence the commission will unearth the true facts behind the violence.

Berbers are the original inhabitants of Algeria.

They make up almost one third of its 30 million population.

They have been calling for two decades for their Berber dialect to be recognised as an official language alongside Arabic.

The Berber demands for greater cultural recognition have spread to other parts of Algeria, and led to a widespread call for greater democracy.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dr Hugh Roberts, Algeria expert
"The government can clearly not concede"

algerian timeline puffobx
See also:

07 Jul 01 | Middle East
Algeria violence kills 16
05 Jul 01 | Middle East
Algeria shuts out Berber protesters
24 Sep 00 | Middle East
Algeria violence returns after lull
13 Jan 00 | Middle East
Analysis: An unstable peace
12 Jul 00 | Middle East
Algerian anti-rebel drive failing
20 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
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