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Berbers in Algeria usually keep their unhappiness to themselves, but their discontent sometimes boils over. The death of a Berber boy while in the gendarmerie's custody on April 18, 2001, for example, ignited a series of protests and disturbances that a month later had led to a hundred deaths and prompted tens of thousands of Berber women to take to the streets of Tizi Ouzou, the effective Berber capital of Algeria. In addition to protesting police violence, they demanded that the government withdraw the gendarmerie from the Berber-speaking region.

The numbers of Berber deaths may pale in the face of the estimated 100,000 from Islamist violence, but the problem is a major one. The strongly secular Berbers (or, in their own language, Amazigh) are protesting a range of indignities: "State suppression of Amazigh identity and language combined with the common ingredients of poverty, social malignancy, oppression and corruption, prepared the fuse, which was ignited by the murder of an innocent teenager."1

For deep background on this contemporary problem, The Berbers and the Islamic State is a good place to start. Shatzmiller's collected articles explain skillfully, based on much original research, the uneasy relations of Berbers to Islam and the state over the course of a millennium. Already by the eleventh century, she notes, the Berbers had taken over the state in North Africa, but they also experienced a cultural alienation from what she calls the "intellectual onslaught of the Islamic and Arabic norms."

1 Blanca Madani, "Algeria: Stronghold of the Pouvoir," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, May 2001,