Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Ethnic Groups In Algeria

Algerians generally identify as being of combined Arab and Berber ancestry, with Turks, French, and Sub-Saharan Africans being notable minority groups in the country.
Algeria is Africa's largest country. It is located between Tunisia and Morocco along the Mediterranean coast. Although the country has a vast land area, covering 2,381,741 square kilometers which are almost equivalent to 3.5 times the size of Texas, it has a relatively small population of 40.4 million residents. The population is predominantly made of Berbers, who are the indigenous people of Algeria, and a few minority groups such as Turkish people, French, Italians, and Spaniards.

5. Arabs and Berbers

Berbers make up the largest ethnic group in Algeria with over 90% of the population having Berber origins. However, most Berbers identify as Arabs due to the Arab influence since the conquests of the 7th and 8th Centuries. Initially, Berbers' culture was influenced by the Romans and Greeks who occupied the North African territory. The Romans and Greeks brought Christianity to the region. In the 7th Century, the Umayyad Empire from Syria expanded its territory to North Africa. As a result, Arabs took over North Africa from the Roman and Greek occupiers. Islam was introduced in the region. The Arabs were quite aggressive in "Arabizing" the Berbers, and apparently, they succeeded. Berbers engaged in a variety of economic activities from agriculture, nomadic pastoralism, pottery, weaving, and long distance trade. A small population of Berbers still speaks the Berber language while majority speak Arab or European languages.

4. Turkish

The Turkish community in Algeria is a minority group estimated to number close to two million people. The Turks came with the establishment of the Ottoman Algeria in the 16th Century. The Turk's language, lifestyle, and religion were viewed as elite and different from the indigenous culture. Intermarriage between the Turks and the locals was highly restricted to preserve the Turkish culture. However, some Turkish men married local women and children born out those marriages are referred to as Kouloughli. Due to over three centuries of occupying Algeria, the Turks have influenced Algeria's architecture, cuisine, music, and literature. Equally, they have adopted Algerian customs and language. Turks in Algeria are concentrated in the major cities.

3. French and Other Europeans

Europeans of French, Spanish, and Italian ancestry comprise a small portion of Algeria's population. They are the group that remained after Algeria gained independence from France in 1962. These European settlers owned large farms and businesses during the French rule in Algeria. Despite their minority status, they enjoyed economic benefits more than the indigenous people of Algeria. The Europeans primarily practice Judaism or Christianity, in contrast to the majority of Algerians who are Muslims.

2. Sub-Saharan Africans and Other Groups

Small groups of Sub-Saharan African and Asiatic communities form significant minorities in Algeria. The Saho people are an example of the Afro-Asiatic community. The Sub-Saharan Africans have been fully assimilated into the Algerian culture, and therefore little of their culture remains to date.

1. Inter-Ethnic Relations in Algeria

Algeria has a very limited degree of ethnic diversity among its populace. The majority Arab-Berbers dominate over the minority groups. Furthermore, intermarriages between the ethnic groups have led to a decline in distinct minority groups. The nation is predominantly made of Sunni Muslims and very few Christians and Jews. In the past, during the French colonial rule, Europeans enjoyed preferential treatment which led to the independence war in the 1960s. Additionally, there was racially motivated conflict between Berbers and the native black population. Berbers considered themselves as nobles, and the blacks belonged to the lower level.
By Benjamin Elisha Sawe
*culled from www.worldatlas.com

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