January 12 coincides with the Amazigh New Year, 2969, known as “Yennayer”. For the first time officially approved as a national holiday by the authorities, Yennayer marks the first day of the agrarian calendar used by Berbers across North Africa, the native inhabitants of the region.
This morning, Algiers’ city centre awoke to the rhythm of the festivities, music, dance and parades for the celebration.
Karen Rose, wife of US Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher, did not miss the opportunity to congratulate Algerians on this occasion.
A day marked by controversy
Although most welcome and celebrate the Berber holiday, many, particularly hardcore islamists, have condemned the holiday and called for its cancellation. Some imams have even issues fatwas forbidding anyone from celebrating the Berber new year.
We met Youssef S. in Algiers this morning amongst the crowd gathered around the festivities and asked him about what he thought about the controversy surrounding this holiday, he dismissed it as:
“We’re all Algerians at the end of the day, some want to divide us but they will not succeed. For these Islamists everything is haram, if one was to follow what they say, the only thing you would be allowed to do is stay at home and pray all day. We’ve become accustomed to their nonsense. Besides, Berbers are the original inhabitants of our the whole region, and if these critics don’t like it, they can go back where they came from, which is to say the Middle-East”.