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WHO IS FERHAT MEHENNI?

Ferhat Mehenni the president of the Kabyle government. Portrait

WHO IS FERHAT MEHENNI?
By Mairead Tagg, Scottish Independence Activist.

I was honoured to meet with the provisional president of Kabylie, currently living in exile in Paris after attempts on his life and persecution by the Algerian authorities culminating in the assassination of his son Ameziane in Paris.

He is a strong supporter of Scottish independence and is focused on supporting the independence struggles of other movements notably Catalonia and the Canary Isles. He is charismatic friendly and charming and works tirelessly to build links of solidarity and support with Scotland Catalonia and other people without a state

Ferhat Mehenni is a Kabyle artist, a political activist and the founder and first President of the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK). Since 1 June 2010 he has been the President of the Provisional Government of Kabylia, a government in exile that the movement set up in France. He has been a Laureate of the Gusi Peace Prize since 23 July 2013.

Background
Mehenni was born on 5 March 1951 in Illoula Oumalou, Tizi Ouzou Province, Algeria. Having graduated from the University of Algiers with a degree in political science, Mehenni made his first steps into the world of music in 1973 by winning the Algiers Modern Music Festival’s first prize. It was soon after this success that he began his career as a protest singer and political activist.
He was notably hostile towards the Algerian government and extremists; this led to him being arrested 13 times, imprisoned for three years, and tortured by government forces.
After the Black Spring massacre in Kabylie which cost the lives of 128 unarmed Kabyles, (triggered by the Algerian army killing of a young Kabyle man, Massinissa Guermah in detention), he established the MAK, Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia, a political movement calling for political autonomy in Kabylia. In 2015, the MAK movement passed over from the large autonomy claim to Self-determination.
The assassination of his eldest son (Améziane Mehenni) in 2004 is regarded by some as a punishment to his fight for autonomy, though others suspect it was a case of mistaken identity and that Ferhat was the real target.

Music
Chants berbères de lutte et d’espoir “Berber songs of struggle and hope” (1983)
Tuγac n ddkir “Songs of steel, love and liberty” (1994)
Tuγac n tmes d waman “Songs of Fire and Water” (1996 and 2001)
I Tmurt n Leqvayel “Hymn to Kabylia” (2002)
Adekker d usirem “Requiem and Hope” (2004)
(Mehenni comes from an oral tradition where the song acts like newspapers or political speeches in European societies.)

Ferhat Mehenni is primarily a political activist who, living in a society with strong oral traditions, uses music to convey those ideas. It is quite difficult to separate the politician from the singer.

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