Algeria makes Arabic official language on independence day

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Angry Berbers remained shuttered inside their homes to protest a law that took effect Sunday making Arabic the only official language in Algeria.
The introduction of the controversial law overshadowed Sunday’s 36th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France.
The law bans all languages except Arabic from official use — including French, which is widely used in this former French colony in North Africa.
Berbers, an ancient group of tribes who make up a third of Algeria’s population, have long fought to preserve their language — Berber, also known as Tamazight — against such efforts.
Many Algerians consider the law an attempt by the military-backed government to win the support of Islamic movements.
Since 1992, the Algerian authorities have been fighting an Islamic insurgency that broke out after the government canceled parliamentary elections Muslim parties were set to win. The conflict has left an estimated 75,000 people dead.
Storekeepers shut their shops and the streets were empty Sunday in regions populated by Berbers, who largely followed a call by the Berber Cultural Movement to stay inside in protest.
The law requires government offices, state and private enterprises and political parties to use Arabic in all official correspondence and to speak Arabic during their deliberations. It stipulates that the full introduction of Arabic in higher education be completed by 2000.
Political parties opposed to the law want the government to give Berber a status equivalent to that of Arabic and to permit French to be used at work.