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Kahina
Also called: Dihya, Kahya


(7th century) Female Berber leader of the Jarawa people of the Aurès Mountains (Algeria and Tunisia). She was apparently from the Algerian part of the Aurès.
Among our most important sources are the writings of Ibn Khaldoun. Although most accounts about her are legendary, she was most certainly an historical person.
What can be considered reliable is that she was a prophetess, a profession befitting Berber culture and religion. Kahina's religion has been a central issue, was she of traditional Berber religion, or was she a Christian or a Jew? Some also suggest that she was Muslim. In any case, there is no form of substantial evidence for any theory.
She was a central figure in resistance to the Muslim takeover of Afriqiya, the lands corresponding to modern Tunisia and northeastern Algeria, the richest part of North Africa at this time. For a period of 4 or 5 years in the late 680's, she was effectively the ruler of a divided nation of the Aurès and the surrounding regions. But her political skills were not good enough to win the support and allegiance of the many strong local communities, so she resorted to a forceful policy of suppression, which was no more succesful but rather undermined her support and position. When she finally faced her archenemy, the Egyptian general Hassan ibn al-Nu'man for a final battle, her forces were quickly defeated and she died.
Kahina has been a popular figure in both popular storytelling as well as in political propaganda. She was both used by the French colonialists, promoting Berber identity facing Arab culture, as well as by Muslim nationalists promoting North African nations' rights to establishing their own states. Also feminists have used her to illustrate the potential that women have in society.

Biography
Early 7th century: Kahina is born in Aures Mountains.
680's: Kahina becomes the front figure or perhaps even leader of a union of Berber tribes facing the invading Muslims into Afriqiya.
688?: Kahina's army defeats the Muslim army under leadership of the Egyptian general Hassan ibn al-Nu'man, forcing him into exile in Cyrenaica.
693?: Hassan returns, now with a stronger army. In this second battle between them, Kahina is quickly defeated. Kahina dies either fighting or committed suicide.




By Tore Kjeilen