The conglomerate Berber tribes are the proud natives of North Africa
from immemorial time to the present day, including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria,
Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and the Canary Islands. Current
estimates give 30 million Berbers still alive in North Africa today. They have
been denied their basic and advanced human rights, as they were persecuted to
varying degrees in most of the above countries. Even their own language, Tamazight,
is yet to be officially recognised in their own countries, despite the recent
and encouraging developments that took place in Algeria and Morocco, which did
allow some limited institutionalisation of Berber but nothing official as yet.
One cannot argue with the oppressive despots of the region at large, but
uprisings in North Africa, Moroccans at last overwhelmingly voted for a referendum
to recognise Berber language as an official language in the constitution, while
Libya's NTC made no mention of "Berber" as an official language in
its unjust "Constitutional Declaration", despite
the Berbers' pivotal role in capturing crucial Tripoli.
The perplexed term Berberism is generally used to describe the thriving "political
movement(s) of the Berber populations of North Africa". Berberists are the
Berber activists who campaign for greater cultural and political freedom for
the Berbers or Imazighen of North Africa. Their initial activities primarily
revolved around cultural revival, picking the loose pieces, and increasing awareness
of the Berbers' persecuted state; followed by an exuberant growth of cultural
associations to document the great efforts of the pioneers and the martyrs of
the Berbers' cultural revolution – the peaceful revolution, of course; before
they began to internationally campaign for the recognition of their unique identity
and Berber language Tamazight as one of the official languages of the
various countries of North Africa, as well as FOR an immediate end to the economic
neglect they were made to endure under "imposed" dictatorship, corrupt
monarchies, and colonial intruders. Thence the Amazigh World Congress (AWC)
was created in 1995, in exile, allegedly to organise the political and cultural
movements of the diaspora, and to fight oppression in a jubilant world seemingly
too alien to them and to their dire needs.
The Imazighen of North Africa have suffered for decades,
if not for centuries, from exclusion, atrocities and marginalisation at the hands
of the highest authorities and their instruments of brutality and security agencies;
imprisoning, torturing and assassinating writers, intellectuals and Berberists,
and collectively punishing whole communities for failing to abandon their "identity" and
embrace that of tyranny instead; eventually yielding neglect, poverty, alienation
(in their own homes), and the agonising attempts to destroy their
historical legacy – the untold saga of human's longest misery in history – the
massacre of identity.
The Berbers' struggle for freedom, especially during the last
50 years or so, seemed to have gone unnoticed by the outside world; but all
of a sudden the Berbers were expected (and encouraged) to take part in "violence",
in the so called "Arab
Spring", and for that they were as always happy
to follow for the common good (only to be let down once again); while at the
same time still commemorate "The
Black Spring", in peace, in
the marginalised background, in
wait of the Berber
else known as Tafsuyt
– the sacred April of Isis.
No doubt, the right to self-govern is the aim of some Berber organisations,
as it is natural to be in charge of one's destiny; but the
majority of the Berbers have no separatist tendencies nor the intention
to divide any unity for that matter – if that is the issue troubling
others who fully cherish their freedom and dignity. Like any other
human society on earth, the Berbers do dearly cherish their own identity and
pride and need the same human rights others take for granted. Full stop.
For the enemies of freedom, peace and equality, one can only say that "Self-determination" does
not mean dividing a country at all but uniting it on equal
basis. And for those who say autonomy has no wide public support, only voting
can settle the score – if and only if the Berbers were allowed by dictators
and moderators to hold a referendum, of course. Egalitarian as they might be, the
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does guarantee the Berbers
and all other indigenous peoples from around the impoverished world the right
to self-govern. Full stop.
The Berbers' cheerful attitude to life and their profound appreciation of
nature and freedom combined with their self-determination will
ultimately see them thrive away from war, poverty and metamorphous
tyranny – if left alone; and hence their natural desire to run their
own affairs according to their own values, away from all
ironies to dissolve them into submission and
plight them with wars.
The Berbers together with the Arabs of Libya were proud and united in their
recent uprising against
tyranny, and hopefully both mutually will recognise the
full identity & integrity
of the other, living together and equally dignified under the umbrella of One
United Libya – simply known as Libya.
* * *
R.M. Blench writes, in Archaeology And Language, “Linguistic
nationalism still engenders a rich emotional harvest at present, often for good
reasons, since the suppression of minority languages is commonly a prominent
feature of totalitarian governments. Democracies sometimes encourage voluntary
euthanasia among minorities through neglect" (Trigger 1989, Vol. 1,
p. 3). Under such circumstances it is not surprising to hear suicide figures
are in the increase amongst Canadian natives, for which analysts blamed poverty
and the state of persecution they were subjected to, like having 90% unemployment
(at the time of reporting) and schools closing down for nine months a year. When
natives resort to committing suicide because of political persecution imposed
by any kind of conquerors and of neglect and lack of economic
development, then one must expect people first to get ‘bored of it’, then
attempt to put things right, once and for all – if they could. Only the collective
will of the people can do that. This could happen anywhere indigenous minorities
and abandoned natives continue to suffer the modern age across the five continents
of the civilised world. What is it that makes us humans if it is not
human language? Take that away from any mortal community and you will end up
with nothing but "mere animals".
The Main Berber Political Movements In North Africa:
The following is a list of the main Berber political parties and groups
found in North Africa. See the timeline below for more information about each
one of these:
AA: The Provisional Government of Kabylia (Anavad
ABM: Armed Berber Movement, Algeria.
ADC: Democratic Alliance for Change (Alliance
démocratique pour le changement), Mali.
ARLA: Revolutionary Army for the Liberation
of Azawad (Armeé revolutionnare de libération de l'Azwad), Mali.
Arouch: Berber Arouch Citizens Movement (Mouvement
citoyen des Aârchs), Algeria.
ATNMC: Northern Mali Tuareg Alliance for Change (Alliance
touareg nord mali pour le changement), Mali.
CMA: World Amazigh Congress (Congrès
mondial amazigh), Tamazgha ('North Africa').
AMA: Amazigh World Assembly: AWA (l’Assemblée
Mondiale Amazighe), new name of CMA.
CRA: Coordination of the Armed Resistance (Coordinasion
de Resistance Armeé), Niger.
FFR: Relief Forces Front (Front
des forces de redressement).
FFS: Socialist Forces Front (Front des
forces socialistes), Algeria.
FLAA: Liberation Front Air & Azawagh (Front
de libération de l’Aïr et de l’Azawagh), Niger.
FLT: Front for the Liberation of Tamoust, Niger.
FPLN: Popular Front for the Liberation of Niger,
FPN: Niger Patriotic Front (Front patriotique
IT: International Tuareg (internationale
MAK: Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia (Mouvement
pour l'autonomie de la Kabylie), Algeria.
MCB: Berber Cultural Movement (Mouvement
culturel berbère), Algeria.
MFUA: The United Movements and Fronts of Azawad
(Movements et Fronts Unities de l'Azwad), Mali.
MNB: The National Popular Movement (Mouvement
national populaire), Morocco.
MNJ: Niger Movement for Justice (Le Mouvement
des nigériens pour la justice), Niger.
MNLA: The National Movement for the Liberation
of Azawad (Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azawad), Mali.
MOREHOB: Revolutionary Movement of the Blue
Men (Movimiento revolucionario de los Hombres Azules), Mauritania.
MPLA: Popular Movement for Liberation of Azawad (Mouvement
populaire de libération de l'Azawad), Libya.
MTNM: The Tuareg Movement of Northern Mali,
ORA: Organisation of the Armed Resistance (Organization
de Resistance Armeé), Niger.
PDAM: Moroccan Amazigh Democratic
Party (Parti démocrate amazigh marocain), Morocco.
PEMI: Moroccan Ecologist Party – Greens
(Parti écologiste marocain – Izigzawn), new name of PDAM.
RCD: Rally for Culture and Democracy (Rassemblement
pour la culture et la démocratie), Algeria.
SCAL: The Supreme Council for the Amazigh
of Libya, Libya.
UNAP: Union of North African Peoples, Tamazgha
Map of Tripoli, with most
of Cyrenaica and Fezzan being part of colonial Egypt.
The Tripolitanian Republic (Aljumhuriya Attarabulsiya), also known
as the Tripolitania Republic, was created on the 16th
of November 1918 as the first indigenous republic – the first ever republic
in the so-called Arab world, and the first local attempt to create a "secular" state
that is inclusive of all the local tribes. The republic was created by the Berber
resistance leader Sulayman al-Barouni, from Jado (Nafousa Mountain); and
Ramadan al-Suwayhli, also a resistance leader, from Mesratha, after they met
on the 16th of November in Msellata. Four members were then elected to the
"Government Council": (1) Sulayman al-Barouni; (2) Ramadan al-Suwayhli;
(3) Ahmed Almarid; (4) Abd Annabi Ben Alkhair. They had also elected an "Advisory
Council" made of 23 members. The founders in turn informed the Italian government,
the president of America, the British prime minister and the French president,
but their responses were negative, with the Italians dropping leaflets intimidating
the Libyans to steer away from such independent aspirations!
On the 8th of February 1919 the Italians wrote to the new government of the
Tripolitanian Republic informing them that (dangerous) Sulayman al-Barouni is
better advised to leave Libya and head for Turkey instead; while on the 26th
of February 1919 an Italian general informed the Libyans that Italy has the weapons,
the arms and the army to intervene, but instead he advised them to resolve the
issue peacefully. They have resolved the issue peacefully and they have created
the republic. What else was there to resolve apart from 'colonialism'?
a number of negotiations followed, culminating in "Benyadem Peace Accord" and
the announcement of "The Primary Law" (The Constitution) for the Republic
on May 1919; which allowed the Libyans their civil and political rights. Following
the constitution, an 8-member government was appointed for the Republic, but
it did not include Sulayman al-Barouni. Unfortunately the Tripolitanian
Republic never gained the full support in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference,
and subsequently "it" disappeared from the pages of history by 1923–but still
is alive in people's hearts and in living memory.
As is often the case during conflict, there are conflicting reports regarding
the failure of the republic. The Conference of Gharyan in 1920 attempted to resolve
the issue, but somehow nothing materialised, except the focus was shifted towards
Cyrenaica instead. There are those who say the Italians continued to support
the Arabs as well as the Berbers against each other (the classic divide and rule
conspiracy), leading to the Italians taking over the whole country; while on
the other hand there are those who say the Berbers in their cooperation with
all sides put their Berber-issue behind and instead concentrated on the presumed "national
unity" (of a country that never existed). But the truth of the matter is
that the Italians had their eyes set on Libya, and as others still do today,
they just could not let go.
In 1922 the Italians asked Sulayman al-Barouni to
leave his country ('Libya') after they accused him of inciting "division" among
the Libyans. Forced to abandon the country he fought for, without even saying
good bye to his beloved ones, Sulayman al-Barouni sailed for Turkey, but after
discovering the Kamali coup had changed everything, he attempted to go to Syria,
Egypt and Tunisia, but the British and the French were said to have had prevented
him from doing so. Crossing Rumania he went to Europe instead (under a false
name: Sulayman Ben Abdullah Alothmani). Upon arriving in Paris (France), he found
himself imprisoned within the walls of the "Enlightenment Capital",
after the French government discovered his real identity and barred him from
After his repeated pleas for the French government to let him leave came to
no fruitful conclusion, he managed to obtain another passport with his false
name and sailed for Tunis in 1923, only to be forced back to France. From embassy
to another, trying to find shelter in some country or another, the Berber leader
spent two years attempting to leave France, but according
to this book the French government was blocking all his attempts to visit
either Algeria, Tunisia or Syria, while the British government refused to let
him go anywhere near Egypt! The last thing one wants is to set loose a Berber
revolutionary leader to further destabilise the "doorstep". Eventually
he was allowed to go to Mecca to perform the duty of Alhej (pilgrimage), after
he wrote to Hasan Asharif in May 1924 – without allowing him to leave ship in
Alexandria en route to Saudi Arabia. He was welcomed in Arabia, where he was
awarded the medal of "Independence"; completed his duties; and left
for Oman, after the Arabian government had secured the approval of the British
for him. In Muscat, he fell ill, with malaria, and eventually collapsed upon
arriving in Mumbai (Bombay) on the 23rd of May 1940, after deciding to visit
India for treatment. When he recovered consciousness, before his "last" death,
he was reported to have said: z . . . m . . ., in reference to his daughter's
Flag of the Tripolitanian Republic (1918 – 1923).
Similar events were also taking place in Morocco about the same time. The Berber
Republic of the Rif, created by the Berbers
of Morocco in 1923, was brutally crushed by a combined Spanish-French army
before handing control of Morocco to the minority Arabs. And probably it
was the way the "Berber
Crisis" of 1949 was handled by the intruders that had prevented the
local Kabyles from creating a similar republic in Algeria. And the same applies
to Berber Azawad in Mali, where Tuareg Berbers were
lured into liberating their own "homeland" (occupied since 1894) only
to be later hijacked to provide the catalyst for it to be destroyed; after the
UN once again refused to recognise the new Berber state,
and instead moved in with air strikes in January 2013 not to eradicate the radicals
but only to "push themout", presumably for later
to chase. [Update: two years later, it was confirmed that most of them have
been indeed pushed out to lawless southern Libya after the UN's authorised bombing campaign
of Libya came to a disastrous conclusion.]
Had the Tripolitanian Republic survived, it probably would have been the
first ever state in North Africa in which both Berbers and Arabs were
fully recognised and equal before the law. No such state exists today; and no
such respected leader to emerge to date. By 1927 the Italians claimed
the Tripolitanian Republic for themselves, and instead declared it a separate
colony, and subsequently the capital city was moved from Gharyan to Tripoli;
keeping the Berber Mountain, likewise the Rif Mountain, out of the way.
The resistance in the east of Libya, on the other hand, was then rewarded
by "hanging" its
leader Omar Almukhtar in 1931– in humiliation before his own conquered people,
and king Idris fled to Egypt. By 1949 Sayyid Idris was assisted to proclaim
eastern Libya as "The Emirate of Cyrenaica", appointing himself
the Emir. But like before, the UN failed to recognise the new state of Cyrenaica;
and instead king Idris was installed the King of the whole of Libya (Cyrenaica
+ Tripolitania + Fezzan) in 1951.
During this period both Benghazi and Tripoli acted as official capitals, but
after the installation of Gaddafi in 1969 Tripoli became the only capital of
Libya. In 2012, after the removal of Gaddafi and the installation of the NTC,
Benghazi sought to restore a share of Tripoli's wealth and power
to Cyrenaica. Likewise Omar Mukhtar's reward, Benghazi is being heavily punished
with a systematic campaign of violence ever since "liberation" was prematurely
It seems destiny the events always succeed to circumvent, as it mattered
less if the imposed borders drawn across the map do reflect the cultural
boundaries and the ethnic identities of the region or not; needlessly resulting
in so many African indigenous communities being brutally split over several countries.
Many of these countries are now turning into "failed states", further
dispersing indigenous tribes as refugees across the war-torn zone. Maybe, one
day, someone, somewhere may display compassion and mercy instead.
In the year 1958, which the Berbers of Zuwarah call "Aseggas n Etthawret" ('Year
of The Revolution'), a full-fledged tribal war broke out between
the Berber Ait Willul natives of Zuwarah and the Arabs of nearby
settlements including Regdalin's. The war was not documented. However, the events
taking place at the time may point to the Italian bombardments of Zuwarah, where
the inhabitants were repeatedly bombed out of their homes and forced to flee
south to their farms in and around Regdalin and al-Jamil. Most of the land and
farms around and beyond these villages still belong to the Berbers of Zuwarah
to this day.
The picture described by Alan Ostler states that "The Italians
had again bombarded Zuara; but, when they tried to effect a landing, Musa Bimbashi
fought them off, for perhaps the sixth time . . ."They brought out air-ships
and dropped shells from them," the Kaimakam informed me "but
they have little luck". One of their shells fell upon a tent, and
bounded off, doing no harm. Others fell amongst a flock of goats . . .
All the women and children who were left are hiding in the palms round Rigdalin;
but it will be as it was before. Musa Bimbashi drives the Italians
away, and then the people come back slowly, and put their houses in order, if
they can find them. If not, they must go to the desert. So the women and
children suffer; but the fighting men are not at all affected" (The
Arabs in Tripoli, p. 310).
The clashes between the two sides in 2011 are definitely related
to "land", since the Berbers were prevented from reaching their farms
during the February War. The recent war between
the two sides involved heavy weapons including rockets and missiles, blasting
holes in civilian homes, but the war once again escaped the scrutiny of analysts
and the attention of the world and the new Libyan authorities.
The issue of human rights in Gaddafi's Libya, regardless of what had been
said, is best summarised by the Libyan constitution itself, which clearly states
under Article 1 of Chapter 1 [The State] that “Libya is an Arab
country” and that “the Libyan people are part of the Arab nation.”
The reality, of course, is that the native Libyans are not Arabs. They are Berbers who
call themselves Imazighen, and who despite being the natives
of Libya still campaign to this day for their full human and constitutional rights,
the right to
"identity", and the right to speak & write Tamazight –
denied to them by Article 2, which further declares that “Arabic is its official
language”, just as it was denied to them by the recent Constitutional Declaration
of 2011. Hence the first demand of the Libyan
Tamazight Congress calls for “The
official inclusion of Tamazight constitutionally as part of the Libyan national
identity and national culture.”
Arab critics saw these demands as a product of colonial cynicism, of
foreign agendas, instigated to divide and rule; and was the subject of a number
of lectures and political propaganda(s) in Libya, and elsewhere; in which one
repeatedly hears that the Berbers are the "original Arabs". For example, M. Mustafa
wrote: “Regarding research into the modern ancestry of the inhabitants of
the North African regions, the colonial French-Italian-English had concentrated
on splitting and distinguishing between both races, the Berbers and the Arabs." Then
he goes on to add that. "We write history on the basis of Libya being
part of the Arab world.” (History of Libya, p. 95, translation from Arabic.)
Sifaw: the poems and works of the Libyan poet
and scholar Said Sifaw Almah’rouq, from the Berber town of Jado, in Nafousa Mountain,
had similar effects in Libya to those produced by the Berber scholar Mouloud
Mammeri in Algeria, whom he met in 1971. Sifaw's work included a number of studies
about Tamazight grammar, language, and Berber mythology, especially his “Midnight
Voices”, a collection of fifteen Berber myths, in which he said, as I would translate:
“How can I rescue and preserve an oral tradition much hated and considered
a kind of superstition by its people?” His work was circulated (underground)
in Libya across the Nafousa Mountain, Zuwarah and Tripoli, while some of it was
published in Libyan official newspapers and cultural periodicals. Sifaw was a
stern Berberist afraid of absolutely nothing, and a true genius and natural leader,
who eventually paid the usual price of pride and freedom. Fifteen years
after Sifaw's tragic death, the Libyan Government attempted to put pressure on
the Moroccan government to block a lecture about one of Sifaw's books on the
18th of June 2009. Sifaw spoke of two kinds of colonialism: "modern colonialism" and "ancient
Ossan (Ussan): Berber activists from Nafousa
Mountain (Yefren) began circulating one of the first Berber publications in Libya.
The magazine was distributed secretly, from hand to hand. The magazine continued
throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, after which many of its members fled Libya
to live in exile.
In his speech on Berber tribalism and Libyan Berberism in August 1971, Gaddafi
had declared that those who did not believe the Berbers are "the true
and original Arabs" are “liars", and that the language called
the Berber language is a Himyaritic Language – very much like what
the IRCAM's agent was reported to have said last year in Yemen. John Wright has rightly replied:
“He may have meant 'Hamitic', but as
it is, the philologically false but politically attractive implication
that the Berber language is south Arabian in origin stands attributed to him
. . . it would seem that ethnology, like history and philology, could be suitably
amended for political ends to force all Libyans into the 'Arab' mould. The fact
nevertheless remains that the Berbers are indigenous North Africans, while the [Arabs] .
. . first arrived only in the seventh century AD (Libya, p. 198)".
The rise of Berberism in Libya in the 1970s was felt by the new government
as a dangerous movement that required an action. On the 15th of April
1973, young, energetic Gaddafi stormed the Berber coastal town of Zuwarah to
deliver his historic speech, in which he openly attacked the Berber identity
as "the enemy of the revolution", and subsequently distributed weapons
to people in his “weaponising the people” program.
The Berbers were baffled, while bemused behind closed doors, by the harsh
comments made by the self-styled "Brother-Leader", as they felt they
are as true Libyans as all other Libyans, if not the natives, and as they did
not understand why their (sacred) language and identity came to be so much the
hated enemy of others!
Even though many Berbers and Arabs from various tribes had then supported
Gaddafi, albeit they had no other choice (since they tried very hard to
oust his regime had it not been for his "friends" who then refused
to let the jinni out of the bottle), they saw no harm in speaking their language.
The first thing
Gaddafi did was to change the name Zuwarah to “Anniqat Alkhams”
('The Five Points'), in commemoration of the five declarations he announced
in Zuwarah that day, since he thought the
name itself is anti-revolution (meaning anti-coup) – presumably because Berber names
are dangerous names. He later renamed Nafousa Mountain "The Western
and Libya the “Libyan Arab Jamahiriya al-Shaa'biyya al-Ishtirakiyya
al-O'thma”, effectively declaring Arabs the only people officially recognised
in revolutionary Libya.
Ever since, whenever a chance came his way he verbally attacked the Berbers
and the Berber identity as a relic of imperialism, instigated to divide and rule
the (newly-created) Arab world. In one speech, he said:
"Berberism, what is Berberism; there is no Berberism"; and
in another he said "Berber language is the original Arabic language"
– something the Berbers were shocked to hear, since what he meant was rather
However, it emerged later that the government's open oppression of the Berbers
in Libya had achieved the opposite objective, namely increasing
awareness amongst the Berber populations of their true identity, as Gaddafi's
speeches echoed across Libya, year after year – a kind of free publicity campaign,
where the Berber question was popularised into a national issue. Identical events
were also taking place in Algeria after Bommedien's Arabisation campaign, started
four years before the arrival of Gaddafi.
A group of Berber activists from Zuwarah began to take a more active role
in the movement when they challenged the severe repercussions and began distributing
Berber publications and music tapes and records (imported from France, Algeria
and Morocco) in Zuwarah and Nafousa Mountain. Some members of the group had also
formed a music band and began singing in Berber language in wedding parties and
other social occasions for the first time in the history of Zuwarah. The group
had contacts with other activists in Jado (including Sifaw), Nalut and Yefren.
Most members of the group left Libya to live in Europe and America, with the
aim of continuing their work in exile. They formed a cultural association and
produced a few editions of a magazine; but were quickly separated by differences
and swallowed by the harsh economic reality of the West, as they lacked funding
Zuwarah, Yefren, Jado: on
27 April 1980 the Libyan government had declared that any Libyan living
abroad who did not make arrangements to return to Libya would be "liquidated".
On the 28th of April the official newspaper al-Zahaf al-Akhdar ('The
Green March') stated that the programme of "physical
liquidation" had begun. It warned that families of those Libyans who
did not return from exile to Libya would face reprisals." A number of Libyans
began to fall victims of the assassination program across Europe and the Middle
East, and yet Libya's diplomatic relations with these countries remained largely
Berber Political Party: in 1980, forty Berber
citizens from Zuwarah, Jado and Yefren were arrested and accused of forming
a Berber political party. It was reported (or alleged) that members of this party
(or group) visited Algeria, where they met with other Berber activists and scholars.
There is no doubt that some Berber activists did individually visit Algeria and
France, as they visited many other countries to buy (locally forbidden) Berber
books and music, as one of the released activists,Yusef Hefyana, had said in
2011: "We returned to the mountain with books and cassette tapes of
Amazigh music”. But there is no evidence that the party had actually existed
in the real world (see below for more on this).
The arrested were brought before a revolutionary government court,
charged with "Berber Activism", and sent
to jail in 1981: three were executed, Said Sifaw was proven innocent (of course,
after the attempt on his life that sent him to the wheelchair instead), and the
rest were sentenced to between ten years and life imprisonment. Some prisoners
were released in 1988/89, after the government began to seek wider public support
in a corrupt and demoralised country. Their names are as follows:
Saa'eed Sifaw Almah’rouq (Sifaw)
Yusef Saa'eed H'efyana
Sliman REmd'an El-A'ezzabi
A'ali Eshshuri Ben T'aleb
Salem Musa Bari
A'umer Saa'eed Ismaa'il
Sasi Khlifa Sasi
Salem A'ali Salem
A'isa Khlifa A'isa
A'ali Salem A'ali Salem
A'ali Milud A'ali
Eshsharef Muftah' El-hemmali
Ah'med Mah'mud Ez-Zwawi
Abu Al-Qasem Saa'eed Maa'toug
Ah'med Khalifa Al-h'emdani
Ah'med Salen A'emran
Ah'med A'ali Salem
Ah'med A'ali Maa'toug
El-Hadi Sliman Henshir
Miluud Musa Madi
Bulqasem Musa Buqs'is'a
Musa Yusef EshShawesh
Sliman A'umer Khlifa A'umer
Salem Khlifa Gela'awi
A'ebdalla A'isa Budeyya
A'isa A'ashur Yah'ya Budeyya
Ett'taher Salem Saa'eed Budeyya
Sliman Bukhris' Budeyya
Nuri Ah'med Eshshuri
Muh'emmed Saa'eed Musa
A'umer A'eyyad Eshshemmat'i
A'ebdalla Khmis' Sliman Eshshemmat'
Yah'ya A'umer BEn Saa'eed
A'isa Salem Ah'med Saa'eed
Ah'med Salen Les't'a
Yusef Salem Saa'eed Zriba
A'ali Ah'med Bulqasem
However, in a later letter by one of the accused, namely Said Sifaw, one learns
that this so called "Berber Party" was no more than an invention by
Gaddafi's government to warrant the arrest of some activists, and according to
Sifaw, listing his name among the members of the party was no more than a ploy
to "justify" the assassination attempt made on his life on the 21st
of February 1979. This is what he was reported to have said in the letter (in
"During all the time I spent in hospital I did not know that my name
was enlisted in a party I was told called (The Berber Party), but I only knew
after the release of the prisoners in 1989, when I heard for the first time of
what "you" have called (The Islamic Maghreb Alliance). I always ask if
enlisting my name in your alliance was to justify my physical liquidation because
of my writings? . . . What was then the justification to enlist my name in a
Conclusion: the "Berber Party" never
existed. It was merely invented by Gaddafi to arrest and liquidate Berberists.
Sifaw also exposed some interesting secrets about the Algerian Berber Academy
(see Algeria, below).
Zuwarah: although any form of public protest
is banned at the time in Libya, in 1981-1982 demonstrations broke out in Zuwarah,
after the Arabs of a nearby village of La'jilat (Alajilat) attacked the Berbers
of Zuwarah. The initial confrontation started after a football match that took
place in Alajilat, around the 19th and the 20th of April 1982 – the anniversary
of the Berber Spring, but then it escalated to a bloody confrontation, with the
Arabs using grenades, clubs, iron bars and stones, injuring a number of Berbers
and damaging their cars. When the wounded began to arrive in Zuwarah, the residents
were outraged and many more drove the 30 km or so to help those still trapped
in the confrontation. Tension between some Arabs and Berbers usually builds up
over time, and then suddenly erupts as soon as a confrontation of any sort takes
place. The protesters in Zuwarah carried slogans, saying: “revenge, revenge,
Zuwarah we feed you with our blood”, and the elders of the town took guns
to the street and stood guard on each side of the road, while others took the
injured to the local hospital in Zuwarah.
This event was not reported then anywhere. The headquarters of the so-called
Revolutionary Committee in Zuwarah was burnt, and it seemed the town was
on the brink of a revolt. 150 policemen
were brought to Zuwarah from neighbouring Arab towns to help the security
services keep peace in the town – after the latter’s request to bring the army
was refused by the Libyan government. The demonstrators were joined by people
from all sectors of the society including older men (usually stay out of such
trouble), women, children, girl students (dressed in yellow and blue),
and workers – a full public protest in which all Berbers were not afraid to
defend their integrity against neighbouring brutality – well ahead of the 2011
rebellion. Such demonstrations were banned during Gaddafi's government, and allegedly
punishable by death, but reason was unable to contain anger. Five
people were arrested the next day, and more in the following anniversary, by
the security services.
Five Berber citizens from Zuwarah were arrested and tortured, after the government
began to realise that the cultural revolution of Zuwarah is gaining popularity,
as characterised by the widespread-use of Berber music in wedding parties,
and the use of Tifinagh script in slogans and graffiti. The prisoners
were asked to:
Translate the Berber songs they sang in weddings and listened to in their
Explain the meaning of Tifinagh letters littering the walls of Zuwarah.
Clarify if they knew a certain Berber activist from Zuwarah.
Say if they have any links with other groups in exile or in Algeria.
Name any friends they have from other Berber villages and towns in the Nafousa
It is clear from the above questions that the Libyan security intelligence
had suspected larger coordination with other Berber activists from Nafousa Mountain
and Algeria than they initially had anticipated.
In 1984, about 150 people were arrested in Libya, and a further 140 from Zuwarah
alone; several of whom were publicly hanged and shown in Libyan television; eight
victims were executed without trial, two of whom within one hour of their arrest,
and five of whom were Berbers; leading to the burning of
the Crown Court building in Zuwarah shortly afterwards. The arrests occurred
a few weeks after the
military attempt on
Gaddafi’s Bab al-Azizia compound in Tripoli on the 8th of May 1984, by the NFSL
(the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, led by Dr. Mohamed
One of its military units (led by Ahmed Ibrahim Ehwass) was intercepted
on the outskirts of Zuwara, where it battled its way to martyrdom. It was reported
that nearly 3000 Libyans were executed by the Libyan government aftermath
the failed operation. Some of these names are as follows:
Sassi Ali Sassi Zikri, hanged on 03/06/1984 in Nalut.
Ah'med Ali Ah'med Sliman, hanged on 03/06/1984 in Nalut.
Muh'emmed Said As-Shibani, hanged on 04/06/1984 in Tamzin.
Abdel Bari Omar Mansour Fannoush Mijbiri, hanged on 07/06/1984 in Jalu.
Ferh'at A'emmar H'aleb, hanged on 10/06/1984, Zuwarah: when the inhabitants
of Zuwarah refused to sign his execution warrant, which the government was forcing
relatives to sign to make it appear as "the decision
of the people", the Libyan army sent its military fighter jets to bomb Zuwarah,
unless the inhabitants change their minds and sign the execution warrant. In
order to avoid the disaster, his family went around the town collecting
signatures for the execution of their innocent son.
O'uthman Ali Az-Zerti, hanged on 05/06/1984 in Souk Al-Juma'a (Tripoli).
Assadeq H'amed Ash-Shwiehdi, hanged on 05/06/1984 in Benghazi.
Al-Mahdi Rajab A'ebd As-Salam, hanged on 07/06/1984 in Tobruq.
1985: Gaddafi Attacks The Berbers Again:
On speaking about Berber Language, Gaddafi was reported to have said that,
if your mother transmits you this language, she nourishes you with the milk
of the colonialist, she feeds you their poison. It is nearly two years since
the grotesque death of Gaddafi, and his transitional successors are yet
to officialise Berber language.
Amnesty International Report: Collective
Amnesty International had reported in 1998 that: “In March a new law
came into force [in Libya] authorizing collective punishment for communities
deemed to have protected or helped those responsible for “terrorism”, acts of
violence, unauthorized possession of weapons or sabotaging people's power. Under
the new law, which also provides for the punishment of those who fail to report
such “criminals”, the authorities could cut off water and electricity supplies,
deprive villages or tribes of subsidized food, petrol and public services, and
transfer development projects to other parts of the country.”
Zuwarah suffered greatly as a result of this policy, where the only desalination
plant was out of work, which resulted in Zuwarah staying without any regular water supplies
for nearly 20 years. In addition to water, Zuwarah's main and only hospital was
closed down (purportedly) for refurbishment and redevelopment, but somehow the
project dragged on for years and years and still is out of service to this day.
Of course, many people believed this for awhile, but later it emerged that the
closure of the hospital had resulted in Berber women giving birth in Arab
hospitals nearby, and therefore the birth certificates of their
children no longer carried "Zuwarah" as the "birth
place". Transferring the birth place to Arab villages increases the official
population of these villages while at the same time reduces the population of
Zuwarah. No projects or development of any sort took place in Zuwarah or
any other Berber town, compared to other Arab cities which enjoyed the wealth
of Libya on a grand scale. Perhaps with the exception of the chemical complex
at Abu-Kammash –
a sleeping disaster, slowly leaking waste in the region.
And even though giving 500 Libyan Dinars as monthly benefit for "lack
of work" (and not for being unemployed) did help young people to survive
(on bare minimum), the effects of keeping them out of work for decades had seriously
impacted their morals and self-esteem.
1990 - 2000:
The Libyan secret service began interrogating parents in Libya about their
sons who were living in exile. One of the Zuwarah group had his father called
to their office in Zuwarah to answer questions about the whereabouts of his son,
but the father refused to go, telling them that he knew nothing about his son.
This wave of interrogation corresponded with the rise of Berber activity in Europe
and in North Africa, culminating in the formation of the Amazigh World Congress
in 1995 (see below). During the same period, however, there were a number of
cases where Libyan refugees were forced (or tricked) to return to Libya – a
kind of Berber rendition programme. Seven Libyan men were reported to have been
forcibly returned to Libya from Jordan, and were arrested on 4 January 2000.
Pakistan has also forcibly returned four Libyans, who then disappeared in Libya.
Amnesty International has documented a number of cases of Libyan refugees returned
to Libya, where they were arrested.
On 17/09/2950, the Libyan Tmazight Congress (Agraw
A’Libi N’Tmazight: ALT) was established
to demand the protection and developing of Tamazight cultural identity. The name "Libyan
(ALT) clearly shows the original feminine name "Tamazight", but years
down the line, it has been patriarchalised as "Libyan National Amazigh
(LNAC), also known as CNAL.
Trouble erupted again in Zuwarah and quickly turned into bloodshed and car
breaking in Ramadan 2000. Then all of a sudden, as usual, the king of the kings
makes the unexpected announcement: the Berbers can “speak
and sing”; and consequently the Berbers were granted some minor
rights, like the right to use Tamazight names for their children, and the freedom
to openly speak about Berber culture. The leader was up to something!
As before, the concessions did not meet the demands of the locals, but
nonetheless were encouraging (and certainly temporary) moves from the confused
Libyan government that cannot make up its mind.
To prove it, the Libyan government arrested a local Berber music group, from
Zuwarah, singing in Tamazight, before they were sent to jail for three months,
after they were, confusingly, ordered "not to sing".
Other Zuwaran musicians were banned from travelling abroad to attend Berber events,
such as the Berber music festival in Tangiers, Morocco. To celebrate his farewell
during the February uprising Gaddafi developed his slogan further and urged people
to "sing and dance".
With the rise of Internet activity across the whole of North Africa, the Arab
regimes of North Africa had finally gave up their fight to suppress Tamazight
identity. Ever since, people in Libya speak openly about the Berbers and Berber
culture without any fear, and sing and circulate Tamazight music and publications.
However, their political rights remained Zero.
Saif's Democratic Reforms: Gaddafi's son Saifalislam
was the man behind the promised reforms, said to transform Libya into a new and
democratic country, and open it to foreign investment and tourism. Also improvements
in movement across the borders, free trade zones, and the media were visible
and seemed to have had a good start. But conservative, and perhaps
old, members of the Libyan government had openly opposed his reforms for democracy,
and as a result the ban on Berber names was reintroduced again. Ever since, events
moved back and forth, with the Libyan government seemingly unable to make up
its mind as to how to proceed.
Saifalislam himself, as one British academician noted, took the wrong turn,
and talked about their plans A, B and C, in all of which he and his father will "live
and die in Libya", and therefore a clear statement from the Libyan
government that they will not stop fighting until they die; thereby bringing
themselves under the jurisdiction of the UN manDate. Most of the work was done
in the mandate itself.
The academician, who met Saif while he was in London studying democracy,
said Saif was met by two choices: reforms or his father, and he chose his father.
In fact, long before the February events, Saif's reforms were flawed, or rather
opposed by the older members of his dad's government, and contradicted his calls
for democracy, as violent groups loyal to his Libya
al-Ghad organisation attacked the Berbers of Yefren and called
Berber activists "foreign agents", destroyed properties, and chanted
anti-Berber slogans (see 2008 below for more on this).
Neither the UN nor any other leader made any mention of the name 'Berbers'
in their calls for Libyans to rise up for freedom,
despite many of them openly speaking about "Les Arabes" and
Spring". When some of them were
asked, long time ago, why the "silence", they said they do not interfere
In 2001, the Yefren Berber activist Mohammad Umadi (Madghis) set up the Berber
website tawalt.com, in exile.
The site is done in the Arabic script and therefore you need to know Arabic to
read. The website now has an excellent collection of Berber scholarly publications,
poetry recordings, downloadable books, and a number of unpublished manuscripts
of Berber scholars and poets to whom time was not so kind. Also it has an encyclopedia
of knowledge with entries covering most aspects of Tamazight language and culture.
After the attacks on Yefren by Saif's followers from
"Tomorrow's Libya", Umadi posted the announcement “Tawalt closes its
doors” on its homepage in February 2009, and noted that the site will go offline
by the end of the year. Users did not understand the situation in Yefren and
Umadi was not in a position to say much (at the time), since the home of one
of his relatives was also attacked in the Yefren events just two months earlier.
After the February 2011 events, the site is now back and with a new style.
In February 2005 Belkacem Lounes was invited by Gaddafi to visit Libya.
This raised eyebrows straightaway! Why should the government isolate itself and
stay out of the equation when it can bargain its way in and even attempt to steer
the wheel? According to Ossan (ossanlibya.org/?p=23256), part of the (Arabic)
conversation can be summarised as follows:
Gaddafi: I am not comfortable with the idea of
the Amazigh Congress because it has a "foreign agenda". Lounes: what is the evidence for
this? Gaddafi: the biggest evidence is the location of
your headquarters in france. Lounes: give us an office in Tripoli
to work freely and we will move in tomorrow.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
. . Gaddafi: the Berbers in Libya are a small minority,
and if it comes to a referendum they will not win anything. Lounes: even though I know the
Imazighen exist in Libya, but we can go to Zuwarah and Nafousa to make sure.
As for the "elections" issue, I can tell you right now that we are
more than you sitting here in your tent, and if we vote for the tent we will
take it away from you, even though you are the legal owner of the tent; and so
legitimate rights cannot be voted for.
The Ossan article continued to relate that after this point in the conversation
the meeting came to an end, and the Berber delegation eventually left the capital
without reaching any solid agreement with the Libyan government. The talks collapsed
six months later, after the Amazigh Congress said it had realised the real intentions
of Gaddafi: to manipulate and control the congress.
Confiscation of Berber Land: on the 3rd of September
2006 the Libyan government passed Law (215) of 2006, which declared the foundation
of Zuwarah-Abu-Kemmash Free Trade Zone in an area owned by the Berbers of Zuwarah.
The head of the project, now fugitive Saadi Gaddafi, was reported by Berber media
to have confiscated around 45,000 hectares of Berber land, stretching 60
kilometres along the coast (between Zuwarah and the Tunisian border) and 30 kilometres
inland – way pass Regdalin and Ejmeil. Berberists from Zuwarah were notnot to
react, protested about the true motives behind the project, which they said was
designed to Arabise the area of Zuwarah, and called for the resignation of Saadi
and the appointment of competent experts instead – competents who would consider
the local population into the workings of the zone and encourage local jobs and
investment including the use of Berber language within the zone. Legally speaking
Article (11) of Law 215/2006 says "It is allowed to use English language
as well as other languages, in addition to Arabic, in all the dealings of the
free trade zone", and therefore in theory one can use Berber language (under
the clause "as well as other languages").
However, as anything else Libyan, the project had never materialised,
and today's NTC had already declared during the Liberation Day (23 October 2011)
that all confiscated land should be returned to its rightful owners, and urged
the Libyan people not to take matters into their hands and instead wait of the
law to implement justice. In fact "land
& indigenous peoples" is a global problem – disaster to say the least.
Ban on Berber Names Lifted (temporarily):
In 2006, the ban on using Berber names in Libya was lifted after Saif
exercised his limited influence to introduce some reforms. However, as he appeared
to be in contradiction with the policy usually favoured by the conservative circle
of his father, the ban came into use later, before it was lifted again in 2009,
only to be reintroduced again shortly afterwards; and so goes the politics of
Gaddafi's government – amateurish disarray and confusion, back and
forth, promises and reprisals, in a game that seemed to go on forever; eventually
leading to stagnation and
death – the ultimate re-form.
The Third Nalut Spring, Cultural & Tourist Festival took
place in 2006. The first Nalut Festival, which took place in 1976, was a great
success and attended by several ministers from the Libyan government. But then
the events took the usual turn, and the second Nalut Festival never took place
until 2005. As noted earlier, there was no doubt that the reforms did reflect "some" improvements,
especially after 2003 when the Libyan government began cooperating with the West,
dismantling its WMD program and restoring its relations with America. After the
success of the Berber festival in Nalut, the Libyan People's General Committee
for Culture later endorsed the festival as part of the cultural heritage of Libya.
(See 2008 for a video about the festival.)
March: Gaddafi Denies The Existence of Berbers:
talking to Tuareg tribal leaders Gaddafi declared that no Berbers are living
in North Africa. Problem solved!
May: Head of Amazigh Congress Protests: on the
3rd of May 2007, Belkacem Lounes, the president of the World Amazigh Congress,
wrote an open letter to Col. Gaddafi of Libya, in which he protested against
Gaddafi's denial of the existence of the Berbers in Libya, as well as he called
for all North African governments to commit to democracy and human rights. "There
is no worse colonialism than that of the pan-Arabist clan that wants to dominate
our people", Lounes wrote.
With the fast Berber developments taking place in North Africa and Europe,
Gaddafi could no longer afford to distance himself from the issue. As a move
that many saw as an investigative step to gather information (and some say to
infiltrate), the Libyan government suddenly granted its first permission to the
Amazigh World Congress to host a meeting in Tripoli in August 2007. The meeting
was said to discuss education and social integration of
Libya's Berber population.
To further bolster relations with the Berbers, the Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi
al-Mahmoudi and Saifalislam visited a number of settlements including Zuwara,
Nalut, and Kabaw, apparently to revitalise Libya's historic Berber heritage by
in the neglected region. The Society for
Threatened Peoples welcomed the visits to the Amazigh towns.
Nalut Cultural & Tourism Festival:
Alhurra Channel hailed the event as a new beginning for the Berbers under Gaddafi's
government and remarked that what before attracted the death penalty has become
a public event in which the Berbers celebrated their Tamazight culture without
any fear of persecution. The Berbers also began speaking in the open about their
Berber identity, using Tifinagh publically, and publishing websites openly documenting
Tamazight culture. Being on the main route to Ghadames the festival had attracted
a number of foreign visitors and tourists in their way to the desert sites of
Acacus and Waw Nnamous, and in fact the festival became so popular that many
tourists come to Libya specifically to visit the Tamazight festival,
as they did visit the Berber festivals of Ghat and Ghadames farther south. Nearly
750 tourists visited the event in 2005; 3000 in 2006; and 7000 visitors in 2007.
The following video shows Alhurra's coverage of the festival.
Watch Alhurra's report about
the Berbers celebrating their newly won limited freedom at the 5th Nalut Festival.
The Goals of Nalut Festival:
Presenting traditional Berber heritage of Nalut and Nafousa Mountain.
Encouraging local voluntary work among the young generations.
Preserving and restoring the Berber archaeological sites of Nalut.
Reviving the native Libyan culture and engaging the new generations to participate
in preserving Berber culture.
Encouraging and promoting local tourism.
Work towards establishing an International festival to attract tourists from
around the world.
Encouraging the revival and preservation of traditional Berber industries
May 2008: Gaddafi met with tribal leaders from
Jado on May the 17th to yet again contradict the reforms promised by his son
Saifalislam, when he was reported to have warned the Berber communities that: "You
can call yourselves whatever you want inside your homes – Berbers, Children
of Satan, whatever – but you are only Libyans when you leave your homes." Spot
on, one would say, since we speak Berber only amongst ourselves, while officially
and educationally Arabic is our second language.
members of the Berber community were bullied into issuing a statement agreeing
with Gaddafi that the Berbers' call for freedom and justice is an imperial plot
to divide the Arab World – already shredded by its own tragedy and sack-full
of dictators. It was basically fear that forced some Berbers to make such
statements as they feared Gaddafi's reprisals–just as they came to fear others
today. Similar statements of denouncing Berber activists as agents of imperialism
were also made by some Berbers from Yefren after the events they endured, as
December 2008: The Yefren Events: on the 24th
of December 2008 violent individuals from the Revolutionary Committees and Libya
al-Ghad ('Tomorrow's Libya') – a reformist group reportedly led by Saifalislam,
invaded Yefren and attacked the homes of Berber activists and leaders, splattered
hatred graffiti on walls, damaged properties and threw large stones including
at an old woman's home (presumably because she was a mother of an activist'),
while beating counter-protesters and chanting anti-Berber slogans in a frenzied
attack on the Berbers and the Berber identity. The violence and the intimidation
were widely documented in Youtube, reported by Tawalt.com, and leaked by Wikileaks.
The Libyan Government tried to pressurise the Moroccan government
to block a lecture about a book written by the Libyan Berber poet Sifaw on the
18th of June 2009.
In August 2009, the “Gaddafi International Foundation” invited leading representatives
of the “World Amazigh Congress” to discuss and exchange information regarding
the Berber’s situation in Libya. The UN (HRC) welcomed the move, and said many
Berbers "appreciated that the authorities recently allowed the display
of Amazigh signs at government-sponsored event."
(See the link in the following entry: November 2010.)
18 November 2009:
On the 18th of November 2009, Khalid Zerrari (the Vice-President of the “World
Amazigh Congress”) was refused entry to Libya at Tripoli International Airport.
The reason for the intended visit was to attend the funeral of Mohamed Amrani
– a Libyan member of the Federal Committee of the World Amazigh Congress.
Summary report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human rights Council resolution
5/1. The report also contains disturbing accounts of the severe persecution endured
by the Tebo people of Libya. Download
The Human Rights Council Report regarding the persecution of both the Berber
and Tebo people of Libya by Gaddafi's government.
Congratulation all Libyans; silence is death.
03 August 2011:
Tamazight ('Berber Language') as an Official Language?
The NTC's "Constitutional Declaration" fails to include Tamazight
as an official Language. On the 3rd of August 2011, the NTC has issued a 37-point
interim "Constitutional Declaration" to provide a framework for the
transition to an elected government, and to call for a constitutional assembly
within eight months. Here is the translation of Article (1), in which Arabic
is again the only official language:
"Libya is an independent and democratic country, in it people are
the source of power, its capital is Tripoli, its religion is Islam, Islamic Sharia
is its primary source of legislation, and the country pledges the freedom to
practice religious ceremonies for non-Muslims, and its official language is The
Arabic Language, and the country Libya guarantees the cultural rights for all
the components of the Libyan society and their languages are considered national
Reading through these words one senses the Berbers can practice their cultural
rights, but what about recognising them first as
"human beings" who have their own "Identity", which both
Gaddafi and Algeria attempted in vain to Arabise in the past? Why cannot both
languages be equal and equally recognised in New Democratic Libya? The NTC recently,
speaking to its European partners, said Libya will be a model of democracy in
the whole region and that its democracy will be similar to the kind of democracy
that exists in Europe. Well, one cannot resist the temptation to ask: how many
kinds of democracies are there out there? As far as most people know, there
is only one democracy, as stated by its definition: 'people's government'.
New Libya should be 100% democratic and its government should represent all the
people of Libya. All Libyans should put their differences aside and work together
for free and democratic Libya that is fully inclusive of all Libyans.
Another point raised by some Berberists and that is downgrading a language
to a national status indicates the language is not indigenous to that country,
as in nationalising a foreign company, or, as one Berber recently
commented, foreigners who had acquired Libyan "nationality" in
recent years cannot be compared with Berbers who had been in Libya for thousands
of years. This means that nationalising something or someone usually indicates
the foreign nature of that something or someone. Fair enough; "but they
are not aliens", the Berbers say.
In principle, therefore, speaking of "minorities rights"
and "protection of minorities" makes the Berbers feel alien in their
own home and more so feel like they were living in a "conservation camp",
where tourists can flock in to have a glimpse at the fast-dying clan.
Minorities all over the world, basically, are humans, dignified humans at that,
and they should have full human rights including the right to self govern as
stated by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, if
they choose so.
The Imazighen of Libya, and of North Africa, do not seek the "right" to
use their language, and are well capable of protecting themselves
and their language(s). But what
they are foremost fighting for is the constitutional recognition of their "Identity"
which naturally includes the recognition of their Berber language Tamazight as
one of the official languages of Libya. Thus Imazighen reject
the term "minority" and
instead urge the NTC to recognise them as "people", as Libyan
people, and as the native people of Libya. What sort of norms
that call the "majority" Moroccan Berbers "minority" in
their own home?
If unprotected constitutionally a language may eventually die. On average,
one language goes extinct every week in this modern age, simply because of democratic
and totalitarian governments' open neglect. Libyans need to be clear
about one thing: there are so many countries in the world which have a number
of official languages without these countries being divided nor ruled by imperial
powers. Democratic countries usually
declare a number of languages as official languages, if there are that many,
like in India where 23 languages are listed as official languages in the constitution.
While dictatorial countries usually dictate one language ( always the ruling
language) and downgrade all others (often the indigenous languages). And there
are countries that do not list any official language at all – probably to avoid
the political implications altogether.
1-5 August 2011:
Representatives from the Amazigh World Congress visited the Berbers of Nafousa
Mountain between the 1st and the 5th of August 2011, in support of the Berber
uprising in Libya. They were accompanied by Abderrezak Madi, a member of the
Libyan National Transitional Council from Yefren, as they visited a number of
Berber sites in the mountain, including communication centres in Yefren, Jadu,
and Nalut. Were they plotting to divide the world? No; they were simply talking
about recognition of identity, the smell of freedom, and life with dignity and
pride, in peace, of course! That was considered a crime before, and only time
will tell if that stays the same.
Open Letter To The NTC: the Libyan Berber Congress
(ALT: Agraw Alibi n Tmazight) wrote an
open letter to the chairman and members of the National Transitional Council
(NTC) and to the Executive Board on the 17th of September 2011, praising the
struggle of the Libyan people for freedom and calling for the official recognition
of Tamazight Rights.
The letter, titled (حول استحقاقات الحق الامازيغي في ليبيا : on the merits
of the Berber right in Libya), contained a 14-point declaration outlining:
the current sufferings of the Berber communities which threaten their physical
existence and aim to Arabise their identity;
the Berbers' resistance to the tyranny of the old regime and hence were among
the first to rise up during the February Uprising;
the unity of the Libyan people regardless of race, language, religion or
the need to rewrite Libyan history away from "racism" and "personal
gains", as most of the injustices suffered by the Berbers were due to "an
upside-down reading of history";
the importance of the Berber issue as a national issue for all Libyans and
especially so for those who speak Tamazight ('Berber language');
individual and group rights are basic human rights and not "gifts" that
can be granted;
the Berbers' rights include cultural, linguistic, religious, political, legal,
administrative, developmental, educational, and media rights;
the recognition by all Libyans that the time for justice has come, at a
great price of sacrifice;
the constitutionalisation and nationalisation of the Berbers' rights is
a primary demand the Berbers cannot let go and will not bargain;
The Berbers' rights shall not be grouped with terms like "minorities" or
"majorities" as these rights are a fundamental part of any human society;
the Berbers' rights are rights of the Libyan people as a whole, since there
are no Libyan Arabs or Berbers Arabs, but all there-is is (one) Libyan
people who came to speak a number of languages;
mature leadership and recognition of the Berbers' rights is essential to
the stability of Libya, as pitfalls can yield severe repercussions and therefore
curtailing the freedom of expression ought not be confused with respect and
peaceful life with dignity and cooperation.
26 September 2011:
First Libyan National Amazigh Congress:
Tamazigh language and support national unity.”
The First Libyan National Amazigh Congress was held in Tripoli on Monday
the 26th of September 2011. Political analysts commented that the event signaled
the first expression of Tamazight political identity in the history of Libya.
The conference was attended by a number of delegations and journalists, Libyan
academicians, Berberists, Belkacem Lounes (then president of Amazigh World Congress),
Fathi Benkhalifa (then head of Libyan Amazigh Congress), and representatives
from the NTC; in which the Berbers demanded constitutional recognition of Tamazight
from the temporary government of Libya (the NTC), in support of the "national
The debate was probably fuelled by the recently published Constitutional
Declaration of the NTC, in which only Arabic language was declared as official
while making no mention, by name, of the language "Berber", else known
as "Tamazight" by the Berbers. A Berber declaration emerged from the
conference, outlining a number of demands and clarifying the national identity
of the native population of Libya. The organisers agreed to form committees representative
of the various Berber towns and villages to follow up their demands and recommendations
that were presented to the NTC regarding officialising Berber language within
the constitution, and called for Berber lawyers and law experts to assist
in formulating provisions and legislations in a legal document which then can
be presented to the interim Justice Minister for consideration into the temporary
provisions until the full constitution is drafted in 8 months time. That is they
called for urgent temporary laws regarding the protection of Berber language
to guarantee the Berbers their rights during the current transition period, and
argued that without recognising Berber language constitutionally the language
will have no legal protection.
We already saw in an earlier manifesto issued by the NTC that its draft constitution
will be subject to a referendum and it will be passed if it gains a majority
of two thirds or more. The Berbers certainly will not be
able to reach this majority when it comes to voting, while others argue that
aggregating up with larger groups does not by itself legitimise any cause.
Hence one of the main points made by the organiser of the conference, Mr. Fathi
Salem Abu Zakhar, was that "Language rights are not a matter that is
subject to a vote . . . We want the government, and the coming government, to
grasp that the language is part of the Libyan equation." While Salem
Qinnan, a Berber representative of the NTC, emphasised that Tamazight is a national
language which the Berber communities will work with their Libyan brothers [and
sisters] to root firmly in the Libyan constitution.
For a French translation of the declaration and photos of the event, see:
This is the problem: brothers and sisters. The moderate Arabs and Berbers
of Libya often speak of each other as brothers & sisters, and that is healthy.
Many Libyans are very supportive and wholly agree that the Berbers are the natives
of Libya and should have their full rights respected. They have shown this during
the uprising for freedom, justice and democracy. But there are some Arabs in
Libya who still seem to take liberty in stigmatising the Berbers to justify their
persecution under the pretext of national unity and thus miserably fail to realise
the historical truth, and instead went on to denounce African Berberists as agents
of "foreign imperialism".
No constitutional legitimacy without Tamazight, protesters
The failure of the first temporary government announced by the former interim
prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, which contained names previously associated with
the Gaddafi regime, had triggered the first ever protest against the NTC when
demonstrators from Mesratha took to the streets and declared they will never
be ruled again by anyone who served Gaddafi – not even with "one word".
The long overdue second cabinet line-up, announced on the 22nd of November 2011
by el-Keib, has created even more protests than ever before.
Protestors took to the streets in Benghazi, Jado and Zuwarah, holding up banners
saying: "down to the new government"
and other similar slogans that express anger more than anything. One Berberist
noted that: "Our people want . . . to know why we are being isolated.
Our people fear that there will be repetition of what happened during Gaddafi's
A few days later, on Sunday the 27th of November 2011, hundreds of Berbers
peacefully stormed the prime minister's office in the capital Tripoli and called
for greater "representation" and "constitutional recognition" of
their Berber identity. Chanting "no difference between
Amazigh and Arab", and "we are the indigenous people of Libya;
give us our rights and we want them now". While waving Tamazight flags,
pushed their way past the security at the gates, before they were stopped by
the entrance to the PM's office. They asked to speak to the prime minister, who
appeared an hour later, wearing a cap in the colours of the Berber flag.
He tried to defuse the angry crowds while avoiding to address their specific issue
of recognition. The angry protesters shouted back: "go home", "go
home", while hailing empty cans, forcing the prime minister to flee
back to his office "within minutes" – presumably the first
thing he did was to throw the Berber hat
against the corner of his room!
When the protesters attempted to follow him, they were stopped by his ministerial
guards; leading to an argument but no violence. The Berbers played a crucial
part in the war for freedom from oppression and persecution, and without the
checkpoints at Wazin and Ras Ejdir the western part of Libya would have remained
100% under Gaddafi' control. The Berbers were also among the first to enter Tripoli
and Bab Alaziziya, and their militias now control several districts of the capital.
In response, the local council of Zuwarah, Libya's first elected council,
has suspended relations with the NTC and withdrawn its representative from the
There is no doubt that diligent dialogue is always required to negotiate solutions
and therefore suspending all relations perhaps is a matter for the Berbers to
vote! However, the head of Zuwarah's local
council, Abubaker Attelloua', who signed the document suspending relations with
the NTC, signed another document on the following day pledging support for and
cooperation with the NTC.
It was reported in the media that Fathi Turbil, the current Youth Minister
and the human rights lawyer whose arrest back in February 2011 sparked the first
protests for justice, has again sparked a heated debate among the Berbers and
the Arabs of Libya when he made anti-Amazigh remarks and even was reported to
have threatened members of the NTC who were calling for Tamazight to
be listed in the draft constitution!! A lawyer taking up the role of prosecution
to deny the defendant both: justice & freedom, because he was self-appointed
in the name of "revolution". These matters are not for them to decide;
they belong to the people of Libya.
(ossanlibya.org/?p=21292 ; newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/amazigh-arab-libya-wail-public ;
First of all, Libyans must realise this is a "transitional
and not a permanent one, and should recognise that ministerial jobs cannot be
awarded for those who took part in the fight against the ousted regime – even
though most of the fighting was done by foreign forces from the air. Indeed one
should worry if government posts are assigned on such merits. This means that
Libyans need to stand united and give the transitional government a helping hand.
All Libyans need to know is that nearly all Berbers cherish the unity of Libya
as they always did. This Berber protest representing most of Tripolitania is
also taking place in Arab areas like Benghazi – the spark that ignited the uprising.
Sebha also complained about their exclusion, and probably many more Libyan communities
felt the same but preferred silence for one reason or another!
But equally important the transitional council needs to listen
and take into consideration the issues troubling the population they ought to
represent; and therefore it is important that all major communities in Libya
are included in the transitional, temporary government so that each representative
from these areas can competently represent and put forward the issues relating
to their community.
Secondly, one needs to know that the Berbers
were wrongly criticised for protesting about not getting any ministerial jobs,
which is not true, since that was not the only thing the Berbers were protesting
about (see video below). Maybe some media outlets like playing with destinies
and editing selected stories to manipulate responses according to preconceived
objectives, as their critics say, but the truth of the matter is that the Berber
protesters' main demand was (and still is) the constitutional recognition of
their identity and language by the temporary "constitutional declaration" (of
August 3, 2011). The Berbers also say the NTC and the new government have
"deliberately excluded them".
Thirdly, some critics replied to these questions
and issues by saying all these demands can be supplied later once the new constitution
is voted for by people and once the new government is elected. But then no one
has forced the NTC to write and publish its Constitutional Declaration on the
3rd of August, and in fact it would have been much better for the security of
Libya if it was not written in the first place. If this temporary constitution
is "nothing" and "transitional"
and the Berbers should wait for the final copy, then why bother writing it in
the first place? We will probably never know the answer to this legitimate question,
but according to the Guardian (London, UK) the Constitutional Declaration seems
to have been influenced by planning advice from the UN, the US and the UK
4: a very important point said by one Berber
politician was that the Berbers backed the NTC at the start of the uprising
because the NTC said it will represent all sections of Libya for justice and
not just for Benghazi – not that Benghazi is happy now! And he added that the
Berbers make up nearly a fifth of the country and therefore they must be equally
represented in the temporary government simply because the new government will
draft the constitution; and therefore the need for the Berbers to be included
in this "drafting committee" to make sure their rights, not demands,
are represented. Quite a valid point, one should agree.
Article (30) of
the NTC Constitutional Declaration says people will be allowed to vote only "yes" or "no" about
"draft constitution", and that if only two thirds say yes then the
constitution will be approved. The Berbers were outraged, because they said identity
is not a matter of "voting", and that being a minority
they will never achieve any victory via this confused system of democracy.
The Berbers fear if they surrender now and accept
the current marginalisation then nothing will happen. They also fear that if
they accept this imposed "yes" or "no" system and agree to
voting, it would mount to no more than signing their own "marginalisation
decree". Some Berber activists have already called for boycotting the forthcoming
elections unless the constitution was amended to include them before the voting
begins; but they are advised to rethink their strategy.
Watch Umadi speaking to some protesters
outside the Prime Minister's office in Tripoli.
The YouTube shows mixed emotions, with one very angry protester (almost in tears)
accusing the current government of allowing previous regime loyalists to come
back via the back door.
The first demand listed by the first speaker in the above video link calls
for the constitutional recognition of Berber language & identity. One speaker
said the Berbers never demanded any ministerial job before because they were
promised the appointment of the new government will not be based on personal
relations and city assignments, but on merit and competence. But once the new
government was announced they were let down, they said. Many of these ministers,
they say, including the Prime Minister himself, were educated and lived in the
West and hence detached to a certain degree from the Libyan society, its workings
and its needs. Debatable point, but it is healthy to ask such questions when
basic human rights are denied. Hopefully, establishing contact with
all Libyans and representing their needs equally will lead to positive dialogue
and cooperative approach to guide Libya out of its darkest period in history.
Amnesty International: for a list of the latest
reports and updates about human rights abuses in Libya, please see:
15 December 2011:
Libya's First Tamazight Song Festival: (15 December
2011, Benghazi): the festival was organised in association with Libya Channel
and Free Libya Association. Attended Libyan Berber bands include: Ossan, Tindi,
Ghasro, and Mhamed Qlou.
09 January 2013:
The Berbers: Dire Consequences & Surprises Beyond Expectation:
Fifteen months after the presumed liberation of Libya from "marginalisation",
disappointed Berber representatives from the local councils of glorious
Zuwarah, Nalut, Kabaw, Rahibat, Jado and Yefren were reported to have delivered
a statement at a press conference held in the capital Tripoli on the 31st of
December 2012. The statement urges the elected GNC to address the continued and
systematic marginalisation of the Imazighen people of Libya by the current government
"selected" by the transitional Prime Minister Dr. Ali Zidan.
Such deviation from the principles of revolution, the statement adds, despite
the repeated refusal of past attempts to seek a solution, is a clear violation
of the [imposed] constitutional declaration which called for "equality" and
even claimed to oust "exclusion". The statement concluded that to
avert "dire consequences" the Prime Minister is urged to reconsider
his policy, and that continued neglect to resolve the plight of the Berbers of
Libya entails "great surprises" beyond expectation.
One would expect diplomacy would call for a more eloquent presentation of
one's ideas and ideals, but instead there is always that extra "touch" of confrontation.
The Amazigh World Congress too made a number of similar confrontational statements
which one would presume could only lead to head-on clash with the local authority
and with the authorities of North Africa overall, rather than achieve
"anything" but further destruction.
The Imazighen of Libya and of all other countries including Azawad
ought to reconsider their "confrontational" approach to politics, and
instead effect change by means of peace and law.
Being lured into tribal violence
before closing-in with the law to seal one's fate is not what successful
politicians hope for – let alone lead their people to. To avert the
consequences" the Berbers ought to know that violence is not the answer.
It takes great leadership and courage to see what
others do not want you to see. All these comments appearing in social sites urging
the Berbers to fight the Arabs for their rights must be ignored, not because
they seem to be written by people whose job is to create a civil war in the region,
but because the Berbers and the Arabs are now destined to live together
for the rest of humanity.
Traditional Berber leadership is based on egalitarian
justice that makes the Berbers who they are, the council of elders of both women
and men leading by example. Wars should not be
supported by anyone, let alone funded and supervised in the name of protection
materialises. No matter what the UN says or does, gaining rights
or protecting civilians via violence can never be the answer. It is the problem.
12 January 2013:
The Forum of the Constitutional Rights for the Imazighen
of Libya, Tripoli. The commanding speech of the president
of Zuwarah's Local Council, Dr. Tariq Attoshi.
The forum was held on the 12th of January 2013, at the Rixos
Hotel, Tripoli. The constitutional forum was attended by a number of GNC members
including Libya's acting president, Dr. Magarief, and Berber GNC members, the
deputy minister of culture, the president of the World Amazigh Congress, representatives
from various political parties including the heads of the NFA and the Justice &
Development party, representatives from a number of embassies, the European Union
and the UN, Berberists from Egypt and Tunisia, and hundreds of Libyan Berbers
and Arabs as well as the MEDIA – the vital component the Berbers lack to propel
their struggle for dignity, freedom, and "knowledge".
President, Dr. Magarief, has once more demonstrated his wholehearted support
for Berber language to be constitutionally recognised,
his personal belief that there is a unanimous agreement among Libyans that the
Imazighen and the Tebu together with the Arabs constitute a fundamental
component of the Libyan society. To read more about the forum and about
the demands put forward by the Berbers, please see: temehu.com/constitutions
12 January 2013:
The Supreme Council for the Amazigh of Libya (SCAL):
From left to right: Ibrahim Makhlouf: the president of the council;
the spokesman of the council; and Nuri Asherwi: the coordinator of the council's
The creation of The Supreme Council for the Amazigh of Libya (SCAL)
was announced by the representative of the Berber-speaking areas in Libya, Dr.
Tariq Attoshi, in his speech at the constitutional rights forum
of the 12th of January 2013. The council is also known as the Amazigh Supreme
Council (ASC), although technically this is incorrect because it omits the
"Libya" and thus gives the false impression that the council represents
the entire Imazighen of North Africa.
Dr. Tariq said the council was established to attend to the "political
of the Berbers, as a united front to assist the Berbers
achieve their goals and legitimate aspirations. A few months later it
became evident that the self-appointed council took a confrontational attitude
to fulfil its pledge to assist the
Berbers achieve their goals; first by threatening to pull out the
Berber representatives from the GNC (which they failed to effect anyway); and
secondly by leading the Berbers of Zuwarah and Nafousa to boycott the constitutional
elections (of the 20th of February 2014), but not the Berbers of the Sahara who
did vote for the 60 committee.
The day the Berbers of the Sahara voted for
the 60 committee and the Berbers of the north did not is the day the supreme
council lost its legitimacy to lead the Berbers "united". It would
have been more beneficial if the Berbers remained united regardless of the outcome.
Such policy can only create more divisions by dividing the Berbers themselves.
Cutting power and gas supplies to national institutions will only associate the
peaceful Berbers with "violence".
When the political coordinator of the supreme council, Dr. Nuri Asherwi,
was asked about the legitimacy of the council, in that it was not elected
by the Berber people, he replied that the legitimacy of the council stems from
the fact that it was formed from the various members of the local councils of
the Berber towns and villages. Does this answer the question? Does this negate
the fact that it was self-appointed?
12/13 January 2013: (12/13
The Berbers of Libya celebrate the Berber New Year, Tripoli, Libya.
The celebration took place on the 12th of January 2013, in preparation for
the 13th of
January 2013 - the new year's day. The
new year is not recognised by the new government (yet). The Berbers of Libya
are still campaigning for the event to be declared as an official holiday. Please
click here for more information about the Berber new year.
European colonisation without a doubt had caused great pain and destruction
in North Africa (and elsewhere). Being the majority inhabitants of many parts
of North Africa at the time, the Berbers strongly resisted the colonisation of
their countries, and history is full of accounts documenting the Berbers' struggle
for independence in Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Morocco; and therefore those
who still claim that the Berber question is a manifestation of the colonial
60's policy of "divide and rule" need to read their own Berber
A Kabyle, female, resistance-leader who fought the French army during the
colonial invasions of Algeria. She was born in c. 1830 in Upper Kabylia, north-eastern
Algeria, in a village called Werja. She joined the resistance movement in 1846
to eventually command one of the most ferocious battles against the French army
while she was 24 years old. She was a charismatic general who urged her people to fight the enemy
for "freedom". Marshal Randon's initial force of 13,000 was defeated
by the Berber woman, forcing the marshal to send for reinforcement of 35,000
soldiers to crush the Berber resistance, as they did elsewhere. Lalla Fadma
was arrested on the 27th of July 1857 in the village of Takhlijt Ath Atsou (near
Tirourda) and subsequently imprisoned, before she was placed under house arrest
in Beni Slimane. She died in 1863 at the young age of 33. In May 2013, director
Belkacem Hadjadj began filming his lengthy historical film "Lalla
Fadma n'Soumer". Using Berber actors from Tizi and Tsamert the film tells
the legend of heroine Lalla Fadma and her short struggle against the French conquerors.
The director said his choice of using "Tizi" as a location for his
film was due to the mountainous nature of the region and its difficult and rugged
A group of migrant Berber Kabyle workers formed a political party in France,
in 1926. The party called itself The North African
Star (ENA). It was founded by Hajj Ali
Abd el-Kader as a "secular" group aiming for "self-determination",
and was headed by Messali Hadj – one of the founders of the Algerian national
movement. Both Abd el-Kader and Messali were previously members of the French
Communist Party (PCF). Among its founding members are: Imache Amar, Djeffal,
If Djilani, Belkacem Radjef, and Belghoul. However, Messali's objectives differed
from the original party's aims, as he called for "compulsory education in
Arabic at all levels", and subsequently the ENA was eventually dissolved
on the 20th of November 1929. Messali then went on to establish the Algerian
People's Party (PPP), the Movement for the Triumph of Democratic Liberties (MTLD),
and the Algerian National Movement (NAM).
Taos Amrouche (Ṭaweṣ A'meroush):
Ṭaweṣ A'meroush, The Goddess of Kabyle Song.
Marie-Louise-Taos Amrouche (4 March 1913 - 2 April 1976): a unique, Kabyle
singer and the first Algerian female writer. The atmosphere she conveys
to the future generations is unbelievably powerful and "charged". She
was deeply influenced by her mother Fadhma Aït Mansour as much as by the oral
traditions of the Berber Kabyle culture. Her first autobiographical novel Jacinthe
noir was published in 1947, and her first album Chants berbères de
Kabylie, released in 1966, was a powerful collection of traditional Kabyle
songs that some say had ignited Tamazight revolution. She was among the first
Berber activists in Algeria, and a founding member of L'Académie berbère in
1966 (or 1967) – an organisation primarily dedicated to documenting Tamazight
According to one Berberist, the Academy was created to "alphabetise
Berber language'. Lack of education in Tamazight is without a doubt to blame
for the Berbers' ignorance of their own "true" history, as they were
fed various alternative systems of negligence, war and poverty, if not imposed
upon them. Poetry and music had a major role in the Berber revolution, simply
because Berber song is rich in Berber history, struggles, mythology and accumulative
wisdom. The poetry of Fatima Ait Mansour and her children Taos and
Jean Amrouche is one of the most contributing factors to the revival of Tamazight
in Algeria; further fuelled by the verses of Mouloud Feraoun, Ferhat, Ait Menguellat, Idir,
and of course, Mouloud Mammeri – the poet who descended from a line of poets
and directed the Centre for Anthropological, Prehistoric and Ethnographic Research
(CRAPE). Before the advent of the internet, music tapes and albums were largely
responsible for spreading the Berber awareness across North Africa; where Berber
music attracted the enmity of the local governments. The martyr, poet and singer
Lounes Matoub was assassinated in 1998 for using music and his mouth to express
his manifested fears.
"The Berber Crisis of 1949":
The Berber crisis in 1949 is very similar to the Berbers' struggle for freedom
during the Italian wars in Libya, in that both were eventually led (or misled)
to postpone their "identity" struggle for the sake of "independence" and "national
unity". Algerian Berberists recognised the need for a democratic and true
independence, while Arabists appear to have had "Arabism" fed in mind.
To pacify the Berbers, likewise the Moroccan Dahir, the French attempted to enforce
the same mashed-up customary-mythical law in 1949, but both the Arabs and Berbers
were wary; resulting in rather similar fatal fate. The Berbers' true ideals of "absolute
freedom" were hard to compromise, and so the conflict continued to this
Mohammed Bessaoud was regarded as the spiritual father of Berberism in Algeria,
who fought during the independence wars between 1954 and 1962, and reportedly
the designer of the modern (and appalling) Berber
The Paris Massacre:
The details of the Paris protests remained hidden from the public until 2011,
when Yasmina Adi was shocked to discover the appalling repression of Algerian
protesters in Paris in 1961. The new evidence for the incident was presented
in a film aired recently at the Dubai International Film Festival in December
2011, and titled "Here We Drown Algerians - October 17, 1961".
The film retells the story through the testimony of many Algerians who were dragged
off the streets by police, and uses images of thousands of Algerians held in
detention centres during the deportation wave that followed. When French Algerian
protesters joined the fight for independence and defied a curfew on the 17th
of October 1961, they were met with heavy police brutality, ordered by the Paris
police chief Maurice Papon. "Dozens of bodies were
pulled from the River Seine."
According to Yasmina the true number of those lost their lives may never be
known, but it could be 400; while France said only 40 people died. More than
1,500 Algerians were expelled. ca.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idCATRE7BF23A20111216
Soon after the so-called Algerian independence in 1962, Arabic was adopted
as a national language, and the first act of the ensued Algerian Arab government
was the suppression of Berber studies at Algiers University in 1962. The Algerian
FLN (Front de Liberation Nationale) called for the unity of all Algerians
including the Berbers during its long struggle for independence, while later
it was criticised for considering the Berbers the enemies of the people. Similarly,
Gaddafi's verbal attacks on the Berbers of Libya, including the blunt declaration
of the Berbers being the enemies of the revolution ('the staged coup'), had without
a doubt popularised the Berber question as a national issue; further fuelled
by the recent Constitutional Declaration of the new NTC and its marginalisation
of the Libyan Berber identity in August 2011.
FFS: Hocine Ait Ahmed: the traditional Socialist
Forces Front (FFS) of Hocine Ait Ahmed, also known as FSF, was established on
the 29th of September 1963, to oppose the one-party state. He quickly led
a rebellion against Ben Bella (the leader of the new independent Algeria) in
1963 and 1964, after which he was arrested and imprisoned. He fled to France
after his escape, where he lived for 23 years. Ben Bella was eventually ousted
by Houari Boumedienne in 1965, to begin his agenda: the Arabisation program.
Again, when Gaddafi was (also) installed four years later, he too began introducing
the word "Arab"
into the politics of Libya, as in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and turned the Berbers
the original Arabs. Hocine Ait Ahmed’s rebellion was considered by some to be
“The Swan-Song” of "Kabyle particularism", culminating
in 1974's “Larba'a n'Ait Irathen”.
1965: in mid 1960s, however, the Algerian government
banned the Berbers from issuing Tamazight names for their children, and limited
the transmission of the Berber radio to four hours
1970's: the Kabyle radio broadcasting channel
(Channel 2), whose existence was threatened several times in the 1970's, has
seen its status and role strengthened. The airtime has been increased, and languages
other than Kabyle were introduced in some of the programs (Shawi for the Aures,
and Mozabite for the Ghardaia region). The Berber radio was later outlawed after
the introduction of 1992 Arabisation Law.
1971: the government abolished the Berber language
courses at the University of Algiers.
1975-76: Berber students found in possession
of Tifinagh were arrested and sentenced to prison.
1977: trouble erupted in 1977 during the Algerian
football championship final (between a Berber team from Kabylia and a team from
the capital Algiers). While the Arabs played their usual "Arab national
anthem", the Berbers were shouting: "a bas les arabes" ('down
with the Arabs').
1978: the Berber star Ait-Menguellat's concert
1979: while the Arabs continued to press ahead
with the Arabisation program after the death of Boumedienne, the Berbers began
to protest against the movement, which they say aims to eliminate their identity.
Berber students at the University of Tizi-Ouzou organised a strike to protest
against the Arabisation program. The refusal of the Algerian Berber Minister
of education, Mohammed Cherif Kharroubi, appointed in Chadli's
first cabinet in 1979, to speak his mother tongue Tamazight was badly received
in Kabylia at a time when he could have had urged the government to respect human
The Berber Spring: (The Amazigh Spring): the
aforementioned student strike quickly spread to other schools across the region,
leading to the government crack down in April 1980. After Mouloud Mammeri's lecture
in Tizi-Ouzou, modern Algeria saw the first true Berber motivated movement, where
demonstrators were no longer confined to students, activists, artists and scholars
but also included people from all walks of life: labourers, industrial workers,
shopkeepers, children, women, and according to some sources Arabs too. The Algerian
national flag was publicly burnt at Oued Amizour, and the sentencing of 21 people
to between one and five years in prison soon followed. This massive public participation
has entered Berber history as "The Berber Spring", commemorated
thereafter in April and known as Tafsuyt ('Spring'). The Berber
department at the University of Tizi-Ouzou was created in 1980.
1988: public protests and riots spread in Algeria
once more. The government responded with violence, when it was preaching "peace
initiative". More than 100 people were reported to have been killed.
1989: MCB: the Berber Cultural Movement:
the political events that were started in 1988 in Algeria led Berberists to
express themselves more openly. Consequently, one was able to distinguish between
two politically organised branches, close to RCD or FFS, and the “culturalists”
branch made of activists who were determined to continue their action in an autonomous
way in the MCB or in the cultural associations. The “Berber Cultural Movement”
(MCB) held its first meeting in July 1989 in
Tizi-Ouzou, with the ambition to establish a permanent representation of the
“Berber civil society”. The MCB can be credited for many large gatherings, such
as a series of imposing demonstrations in favour of the Berber language and culture
including the one held in Algiers on January 25, 1990, several general strikes
in Kabylia, and the general school boycott in Kabylia (starting in September
1994). See the following report by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
regarding the treatment of some members of the Berber Cultural Movement by the
Algerian government, at:
RCD: the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) was
established by Sa'id Sa'di (Said Saadi) in 1989, after he separated from Ait
Ahmed and left the MCB to form his own party. The RCD is a secular movement that
became a recognised political party by 1990, before it declared its opposition
to the religious movement in Algeria in 1991, which grew in influence after the
rule of President Chadli Benjedid came to an end in 1992. This led to limited
improvements in relations between the Algerian government and the RCD, based
on the saying: the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
In 1989 the popular singer and revolutionist Ferhat Mehenni, in a joint declaration
with the Berber linguist Salem Chaker, called for the United Nation to supervise
a local poll for the people of Kabylia to form their own government and run their
own affairs within Algeria.
Berber University: even though a Berber Department
was created at the University of Tizi-Ouzou in 1980s, Tamazight Language
and Culture Department in Tizi-Ouzou did not become a reality until the end of
January 1990. The goal of this institution was to set up a Master level graduate
program in Berber language. The official announcement of its creation was on
the eve of January 25, 1990. After nearly a full decade since the events of Spring
1980, the Algerian Higher Education Ministry finally accepted the presence of
Berber (cf. Chaker 1989/90, chap. 9). One year later (October 1991), a second
Berber Department was created in Bougie. The late 1990s also witnessed the emergence
of numerous Berber groups, associations and websites, dedicated to reviving Berber
culture and the recognition of Berber identity and language.
Another important change is television. Since the end of 1991, there is a
brief daily broadcast of the TV news in Kabyle and Shawi. Algeria's public television
network ENTV said it will launch several new channels, including one for the
ethnic Berber minority, but it will not open the sector to private firms. ENTV
plans to broadcast in the Berber language Tamazight and offer channels dedicated
to sport, information and youth in a bid seen partially aimed at trying to reverse
the Algerian addiction to French TV channels.
The Algerian government passed a law in 1992 to Arabise higher education,
but both Berber and French languages continued to be used; followed by another
law in 1993 to Arabise communications and government departments. Civil War breaks
out in Algeria, claiming nearly 150,000 lives by the end of the decade – "The
The Berber writer Tahar Djaout was assassinated outside his home on the 26th
of May 1993. Wikipedia says he was assassinated by the GIA. Tahar
was a Berberist, journalist, and the editor of Ruptures. In its first issue,
January 13 1993, he wrote: "The
year that has just ended saw freedom of expression and democracy groping along,
struggling with pain, stumbling, but getting up once again and continuing to
resist . . . After three decades of wandering, of fragile construction, and of
monumental blunders, Algerian society has come to understand that everything
has to be started from scratch, that we have to rebuild it all on a more solid
foundation. Mohamed Boudiaf understood this well, and it cost him his life."
is death: the life and work of Tahar Djaout", By Julija Šukys.
After the school boycott in the Berber region of Kabylia, lasting full year,
the government began to consider the introduction of Tamazight in Algerian
schools. Some talks were brokered between the government and some of its Berber
allies, due to their united stand against a common enemy.
The High Commission for Amazighness (HCA): after
a school boycott in Kabylia in September 1994, the government engaged in negotiations
in March-April 1995 with certain factions of the Berber Cultural Movement (the
“MCB National Coordination”). The Algerian government rejected the initial claim
for the recognition of Tamazight as a 'national language' alongside Arabic, arguing
that would require a constitutional amendment which was not part of 'the prerogatives
of the government' – whatever that means. However, the authorities did admit
the legitimacy of the Berber demand for the institutionalisation of their language,
particularly its use in education and teaching; and thus “The High Commission
for Amazighness” was created shortly afterwards by a decree dated May 28, 1995.
On the 7th of June 1995 the president nominated the HCA to take all necessary
initiatives and make any propositions with respect to the teaching of Tamazight
language, and thereby becoming the first North African state to take such measures.
In 1995, the Algerian president L. Zeroual established an agency to introduce
Tamazight in Education. Even though Berberists were aware that the move was an "administrative
spin" rather than a recognition in law, and that the nomination of Mohamed
Idir Aït-Amrane as head of the HCA fully symbolises this aspect. Critics
pointed out that the human composition of the HCA also deserves scrutiny, as
its leadership included neither a single known authority in the Berber language
nor a single known personality of the Berber culture. Instead, the majority of
its officers were representatives of the state-related institutions, and generally
little known activists selected from similar associations. It was clear that
the government’s concession was to further divide the forces within the Berber
At the beginning of the 1996 academic year, a decision from the Ministry
of Higher Education imposed the establishment of a licence degree in
Berber Language and Culture in the two Berber departments. However, Berber experts
had expressed their reservations, considering the fact that minimum conditions
to ensure a satisfactory training had not been met.
In 1997 the Algerian government passed a law banning the formation of political
parties based on religion and ethnicity; forcing the RCD to update its policy
to accommodate the new law.
To bolster the previous law of 1997, another Arabisation law came into effect
in 1998, stating Arabic language as the only official language to be used in
all the various government departments as well as in business transactions and
the media. The Berbers were outraged since the implications were inflammatory.
For example, the Berber radio has become illegal, and doctors were forced to
write prescriptions in Arabic. This led to riots erupting in the Kabyle region,
further fuelled by the assassination of Lounes Matoub.
The Berber Kabyle singer was a prominent Berber activist who advocated secularism
at a time when the religious movement was a source of serious concern to Algeria
as a whole, and criticised the Arabisation laws introduced by the government.
During the civil war of 1992, the religious armed militia (GIA) added Lounes'
name to its hit list of artists and activists. He was abducted in 1994, but was
released two weeks later, following a large public demonstration. In October
1988 Matoub was shot five times, and was hospitalised for two years, where he
received 17 operations. Almost ten years later, on the 25th of June 1998, Matoub's
car was stopped at a roadblock and shot at by masked gunmen, leading to his death,
and wounding his wife, Nadia Matoub, and two sisters-in-law. Within hours
of his death thousands of angry protesters gathered outside the hospital, leading
to a week-long violent riots and confrontation with the police, during which
government buildings and government-owned shops were attacked, and Arabic signs
were destroyed. On the 28th of June 1998 tens of thousands people attended his
funeral. Coming under pressure from various groups, the president Zerual agreed
to let a UN team investigate the incident.
ABM: the Armed Berber Movement: emerged
after the assassination of the Algerian Amazigh singer Lounes Matoub. It was
reported that the ABM threatened to avenge Matoub's death and even assassinate
anyone who attempts to implement the Arabisation law, as it declared its total
opposition to the Arabisation policy – many called “a new Arab conquest.”
Their intention was made clear by the name chosen to represent their organisation.
The group was practically unknown before the event of Lounes.
1999: Tamazight Will Never Become Official:
After long period of conflict and controversy, Algerians went to the polls
in April 1999. Out of the seven candidates only Bouteflika remained in the list,
as the others pulled out amid charges of widespread electoral fraud. Obviously,
Boutefliqa won! During his "peace initiative" tour, president Boutefliqa
visited Tizi-Ouzou on the 2nd of September 1999, and shocked the local Berbers
by announcing that not only Tamazight language would never become "official",
but also a referendum must be held before the language can be made "national".
The Berbers have always insisted that the matter of Tamazight Identity will never
be a matter of Arab voting, with some even saying Arabic was never voted in the
first place! Hence lucky politicians say: "we don't live in a perfect world" –
the world they made.
Eighteen-years old high school student Massinissa Guermah (1983 - 2001) was arrested
by the Algerian gendarmes on the 18th of April 2001, and three days later was
reported to have died of gunshot wounds inflicted by the gendarmes. Contradicting
explanations were circulated, including accidental shooting and arrest for attacking
a police officer. The gendarme responsible for the murder of Massinissa, namely
Merabet Mestari, was sentenced to two years in prison by an Algerian military
court, in November 2002. The relatives of Massinissa and tribal leaders have
condemned the judgment, and expressed their desire to see the murderer and his
accomplices (a dozen other gendarmes) tried by a civilian court. Although Massinissa’s
body clearly showing bullet holes, the gendarme responsible was only convicted
of “involuntary homicide and involuntary injury with a firearm”.
The event was received by the Berbers with wide-spread anger, further fuelling
their campaign against the Algerian government's Arabisation program; ultimately
leading to protests erupting in the region and in the capital. The government
issued its ban on all forms of public protests in Algiers. A major and peaceful
demonstration of nearly 10,000 people was organised on the following day in Tizi-Ouzou
by the MCB. Even though the Berber leaders urged demonstrators to protest peacefully,
violence erupted after the demonstrations quickly spread across the region.
First to follow was Amizour (near Berber Bejaia), where rioters set buildings
and cars on fire, and then Beni Douala, where police responded with tear gas
and government gendarmerie retaliated with further arrests. The wounded began
to arrive at hospitals. Roads were blocked. The president spoke:
"promising" the Berbers constitutional and economic reforms, and acknowledged "identity
issues" are at the heart of the conflict (previously created by the Arabisation
Statistics released in 2002 by the Algerian Human Rights League reported 90
people have died and 5000 wounded, of which 200 became permanently disabled,
and thousands of arrests, torture and arbitrary detentions – figures that often
come out of a war zone. And yet, "Algeria ecxperts" speaking to Aljazeera
in her Inside Story (in 2012) openly proclaimed the Algerian government did not
discriminate against the Berbers of Algeria. While the al-Arab newspaper reported
at the time that Algeria's banning of demonstrations, heavy policing, and its
determination to confront these “dangerous deviations” was in response
to the received public criticism for its relaxed laws towards the Berbers’ uprising;
where Berberism was only proposed as "barbaric aberration".
However, the Berbers continued to press ahead with their demands and many more
people died and injured during the protests of the 5th October 2001. London's
newspapers reported that allowing troops to move against demonstrators was a
direct response “to a Berber-led anti-government march by almost a million
people last week in the capital.” On the 5th of October 2001, the BBC's
website reported that,
“The Berbers have rebuffed a series of concessions
offered by the Algerian government, including of their language, and have vowed
to press ahead with the mass rally. Berber leaders from the Kabylie region said
the offer fell short of their demands, and that the government was trying to
engineer a split in their long-running campaign for official recognition and
Arouch: the Arouch
Movement (Berber Arouch Citizens Movement) was created to take action
against government brutality and demand justice after the killing of 126 Kabyle
peaceful protesters by Algerian troops. The name Arouch is the plural of Arch
– a traditional Kabyle form of democratic political assembly. In what has become
known as Tansiqeyyet Al-A'oroush, or Laarac,
the Berber demands included the judicial trials of the paramilitary policemen
involved in the killing of 126 unarmed Berber civilians; an economic emergency
plan for the deprived Berber areas; the official recognition of Tamazight - the
Berber language; the withdrawal of government troops from Kabylia; and greater
Tamanrasset: at Tamanrasset Mr Bouteflika announced
he is not the captain to abandon a sinking ship in a crisis, but he will not
accept a revolution. When Hocine Ait Ahmed urged the United
Nations to investigate the recent unrest, and a number of Berber groups and web
sites called for the perpetrators of such crimes to be brought to justice for
crimes against humanity, Arab officials rejected any international intervention.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its report on Algeria, argued that the
Kabyle protests are not ‘ethnic disturbance’ but ‘a result of inadequate political
representation’, and that ‘the Kabyle political parties and the popular protest
movement known as the “Coordinations” must consider their behaviour
MAK: in 2001, the Algerian revolutionary poet
and artist Ferhat Mehenni formed a political group calling for (self) autonomy: Mouvement
pour l'autonomie de la Kabylie (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia: MAK).
Its name in Tamazight is: Timanit i Tmurt n Yeqvayliyen.
The movement was ahead of its time and therefore it was reported that it had
no wider public support at the time, even though people still are afraid to freely
express themselves regarding
"autonomy", "independence" and other "strong" matters.
Having said this, the aim of the group is shared by many Berberists from all
over North Africa. Only democratic voting can decide how many Berbers are in
support of autonomy across the ten countries. Remove the dictators, introduce
peace and secular democracy, then ask the people what they think of it all. They
will tell you. But these are too dangerous requirements that the Berbers' critics
say are "unrealistic"
to achieve. Of course. The reasons for this are obvious and should not
be viewed as negative. For a start,
the Berbers and the Arabs are different in so many ways, and therefore it makes
more sense if the Berbers decide their own social, cultural, economic and political
affairs in harmony with their own culture and traditions, like any other group
in the world, in the same way the Berbers cannot tell the Arabs what to do –
imagine the thought taking place, in the mind and not in the real world, of course!
The group later set up The Provisional Government of Kabylia in exile, in France
below for more on this).
Then on the 12th of March 2002, the Algerian president Bouteflike declared
that he decided to include Tamazight in the constitution as a national language,
but not an official one. Under pressure from Tamazight communities of Algeria,
Boutefliqa's government also promised the rehabilitation and the promotion of
Tamazight and the creation of the “High Committee for Amazighity” – less
than year when King Mohamed VI set up the Royal Institution for Amazigh Culture
In January 2005, the BBC’s website has reported that, “Algeria’s government
has signed a deal with ethnic Berber leaders, promising economic aid for the
restive minority and more recognition for its language.” The agreement relates
to the “-Kseur Platform”, which lists the Berber’s demands drawn up after the
unrest in 2001, including the official recognition of Berber language, and greater
economic investment in the Kabyle region.
2006 - 2009:
Algerian Regime Racism Against Berbers عنصرية النظام
150 Berber teenagers were shot-dead by the Algerian Security Forces
for a short report about the Algerian government's response to peaceful Berber
demands for freedom and dignity ( youtube-nocookie.com/embed/6aNnINzCOAs ).
2008: the Algerian government banned the general
congress of the CMA in Kabylie.
2009: members of the Council Federal of the CMA
in Tizi-Ouzou were arrested.
2010: a Human Rights Seminar was held in Tizi-Ouzou
on the 23rd of July 2010, to promote human rights. The event was organised by
the CMA (World Amazigh Congress), the AFK (Kabylie’s Women Organisation), and
the Kabylie-Solidarité Organisation, in coordination with the IPACC. Approximately
one hour after the seminar started, around twenty policemen burst into the hall and
ordered those present to stop the session. While the police were confiscating
all material and equipment found inside, those who were leaving were arrested
and taken away in police cars to the local police station. After interrogation
and identity verification, the detainees were released in the evening.
Provisional Government of Kabylia:
President: Ferhat Mehenni.
Lhacène Ziani: Minister of the Kabyle Language, Education, Universities and Training.
Mr. Lyazid Abid: Minister of Communication, Justice & Human Rights.
Declaration De Tanger (kabylie-gouv.org/tiserriḥt-n-Ṭanǧa-n,499.html?lang=taq)
The Provisional Government of Kabylia, known as the Anavad Aqvayli,
was established on the 1st of June 2010, in exile in France, as a temporary government.
The head and founder of MAK was appointed as the President of the government,
with nine ministers (including two women). Accusations circulated around the
internet that the movement is a "separatist group", aiming to divide
Algeria, but as we saw elsewhere these were false accusations designed to discredit
the movement and suppress the Berbers' struggle for justice and freedom.
The Berbers have no problem with living together with the Arabs as brothers and
sisters, as they did for the last 14 hundred years, so long as both equally enjoy
the same democratic freedom. The unity of Libya, Algeria or Morocco is not on
the table, but justice and equality are. In fact the Declaration on the Rights
of Indigenous Peoples guarantees the Berbers the right to self-govern; and therefore
self-autonomy does not mean a separate country, as many would have others believe.
According to the president himself, the government was set up to represent
the Kabyle people, whom were treated like strangers in their own country, as
well as campaign for basic human rights and cultural and political freedom, others
openly enjoy and take for granted. If the Berbers are marginalised and collectively
punished, then they have the right to get together and help run their own excluded
communities – even though deprived of their share of the national wealth they
can only do very little to effect noticeable change. The Kabyle government should
have both: recognition and funds from the Algerian government. Instead,
the president Ferhat Mehenni has been, during his life, arrested 13 times and
imprisoned for three years; as he was a target of an assassination campaign.
He has survived five assassination attempts, so far. The last attempt took place
in Tunisia on the 26th of January, 2011, after he was lured to
Tunis to meet international media figures (kabylia-gov.org/a-failed-plan-to-assassinate-the,370.html?lang=en).
12 January 2012:
Berbers Celebrate The New Year: Yennayer:
Aljazeera: Inside Story: The Berbers, Autonomy & Unified
The 12th of January has now been presumed the day in which the Berbers should
celebrate the festival of Yennayer, the New Year, across North Africa. Unlike
the other protests sweeping Libya, Tunisia and Morocco, the Kabyles of Algeria
took to the streets in celebration of the new year to press for autonomy.
The MAK (Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylia) organised the new year protests,
in which nearly 10,000 people took part, calling for an end to repression and
the right to run their own affairs – something most nations take for granted,
except the Berbers and others who must "disappear" and give-up their "unrealistic" rights
for dignity and identity. Assimilation and forced integration into another's
identity is however very real.
The above Inside Story asks the right questions: is a unified Berber entity
achievable? Does a unified Berber entity pose a threat to the existing regimes
in the region? But don't you think this is a question the Berbers ought to be
asked to answer? One of the speakers (apparently an English Algeria expert) claims
that the Algerian government did not discriminate against the Berbers!
Two of the three speakers in the above debate stated that the autonomy
movement is a minority group mostly based outside Algeria and that it has no
wide public support inside Algeria. This may be true, but most Berberists fled
North Africa for Europe to save their lives because of their daring ideals that
were outlawed in their own home. How many outspoken Berbers were imprisoned and
assassinated for their strong views of identity?
One only needs to look at the number of attempts on the life of Ferhat Mehenni (as
we saw above) to realise the true danger Berber politicians still
face right now in North Africa and in exile too. It is therefore misleading for
experts to speak in such manner without regard for the sufferings of the Berber
activists and with disregard for the security issues faced.
People all over North Africa have been suppressed, intimidated, imprisoned
and executed for speaking out the outlawed truth, and therefore it is not possible
to speak about "public support" for the autonomy until dictatorship
is removed, democracy introduced, and then a referendum is held for the people
to settle the issue in a democratic way.
Until very recently Berbers in Libya faced death for openly saying they are
Berbers to the authority, and so one can only imagine the consequences if they
spoke about "self-determination", "independence" and "revolution",
even in today's supposedly free Libya. People need to be free first, before they
can speak out their political opinion, let alone other more daring ideals.
Secondly the Berbers' demands are not "unrealistic" and have nothing
to do with "language", as one speaker said. They have to do with
true freedom (not integration into another's freedom); with the political will
to decide one's destiny; and with the right to identity and nationality as recommended
by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Whether a unified entity is achievable or not, or whether the Berbers can
do this right now or not, are issues the Berbers and their friends, if any, must
tackle and deal with in a civilised manner, away from the "encouraged"
and "popularised" violence. All countries were built from scratch,
or else were invaded ready-made, and so things take time to develop, given the
right support and adequate funds.
The good news is that international media and political "experts" at last
began to respond to the Berbers pleas to join the debate, in the open, and that
in itself is a great joy and victory the Berbers are proud to achieve.
One of the earliest Berber revolts started in 740 AD (around 122 AH), in
Tangier, Morocco, before it spread to the rest of North Africa and Spain. The
rebellion, said to be led by Maysara al-Matghari, was triggered in response to
the state into which Berber North Africa was brought to after 641 AD. Under the
Umayyad Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, the Caliphs and sultans reportedly began
to treat the native Berbers with indifference as they viewed them inferior and
pagan tribes who were "barbaric" and "unorganised", to whom
they claimed brought civilisation and "unity". It was also reported
that the Berbers were frequently assigned harsher duties during the ensued wars,
like stationing them in the frontline while Arab forces were kept in the rear. The
revolt achieved a degree of success, as the fighters succeeded in liberating
a number of provinces; but the Arabs strengthened their positions and held on
to their command-and-control centre at Kairouan. Even though full victory was
not achieved by the Berbers, the limited success saw the creation of a number
of Berber States and Dynasties across the Maghreb ('The West'); thereby transferring
control of most of North Africa back to the Berbers, as the Caliphs of the east
lost complete control over North Africa. Some Moroccan historians consider
this revolt to be the beginning of Moroccan independence, as Morocco never came
under foreign rule since, until the 20th century when modern colonial armies
arrived. However, the independence of Morocco from France in the 20th century,
in which France passed on control to the minority Arab population of Morocco,
was only seen as such by the Arabs of Morocco, as the Berbers of Morocco became
second class citizens in their own country; and therefore true independence of
Morocco from the perspective of the 740 AD revolt, it can be argued, is yet to
The Atlas mountains, without a doubt, had provided the Berbers of Morocco
with greater protection from the various invaders who roamed the coastal plains.
Analysts had pointed out that for most of the past 13 centuries the High Atlas
mountains have been exclusively controlled by groups of armed Berber leaders
who refused to submit to the Arab sultans of the low coast, as much as they resisted
pacification from neighbouring Europeans; especially between 1918 and 1920 when
the Rif tribesmen revolted against the French and Spanish penetration of
The Berber Rif Revolution: 1920 - 1926:
Centuries after the Spanish massacres of the Berbers in the Canary Islands, the
Spanish conquest of Morocco was fiercely resisted by the local Berbers, whose
leader Si Muhammad n-Si Abd al-Krim al Khatabi (AbdelKrim) came close to victory
in 1921, after he inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Spanish army. After World
War I, the Spanish distributed nearly 63,000 soldiers across the northern and
western parts of Morocco. The local Berbers fought back on several fronts, including
at Anwal or Anual, where they slaughtered nearly 23,000 Spanish soldiers (13,000
in 1921; and 10,000 in 1924); to effectively succeeded in expelling
the Spanish from Morocco.
This victory allowed the Berber general to form the Government
of the Republic of the Rif on the 1st of February 1923. The government
had a good start, introduced reforms, legal and administrative departments, the
smell of freedom, and even sought international recognition from Western European
countries including France and the UK to bolster their newly won independence.
Euphoric as they might have been, the leaders of the victory, however, were not
contended with this limited achievement, and quickly went on to liberate other
regions (then still under French control).
The colonial masters began to
worry, and with the humiliation of defeat hard to overcome, they ganged up (when
Spanish generals called for French help) and returned with a formidable force
on May 1926 to ransack
the independent Rif in vendetta. It was documented that the Spanish army
used toxic gas (including
phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas [Iperita]) to quell the Berber
Revolution in 1924; of which many people continue to die of cancer today. According
to the above linked report, "common
targets were civilian populations, markets, and rivers"; and that Berenguer
had stated that: "I have been obstinately resistant to the use of suffocating
gases against these indigenous peoples but after what they have done, and of
their treasonous and deceptive conduct, I have to use them with true joy".
Apparently, according to some Moroccan activists,
the details of this horrific crime have been suppressed by both the Spanish government
and the Arab Moroccan monarchy; and even historians fell in the habit of covering
up for their masters. The attempt to stage a conference on the issue was also
blocked by the Moroccan authorities. Unable to sustain his short-lived victory
against the onslaught of two powerful foreign nations, the native Berber leader
Abdelkrim went into exile, where he died with dignity in Cairo in 1963.
The Berber Dahir: the French-created Berber Dahir,
the Berber Decree, was said to have triggered both Moroccan national movement
and national divisions; by which the French protectorate had hopped to
gain partial control over the Berbers' property and state of affairs in line
with the best of its regional interests – the implied protection of "doorstep" –
as it were. Most observers, however, agree that the creation of the decree on
the 16th of May 1930 had indeed propounded Berber egalitarian doctrines and customary
law against the religious legislations of the new comers to doctor pacification
of the ever-resilient native Berber fighters of the free Atlas mountain, whom
they tried very hard to pacify but failed to obfuscate. Pan-Arabists, on the
other hand, were quick on their feet, drumming up selfish-freedom and confused
democracy while brandishing racial tension as they proclaimed to be the only
legitimate authority to oppress the Berbers and confiscate their land. Failing
to see its doomed destiny, the colonial mashed-up law was ultimately cancelled.
The scrapped "contract",
the decree to hijack the Berbers' will and sacred Azref to stigmatise
them, has gone. Both the Arabs and the French fighting over the control of Morocco
is without a doubt a historical fact, but sowing seeds of division is not correct,
since until then there never was an Arab state encompassing the whole of Morocco,
just as in Libya where the Italians handed over control to the Arabs in what
until then seemed a stateless state – as it is now (2011-13). Thousands
upon thousands of Berbers were slaughtered defending their sacred home from colonial
intruders before they successfully created the Berber Independent
Read the Berber Dahir in English at:
Read the Berber Dahir in French at:
MNP: The Popular Movement: the National Popular
Movement party (Mouvement national populaire) was a recognised political
party founded in 1957 by the Berber Caid Mahjoubi Aherdane and
Dr. Abdelkrim al-Khatib. In 2003 the party became a member of Liberal International;
and in 2006 the party merged with the Democratic Union (Union démocratique).
However, the average seats usually won by the party varies from 30 to 40 out
of 325 seats.
The Moroccan Istiqlal ('Independence') Party
considered the Berber identity as a relic of imperial colonialism. Therefore,
what independence means to an Arab is not really what it means to a native imperial
Berber. Would they one day realise this will not work? In 1958 the Berbers of
the Rif, however, rebelled again. But the crisis was settled against their
wishes by the inclusion of the Rif into unified Morocco; and hence, for the first
time in this very long historical saga, complete control was transferred to the
minority Arabs while the majority Berbers were downgraded as "colonial
agents". Who was it who made the deal with the colonial powers? Who destroyed
the Berber Rif? The BBC’s Rabat correspondent Sebastian Usher reported that although
an estimated 60% of Moroccans are Berbers,
“Morocco’s constitution enshrines Arabic as the country’s only official
language,” and that “The fact that Berbers were the original inhabitants
of North Africa since before the Arab invasions of the 7th century has been seen
as a potential challenge to their authority by Morocco’s Arab rulers ever since.”
The colonial powers were somewhat unhappy with the rebellious Berbers
who resisted all attempts to surrender. They are not easily moulded into other
forms. After the so-called independence of Morocco, the new constitution
declared Morocco part of the Arab world and proclaimed Arabic its only official
language, and thereby omitting Berber completely from the equation. Without the
help of French and Spanish military this would have been impossible to achieve.
1956: the abolition of the Berber chair at Rabat's
Moroccan Institute for Advanced Studies.
In the 1960s, the Berber reputable College at Azrou was the only scientific
school in Morocco at the time. However, according the www.adrar.nl one cannot
say much about the real intentions of the Ministry of Education as there are
no documents accessible to the public which would outline the language policy
After the failed Berber coup in 1971, Tamazight language was ousted from
the royal palace, and Arab teachers were posted to the Atlas mountains to teach
Arabic, in an aborted attempt to Arabise the region, at the same time Berber
activists were calling for an end to such actions and for Tamazight to be recognised
as an official language. In 1972 the Berber general M. Oufkir,
(/Oufqeer/) the most outspoken critic of king Hassan's government,
was executed and members of his family were imprisoned after they refused to
renounce the name Oufkir. During the 1970s and 1980s many of the Berber
high ranking officials in the Moroccan government were forced to retire long
before the age of retirement, followed by a sharp slow in recruitment. The Berbers
became a danger to the king. Berber underground movement, active since the 1930s,
took their fight to the open and began demanding their rights as free citizens
of Morocco. By the 1978 the Moroccan parliament gave up the suppression policy
and finally agreed (or promised) to set up an institution to study Tamazight culture,
but this did not materialise until 12 years later.
Foundation of the Berber association "Tamaynut" (tamaynut.org)
in Rabat, to campaign for greater rights for the Berbers of Morocco. The association
was formed by a group of Berber activists including Hassan Id Balkassm, an attorney
lawyer accredited by the Higher Court in Rabat since 1982, who is currently the
president of the association.
As the underground movement began to gain widespread support from the Berbers
of Morocco, the activists succeeded in founding a number of Berber language and
cultural associations, issued publications, and set up websites and newspapers.
With the events unfolding next door (in Algeria) the Moroccan government effectively
had no option but to concede to the peaceful demands.
Local Berbers from the Atlas reported that in 1992 a group of "Arabic-speaking
foreigners" arrived in the mountain, with the aim of setting up plans
to remove King Hassan II from the palace and take control of Morocco. Whatever
the origin of this was, it should not be excluded that the idea of using the
majority Berbers against the minority monarch stands an attractive idea; which
perhaps the reason the King reversed his ouragious policies. Why make the majority
of Morocco your enemy?
1993: the first meeting of the National Coordination
Council of Amazigh Associations: a grouping of the Berber cultural and political
associations in Morocco.
The foundation of the First Group of Indigenous Peoples of Africa (IPACC).
Hassan Id Balkassm, the president of Tamayunt, and the former president of the
World Amazigh Congress, was appointed the president of IPACC. In July 1994,
a Berber delegation attended the annual meeting of the United Nations Working
Group on Indigenous Peoples, in Geneva, where they had identified the Berbers
as an "indigenous" group. This is not to say that the world and the
UN did not know that the Berbers were the indigenous peoples of North Africa,
but it seemed that the Berbers had to fight for their basic human rights even
within the UN institution. Recognising the Berbers as an indigenous group allows
them a number of rights "recommended" or else "urged" by the UN convention,
including the full rights to use their own language and the right to self-govern.
The Berbers of Morocco have finally won the right to broadcast news in Tamazight
on national TV in 1994. The King Hassan II had announced in a speech (20/08/1994)
that Berber language deserves a place in schools. Those two events went on to
transform the Berber situation in Morocco, even though practical results were
then still a good few years away. Berber associations, groups, radio & television
programs, interviews, newspapers, magazines, and websites were created by the
end of the decade to express the new rights of movement. There is no going back.
But the direction forward had so far been proved difficult to define.
In March 2000, hundreds of Berber activists signed the Berber Manifesto.
The document illustrates the persecution suffered by the Berber (majority) minority
of Morocco and the humiliation and alienation endured at the hands of the king's
government. They had also demanded:
Economic development of the neglected Berber rural areas.
State financial funding and support for Berber cultural institutions.
And update school textbooks to include the Berbers' important role in creating
2001: The IRCAM ?
King Mohamed VI had promised to preserve Tamazight language by integrating
it into the education system, and set up the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture
(IRCAM) to monitor its progress. The IRCAM was created on Wednesday 17th of October
2001. However, according to Tamaynut (http://tamaynut.org/tamaynut/), the Federal
Council (CF) of the Amazigh World Congress had noted that anti-amazigh
panarabists were named with the direction of this organisation. These
reservations appear to have more weight than initially anticipated. For instance,
Berber language has always been known as Tamazight, and the Berber society
has always been a matriarchal one, but the institute (and other sites and organisations)
refer to Tamazight ('Berber Language') as “Amazigh Language” or "the language
of the Amazigh people"; and hence the phrases ‘Amazigh Culture’,
‘Amazigh People’ and the absurd ‘Amazighity’ became the symbols
of intellectual corruption. Also a member (or a representative) of the IRCAM,
while he was in Yemen recently, apparently said the Berbers originally come from
Yemen (see 2010, below for more on this). The most valid analysis of the King's
IRCAM's hidden agenda was given by Professor Salem Chaker (see 2004, below: the
carriage before the horse).
2003: Teaching Berber in Moroccan schools:
The king's government has finally permitted the teaching of Tamazight ('Berber
language') in nearly 15 percent of the country's primary schools. The decision
came into effect on the 15th of September 2003, when Berber language was officially
introduced in 317 primary schools on an experimental basis, which the Moroccan
Ministry of Education aims to extend to all schools by 2013. Tamazight names
and traffic signs in Berber Tifinagh still seem to cause some worry,
but after this historic move more can be expected because everything is linked
to speech – the apparatus that makes us humans.
The IRCAM was successful in convincing the International Organization of
Standardization (ISO) to recognise Berber Tifinagh. In June 2004 Tifinagh was
registered in the ISO's register of the languages of the world. This means that
the coding of Tifinagh will enable it, from 2005, to be integrated into the software
products of the major companies. The new Tifinagh system contains 55 letters,
22 of which were new additions.
PDAM: The Moroccan Amazigh Democratic Party
(Parti démocrate amazigh marocain), Akabar Amagday Amazigh Amrrukan,
was created by Berber activists in Morocco 2005. The aim of the political party
is to campaign for "political secularism" and
greater cultural, economical, administrative and social rights for the Berber
tribes of Morocco. In 2006, however, the party changed its name to: Parti
écologiste marocain - Izigzawn (Moroccan Ecologist Party – Greens); indicating
the rise of green issues and the conservation of the Berber landscape.
2007 - 2008:
PDAM Banned: the PDAM was banned by the Moroccan
Interior Ministry in 2007, apparently because Moroccan law forbids parties founded
on ethnicity or religious principles – thereby defying the whole point of 'parties'.
Then the party was dissolved by a court decision in 2008.
2010: UN's CRED:
In August the 27th, 2010, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination (CRED) examined the reports submitted by Morocco in
accordance with Article 9th of the UN Convention, and consequently issued a number
of requirements, including the need for Morocco to step up its efforts to promote
Tamazight language and to consider the inclusion of Tamazight in the Moroccan
Constitution as an official language.
February Uprising 2011:
The uprising in Morocco started on the 20th of February 2011, calling for
a true democratic constitution and a parliamentary monarchy. Protesters say the
reforms proposed by the king do not meet their demands, but the proposal to officially
recognise Berber as an official language in Morocco was especially welcomed.
June - July 2011:
Tamazight An Official Language: on the 12th
of June 2011, a constitutional reform was passed to the king of Morocco recommending
the recognition of Tamazight ('Berber Language') as one of the official languages
of Morocco, with a referendum to be held on the 1st of July 2011 to vote for
the new reforms. The results of the referendum were an overwhelming approval,
with 98.5 of the population voting in favour. However, some Berberists say the
results were manipulated to allow the king a new democratic image in order to
survive the current uprisings in North Africa.
The head of the IRCAM answers questions relating to the constitutionalisation
of Tamazight and the use of Tifinagh, at: ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=artip&pg=1&rd=44
بوكوس: دسترة الأمازيغية حدث تاريخي وكتابتها بحرف «تيفيناغ» حظي بتوافق وطن
15 January 2012:
Tawda: Moroccan Berbers call for officialising
the Berber New Year as a national holiday:
Berber protesters took to the streets of Rabat on Sunday the 15th of January
2012, to demand urgent follow-up of the Berbers' demands, to protest against
marginalisation, and to express solidarity with the Imazighen revolutionaries
of Libya. The Moroccan government has promised some reforms, but in practice
very little was implemented. They have also called for the government to release
all Berber prisoners and detainees. The protests coincided with the third day
of the (unofficial) Tamazight New Year (12 January 2962
AD), which the protesters demanded from the government to be made "official" and
"national holiday". Arab critics were quick, as usual, to denounce
the demands as imperial agendas.
Mah'joubi Ah'erdan speaks to Channel 8 (Tamazight).
1894: is the year the people of Azawad reckon
they lost their land, independence and dignity, and hence the MNLA calls
for the return of the territories occupied since 1894.
Kaocen: the Tuareg's struggle for freedom and
their wars against the French saw a long history of violence; leading
to organised resistance. Tuareg history states that after the defeat of Egatregh in
1899, the resistance leader ag Kaocen Keddi Igerzawen, from the powerful confederation
of Ikazkzen Air, began to unite the various movements into an organised
1911: the rise of Firhoun of Ikazkazan in
1914: Kaocen Revolt:
the pre-independence rebellion of Ag Mohammed Wau Teguidda Kaocen of the Aïr
Mountains in 1914.
1915 - 1916: the rebellion of the Tuareg and
the Gourma Iwellemmeden: the fight to liberate one's homeland continued in 1915
in the Gourma Tuareg region, and by 1916 the leader of the Tuareg Iwellemmeden
Firhoun managed to escape from prison to lead the revolt for independence; which
eventually led to the massacre of the Iwellemmeden, after they were misled into
laying down their arms. The leader did manage to escape, again, but later died
after he was captured by the Kel Ahaggar auxiliaries, said to be working for
the French army. According to one Tuareg account the Songhay tribe were severely
punished and their villages razed to the ground,
as they were found to have had assisted the Tuareg fighters with guns, supplies
1916: the Tuareg of Ajjer came under heavy attack
and were forced to flee their Djanet military post in 1916. The scholar
(Father) de Foucauld was said to have been assassinated by the Tuareg of Ahaggar,
after being found spying on Tuareg positions. In the same year, Kaocen and his
army joined the main camp in the valley of Ikazkazen Amantaden, and called for
the union of all the Tuareg groups. The united army laid siege to Agadez for
three months, but the French enforced their positions and sent Tuareg fighters
back whence they came, the lifeless desert, in 1917.
1919: Kaocen went into exile, to begin regrouping
another resistance force. After the siege of Zawilah (also lasted for three months),
the Tuareg retreated to Gatroun, where they regrouped, only to be defeated again,
and forced to flee to Bilma, before they arrived in Zinder. Under the leadership
of Air's Tagama the fight against the French continued. After the capture of
Tagama and his subsequent killing in Agadez, the movement came to a halt, with
disastrous effects, where people fled to exile, their homes were looted, their
country was taken, and became "homeless" as well as
"landless" in their own homeland.
1960: Mali gained or was granted its independence
in the 1960s. The Tuareg's state descended into neglect, and severely repressed
by the post-colonial government. Many Tuareg people believe this wave of persecution
continued well after the so-called democratic coup in 1991. The dignified Tuareg
society began to disintegrate, as the imposed conflict destroyed livestock
and forced communities to flee to neighbouring poor states; as if precisely
the objective of it all. The Tuareg societies were dispersed out of their homeland,
after having been divided by colonial borders and maps.
1962-63: The First Tuareg
Independent Tuareg Nation: the repressive new regime triggers
a new wave of Tuareg armed resistance, when Tuareg groups from Northern Mali
took arms and rebelled against the government in 1962. The Tuareg called for
an independent sovereignty, but their demands were silenced by the heavily armed
post-colonial Malian government by 1963. Some Tuareg leaders called for the world,
as they still do today, to see the irony and intervene with some 'help', but
like before, things can only get worse. This year marked the First Tuareg Rebellion,
which some critics say did not reflect a unified leadership or clear evidence
of a coherent "strategic vision".
1970s/1980s: as if the destruction caused by
wars was not enough, the severe Sahelian Drought of
the 1970s and 1980s hit the Sahara with devastating effects. Water became scarce,
green disappeared, livestock died, and people starved. Many Tuareg fled back
to the desert, once more, for humiliating life in setup relief camps, others
were urged or forced to integrate into larger cities alien to their needs, tens
of thousands fled as refugees to neighbouring countries, while the younger generations
emigrated to Europe and America in search of "life".
1990: The Second Tuareg
Rebellion (Revolution): (1990–1995): the rebellion is also known as the
Third Tuareg Rebellion, in reference to the pre-independence rebellions of 1911
and 1914. An armed uprising by the Tuareg of Niger and Mali re-ignites, with
the aim of achieving autonomy and forming their own nation-state. The so-called "insurgency" occurred
in a period following the open political repression of the Tuareg people, the
regional famine of the 1980s, and the subsequent refugee crisis. The conflict
is one in a series of Tuareg-based revolts. The 1990's is therefore a decade
fraught with complex events and the creation of a large number of Tuareg organised
armed resistance groups across Niger and Mali. The rebellion caused a major
upset to the economy of the region. The tourist centre of Agadez, the Tuareg
trade centre of In-Gall, and the uranium mining
town of Arlit, were evacuated of foreigners, as the army moved in to suppress
the revolution: the Tuareg Revolution. Tuareg leaders however called of international
assistance, as they said their scarce resources did not allow them to form an
independent central government. As a response, the government of Niger agreed
to include Tuareg representatives in its government. Soon it emerged that some
of these Tuareg figures were a source of controversy, as Tuareg leaders felt
that they were "tricked" into
submission by false promises. However, the Tuareg of Niger say they are still
keeping an eye on the government's activity in the Air Region, as well as on
the Arlit's uranium business.
1990: Mali: the reported increase of atrocities
committed by the army against the people of Mali, particularly in the northern
regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, had one obvious conclusion: the Tuareg of
Mali joined the armed conflict and entered into direct confrontation with the
Malaian government. In a matter of few months nearly 600 civilians
were said to have died. The Algerian government intervened to effect a peace
agreement at Tamanrasset, but the outcome was hopeless
and mounted to no more than a failed attempt, some say, was instigated to destroy
the liberation movement.
1990: FPLN: Tchin-Tabaradene
Massacre: the Tuareg fighters formed a political opposition group in Libya
called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Niger (FPLN). After the attack
of Tchin-Tabaradene, the region descended into chaos and life became very hard,
forcing many Tuareg people to flee to other countries, and leading the government
to close the borders with both Libya and Algeria. As conditions worsened the
Tuareg were promised aid to ease their situation, but nothing arrived. Feeling
fed up with the whole thing, the FPLN attacked the police station at Tchin-Tabaradene
in May 1990, and fighting followed, in which at least 31 people died. According
to Tuareg accounts, the Nigerien army began arresting people in Tchin-Tabaradene,
Gharo and In-Gall, hundreds of whom died.
The military chief at Timbuktu was reported to have sent his army to start
the systematic arrest of tribal chiefs and religious leaders, whom were publicly
executed without any form of juridical trial at Tillia, Tchin-Tabaraden and Tahoua.
Soldiers were garrisoned around all the water wells, systematically shooting
at whoever tries to get some water, in the desert, of course. It was reported
that the victims' families were held for a year after the killing. Soon
afterwards the already exhausted Tuareg communities came under a new kind of
attack where both the Algerian and Libyan governments began their systematic
destruction of the Tuareg traditional social structure by forcing the Tuareg
to abandon their ancient way of life and home and instead hoarded into newly
built villages and towns, in an attempt to assimilate them into the modern world.
The Tuareg felt they were blackmailed into submission, and many of them refused
to buy; and if they wanted anything then they must visit the new centres, like
Tamenrast, and practically, as one Tuareg put it, beg the Arabs. Many dignified
Tuaregs refused to submit and remained in the desert without any financial support
or help from the government.
After the massacre, the organised resistance was the only hope, once again,
and again, for the Tuareg people to defend themselves. A number of political
and resistance groups sprung up from the disaster: the Front of Liberation
of Aïr and Azawagh (FLAA);
the Front for the Liberation of Tamoust (FLT);
the Armed Resistance Against The Authorities of Mali and Niger, and
the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MPLA: Mouvement
Populaire de Libération de l'Azawad).
The MPLA is a Tuareg group formed in the northern region of Mali,
originally established in exile (in Algeria and Libya). Their military campaign
in June 1990 was said to have started the civil war in Mali; eventually leading
to the toppling of the Malian government, and the signing of the Tamanrasset
Accord with the government of Mali. In December 1991 the MPLA joined forces with
MFUA: (the United Movements and Fronts of Azawad):
the union was founded in 1991, when most of the following groups were united
to form the United Movements and Fronts of Azawad:
Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MPLA or MPA)
Revolutionary Liberation Army of Azawad (ARLA),
separated from MPA in 1991
Popular Liberation Front of Azawad (FPLA)
National Liberation Front of Azawad (FNLA)
The Autonomous Group of Timitrine
The Autonomous Liberation Front of Azawad (FULA)
The Patriotic Movement of Ganda Koye (MPGK)
1992: Truce: the
government sets up a security zone in the North. In August 1992 the army arrests
nearly 200 Tuareg, apparently for being 'Tuareg'. In 1993, the new government
makes a truce with the FLAA; but other groups continued the resistance and the
1992: The National Pact: the Tuareg liberation
movement in Mali signed a peace agreement with the Malian government called "the
National Pact"; which promised the various tribal groups in the area (including
Tuareg, Fulani and Songhay) a level of self-autonomy that would allow them a
limited power to run their own affairs. The National Pact also called for the
creation of a "Commission of Inquiry", but nothing materialised.
1992: peace short lived: the peace talks had
failed to effect a solid solution to the Tuareg's struggle for dignity and freedom.
Violence broke out again and as a result tens of thousands of Tuareg and Maurs
escaped to Mauritania and Algeria, leaving behind their deserted homes and belongings
in one of the most disastrous events in the region. Some reports say the number
of refugees was more than 100,000. It was reported that on the 14th of
May 1992 government officers were responsible for the death of twelve Tuareg
workers, working for the ONG (the Assistance of the Norwegian Church); followed
by 48 "breeders" (and their animals close to a water-well near Foita)
three days later.
1992: Tuareg sources say the peace National
Pact had achieved one thing: dividing the liberation movement into
various factions. The MFUA meets the new president Alpha Oumar Konare. While
other groups turned to what was termed as "terrorist" activities to
defend themselves and their homeland.
1993: Tuareg and Maur groups, often refered to as
"bandits" by the media, stepped up their campaign in the North of Mali;
leading to a near-state of civil war breaking out, when the military and the
newly formed vigilante groups joined in. Nearly 300 fighters, government soldiers
and civilians died. The reprisals spread across the region: vigilante groups
were responsible for the death of four people and the injury of 12 more in Menaka;
50 more died around Timbuktu; and around 100 in Bamba.
1994: Peace Agreement:
the government of Niger started peace-talks with the various armed groups, and
in June 1994 a second meeting took place in Paris. During the third meeting in
September 1994, an "agreement of peace" was signed between Niger and the Tuareg
resistance in Ouagadougou. This agreement is not peace in itself but only a plan
to discuss and reach a peaceful solution. October 1994: a military patrol vehicle
was shot at by government-loyal forces, killing the director of the Swiss Cooperation
Mission and two Malian colleagues in Niafunke. Government sources say they were
assisting the Tuareg fighters. Then on the same month the fighters attacked the
town of Ansongo in Mali, killing around six people including the head of the
military unit stationed there. A few days later, a group of Tuareg fighters,
who were said to have been trained in Libya, attacked Gao, killing around 14
people. This led to government reprisals and to the formation of the Ghanda Koi
Songhai militia – an armed group created to fight Tuareg fighters.
1995: Peace Accord:
fighters organised their forces and formed two political and armed groups: the ORA and
the CRA. The CRA is a large organisation made up
of six Tuareg armed groups which joined forces to form the Coordination of the
Armed Resistance (CRA). The Niger Movement for Justice
(MNJ) and the Nigerien Patriotic Front (NPF) have agreed to establish the Coordination
of the Former Armed Resistance (CERA). Even though
the CRA continued a number of peace talks and negotiations with the government
of Niger, the freedom fighters say the peace accord produced no results, and
warned of resuming fighting if no serious measures were taken. With time, the
peace accord became a game, where a number of organisations signed independent
(and group) deals with the government, none of which produced any results; leading
many Tuareg analysts to say that the deals or the accords were
invented to divide the organised liberation movement and destroy the resistance.
the CRA signed a peace accord on October 1994
the ORA signed a peace accord on the 24th of April 1995. The ORA had later
suspended its participation in the talks, and was said to have carried an
armed assault on the Arab militiamen in the North of Niger.
the CRA rejects the ORA peace accord.
Ouagadougou Accords: various Tuareg groups sign a peace accord on the 15th
of April 1995, effectively ending the armed rebellion in 1998.
National Day of Concorde: a national holiday
in Niger, celebrated since the 24th of April 1995, when the ORA signed its peace
accord with the government of Niger, at the Congressional Palace in Niamey (Palais
des Congrès de à Niamey).
1995: Mano Dayak,
the CRA leader, died in a suspicious plane crash in the Adrar Chirouet region
(in Niger), on the 15th of December 1995, while he was in his way to meet government
officials for talks over the Peace Accords. Mano Dayak was the group leader who
led the Tamoust Liberation Front (FLT) – also a
member of the CRA alliance, and the one who opposed the ORA accord. His forces
continued to pound government positions from their base in the Tenere Desert,
east of Agadez.
1996: Timbuktu: weapons were ceremonially burnt
in 1996 in Timbuktu, in an attempt to end the long and bloody conflict.
1996: the Niger military coup d'etat of January
27, 1996: the coup removed the so-called Niger's first democratically-elected
President, Mahamane Ousmane, from power, and General Ibrahim Bare Mainassara
became the president. The new government lasted for about three years, and then
it was also removed in another coup in 1999.
1999: Niger's president Mainassara was ousted
from power in a military coup in January 1999.
2000: Flame of Peace:
the final peace agreement: the "Flame of Peace": a celebration of
an end to violence and armed conflict between the Tuareg and the government,
characterised by the burning of weapons on 25 September 2000 in Agadez.
2002: Air Info:
(airinfo-journal.com/index.php): the Tuareg newspaper Air Info was
launched in August 2002 by Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, a teacher and a student of literature
at the University of Niamey. Agadez was his first
newspaper. The first issue appeared on August 9, 2002. In April 2004, the newspaper
officially became a media group, which currently has five-permanent employees
in Agadez and seven correspondents around the rest of the region. In 2006, another
local newspaper was born in Zinder: The Damagaram, which has its own headquarters
in Zinder and its own editorial staff.
2006: ADC: the
Malaian Tuareg group [May 23, 2006] Democratic Alliance for Change ([Mai
23, 2006] Alliance démocratique pour le changement) led a number of
attacks in the northern region of Mali during the summer months of May, June
and July of 2006. In 2007, the ADC, led by former combatant Ibrahim Ag Bahanga,
said the attacks were coordinated with the MNJ.
Niger: in October 2006, the Tuareg leader Boutali Tchiwerin condemned the ecological
impact of the uranium industry and called for a greater share of the wealth and
the creation of jobs of the local people.
February 2007: after the various fake peace
talks, the region descended into a state of neglect, poverty and chaos, leading
to many Tuareg leaders to re-act. Apparently the uranium industry was blamed
for polluting the surrounding environment, while the Tuareg were deprived of
a fair share of the wealth they were promised before. As a result the Third (or
Fourth) Tuareg Rebellion started in early February 2007, when the MNJ attacked
a number of targets belonging to the Nigerien Armed Forces, and also business
and economic targets belonging to international companies and institutions, in
and around Iferouane, Arlit and Ingall. Between the 18th and the 22nd of June
2007, the MNJ attacked Niger's second largest airport in Agadez, in an attempt
to disrupt both: Niger's tourism and uranium industries, reporters said.
April 2007: Uranium:
the MNJ calls for the respect of the local environment and a stop of the pollution
caused by the uranium industry. It also enforced its call by attacking the power
station of the uranium mining facility near Arlit. The Arlit mines, operated
by the French, were said to account for a fifth of the world's uranium deposits.
Two months later (June 2007), land mines were laid along the route from Arlit
to the ports of Benin – the route through which the uranium is shipped out of
the country. However, according to the MNJ, the Nigerien government laid Chinese-made
landmines across the region. The head of French Areva's Niger operations, Dominique
Pin, had admitted that the April attacks had forced them to cease uranium production
for one month. Tension erupted between the Nigerien government and the French
Areva, leading the government to offer new contracts to the Chinese Nuclear International
Uranium Corporation (SinoU).
August 2007: State of
Emergency: on August the 24, 2007, Niger's president Mamadou Tandja declared
a state of emergency in Agadez region, as his forces began to intensify their
attacks on the Tuareg of Niger, with reports of widespread arrests, imprisonment
of fighters, and suppression of both local and international media. However,
the MNJ said its fighting force increased to 2000 fighters as a result of large
defections from the Nigerien army, reportedly including the entire special forces
unit Niger Rapid Intervention Company (defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=15215).
By now the Tuareg liberation movements were dragged into and associated with
terrorists activities, and as such they became the target of various governments.
It is more difficult for the Nigerien government to suppress a revolution and
an armed rebellion by the natives; but if these movements can be brought together
under the umbrella of terrorism, insurgency, banditry or traffickers, then they
can move in to eradicate the cause without fear of attracting international reprisals,
if not armed assistance itself. In April 2008 Niger passed a new Anti-Terror
law, granting the police and the army broader powers of arrest and detention.
The Tuareg Freedom Fighters have now become terrorists in their own countries.
August 2007: Iferouane:
nearly 80 percent of the population of Iferouane were moved by the Nigerien government
to the southern and poor regions of the country.
September 2007: Mali: the armed resistance spreads
to Mali once more, but as usual the Malaian army reacted with an immediate military
campaign to end the revolt. Two more ceasefires followed (one initiated by Libya
and the other by Tuareg leaders from Mali), but these now became a name for a "lull
September 2007: Niger: fighting broke out in
Niger, spreading deep south to areas which were previously unaffected by
the war. Yet again, the Nigerien government declared a state of emergency in
the north of the country and began its attacks on the various armed groups. The
result was nothing more than turning the region into a "humanitarian crisis
zone". The persecution of the Tuareg returned with more arrests and more
human rights abuses, widely reported by international media. However, fighting
continued well into the following year (2008), as the MNJ refused to surrender.
The uranium disaster: destroying the locals' way of life seems to create a charged
atmosphere of revenge - a kind of catalyst to create more terror response for
which others can respond with an iron fist; thereby keeping the people poor
and in constant state
of war. No one so far has demonstrated the ability to intervene with
wisdom and effect lasting prosperity for the stricken African colonies. Finally
the recent bombing of the newly-created Berber country Azawad scatters
the sponsored, radical groups across the region, for later to chase, of course,
and not to eradicate.
2008: MNJ's Vice President Acharif Ag Mohamed
Moctar was assasinated by the Nigerien Army at Tezirzait, in June 2008.
2008: December: the ATNMCA (Alliance
touareg nord mali pour le changement), a faction of the ADC group, resumed
a serious of attacks under the command of its leader Ibrahin Ag Bahanga. But
the revolt was swiftly suppressed by the Malaian government.
2008: Algerian and Libyan governments mediated
another peace deal in August 2008 between Malaian fighters and the Malaian government.
Like any other peace deal before, fighting resumed. It was reported that after
the government's attack on the fighters, a large number of Tuareg fighters defected
to the government and joined the Nigerien army; ATNMCA's chief Ibrahim Ag Bahanga
moved to Libya; while many Malaian fighters came to accept the reality. In fact
many of the Tuareg fighters fled to Libya, as life became very hard in their
own stricken and neglected countries, where some of whom had joined the Libyan
army as professional soldiers.
2008: Ibrahim Ag Bahanga returned home from
August 2008: Ibrahim Ag Bahanga assasinated: early
reports say he died in a car accident, but other reports say he was assasinated
by other fighters as they were moving weapons that were smuggled by Ag Bahanga
from Libya. Sources close to Ag Bahanga say he was collecting weapons to re-ignite
the Tuareg rebellion in the area.
2009: the Nigerien Tuareg fighters continued
to disrupt the uranium production in the north of the country. The earlier peace
accords began to achieve their (hidden) objective, as more splits began to emerge
among the various Tuareg liberation movements.
2009: Libyan government mediated a ceasefire
and hosted a meeting between various groups and the government. On the 3rd of
April, the Nigerien Minister of the Interior Albade Abouba arrived in Tripoli,
for talks with FFR's Mohamed Aoutchiki Kriska, FPN's Aklou Sidi Sidi, and MNJ's
Aghali Alamboat in Sert. The results, again, were no more than a lull in violence
(that is a temporary ceasefire) with promises of further talks to reach a permanent
peace deal, etc.
2009: MNJ Split:
in March 2009 splits emerged among the members of the MNJ, leading to its leader
(Ag Alambo) fleeing to Libya, and many of its fighting force joining the FPN.
After the split of the MNJ, the FPN began to call for peace talks. Under Libyan
supervision they met with government officials between March and June 2009.
Aghaly Ag Alambo: the leader of the MNJ, who
was also a member of FLAA, has recently returned to Niger from Libya, after Libyan
fighters came knocking on his door in Tripoli in September 2011 (read his
escape story below).
2009: by now, various armed groups in Niger
attempted to follow on the work of the pioneering leaders and unite the various
movements into a "national movement", with the aim
of overthrowing the Nigerien government. Attacks on the uranium production sites
continued, land-mines were used, and business and tourism were disrupted; but
the effects were no more than an increase of violence from the government, an
increase of the number of refugees, and the paralysing of all economic activity
outside the major towns; yet forcing more people to flee to other regions and
countries – as if that was the consequential objective.
2010: CSRD: the
Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) is a military group led
by Major Salou Djibo. On the 18th of February 2010 the CSRD managed to oust President
Mamadou Tandja in a coup d’état, and subsequently set up a transitional government,
allegedly based on democratic principles.
The leaders of the former Resistance Army met on the 22nd of September 2010
in Agadez, to examine the socio-political crisis prevailing in the region, and
noted the following:
The Tripoli peace talks, leading to laying down of arms by the various armed
fronts, had failed to see "the effective return of ex-combatants to their
families in return for a program of socio-economic reintegration".
The transitional government has ignored the peace agreement in practice,
as the various meetings with senior members of the transitional government, including
the Chairman of the CSRD, the Minister of the Interior, and the Prime Minister,
came to no fruitful conclusion.
The total indifference of France and its non-involvement in the conflict.
The lack of response from national authorities regarding the acts of terrorism
suffered by the FDS (Defence Forces and Security), Tillia (Tahoua) and Tilo (Tillabery).
The upsurge in banditry and drug trafficking in the region of victimised
Condemn the unwarranted attacks against the indigenous Tuareg Berbers, who
were accused of complicity to highlight their exclusion.
MNJ: Le Mouvement des Nigériens
pour la Justice (Niger Movement For Justice)
The Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) breaks the temporary silence that followed
the Libyan peace talks and declares its dissatisfaction with the development
in Niger, where thousands of combatants, who were promised re-integration, were
left to fend for themselves in the desert. The MNJ also stated its position by
reminding the CSRD and the government that the Movement is not a commercial enterprise,
and that the country and also the mediator Libya need to pay attention to the
crisis, to revive the peace talks and help bring about a peaceful solution to
the crisis. The MNJ calls for the support of the efforts of the authorities and
movements in the realisation of peace. Niger needs Peace, they say. The MNJ also
recommended that "the peace process" should follow established operational
structure consisting of respected dignitaries and transparent leaders, to ensure
a final solution to the crisis.
The Third Wave:
Disaster Strikes Again:
During the first wave, the 1990s, the warrior Tuareg of the 'Sahara' suddenly
found themselves "terrorists" in their own homes. Aftermath the second
wave, the 2000s, the dignified Tuareg were attacked for being "slave masters",
in a ploy to desecrate their matriarchal heritage and sacred matrilineal naming
system. Now, at the start of the third wave, they are "Gaddafi loyalists" and
anti revolution "Greens", probably to prevent them from having a Saharan
Homeland – the home of Human Civilisation!
This third wave of persecution had then forced the Tuareg to flee back home,
if you can call it that. With no where to go but back to enemy number "one",
after "learning to live" with enemy number "two", in an attempt
to evade enemy number "three", the Tuareg Saga goes on like a desert
curse from the Jinn Fortress of Tin Hinan.
The reality of course is far from any of that; but no doubt the "attempt" to
divide the Berbers is visibly there. Many international media outlets fell for
the scam, and openly began generalising specific rumours as historical fact,
even though some reporters did report the Tuareg of Libya being attacked by both,
by Gaddafi's militias and NTC's rebels, and even nature herself took her usual
part: the droughts that hit the Tuaregs between the wars.
Elkhabar, 'The News', reported (elkhabar.com/ar/politique/245884.html)
that hundreds of Tuareg, who made Libya their new home, after they fled their
war-torn home, have fled Libya back home again, after they refused to fight for
Gaddafi's government against the fighters of emerging new Libya, and not knowing
which way home is anymore 160 of them fell dead.
After the fighters had entered Tripoli in August 2011, Ishak
Ag Hassini spoke of the Tuareg's disaster and how they were hunted by
the rebels like "rats". The Tuareg of Ubari begged the world to open
their eyes and recognise the martyrs who lost their lives defending their homes
against Gaddafi's dying army.
MNJ's Alambo told Reuters that thousands of
his fighters joined the Libyan army to earn a better living than back at home
in Niger. Many people then hopelessly accepted Gaddafi's military apparatus (sold
to him by the West and the East), despite countless coup attempts to topple his
imposed regime – had it not been for his
"friends" who then were not ready to swap hats nor release the jinni from
the bottle. Read the statement made by the MNLA in relation to the allegations
spread by the media against them at: mnlamov.net/english/101-they-are-not-mercenaries.pdf .
Of course, there are those Tuareg who were not Libyans. Tens of thousands
of Tuareg refugees took shelter in Libya as a result of the disastrous effects
of the various rebellions and droughts that hit the Sahara in the past decades.
The Tuareg then were dying in their thousands, with hundreds of thousands fleeing
as refugees, but not many then wanted to know, as they claim to do now.
Even then, Reuters wrote, "Tuaregs
. . . backed Gaddafi and view the NTC with suspicion". Does "Tuaregs" here
mean "all Tuaregs"? In the same article Reuters replied: "Many Tuaregs
back Gaddafi because he supported their rebellion against the governments of
Mali and Niger in the 1970s." The Tuareg themselves, who can
legitimately answer better than anyone else, say hardly any – far less than the
number of Arabs who supported Gaddafi from all walks of Libya, including those
who are still ruling Libya today (2012). If Gaddafi did really support the Tuareg's
rebellions in Mali and Niger, why then did not he grant them their autonomy in
However, according to a copy of official Libyan government documents, obtained
by Libya.tv , the GPC enlisted 1722 Africans in
the Libyan army (after granting them Libyan nationality in 2009) including Malians,
Nigerien and Algerians, "which confirms", Libya.tv adds,
"that they belong to Tuareg tribes"; and that 124 of these
were executed by the regime because they refused to fight against the Libyans
during the early days of the February Uprising. (libya.tv/publicdownloads/Libyan_citizenship_Africans.pdf)
More confusing than all, is the issue of the media, the twin "brother" of
war, without which war cannot do. The "staged meeting"
between Gaddafi, when he was still clutching to his sinking ship, and the supposed
Tuareg tribal leaders, who declared their support for his looming farewell, surely
shows people dressed in Tuareg attire, but the way they wore them, the way they
walked, and they way they carried themselves are in no way similar to those of
genuine nomads. This staged support did resonate across the world and many took
the bait. They took it very well. Similarly, those little allies he gathered
before Aljamahiria's studios during his last speeches, waving the green flag
in slow motion, with the picture cutting off now and then to replay, over and
over again, reflect just that: the very little and staged support he had among
his Arabs, let alone from the Berbers.
According to (reuters.com/article/2011/09/11/uk-libya-niger-escape-idUSTRE78A1IH20110911 ), Aghaly Ag Alambo, the leader of the MNJ, spoke of atrocities committed by the
fighters including one incident in which four "humans"
were gunned down near where he lived and their bodies were thrown in the courtyard
of a nearby ruined clinic. Aljazeera later on showed lots of
bodies left to rot on the pavements and on the grass of Tripoli for days on end,
with the rebels refusing to burry them.
Alambo eventually fled over the roofs and found his way to Sabha, before he
returned to his turbulent home: Niger, to start the cycle all over again. While
Ag Hassini "called" for Algeria to re-open its border with Libya to
allow Tuareg refugees an escape route out of liberated Libya. Hear the drums
of Tinariwen's Walla Illa and you will learn what the masters of the
Sahara want you to see. Meanwhile, people are free to spend eternity fighting
the "invisible enemy" if it suits them
In a Press Release by The Tuareg Coordination of Libya,
signed by Ishaq Ag Alhusseyni, the Tuareg appealed to all parties
to stop violence:
"Since the fall of Tripoli, there has been and continues to be many
executions amongst Tuareg Libyan civilians . . . Tuaregs in the Libyan refugee
camp of Debdeb in Algeria have reported of serious threats of massacre against
members of their community in the city of Ghadames situated in the south of Libya
. . . At the present time, several thousand Tuareg families, mostly
from the regions of Dereg and Ghadames, have fled to Algeria by fear of reprisals
. . . This is an urgent appeal . . . to immediately stop all acts of
vengeance perpetuated by the rebel’s armed forces. Kadhafi’s regime."
The Tuareg Coordination of Libya
Ishaq Ag Alhusseyni
Read the full Press Release in French at Temoust:
Borders Left Unguarded: September was the month
in which the Tuareg of Libya were dragged into a number of battles with armed
groups affiliated to Libya's NTC in and around Ghadames, the Berber Pearl
of the Sahara.
Media reports say that many of the 80,000 African migrants who had been employed
by Qaddafi's government in the Libyan army have returned to Niger. Many of these
returned with their weapons. The Nigerien government feared the outbreak of yet
another rebellion which it calls "violence in the country".
So far, there are at least three confirmed reports of Libyan convoys arriving
in Niger, accompanied by military vehicles and high-ranking Libyan government
officials, including Gaddafi's son Saadi. The second convoy was said to consist
of 250 military vehicles, but no reports are available as to what kind of weapons
this convoy was carrying. Earlier in the week a Tuareg news website reported
a number of Libyan officials crossing into Niger. On the following day Aljazeera
confirmed the news, after a larger convoy of military vehicles, soldiers and
high-ranking officials crossed into Niger. It has been estimated that there are
at least 20 high-ranking Libyan officials in Niger as of September 2011.
When a few weeks later the NTC requested Saadi to be extradited to Libya to face
charges of murder (over the death of former Libyan midfielder and coach of the
national team Basheer Al-Rryani in the 1980s), the Niger government refused to
surrender Saadi to the NTC, saying it fears he will not face justice, and that
he is not wanted by the International Criminal Court.
30 September 2011:
Libya's interim military chief Suleiman Mahmoud al-Obeidi attended a meeting
in Ghadames between Tuareg tribesmen and local Arabs, apparently "to patch
up" differences that started in July and which Reuters says " have
recently spilled over into violence".
Happy New Year.
The Fourth Tuareg Rebellion: Autonomous Azawad:
Official Website of the MNLA: mnlamov.net
MNLA: National Movement for the Liberation of
Azawad: according to the organisation, the aim of the Tuareg group is to liberate
Azawad from the illegal occupation of its territory by the Malian government.
After the collapse or failure of a number of peace talks and accords with the
government, during the previous rebellions, the group says it is forced to take
up arms as well as enlist the support of the various Tuareg communities in the
region in order to achieve the independence of the Azawad region of northern
The CMA urged all parties to resolve the issue via peaceful means. It seems,
like before, the Malian government said it is prepared to open dialogue with
the Tuareg, but it will not tolerate a revolution. The MNLA published a statement in their website regarding the allegations
spread by the "international media" against them. The Azawad people
lost their homeland to the French in 1894, and they have been ever since, on
and off, trying to liberate their homeland, long before the Malaian state was
created and long before Qaida was born.
The MNLA was formed during the autumn of 2011 by a number of Tuareg groups
and volunteers. The re-union included fighters from the MFUA; the MTNM
(previously led by the late Ibrahim Ag Bahanga); volunteers from the various
ethnic groups of northern Mali including Tuareg, Songhai, Peul and Moor; and
Tuareg fighters who have returned from Libya recently, mostly those who took
part in the fight against Gaddafi, a small number of those who served in the
Libyan army before the dictator's fall, those who refused to fight against the
Libyan fighters during the February wars, and those who fought alongside forces
loyal to the NTC. The media, as usual, does not make this distinction.
The MNLA's military campaign is led by the head of its military wing Colonel
Mohamed Ag Najim. The General Secretary of the MNLA is Bilal Ag Sharif. MNLA's
spokesman Moussa Ag Acharatoumane said the struggle will continue until the government
of Mali accepts the Tuareg's right to self-determination, and therefore
a clear statement that the Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (or the Fifth according to
others) to liberate Azawad had indeed began. Based in the south of the country,
the Malian government has little control over the Tuareg region in the north,
but it has recently deployed reinforcements to the areas round Timbuktu, Kidal
and Gao, as well as at Tin-Zaouatene, on the Algerian border, north of Adrar
des Ifoghas. Also Ag Acharatoumane told France24 that their units are on
the move and not stationed in any one particular place, and that most of their
forces are still "not engaged."
Bilal Ag Sharif, MNLA's Leader.
Photo from: ( fr.alakhbar.info/2426-0-Azaouad-contacts-indirects-entre-Bamako-et-MNLA-Chef-rebelle.html )
Left: Mali; right: Azawad.
17 January 2012: the town of Menaka was taken
by Tuareg fighters. The bastion of the MNLA Menaka,
located approximately 400 km south of Kidal, was the place where the 1990 Second
Tuareg Rebellion began. The fighters started firing late on Monday and continued
until Tuesday morning. Using combat helicopters the fighters were eventually
pushed back by the Malian army. Six vehicles belonging to the liberation army
were destroyed, several were arrested, and at least one Malian soldier and several
fighters fell dead. The Defence Ministry said Tuareg fighters from the MNLA and
Libyan ex-soldiers were responsible for the attacks. According to ( reuters.com/article/2012/01/17/mali-attack-idUSL6E8CH55120120117 ):
statement on a website purporting to be that of the separatist MNLA said the
group launched the attacks and blamed their action on what they said was the
Malian government's refusal to engage in dialogue . . . "To protect and
progressively re-occupy Azawad territory and also respond to Bamako's provocation,
the men of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad have chosen to
act," the statement said. "It is in this context that military action
started in Menaka this morning," it said."
18 January 2012: following yesterday's clashes,
fighters attacked the town of Aguelhok, approximately
140 km north of Kidal, in northern Mali. Both the freedom fighters and
government soldiers claim to be in control of Aguelho. The MNLA spokesman said
fighting was suspended in Tessalit to allow for the withdrawal of Algerian soldiers
who had been helping Mali. Reports speak of "heavy weapons" used, probably
smuggled from Libya's free-for-all munition bunkers that were left unguarded.
The fighters were initially pushed back, but later returned with heavy reinforcements,
forcing government soldiers to retreat to Kidal.
19 January 2012:
The Malian government said its army had killed 45 Tuareg fighters, but the
Tuareg deny the claims, saying the figure is designed to boost the low morals
of the Malian army after their heavy defeat, in which 30 to 40 government soldiers
died. Both sides claim control of Menaka.
20 January 2012:
Bilal Ag Sharif, the general secretary of the
MNLA, tells Alakhbar, Mauritania's first independent media (see above link),
that indirect talks are taking place between the MNLA and the Malian government,
but they do not represent any "proper dialogue" because the Malian
government must first recognise the MNLA.
According to Ag Sharif, in his first media interview with Alakhbar:
Menaka Liberated: the liberation army of Azawad
had liberated the town of Menaka, before it withdrew to the outskirts to allow
the return of normal life. When the Malian army sent reinforcements, it was defeated
and suffered from defections. One Tuareg fighter was injured while four civilians
Aguelhok: Ag Sharif informs Alakhbar that fighting
had ended there, and that the Tuareg are in complete control of the town. Dozens
of Malian military vehicles were destroyed in an ambush by Tuareg fighters.
Two Malian Aircrafts Lost: Ag Sharif also relates
that their forces had captured ten government soldiers including a colonel; and
destroyed two aircrafts, with one shot in Menaka before it crashed in the way
The Malian authorities are using extremism and trafficking as an excuse,
but to the contrary it is the Bamako government that has relations with trafficking
networks and even with the AQIM. He also stated that they have no connection
with AQIM nor with the "drug gangs" that are "prevalent
throughout the world".
Ag Sharif called for their brothers and the international community to assist
in the crisis, as he called for respecting international laws guaranteeing the
right of self-determination, independence and freedom.
World Amazigh Congress Manifesto in Support of the People
بـيـان بشأن الأحداث في أقليم : أزواد
الكونغرس العالمي الأمازيغي، بصفته منظمة أمازيغية دولية، تهدف إلى الدفاع عن
الأمازيغ ووجودهم، ووجود ثقافتهم ولغتهم وحضارتهم، سواء في أوطانهم أو عبر العالم،
وحمايتهم من مختلف أشكال التمييز والإقصاء والعنف المعنوي والمادي، يتابع بكل اهتمام
بالغ وجدية، ومنذ فترة طويلة، الأحداث والوقائع الميدانية التي تجري على أرض إقليم
“أزواد”، بشمال مالي، وكذلك سياسات الحكومة المالية تجاه الشعب الأزوادي بمختلف
مكوناته العرقية والثقافية، ولهذا نسجل استنكارنا الشديد للانتهاكات الحقوقية الجسيمة،
والسياسيات الإقصائية المشينة، والأخطر من كل ذلك العنف المسلح الممارس تجاه المدنيين
العزل، والذي يعد جرائم حرب وضد الإنسانية، وأخرها ما حدث نهار أمس17 يناير 2012،
بمنطقة : مينيكا، بأقليم أزواد، حيث قامت القوات المالية بقصف السكان المدنيين العزل.
الكونغرس العالمي الأمازيغي، إذ يعلن عن مساندته ودعمه لكل المطالب الحقوقية والسياسية
الأزوادية المشروعة، التي يتطلع إليها شعب أزواد، ويعبر عنها بإرادته الحرة المستقلة،
يناشد هيئة الأمم المتحدة، والإتحاد الأوربي، والإتحاد الأفريقي، ودول الجوار، وكل
المنظمات الحقوقية الدولية، التحرك العاجل من أجل إنصاف الحقوق العادلة لإخوتنا
الأزواديين. الكونغرس العالمي الأمازيغي الرئيس فتحي نخليفه
The above statement deplores the marginalisation of the Tuareg at all levels
and the atrocities committed by the government against civilians, and calls for
the UN, African Union and the European Union to intervene to establish justice.
26 January 2012:
Thursday: Tuareg fighters in Mali had taken the town of Lere,
about 600 km northeast of the capital Bamako, without a fight. Apparently the
Malian government withdrew its forces from the town a day earlier, just as it
did in Aguelhok earlier in the week after the Malian army sustained heavy casualities.
The fighters had also attacked Malian army positions in Anderamboukane,
near the Niger border. The Tuareg said they have captured the army base and raised
the flag of Azawad over the liberated town.
29 January 2012:
Refugee Crisis: according to Alakhbar (alakhbar.info/22134-0-0FAFCA0-CF0C-C-.html)
nearly 2,058 Azawadians had escaped to Mauritania in the past three days, and
that Mauritania did allow the refugees to stay at Fasala, by the border
with Mali, but no services were provided for those who escaped
"fighting hell" in Azawad. It also said that its sources
had denied the existence of any refugee camps in the area, but that the Mauritanian
authorities are watching closely. Baskno also received a number of refugees including
30 January 2011:
According to a press release seen by Alakhbar (alakhbar.info/22154-0---F-CA0-B-0-.html),
Tuareg liberation fighters said five MNLA members including Yousef Qasem Migha
were arrested by Malian forces and were taken to an "unknown destination".
They also said government forces had stormed the house of Shikh Mini Weld Bab
Alkounti in the village of Anfeef, and while searching the property they "stole
12 million African francs" before leaving the house.
04 February 2012:
Timbuktu: 20 Tuareg fighters were killed and
12 injured during two days of fighting in the region of Timbuktu, the Malian
Defence Minister said on Saturday. Air force helicopters were
used to attack Tuareg positions near Niafunke.
Fighting also broke out near Kidal, where reporters
heard "heavy weapons fire" overnight and through Saturday morning, in an attempt
by the fighters to take control of the two military camps in the area and liberate
the strategic town of Kidal. Civilians have been seen fleeing Kidal and
Bamako in the past few days. So far, nearly 3,500 people had fled to Mauritania,
while the International Committee for the Red Cross said nearly 10,000 people
had crossed into Niger as a result of the clashes that took place around Menaka
29 February 2012:
According to Azawad Press, the number of refugees who fled to neighbouring
countries has reached nearly 90,000 refugees.
01 March 2012:
Tislit: "revolutionary fighters" clashed with the forces of the
"occupying army", using missiles. The rebels say the occupying army
was unable to use their air force because they had anti-aircraft missiles, and
that the occupying army had poisoned some water wells in their way to Tislit,
just as they did in the 1990's (azawadpress.com/the-news/162-2012-03-01-13-34-12.html).
04 March 2012:
The occupying army considers pulling out of Tislit. The army initially arrived
to end the siege of Amashash Base but found itself besieged. Azawad sources say
some West African countries including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Niger and Senegal
had supplied aid to the besieged army (azawadpress.com/the-news/178-2012-03-04-19-42-42.html).
21 March 2012:
Military Coup: a "military junta" had
taken over the government of Mali. The ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure
was unharmed. Looting and chaos ensued for a few days. On the 4th day services
began to return to normal, and soldiers were ordered to return to their duties.
According to Reuters, the coup came about "out of frustration among
mainly low-ranking soldiers over a lack of equipment to battle Tuareg-led rebels
fighting for independence". Some African states and the United
Nations said the action was "unacceptable" and urged the militia to
hand power back to the government. Like many other African coups, the full
story behind the operation may never be known.
The coup leaders intend to "equip the army" to better fight the
Tuareg rebellion(s), they said; regional experts warned that unless the
sudden collapse is reversed both the MNLA and AQIM will score "irreversible
while the MNLA itself views its struggle to liberate the occupied country as
a "necessity" imposed on its people by the occupying forces and not
as a matter of choice. Three conflicting views, but only the natives rightly
have the final say. The question is: who are the natives of Mali?
22 March 2012:
Anfeef joins the liberated towns of Azawad: the Berber settlement of Anfeef
has joined the liberated towns of the north, after the Liberation army of Azawad
entered the area without any resistance from government soldiers. Anfeef, located
along the road between Gao and Kidal, is the home of a government military base,
whose soldiers fled the scene, according to the MNLA.
25 March 2012:
Political parties and civil society groups have formed the "United
Front for the Protection of Democracy and the Republic".
25 March 2012:
Tuareg fighters have ambushed government militias including that of Ganda
Iso. The trap was set up in Tnahma, south-east of Ansoghou. At least 16
government soldiers including Amadou Jallo, the head of Ganda Iso, lost their
lives; and two military vehicles were seized. The MNLA said there were no casualties
from their side.
25 March 2012: Kidal Under Siege: MNLA fighters
have surrounded the town of Kidal, with one resident reporting gunfire from the
29 March 2012: clashes inside Kidal intensified,
leading to government troops fleeing the city.
30 March 2012: Kidal Liberated: Azawad's liberation
army had liberated the regional capital Kidal,
followed by Ansonghou and Boreem.
01 April 2012: Gao had joined the liberated towns
of Azawad. The liberation army had also declared the liberation of Timbuktu on
the 1st of April, after Azawadian forces previously loyal to the government defected
and joined the liberation army. The liberation of Timbuktu, one of the last largest
centres to be liberated in Azawad, is without a doubt a crucial victory
in Mali's Berbers' fight for freedom and independence.
Qaida Claims: the MNLA has always maintained
there were no "religious" fighters among its troops, but it did admit recently
that the "Arabs" and other "ethic" members of Kidal and Gao have joined the latest
liberation push – recalling the so-called
"pretend-revolutionaries" in Libya who infilterated the true "revolutionary"
straight after the presumed liberation, and who later appeared to be responsible
for most of the attrocities.
MNLA's Hama Ag Mahmoud rejected any MNLA links with
any "religious" groups. Reuters however said there were "signs" of such fighters
joining the rebels (reuters.com/article/2012/04/02/us-mali-idUSBRE8300H820120402).
06 April 2012:
Independence of Azawad:
After a series of rebellions and a number of battles since the fourth rebellion
began on the 17th of January 2012, the MNLA had successfully liberated
its occupied territory and declared the independence of Azawad on the 6th of
The usual claims by the media were rebuffed by the MNLA in its Press Release
(016), in which the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad has dismissed
the "fierce media campaign" against the Berber people
of Azawad, which it says has nothing to do with reality as much as with "incitement
and distortion of facts".
The above video dismisses the media's claims and includes interviews with
Akli Shaka, from Imuhagh International (International Tuareg), MNLA's Mahmoud
Ali Amin, and Fathi Ben Khalif, president of Amazigh World Congress.
The various political groups of the Tuareg confederacies of North Africa.
Click for a larger map and more information.
The above map lists the Tuareg confederacies as Saltanate or Sulthanate.
The confederacies are colour-coded, and their names are as follows:
1 - Pink (top right): Azger Confederacy: located in Libya & Algeria:
includes the Libyan oases of Ubari & Ghat.
2 - Pink (lower right): Ayer Confederacy: located in Niger, also written
Aïr, Air or Ayr.
3 - Pink (left): Awellimedden & Kel Athram Confederacy: located
in Mali, includes Timbuktu.
4 - Yellow (top): Ahoggar Confederacy, located in Algeria: includes the oasis
5 - Yellow (middle, below 4): Tkerekrit Confederacy: located in Niger & Mali:
includes the oasis Agadir and Tawa.
6 - Light-Blue: Tamezgda Confederacy, located in Niger.
7 - Orange (below 4): Agres [Kel Gress] Confederacy: located in Niger and
Unified Berber movements refers to the Berber organisations that were formed
by the unity of Berberists from the various Berber groups and associations found
in North Africa and abroad. During the 1990s the Berbers' campaign for freedom
took an international form, where activists began to attend a number of international
conferences to help bring the issue to the attention of the UN and the "outside
world". Their pleas for freedom and recognition were ignored locally by
the dictators of North Africa, as they failed so far to attract justice so often
is the focus of all claims!
Amazigh World Congress : AWC (Congrès mondial amazigh: CMA):
1995: Amazigh World Congress:
The Amazigh World Congress (Congrès mondial amazigh: CMA): was founded
in France in 1995, when the historic Amazigh Pre-congress gathering took place
in Saint-Rome de Dolan, France, between the 1st and the 3rd of September 1995. But
the idea was born a year earlier, when in October 1994 the CFPCMA (Committee
in France for the Preparation of the Amazigh World Congress) was set up, after
preparational talks held in the summer of 1994, in Douarnenez (Brittany, France).
This then was officially created on the 22nd of March 1995. The structure of
the organisation has 32 members, a World Bureau of 11 members, and five Commissions.
It was attended by 75 delegates representing various associations, groups and
individuals from Libya, Niger, Mali, Canary Islands, and other European countries,
particularly Spain, France, United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany. Surprisingly,
Algeria was absent, apparently because the Algerian delegates were unable to
obtain visas to enter France. For the first time in modern history Berberists
from various Berber countries including human rights campaigners, academicians,
musicians & artists, students & researchers, militants and liberation
groups, set together to discuss the current status of the Berbers. This is not
to say that collective efforts were not taking place before then, as many Berberists
and Berber scholars and musicians from Libya, Algeria and Morocco were in regular
contact with each other, exchanging information and material including printed
publications and music albums and tapes.
The topics explored by the congress were defined as follows:
To define the legal status of the Berbers in each of the countries of North
To identify and document the status of the Berber movements in each of the
countries of North Africa.
To coordinate independent research efforts to set a framework for the development
of Tamazight Language.
To explore the venues available to secure funding and expertise to administer
the projects of the organisation.
To develop a permanent institution of resources for the development and preservation
of Berber heritage.
To represent the Indigenous peoples of North Africa and the Amazigh immigrant
communities of the world.
To study the socio-economic functions of Tamazight.
To explore the issue of officialisation, such as making Tamazight an official
To research the introduction of Tamazight in education.
To internationalise the Berber cause and campaign for international recognition.
The Sixth Amazigh World Congress:
(29 September 2011 - 2 October 2011) Delegations attended the session: Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Canary
Islands, Tuareg, Tunisia, and International delegations (including from Catalonia,
Corsica, the European Union and international media).
Final Communiqué & Amendments (02/10/2011):
Appointment of new President: Libya's representative Mr. Fathi Benkhalifa has
been elected the new president by the council, replacing Mr. Belkacem Lounes.
Union of North African Peoples (UNAP):
a meeting of North African Berbers was held in Tangier, Morocco, as part of the
7th edition of the TWIZA Festival of Tangier, on the 23rd and the 24th of July
2011. The participants agreed to form the Union of North African Peoples
(UNAP), with Ferhat Mehenni as president
(for three years). Representatives of the Berber countries are as follows:
Ferhat Mehenni of the Interim Government of Kabylia (Algeria); President.
Fethi Benkhelifa of the Transitional National Council (Libya).
Thomas Quintana of the Canary Islands.
Khadija Bensaidane of Tunisia.
Ahmed Arehmouch of Morocco.
Other countries that were not represented in this meeting are advised to
submit a membership application. Filing of articles of association will be decided
in its next meeting, scheduled for the end of August.
According to Sylvia Smith, writing for the BBC (bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14650257)
"This would transform the greater Arab Maghreb from an Arab-dominated
region into a confederation of states that would take the Berber voice into account.
But without a single unifying dialect and caught between very different situations
in each country, their bid for unity and greater rights could easily be once
more lost, especially if radical Islamist groups take the place of the deposed
despots they helped to oust."
AMA: l’Assemblée Mondiale Amazighe:
"For The Consolidation of The Rights of Imazighen."
After the recent sixth assembly in Tunisia, the CMA reconvened in Brussels
between the 9th and the 11th of December 2011. The participants have agreed to
create a new, non-profit, non-governmental organisation in accordance with Belgian
law. The move to restructure the CMA under Belgian law allows the Berber organisation
the protection of international institutions and of the European Union. The new
organisation will replace the existing World Amazigh Congress and its constitution
and structure. The name of the new organisation in Tamazight is Agraw
(Amazigh World Assembly: AWA).
Previously the CMA and its regional branches came under criticism over a number
of issues, resulting in conflict arising within the organisation. The new restructure
aims to unite the differences under the umbrella of the Amazigh World Assembly
(AMA). Its draft "Manifesto" calls for a Democratic
Confederation Tamazgha, social and cross-border, based on the right
to "regional autonomy". This
project will be sent to local associations and other regional and national parties
for review and possible amendments, before the final validation at the next general
meeting (scheduled for October 2012, in Nador, Morocco).
Defending the right to "cultural identity" and "regional autonomy" and
"democratic institutions" in North Africa.
Promotion, protection and development of freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance,
and indigenous rights including the rights of the Imazighen women, men and children
of North Africa.
Campaign against all forms of marginalisation, exclusion and discrimination.
Campaign for "official recognition" of Tamazight identity, culture and language in
the various countries of North Africa.
Promotion and development of Tamazight language and culture.
Coordination and consolidation between the various Tamazight associations
at all levels.
Creation of communication means to implement the coordination, including
newspapers, periodicals, books, magazines, cassettes, CDs, radios, films, TV,
video, and IT.
Preserving acculturation (: 'cultural modification by adapting to or borrowing
traits from another culture').
Rehabilitation and rewriting Tamazight history and civilisations for educational
and research purposes.
Protection of Tamazight heritage, such as historical monuments, museums and
archaeological and prehistoric sites.
Legal fundraising to finance the activities of the AMA.
Development of trade between the Imazighen and other peoples on the basis
of universal values of diversity, tolerance, modernity, solidarity, cooperation,
mutual respect, reciprocal recognition, and the struggle against racism.
Defence and promotion of the values of peace and conflict-resolution via
Defence and promotion of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and
linguistic rights of the Imazighen people.
The Structure of The Amazigh World Assembly:
The General Assembly
The Confederal Council
The Confederal Bureau
Local, Regional And National Structures
Ad hoc Committees
The Committee of The Wise
M. El Battiui Mohamed, President
M. Mimoun Sharqi, Chairman of honour and legal affairs
Louisa Hadad, Deputy Chairman and Secretary-General for France
GDF M. Aissa, Secretary-General
Moussa Backa, General Treasurer
Jamal Alatiaoui, Treasurer-General
Rachid Raha, Deputy Chairman of International Relations
Thomas Fortune, Deputy Chairman for the Tuareg
Ibrahim Ag Wanasnati, Executive Vice President for the Tuareg
Badr Aiyachi, Spokesperson and Head of Communications
Mohamed Elmajjoudi, Deputy Chairman for Belgium
Naima Nahnah, President Delegate for Spain
Amina Ibn Sheikh, President Delegate for Morocco
Faisal Aoussar, Deputy Chairman for the general Rif
Ghazal Abdellah, Deputy Chairman for the general Atlas
Mohamed and NouredinHathout Elhamouti, Members Officers missions.
The International Tuareg (internationale touareg) is an active organisation
campaigning for greater rights for the Tuareg of the Sahara. One of their objectives
is the conservation and advocacy of Touareg groups in accordance with the Declaration
on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples of September 13, 2007. The group has
participated in the 7th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
(held in New York from 21/04 to 02/05/2008); attended the fifth assembly of the
World Amazigh Congress (held in Meknes, Morocco, from 31/10 to 02/11/2008); and
took part in the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (held in
Consultant / VP
A representative of Niger
A representative of Burkina Faso
1 representative from Belgium
A representative of the United Nations
A project manager
Organisation of a popular forum on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Food aid to displaced Tuareg.
Reconstruction of Tuareg heritage.
Participation in United Nations Permanent Forum.
Participation in the mechanisms of UN experts in Geneva and New York.
Who Is Behind The Berber Academy, World Amazigh Congress
And The IRCAM?
The Libyan scholar Said Sifaw seems to know some secrets about the Berber
Academy, which he explicitly declined to reveal in his letter that was intended
for Gaddafi. The letter is written in Arabic, and the following is the English
translation of the section in which he referred to the Academy:
"I know everything about Ait Ahmed despite the fact that I do not
know him personally at all, and I do know everything about this "Berber
Academy even though I was not one of its members, but all that is behind us now
. . . Perhaps Ait Ahmed and Bosoud Mohamed Aarab (who is responsible for this
Academy) know well to exchange "accusations" as usual, but why now?
If it was the Libyan Intelligence that accused me of such charge then it is the
stupidest secret service in the world. Why? I will not say why, but it is enough
to say that Ait Ahmed was finished as a Berber before I was personally born since
he is only a Kabylian; and that the charge that I belonged to Ait Ahmed's party
had enabled me to know the exact identity of this person; this person is complicated
by his war with his friend Ben Bella, and he did not include Tamazight in his
program and his party's program only after the attempt on my life [in
1979] – he asked for Tamazight to be listed as an official language
after the attempt on my life, and therefore the charge ought to be directed at
Ait Ahmed who was influenced by what I write in the open in your newspapers and
not at myself. I heard he visited you [Gaddafi] last
year and so why didn't you ask him?
Regarding the "Berber Academy" I had no need for any academy
because I am myself a Berber academy, but on the 18th of April 1985 you spoke
about the academy and you said it was France that created the academy, and here
on behalf of the "helpless" Bosoud Mohamed Aarab I will defend him
and not defend myself.
I came to know about this academy through an article by one of Ben Bella's
friends: Mohamed Harbi, which I have read here in Jeune Afrique, in 1978. Mohamed
Aarab wanted to secure some financial funding from one of the wealthy Kabyles
and this Kabyle was an infiltrator working for the Algerian and the French Intelligence
at the same time, and when he intimidated him with a pistol one of the French
Intelligence agents was ready to confront him, Mohamed Aarab was arrested, and
that was the end of everything; and therefore it was surprising for you to
go to Jado [Sifaw's home town in Nafusa Mountain] and
lecture the Berbers about being agents of the French Intelligence when it was
the French Intelligence that destroyed the alleged Berber Academy that "lived" on
begging and donations from Algerian labourers." End of translation.
2- The IRCAM:
Source of image: Libyan Tawalt: tawalt.com/?p=22955
Berberists were angered by the statements made by a researcher belonging
to the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), in a lecture delivered
in the Yemeni capital. The lecturer declared that the Berbers originally come
from Yemen and that Tamazight culture including the sacred Tifinagh is a branch
of Yemeni culture. Of course, such statements can only reflect the ignorance
of the institution's representative of basic histroy, genetics, archaeology and
linguistics, where evidence is plentiful to illustrate the continous existence
of humans in North Africa for at least 100,000 years.
"The carriage before the horse":
In an interview with Salem Chaker, director of the Berber research center
(CRB) in Inalco, Paris, Aid Chemakh and Masin Ferkal asked the Professor of Tamazight:
"In an official statement King Mohamed VI announced the decision
of IRCAM . . . to adopt the Neo-Tifinagh alphabet as the only writing system
for Tamazight in Morocco. As an Amazigh linguist, what is your reaction to this
The following is a summary of Salem Chaker's answers to a number of questions
including the above one:
"I consider that it is at the same time a hasty and badly founded
decision, and certainly a dangerous one for the future and development of Tamazight
in Morocco . . . While no serious scientific debate on the question of the alphabet
to use ever took place in Morocco or Algeria, the political leaders decided on
an option that is totally disconnected from the current practice . . . The goal
can only be an attempt by the dominant spheres and their auxiliaries to take
over the Amazigh field by driving this transitional period of Amazigh writing
and teaching into a sure dead end . . . It is clear that . . . the monarchy
. . . lives in fear of an evolution "Algerian style" as far as the
Amazigh issue is concerned. In other words, they are afraid the Amazigh would
become socially autonomous . . . The creation of the IRCAM, as well as the
adoption of the Tifinagh script are part of a strategy which aims at reducing
the Amazigh social and political factor to nothing or close to nothing .
Read the full interview at: tamazgha.fr/Professor-Chaker-Speaks-Out-on-the-Tifinagh-Script-Issue,427.html
Read the head of the IRCAM answers regarding questions relating to the constitutionalisation
of Tamazight and the use of Tifinagh at:
3- World Amazigh Congress:
Members of the congress were criticised from the beginning for quarelling
with each other over trivial issues such as "presidency" and
"management"; quickly developing into wild allegations regarding some
of its members being agents of some Arab governments and even of foreign powers,
as was the case of other previous groups, some say instituted to divide genuine
and indigenous attempts of reform. There is no doubt that the Amazigh World
Congress is an organisation setup privately by a group of Berberists without
any consultation with the Berber people of North Africa. They self-appointed
themselves as the leaders of the organisation, made contact with other governments
and groups according to their own understanding of Tamazight, or Amazigh
culture as they came to know it, and began speaking their own personal opinions
in the name of "Tamazgha" – even though no one knows how this Tamazgha
can be effected in the real world across ten countries, widely separated by diverse
political systems, cultural differences, and geographical boundaries among other
The news of the CMA's internal fracture re-appeared in the media shortly after
the congress' fifth session in 2008. The meeting was scheduled to take place
in Tizi-Ouzou, the Berber capital of Algeria, but after the Algerian government's
refusal to allow the organisation to hold its 5th session in Kabylia, the main
faction of the CMA decided instead to hold the event in Meknes, Morocco. But
a minority group, led by former CMA President Rachid Raha and Ahmed Dgherni,
decided to come against the majority decision of the self-appointed by insisting
on the congress to be held in Tizi-Ouzou. Feeling euphoric to challenge the Algerian
government, the famous Algerian government, they flew to Algiers only to be denied
entry into the country, of course.
Nontheless, the CMA continued with its three-day session in Meknes between
the 31st of October and the 2nd of November. The president Lounes Belkacem was
reported to have said that there were no "two congresses" because any
legitimate congress requires the approval of the Federal Bureau. He also said
that Ahmed Dgherni, the Secretary-General of the PDAM: Amazigh Democratic Party
in Morocco, has no link with the CMA, and that Rachid Raha appears to have "personal
ambition to become a president"* – (just like
it was mentioned at the start of this section, and here it is again at the end
of this section, confirmed by the president himself, 14 years later).
The split has resurfaced, once more, in 2011, when Rachid Raha declared the
Djerba congress is not legal – in a ligality that is defined only by and within
the boundaries of the self-appointed Federal Bureau. The article** speaks
of lawyer Hassan Id Belkassem repeating the same song of October 2008, like a
However, it must be noted that when the president of the congress declares
that the Berber rebels of Libya should hand over their weapons only to a legitimate
body officially recognised to collect weapons from all the Libyan people, he
is merely stating his "personal opinion" that serves no purpose in
the real world, since no one knows what the majority of the Berbers feel regarding
this issue, or any other (https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/bBnvwL3QAiM).
Having said this, this does not mean that one is afraid of revolution, whatever
the term nowadays means, but all it means is that the leaders need to be realistic
in their approach to resolve and work towards achieving "solutions" instead
of "isolation", inclusion instead of exclusion, and winning friends
instead of making more enemies.
One needs to lead by example, since confrontation can only lead to further
destruction; and even then being a minority one finds it hard to imagine how
victory can ever be achieved in a battle that could only lead to "civil
war". Does not the outcome matter in planning confrontation?
One would think it is best for everyone if the congress leaders instead focus
on initiating diplomacy with the governments in question to secure the rights
they claim they campaign for – after all that is exactly what skilled politicians
ought to do: employ diplomatic and diligent dialogue to secure victory. Therefore
such approach by the leaders of the congress is "questionable", and
even "suspicious", some Berberists say.
"Congress" means a place or an occasion where (elected) 'people'
can gather together or congregate to "talk", "discuss" and "agree" the
affairs of the society. But in reality it is often, but not always, a particular
group of mostly men meet to make decisions of their own and even urge people
to go to war.
The Berbers are urged to stick to their traditional system of government,
an egalitarian government that ensures "equality", where single organisations
chaired by one single party or by young activists without consultation with the
Imazighen people have no role in Tamazight politics. The idea that a single organisation
or party can represent the whole Berber communities across ten countries is false,
and violates the principle on which Tamazight itself was built. The peaceful
and cultural revolution of the Berbers must continue as is, and to drag the Berber
nations into sectarian violence, as was the fate of so many doomed regions nearby,
is the last thing the Berbers need right now and the last thing the self-appointed
Berber leaders should have in mind.
Publish a couple of Berber keyboards, which anyone can write using Windows "character
map", produce a few books about fake Berber history, compile a library of
regurgitated alien identities, impose a writing system without any studies or
consultation, beat the drums of denial and superstition, and off you go, the
Berber revolution becomes an infection the bereaved mortals cannot escape. If
one does not understand even what "Tamazight" is, in principle – that
cheerful attitude to life, overwhelming Oric Bates, and the egalitarian justice
system of tribal councils of "wise elders" of both female and male
transparent members of the society who were s-elected to lead by example,
then the end result is nothing but "sure dead end".
If it is an improvised form of patriarchal "Amazigh" that they are
trying to seep through and entertain around the impoverished world as the identity
of the sacred matriarchal Tamazight, then that is something many Imazighen will
never buy, even if it means they remain on the minority side among their own
people, simply because the perpetual flame of Tamazight can never be
extinguished. Single-party governments, as pointed out by the Libyan philosopher
Alnayhoum, will only rob "people" of their collective right to rule.
The egalitarian system developed by our ancestors through millennia of painful
experience is there for a reason, and not because they have failed to elect "democratic
dictators" of any sort.
Global Recognition of Tamazight:
The Berbers' struggle for international recognition, especially during
the past 50 years or so, seemed to have gone unnoticed by the outside
world. But all of a sudden the Berbers were expected to take part
in violence against the installed dictators in what is known as the "Arab
Spring". Berbers beware of strange springs that sprout metal stings,
instead of blossoming with flowers and fruits.
During all the past movements of the so-called independence wave that hit
Africa in the 1960s there appeared the attempts to ignore the Berbers' struggle
for independence and freedom across the whole of North Africa, while at
the same time there was the tendency, or even the strategy, to elevate a particular
flavour of "Arabism",
as in "Arab Nationalism", "The Arab World", and now the "Arab
Spring", in total disregard for the natives' integrity. The same goes
for the Kurds of the Middle East when the colonial masters made it a taboo for
them to have a simple country and instead insisted they remain forever scattered
across the plains of the Middle East, which they divided between themselves as
they pleased, including leaving the infamous Jordan corridor for later to use
to bomb Iraq with toxic gas.
The best example, as noted above, being
the Tripolitanian Republic in Libya, and the Rif Republic in Morocco, which
was destroyed by the colonial intruders using toxic gas among other weapons of
medium destruction for
no reason but to install a handful of Arab dictators
as doorstep guardians. Similarly, the Berbers of Azawad were robbed
of their homeland by the French invaders way back in 1894, when they massacred
the Tuareg tribes of Azawad including their livestock, only to grant it to
others when they drew the borders of what we now know as "Mali". When
Azawadian rebels were lured to liberate their country more than a hundred
years later (in January 2012), and looked up to the UN for "recognition" and
support, they were met with French bombs, of course, acting
on authorisation from the UN.
Having said this, however, there was a superficial attempt to sympathise
with the Berbers' cause, but nothing serious,
just some basic "recommendations" scribbled
to appease the appalling state of mind many indigenous
tribes continue to endure across the impoverished, war-torn globe. Even after
the so-called 17 of February
"Revolution" in Libya the Berbers were dejected as agents of
foreign agenda when they spoke of constitutional recognition, and so imagine
the horrors of imposed democracy if the natives spoke of dangerous "independence",
the independence the colonials granted to none-natives.
It is indeed a dubious
irony allowing powerless people the right to "free speech"
while at the same time granting totalitarian authorities the power "to
wrong deeds. No one as yet had the courage to come out "of the hole" voluntarily
and speak the outlawed truth many Arab dictators and kings
see too-sensitive to discuss, such as full citizenship, full recognition
of identity, and self governing. These they say pose
a serious threat to their political tyranny that will
ultimately shatter their theoretical unity, even though
they do not in reality as much as they do bring about their downfall.
Still there is hope, since while the 2011 uprising in North Africa
was "underway", some Western politicians (not leaders) after all these
decades of silence did suddenly develop the urge to mention the limited freedom
of Morocco has under the rule of the king, and rightly expected greater reforms
from the monarchy, whose country's population apparently did
not seek "regime
(as imposed in Libya) but only "political reforms" (that
never sees the light).
A few months down the line the king did agree to hold a referendum,
and again a few months later Berber language was at last voted one of the official
languages of Morocco. Many thought this was a great theoretical victory the Berbers
ought to celebrate, but a few years
later many critics say the whole thing could have been no more than an attempt
to prevent a Berber uprising in Morocco because they form the "majority".
Such "political reforms" should have been encouraged across the whole
of North Africa equally and without
resort to violence, but that was not the case.
It can be argued that what is happening now to the Berbers of Libya is very
similar to how the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco had ended up after the (semi)
independence wars. During the Arabisation movement in Algeria the Arab government
urged the Berbers to put their Berber demands behind them, and instead concentrate
on the national unity of Algeria. The transitional rulers of today's Libya urged
the "Berber revolutionaries" to "integrate" and concentrate
on Libya's unity, except that most Libyans agree that no one knows how to
go on about uniting Libya, nor what unity means, in principle; and except
that no one ever did mention dividing Libya in the first place – just a ploy
used by the government to hijack the people's aspirations.
of "liberation", "freedom"
and "justice" are never spoken of, in the open, while the definition
of "people" (in the popular phrase "let the people decide their
own destiny") is never clear and in practice it always refers to "Arab
people", as in the "Arab Spring". In short, it appears that the
Berbers are barred from having a revolution of their own, but they could
taste revolution within another's, after being used to fight for the other's
The Arab thinkers of North Africa have always maintained that the Berber issue
is a recent colonial strategy to "divide and rule", and in doing so
they never mention the well-known divisions created by the historic invasions
of North Africa. But history, once more, shows that the Berbers were always in
the front during their (long) wars against colonial brutality, as was
demonstrated in Algeria, Morocco, Niger, Mali and Libya ever since colonisation
began, and as was re-demonstrated recently by the Berbers of Libya only to be
let down once again.
Most North African leaders of the past century fell victims to such "war
games" and consequently brought destruction upon destruction
upon their countries. Revolts, coups, wars, revolutions, uprisings, springs and falls all
come and go as a matter of routine – and always without any consultation with
the "people" they claim to represent and always in violation of the
natives' sovereignty and dignity!
But many of today's Arabs and Berbers strongly feel that the time
has come, in theory, for both of them to unite, embrace freedom and
democracy (without any limitations), and wake up to the limitless
opportunities their countries can achieve. They have all the means to create
a regional superpower on a global scale, and yet they are no where to be seen,
dead-locked in wars, poverty and pain. So, what does that say?
The Dangers & Benefits of The Internet:
Before, people were isolated by both
geographical and political borders. But now, with Internet technologies becoming
widely available, they are closer to one another than ever before, and hence
the opportunity to share the facts, away from the media's monopoly of *disfacts.
The availability of Berber material from diverse tribes and sources across the
World Wide Web has to be the most important factor in the recent Berber Cultural
Revolution. For the first time in history anyone with a basic computer and an
internet connection can explore the whole world right from their home and for
once read the outlawed truth.
But even then, the internet is full of new breed of invisible e-dictators
intent to distort the facts and spread yet more *disfacts,
and therefore the most important issue the Berbers need to address right now
is to start writing their own history, document their culture, and break away
from this long period of darkness in which supremacists wrote like tyrants.
Upsidedown-minded despots were quick to spot the indisputable danger of the
new revolution. The Chinese Government became so anxious as internet usage
quadrupled in year 2000, but by 2010 it was itself heavily implicated in hacking
scandals. The British Metropolitan Police admitted that net use has swelled
the number of contributors to the carnival against capitalism in the “CITY” of
London on the 18th of June 1999; while Dr Rodney Barker argues that
if net usage and voting become global, political parties might cease to exist.
The natives of America & Canada, the Basques of Europe, the Berbers and
the Bushmen of Africa, the Aboriginal natives of Australia, the Kurds and
many other indigenous peoples of Asia, and most of the world's demoralised and
poor minorities now use the internet to understand
their respected cultures and make themselves heard in an otherwise deaf environment,
some free nations see as just order while nation-less hamlets endure
as "chaos", thriving with imposed poverty and government
In contrast to the dictators' grip and censorship, smart government agencies
instead can extensively utilise the technology to launch cyber attacks and obfuscated
media wars, with fake snooping revelations and released leaks to sow
the seeds of fear. With the advent
of social networking, such as beloved-not Facebook and Twitter, various institutions
now have access to a new kind of weaponry.
For instance, during the recent wave
of uprisings that hit North Africa and the Middle East the Western media
including Aljazeera had
reported that government-backed Western hackers are secretly manipulating conversations
on social media sites "by
using fake online personas to influence internet conversations",
and spread propaganda. Many of these (recent) fake accounts were said to call
for military intervention. All in all, nearly 83 million fake Facebook accounts
were reported. The popularity of the Libyan 17 of February Uprising Facebook
page grew to "100,000 likes" in a short space of time, even though
internet access in Libya was cut off at the time.
Hence, according to New Scientist (16 June 2012, p. 24), "The Onion
recently described Facebook as a project of the Central Intelligence Agency .
. . In 2007, the US air force awarded defence giant Lockheed Martin a $27 million
contract to develop the Web Information Spread Data Operation Module, or WISDOM,
which analyses posts made to news forums, blogs and social media . . . Other
departments have similar plans . . . the Department of Homeland Security already
has a monitoring system up and running."
The irony of it all is that where repressive despots suppressed the press
to report freely, super powerful Youtube amateurs began publishing all kinds
of home-made videos, including fake videos, showing atrocities and allegations
from both sides of the story that are impossible to verify, and yet media giants
use them to popularise their points of view. To get around this tricky
paradox, news readers always say they "cannot independently verify the
video" – after they show it, again and again, of course!
Why bother showing home-made footage implicating people of horrendous crimes and
putting their lives in danger when one cannot independently verify the material
at hand? Where are the high standards previously claimed to be the foundation
of proper journalism?
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
The United Nations General Assembly Declaration calls for member states, the
states already enjoying the benefits of the declaration, to respect the full
human rights of persecuted indigenous minorities (and majorities, as in the case
of Morocco) including the rights to "self-determination", "self-government",
The Declaration affirms that "all doctrines, policies and practices
based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of
national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist,
scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust".
The Declaration of course is not a legally binding document under
international law; but it does however "represent the dynamic development
of international legal norms [and all that] and it reflects the [recommended]
commitment of the UN's member states to move [on] in certain [future] directions". Needless
to say, the UN "hopes" the declaration will set an "international
standard", a kind of precedent, for the treatment of indigenous peoples,
the ancient humans who brought all of us onto this earth, and for "thank
you" the offspring kill them, in so many ways.
The first "resolution 1/2 " was passed on the 29th of June 2006;
but it was not until the 13th of September 2007 that the resolution was voted
on during the General Assembly's 61st regular session. Some countries were not
happy with the implications. 143 countries voted in favour, four against,
11 abstained, and 34 were absent. The four countries that voted against the Declaration
are: United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, all four countries
have moved to endorse the declaration.
The declaration affirms that "indigenous peoples are equal to all
other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to
consider themselves different, and to be respected as such".
The Declaration is hoped to "enhance harmonious and cooperative relations
between the State and indigenous peoples, based on principles
of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, non-discrimination and
"Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective
or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized
in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and international human rights law."
"Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples
and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination,
in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous
origin or identity."
"Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination.
By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely
pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
"Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have
the right to autonomy or self-government in
matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means
for financing their autonomous functions."
"Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct
political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining
their right to participate fully, if they so choose,
in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State."
"Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality".
"1. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life,
physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person."
"2. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace
and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act
of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children
of the group to another group."
"1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not
to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture."
"Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right
to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the
traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination
of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right."
History tells us the Berbers have created one of the first "banking
systems" in the world, namely the fortified granary castles of Nafousa Mountain
and other areas, and yet they still do not have a single bank of their own. Numbered
at around 30 million, with a substantial share of North Africa's businesses,
land and wealth, there is no reason why they cannot get together and help build
their neglected, marginalised and poor regions – after all, fighting poverty
starts at home!
The aspiring story of Elouise
Pepion Cobell, a member and a legendary leader of the Blackfeet Native
American Tribe of Montana, is very inspiring. The Blackfeet National Bank is
the first national bank located on Native American reservation and owned by a
Native American tribe. She Co-Chaired the bank, and directed the NACDC – a non-profit
affiliate of Native American Bank. Being an activist, lawyer, and treasurer for
the Blackfeet, she challenged the "United States' mismanagement of trust
funds belonging to more than 500,000 individual Native Americans",
to eventually win in 2010 when the US government approved a $3.4 billion settlement.
Some of the funds will be used to "buy back lands and restore them
to the Native American tribes".