Tamazight
kahina dihya dinamigan
Kahina: Berber Queen-Priestess Dihya
Based on an image originally from wikipedia

Berberism & Berber Political Movements

 

 

Short History of The Berber Political Movements:

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 after the 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 Spring, 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.

 

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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".

 

berber cross

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 Aqvyli), France.
  • 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,  Libya.
  • FPN: Niger Patriotic Front (Front patriotique nigérien), Niger.
  • IT: International Tuareg (internationale touareg).
  • 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, 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 ('North Africa').

 

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Libyan Berbers: estimated 1 million Berbers:

 

1911:

 

sulayman al-baruni

map showing Libya as Tripoli

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'?

However, 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 leaving France.

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 name Za'ima.

pdf Download the book: Sulayman Albarouni (in Arabic), by Fadel Assubai and Others, published by Tameghnast.

 

Tripolitanian Republic flag

Flag of  the Tripolitanian Republic (1918 – 1923).
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Tripolitanian_Republic.svg

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 them out", 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 declared.

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.

 


1958:

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.

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1969:

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.)

 

1970s:

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 colonialism".

 

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.

 

1971:

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)".

 

1973:

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 Mountain"; 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 the opposite.

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.

 

1975:

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 and support.

 

1980:

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 unaffected.

 

1981:

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
A'umran Busa'ud
Emh'emmed Lea't'er
Khaled Fedis'
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
Sliman Budeyya
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
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 Arabic):

"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 fictitious organisation?"

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).

 

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1981-1982:

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.

 

1983:

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 ‎homes.
  • 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 Mountain?‎ ‎

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.

 

1984:

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 Yusef al-Magariaf). 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.

1988:

Amnesty International Report: Collective Punishment:

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.

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2000:

ALT: Libyan Tamazight Congress:

Libyan national amazigh congress  declaration 2011

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 Tmazight Congress" (ALT) clearly shows the original feminine name "Tamazight", but years down the line, it has been patriarchalised as "Libyan National Amazigh Congress" (LNAC), also known as CNAL.

Download the Founding Manifesto of the Libyan Tamazight Congress (ALT).

 

2000:

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.

 

2001:

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 the "Arab Spring". When some of them were asked, long time ago, why the "silence", they said they do not interfere in "internal affairs".

 

2001:

Tawalt ('Word'):

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.

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2005:

President of World Amazigh Congress Visits Libya:

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.

 

2006:

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 not not 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.

2006:

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.

2006:

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.)

2007:

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.

 

August 2007:

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.

September 2007:

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 pumping investment-promises in the neglected region. The Society for Threatened Peoples welcomed the visits to the Amazigh towns.

 

2008:

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 and crafts.

 

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.

Some 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 described below.

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.


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18 June 2009:

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.

August 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.

November 2010:

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.


 


 

 

words

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 languages."


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.

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17 September 2011:

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 colour;
  • 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:


Officialise  Tamazigh language and support national unity.”

sign showing the first libyan amazigh national congress

 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 unity".

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.
Reuters (uk.reuters.com/article/2011/09/26/uk-libya-berber-language-idUKTRE78P4RJ20110926)

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".

 

 

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23 - 27 November 2011:

berber protests in Tripoli

The constitutional recognition of Imazighen!

No constitutional legitimacy without Tamazight, protesters say.

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 rule". 

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 National Council.

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 ; youtube-nocookie.com/watch?v=t3qv62V_-N8 )

First of all, Libyans must realise this is a "transitional government" 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 (guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/22/libya-government-post-gaddafi).

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 the "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.

youtube-nocookie.com/CZP_6UxM0oU

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.

reuters.com/article/2011/11/27/us-libya-amazigh-protests-idUSTRE7AQ0AN20111127
guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/22/libya-government-post-gaddafi
reuters.com/article/2011/11/24/us-libya-idUSTRE7AN1W420111124
newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/amazigh-arab-libya-wail-public

 

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Amnesty International: for a list of the latest reports and updates about human rights abuses in Libya, please see: amnesty.org/en/region/libya

 

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 real "dire 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 that never 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".

Libya's Acting President, Dr. Magarief, has once more demonstrated his wholehearted support for  Berber language to be constitutionally recognised, and stressed  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):

ASC members, ibrahim makhlouf, Khaled Zekri, and  Nuri Asherwi
From left to right: Ibrahim Makhlouf: the president of the council; Khaled Zekri:
the spokesman of the council; and Nuri Asherwi: the coordinator of the council's political office.

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 name "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 affairs" 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 January 2963):

berber cross

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.


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berber cross

 

Algeria

 

Algerians (30%): estimated 10 million Berbers:

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 history.

1846:

Lalla Fadma n'Sumer
Image source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lalla_Fadhma_N_Soumer.jpg

Martyr Lalla Fadma n'Soumer:

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 paths.

 

1920s:

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).

1940s:

Taos Amrouche (Ṭaweṣ A'meroush):

taos amrouch kabyle singer

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 ('Berber Language').

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.

1949:

"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 day (2011).

1950s:

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 flag.

1961:

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

 

1962:

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.

1963:

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 a day.

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 was banned.

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 rights.

 

berber banner in tifinagh

1980:

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:  
unhcr.org/refworld/topic,463af2212,469f279a2,3ae6ac0f78,0.html .

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.

1990:

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.

1991:

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.

1992:

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 Black Decade".

1993:

silence is death, a book title

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." 
"Silence is death: the life and work of Tahar Djaout", By Julija Šukys.

1994-1995:

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.

1995:

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 movement.

1996:

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.

1997:

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.

1998:

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.

1998: Lounès Matoub: (Lwennas Maâṭub: 24/01/1956 – 25/06/1998):

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.

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2001:

The Black Spring:

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 program).

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 justice.
(news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1579000/1579403.stm). 

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 democratic reforms. 

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 and goals’  (crisisweb.org/home/index.cfm?id=1869&1=1).

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 (see below for more on this).

2002:

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 (IRCAM)?

2005:

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 العروبي الجزائري: 

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.

 

2010:

Provisional Government of Kabylia:

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.
Website: kabylia-gov.org
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.

Ferhat Mehenni
Ferhat Mehenni

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). 

Read the story of the assassination of Ferhat Mehenni's son:
The-assassination-of-Mehenni-s-son-another-algerian-state-crime_a1745

 

12 January 2012:
Berbers Celebrate The New Year: Yennayer:

 

Aljazeera: Inside Story: The Berbers, Autonomy & Unified Berber Entity.

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.

 

 

Is there wide public support for the MAK?

 

 

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berber cross

 

Morocco

 

Moroccans: 60% (estimated 17 million Berbers):

740 AD:

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 be realised.

1918:

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 Morocco.

1920s:

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.

 

1930s:

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 Rif.

Read the Berber Dahir in English at:
(en.wikisource.org/wiki/Berber_Dahir)

Read the Berber Dahir in French at:
(amazighworld.net/countries/morocco/documents/dahir_berbere/texte_du_dahir_du_16_mai_1930.php)

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1950s:

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.”
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3108678.stm).

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.

1960s:

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 of Morocco.

1970s:

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.

1978:

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.

1990s:

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.

1992:

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.

1994:

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.

1994:

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.

2000:

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 Morocco.

 

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.

2004:

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.

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2005 - 2006:

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:

february uprisings in morocco

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.

July 2011:

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 a "national holiday". Arab critics were quick, as usual, to denounce the demands as imperial agendas.

 

 

Mah'joubi Ah'erdan speaks to Channel 8 (Tamazight).

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berber cross

Tuareg (Imuhagh): estimated at 4 million Berbers

Struggle For Sahara Sovereign Homeland

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.

1899:

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 military force.

1911: the rise of Firhoun of Ikazkazan in 1911.

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 and information.

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 Rebellion:

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 the MFUA.

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 fight.

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.

2006: Ecology: 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.

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The Tuareg: The MNJ

Lemmi neshneen anenja?

 

2007: Third Tuareg Rebellion:

  • 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 in violence".

  • 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 Libya.

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.

 

photo of Ag Alambo

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.

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Tuareg FFR Group

FFR: ( Relief Forces Front):

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 Agadez.
  • Condemn the unwarranted attacks against the indigenous Tuareg Berbers, who were accused of complicity to highlight their exclusion.

 

niger movement for justice

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 Libya?

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 very well.

 

August 2011:

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:
(temoust.org/communique-de-la-coordination,15432)

 

 

September 2011:

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.

 

 

January 2012:

The Fourth Tuareg Rebellion: Autonomous Azawad:

 

logo of MNLA, as in their website

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 Mali.

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."

photo of bilal ag sharif

Bilal Ag Sharif, MNLA's Leader.
Photo from: ( fr.alakhbar.info/2426-0-Azaouad-contacts-indirects-entre-Bamako-et-MNLA-Chef-rebelle.html )

 

mali map showing recent rebellion towns

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 ):

"A 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 died.

  • 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 to Gao.

  • 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 of Azawad:


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
Source: ossanlibya.org/?p=24120

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 the "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 government defectors.


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 and Anderamboucane.

 

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 gains"; 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 day before.

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 April 2012.

pdf sign Download the Declaration of Independence of Azawad:
(https://www.temehu.com/imazighen/berberdownloads/azawad-independence-declaration.pdf)

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.

 

 

Tuareg Confederacies

(temehu.com/tuareg-confederacies.htm)

Tuareg Cconfideracies

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 of Tamanrasset.
  • 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 Mali.

 

 

 

 

 

 

berber cross

Unified Movements:

  1. CMA: Amazigh World Congress
  2. UNAP: Union of North African Peoples
  3. AMA: l’Assemblée Mondiale Amazighe
  4. IT: International Tuareg


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!

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Amazigh World Congress : AWC (Congrès mondial amazigh: CMA):

AWC world amazigh congress
Website: congres-mondial-amazigh.org/

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 Africa.
  • 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 language.
  • To research the introduction of Tamazight in education.
  • To internationalise the Berber cause and campaign for international recognition.

 

2011:

The Sixth Amazigh World Congress:

Djerba, Tunisia
(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.

  • Appointment of new 5 seats for Libya.

  • Appointment of new 5 seats for Tunisia.

  • The Federal Bureau:

    • Vice Presidents:

      • Jaime Sinéza (Canary Islands)
      • Khalid Zerrari (Morocco)
      • Kamera n-Ait Sid (Algeria)
      • Khadija Bensa'dane (Tunisian)
      • Younes Alharess (Libya)
      • Majdi Bouhdo (Tuareg)
      • Kamal Saidi (Diaspora)

    • General Secretary: Mohamed Bouchdoug (Morocco)
    • Deputy Secretary General: Zoubida Fdail (Morocco)
    • Treasurer: Khalid Alghawi (Libya)
    • Assistant Treasurer: Maziani Mohamed (Algeria)

 

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UNAP: Union of North African Peoples:

union of north african people
Photo from: amazighworld.org

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."

 

 

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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 Amadlan Amazigh  (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).

Address:

Headquarters:
No. 35 Queen's Place,
1030 Brussels,
Belgium.

Objectives (Aims):

The main objectives of the new organisation are:

  • Defending the right to "cultural identity" and "regional autonomy" and establishing "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 diligent dialogue.
  • 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

Confederal Council

  • 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.

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IT: International Tuareg:

 

International Tuareg
IMUHAGH

Photo from: (internationale-touaregue.org)

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 Geneva).

The Board:

  • President
  • Consultant / VP
  • 6 Advisors

The Bureau:

  • A secretary
  • A Treasurer
  • A representative of Niger
  • A representative of Burkina Faso
  • 1 representative from Belgium
  • A representative of the United Nations
  • A project manager

Projects:

  • 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.

 

 

berber cross

 

Who Is Behind The Berber Academy, World Amazigh Congress And The IRCAM?


Amazighs Against Tamazight:

  1. The Berber Academy
  2. IRCAM
  3. World Amazigh Congress

 

1-The Berber Academy:

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 decision?"

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:
    href="ircam.ma/ar/index.php?soc=artip&pg=1&rd=44

 

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 obstacles!

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 broken record.

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.

*  magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/11/04/feature-01
** amazighnews.com/articles/rachid-raha-le-congres-de-djerba-na-rien-de-legal-24624-30092011.html

 

Conclusion:

"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 do" 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 the "Amazigh Community" 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 change" (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.

The definitions 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 revolt.

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 brutality.

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?

 

 

 

berber cross

 

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", and "nationality".

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 good faith."

Article 1:

"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."

Article 2:

"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."

Article 3:

"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."

Article 4:

"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."

Article 5:

"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."

Article 6:

"Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality".

Article 7:

"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."

Article 8:

"1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture."

Article 9:

"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."

pdf sign Download the full United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
https://www.temehu.com/imazighen/berberdownloads/UN-declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-people.pdf

 

 

 

berber cross

Note:

Can The Imazighen Create A Berber Bank?

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". 

Thank you.

Berber Nesmenser; Zuwarah, Libya.
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