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Tamazight … Language and Entity


By: A. Monem Mahjoub*

Tamazight is one of the Afro-Asiatic languages. It is in the same

A. Monem Mahjoub
A. Monem Mahjoub

family with Arabic, together with a series of other languages and dialects, which include the tongues of what we know as North Africa, Middle East, and East of Africa, i.e. the domain of civilization for these languages is located between the Arabian Gulf to the East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West. It extends in Asia from the Arabian Sea in the south to Anatolia in the North. It also extends into Africa from the Mediterranean Sea in the North to Sub-Saharan Africa and East Africa, in addition to a course in the separate places as the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, Malta in the Mediterranean, and the Canaries in the Atlantic Ocean.

Within this atlas of the Afro-Asiatic group, researchers cannot exclude Tamazight language, which is one of the clear branches of its group, regarding vocabulary and phonetics.

I have been allocated many types of research and studies to prove that there is no doubt from a linguistic point of the unity of the linguistic origin, no doubt therefore about the origin of the cultural identity among the Berbers and Arabs from a historical and social perspective. And D.N.A tests did not prove otherwise, despite the fact that those who showed enthusiasm for these tests endeavored to prove the contrary, initially.

We have seen increased activity of what we call “Amazigh movement,” a name favored by activists to merge culture into politics.

The first step of this movement emerged during the World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna 1993), then in the founding of the World Amazigh Congress (WAC), and quietly won membership of the global movement of indigenous peoples. The first official reaction to this activity was a speech delivered by King Hassan II in 1994 and put up the possibility of the integration of local dialects (he meant Tamazight) into the Moroccan curriculum for primary years, and enable media impressions (such as providing a newsletter at the national channel, for example).

Tunisia did not seem to be apprehensive about the effects of this issue on the trends of the domestic and foreign policies, as well as Mauritania, which seemed to be careless for the Tamazight language as long as it is not major in the country, while Libya, in which the Amazigh movement is considered as an echo of what is happening in Algeria and Morocco, chose the idea of merging cultural origins, considering that the “historical evidence” are quite enough.

Officially, Libyans considered the demands that are inconsistent with this choice represent separatist activists, while the militant Amazigh saw this approach as an assimilation policy intended to redirect the cultural needs for fear of being turned into secessionist demands.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco thought carefully about this issue. He showed obvious care about Tamazight language in his country. Since 2001 he considered it as “a heritage of all Moroccans despite the social origins they belong to, representing an integral part of Moroccan identity components.” So he announced a special decree to establish “the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture,” (RIAC) which is an academic and consultant agenda, and characterized as an official reference to the Amazigh associations and institutions in Morocco.

In Algeria, where the cultural conflict has a violent nature, the government decided that it was worthwhile for the process of national integration among the population and to preserve the unity of the state to pay Amazigh culture more attention, and for these reasons, Algerians established the “High Commission for Amazigh” (HCA) to be followed by constitutional recognition of the Amazigh language and culture, working for integrating this language in educational and pedagogical programs.

In Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania, the situation is somewhat different. We may exclude Mauritania for not presenting this problem in the media, cultural and political institutions, and Tunisia for “interlacing” Amazigh issue socially and culturally, and preventing the issue not to become a realistic appearance of social conflict.

What about Libya, then?

The situation here remains as it is. The Amazigh issue as a subject of controversy and debate boils down to the linguistic and social – but not political – dissension; although we are watching kind of pay more attention to the issue and a willingness to put it publicly forward and take some procedures it deserves. Events that have occurred since 2011 till now may make the Libyans realize the intricate ground they stand on. On this issue, they need to hear each other; they have to listen more to the wise Amazigh, sensible people neither francophone nor separatist entrepreneurs.

*Libyan writer and linguistic