Published first in http://bokamosoafrica.org/2012/08/the-language-of-north-africa.html
Kenyan scholar Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o has written extensively about the ‘language question’ in African literature, most prominently in his book Decolonizing the Mind where he famously rejected English as a medium for his writing. In fact, there has been a great deal of scholarship regarding the use of indigenous vs. foreign languages in Africa. However, it has almost exclusively focused on European colonial languages, either ignoring Arabic as a colonial language or even considering it ‘indigenous’, as in the case of Ngũgĩ! Ngũgĩ goes as far as to say that “Arabic is now an African language unless we want to write off all the indigenous populations of North Africa, Egypt, Sudan as not being Africans.” (Decolonizing the Mind, 30). This statement is particularly strange as it belies a complete ignorance of North Africa, where the indigenous people, Imazighen, are not Arab and do speak an African language, Tamazight, rather than Arabic. The Arabic language did not arrive in North Africa until the Arab invasions of the 7th century C.E., when violent conquest brought Islam and Arabic.
Ali Mazrui also lauds the “linguistic nationalism” of “Arabic-speaking Africa,” washing over the violence with which Arab nationalism is imposed on indigenous North Africans. Mazrui goes on to say that it is inappropriate to refer to ‘Francophone Africa’ or ‘Lusophone Africa,’ yet he inappropriately labels North Africa (Tamazgha) as “Arabic-speaking,” ascribing the colonial language as the – presumably ‘indigenous’ – language of the people.
Why limit our rejection of colonial languages, if we are to do so, to only European languages? Arabic has been used in at least as destructive and anti-African a manner as French, English, or any other European language in Africa. Just as Ngũgĩ describes the schism created by language policies in a colonial school, an Amazigh writer does the same:
You are not even able to speak Arabic, he told us… ‘You are savages. How will I ever manage to civilize you when I have to start from scratch?’…I was already considering how I was going to tell my parents who were unable to understand the teacher’s language. Should my parents see me suddenly deny the patrimony of my ancestors and my mother tongue? It would be far better to disappear along with that language. (Almasude, originally Oussaid 1989).
These discriminatory policies and practices continue today, at the expense of an indigenous African language. Despite this, Arabic is granted the status of “African” even while it acts as a colonial language, imposed by those who identify as “Arabs,” and as foreigners. Within scholarship about African languages, as well as African Studies in general, people seem to have forgotten that European colonialism is not the only form of colonialism to affect the continent.
When North African countries gained “independence” from European control, Arabization policies were implemented to create a false unity of the supposed “Arab” people of North Africa. These policies continue today, with the most recent example being the ban on Tamazight in the Moroccan Parliament after Fatima Tabaamrant, an Amazigh MP, asked a question in her native language. Amazigh parents who want to register their children with indigenous names are frequently rejected, a policy which has been criticized by human rights organizations. Children are often still physically beaten for speaking their mother tongue in school, as is the case in many African countries where only colonial languages may be spoken in school. Once again it does not make sense to reject European colonial languages but not a non-European colonial language which is equally destructive.
Given the colonial nature of Arabic in North Africa, and its forceful imposition on the indigenous people, there are significant reasons that Africans ought to reject the use of Arabic in favor of the indigenous language of North Africa: Tamazight. When we do this, we support the survival of African languages in opposition to the policies of former or current colonial powers.
The North America Amazigh Support Coalition has organized rallys to support the people of Azawad in Ottawa (in front of Parliement), Montreal (Carre Phillips) and Boston (Boston Commons). At the same time the Tamazgha association in Paris called for a rally in front of the National Assembly in Paris.
Below are slideshows of the rallys in Ottawa and Boston. Montreal will posted shortly. Also for the Paris rally, please visit www.tamazgha.fr
The message of these rallys is:
- For the reight of people to live free and secure
- Peace in the world calls for the recognition of a people right to be free and his identity be recognized
- Amazigh people unite!
- Tuaregs are not just for tourism
- Amazighs of America are with you (the Tuaregs)
- UN, USA, Canada, EU spare us another crisis.
- For peace and human rights in Azawad
- Support Tuareg secular culture to root out terrorism
- Support free people (Tuareg), Support their state Azawad
Parliament Hill - Ottawa, Canada
Boston Commons - Boston, USA
Rallyes are programmed for Ottawa, Montreal and Boston. At the same time there is also a rallye in Paris.
For more information on the rallye in Paris, plase visit tamazgha.fr
Video of New York Rally
Video of Ottawa Rally
An article by Ann Marlowe, published in the World Affairs Journal
Three gatherings took place on Saturday:
Ottawa, Canada, in front of the Canadian Parliament.
New York City, NY, USA, in Central Park
Boston, MA, USA at Boston Common
Today: Montreal, Canada, in front of Radio-Television Canada
New York City Rally
It was a cold day at all three places but many people braved the December weather and showed up. They came to lend a hand to the Amazigh Libyans who are fighting to have a say in the new political landscape that is shaping up in their country. The new National Transitional Council has already shown anti-Amazigh tendencies. This is nothing more than a political game that uses fear (fear of the Amazigh) to cement the new Arabo-Islamist groups that are trying to grab power. The Libyan nationaly unity will be built on the ashes of the Amazigh. This would be nothing but a continuation of the same old policy of anihilation of the Amazigh, as a people, a culture and a language that the longest reigning dictator (Gaddafi) has practiced.
As for fighting against the tyrant, the Libyan Amazighs did plenty of. They did so in the indifference of the rest of the country. When the entire country finally united to oust the mad man, the Amazighs did no hesitate a second. They fought valliantly and if it weren't for them Gaddafi would not fall.
The Amazighs of Libya want to live in dignity. They want their identity and culture to be recognized ad they want to above all to participate in a new democratic Libya. So they want to be fairly represented and have a say in what happens to them and to the country.
The North American Support Committee to The Amazighs of Libya, the Amazigh Cultural Association in America and the Berber American Community all joined hands to gather Saturday and Sunday to tell the world that the work in Libya is not done. Discrimination is still at work. Most of all to tell the Amazighs of Libya that we are with them and support their fight for dignity and justice.
Location: Parliament Hill
Date & time: Saturday 12/17/11 at 2:00 PM
Location: In front of Radio-Television Canada
Date & time: Sunday 12/18/11 at 11 AM
New York City, USA
Location Central Park (59th St & 5th Ave)
Date & time: Saturday 12/17/11 at 1:00 PM
Location: Boston Common
Date & time: Saturday 12/17/11 at 12:00 AM
Below this text are fliers for each location and a press release by BAC.
The Amazigh people of Libya played a leading role in the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship. They brought the Amazigh culture and language to the forefront by making it an important part of their struggle. They fought as Imazighen [Free People] and insisted that all Libyans and the rest of the world know this critical fact. Nobody can ignore the crucial role they played in freeing Libya from the claws of a mad dictator. The NTC [National Transitional Council] took over the reins of government from him. This junta did not waste any time in unveiling their real face vis-à-vis Imazighen. They did not only exclude the Amazigh component from the new interim government. No. They actually granted a ministerial position to an individual who made racist statements against Imazighen at an August meeting of the NTC.
The Imazighen say they are not prepared to negotiate the status the Amazigh language and culture will have in Libya. They rejected the new government and withdrew their representatives from the NTC. They made their demands clear. Since November 23, they have been out in the streets of Tripoli and throughout the Amazigh region to denounce the new Libyan government and the NTC, which they describe as racist. Imazighen played a crucial role in the overthrow of Gaddafi. So, they have earned the right to sit at the Libyan table. How can any government claim legitimacy without them? Their fight will continue until justice is done.
The Amazigh people of Libya are giving us the best example of determination in the fight to preserve the Amazigh culture. The world must show its support and not forget the struggle of and the discrimination against this courageous people. In particular, we are calling on the Amazigh associations, organizations, and activists worldwide to mobilize and show their support for this noble cause. It is crucial that we stand beside the Amazigh people of Libya. We want them to know they are not alone. We must be together in any issue that concerns our identity. December 17 has been designated as the international day of solidarity with the Amazigh people of Libya and to denounce any attempt by the NTC to bury the aspirations of this brave people. No more dictatorship in Libya. We also take this opportunity to denounce all the past government attempts throughout North Africa to bury the Amazigh people's dreams for freedom and justice.
Join us on December 17. Let us fly the flag of peace, true democracy, and justice and show our Amazigh brothers and sisters in Libya that we are with them. No more racist dictatorship in Libya.
The North American Support Committee for the Amazigh of Libya
The Amazigh Cultural Association in America
The Berber American Community
Tamazgha hails the fighting spirit of Libyan Imazighen
Tamazgha Takes note of the formation of the NTC's interim government announced on 22 November by Prime Minister Abd-al-Rahim al-Kib. This government formation clearly indicates the extent of exclusion and marginalization to which the Amazigh people are being subjected by the NTC. For this reason we denounce the NTC and its discriminatory and racist moves and we reject this government which represents only those who appointed it.
Tamazgha supports the Libyan Imazighen position which they made public immediately after the formation of this puppet government. We reassure the Libyan Imazighen of our unwavering support. Imazighen are not willing to forfeit their freedom for which they paid a high price, that of their sons' blood. Imazighen are determined to no longer be subjected to Al-Qadhafi-style practices and are vowing to fight to the end in order to lead a free and dignified life doggedly refusing to make any concessions which may jeopardize their hard-won freedom.
Tamazgha appeals to the international community to act urgently and to not let Libyans to sink into the dark tunnel of the NTC-concocted discriminatory and racist Arab-Islamist ideology. Rewarding racist, regionalist and abusers of human rights individuals with ministerial jobs is a strong sign sent by the NTC in the direction of the Amazigh people of Libya as well as in the direction of the international community after it had supported the popular uprising against the dictator. Are we going to accept to quickly return to an era against which we have fought with all our force only a few months ago?
Through their struggle in order to lead a dignified life, it is the whole Amazigh people whom the Libyan Imazighen want to see regain their normal and legitimate place within the community of modern nations. For this reason we call on all Amazigh people of the world, particularly in North Africa, to express their support and solidarity with Libyan Imazighen.
Today, the Amazigh people of Libya provide us with a praiseworthy example of the struggle for freedom and for restoring the historic and legitimate rights of the Amazigh people in their homeland. It is high time for all the Amazigh people in North Africa and in the Sahel region to follow the example of the Imazighen of Libya to liberate themselves form decades of domination to which they have been subjected by the Arab-Islamist colonialism and discriminatory ideology.
Tudert i Tmazgha
Tudert i Tmazight.
Paris, 4 December 2011
(Reuters, Nov 27 2011) - Several hundred Berbers marched into the courtyard of the Libyan prime minister's office Sunday to express their anger at the country's new cabinet, which does not include anyone from their large ethnic group.
The Amazigh, or Berber, people were stunned when the country's new interim government was announced Tuesday and none of the 26 ministerial posts went to one of their own.
They say they make up around 10-15 percent of the population and played an important role in the rebellion that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
"We do not recognize this government, and all Libyans must know that we are a part, a powerful and effective part of the country," said Mohammed Kaabr, a doctoral student and part of a delegation that spoke to Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib.
Protesters chanted "Where is El-Keib?" and "There is no difference between Amazigh and Arab!" on the steps of Keib's office while talks went on inside. Kaabr said the meeting was cut short so Keib could try to calm the boisterous crowd.
A press release by the Amazigh Cultural Movement of Libya
Below is pdf version of this text in both Tamazight and English that you can download.
It is time to build the new modern Libyan state and free. Intellectual consciousness that aspires to democracy and respect for diversity must come from the universal human values such as recognition and respect for others, dialogue and tolerance so that we can build a national consensus and work for the interest of all.
In order to build a future democratic state that respects freedom, dignity and equality, we believe that respect for human rights is essential. To contribute to the debate on this project, we propose our design for the next creation of a new Libyan state democratic, unified and free.
1 - The Amazigh language as a heritage of all Libyans without exception, and Arabic are both official languages of Libya. They have equal rights and equal privileges as to their use at all state institutions. The state will work to protect, to enhance and ensure its use in all areas. The state will also seek to teach foreign languages most commonly used worldwide to access science and modernity, open to other cultures and civilizations.
2 - After the release and stability in Libya, the state symbols must conform to the dimensions of identity, historical, cultural and intellectual Libya.
3 - Libya is a civils democratic and sovereign, with a constitutional and parliamentary-based flexible and balanced separation of powers (legislative, judicial and executive) and decentralization.
4 - It is forbidden to form political parties on religious, regional, ethnic or tribal. And in general, on any basis other discriminatory or contrary to human rights as universally recognized;
5 - To ensure equal freedoms and political rights, civil, economic, social and cultural rights for all Libyan (male and female). The State shall guarantee and protect equal opportunity and the right to life as the first right of every human being. Provide and ensure equal opportunities for individuals, coalitions and political movements to express their ideas and designs through a peaceful dialogue, peaceful, democratic and lawful in terms of both rights obligations.
6 - Ensure freedom of existence in all its forms-intellectual, opinion, expression, through all forms of creation, dissemination and publication.
Long live Libya - free Libya
Amazigh Cultural Movement,
On August 12, 2011.
Download the keyboard and fonts necessary to write or visualize Tamazight on your Windows or Mac computer