Arabization of the Amazigh lands
Arabization is the process of promoting Modern Standard
Arabic (MSA) to the level of a fully functional language in educational, administrative, and mass-media domains, to replace the language of the former European colonial powers. Historically,
Arabization was viewed throughout the Arab World as a fundamental component of the struggle for independence. The
maintenance of Arabic was proclaimed by the leaders of the various
Arab independence movements as the means to assert their
countries’ national character vis a vis the colonial powers, to retrieve
their people’s Arab-Islamic cultural identity, and to preserve their national unity as a community speaking one language: Arabic,
rather than French, English, Berber, or any regional dialect. Since
the various Arab countries achieved their independence, Arabization
has been considered an essential means to remove the vestiges of
colonialism which still permeate the governmental and educational
systems as well as the cultural and social environment.
A repeated theme among anti-Amazigh propagandists is that the Amazigh identity was created by the French and that the Amazigh militants are traitors, working for the French. A common insult is to call the Amazigh ‘sons of the White Fathers’, referring to the missionary Roman Catholic priests that worked in the mountains of Kabylia under French colonialism. Certainly, French colonialism changed the dynamics of North Africa, particularly in Algeria, and the issue of identity has its roots in the divide-and-conquer strategy of the former colonialist power. But it was the Arab identity that was created due to this strategy, and the process was institutionalized under the post-independence regimes, which were influenced by the pan-Arabist ideology of the former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
North Africa is widely portrayed as a part of the ‘Arab world’ or even together or associated with the Middle East, with the unfortunate misconception that Arabs are indigenous to North Africa. Yet there is an extensive ‘non-Arab’ population in North Africa: the true Indigenous people of the region.
We are called Amazigh, plural Imazighen, a word which means “free people” in the Indigenous Tamazight language. Among outsiders, the more common – though incorrect – name for Imazighen is Berber, a term that is largely rejected by Imazighen for its negative connotations. It’s related to the word ‘barbarian’.
Although some may find words like Amazigh and Tamazight difficult to pronounce at first, it is far better to struggle with these words than to use a derogatory term which amounts to an ethnic slur.
The Indigenous land of Imazighen is a region called Tamazgha, encompassing Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Western Sahara, Mauritania, the Canary Islands, and parts of Egypt, Mali, and Niger.
In the 7th century C.E., Arab armies from the Arabian peninsula began invading Tamazgha as part of the Muslim conquests, spreading religion on the backs of colonized peoples. However, even after the majority of Imazighen had converted to Islam, Tamazight remained the lingua franca. During the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, Tamazgha was divided and colonized by France, Spain, Italy, and Britain. Although Imazighen were prominent in resisting European colonialism and were key in anti-colonial liberation movements, nevertheless Arab nationalist regimes came to power in post-‘independence’ North African states. This Arab nationalism arose out of a wave of pan-Arabist ideology which served to oppress and marginalize other non-Arab groups like the Kurds.
Imazighen are not only Indigenous to North Africa, but have not significantly ‘mixed’ with Arab populations. In fact, the vast majority of North Africans are of Amazigh descent, with little Arab genetic contributions. While North Africans may claim that they are ‘mixed’ or that there are no ‘pure’ Amazigh people, the reality is different: Imazighen are not Arab and we have our own Indigenous culture and language for which we have been persecuted.
There are countless examples of Amazigh repression and violations of human rights under North African regimes. Under the rule of King Hassan II in Morocco, a period known as the Years of Lead, thousands of Imazighen were imprisoned, tortured, and/or killed by state violence. For example, in 1959 then-Crown Prince Hassan II led the Moroccan army to the Rif to ‘subdue’ Rifian Imazighen who rose up against their marginalization. The Moroccan army killed thousands of Rifian civilians. In the early 2000s in Kabylia, an Amazigh region in Algeria, 126 people were killed in the Black Spring during Amazigh protests. An unknown number of Kel Tamasheq were killed in reprisal massacres by Mali and Niger after Tamasheq uprisings for self-determination. The marginalization of Imazighen is multifaceted and has long been characterized by extreme violence.
Even after European colonialism formally ended, Imazighen still do not have independence from Arab dominance in North Africa. Aside from being split across many states, which weakens resistance, post-‘independence’ Arabization policies imposed Arabic-language education across North African states. These language policies were supposedly intended to ‘decolonize’ by replacing French with Arabic, a flawed idea considering that Arabic is not an Indigenous language in Tamazgha. In actuality, Arabization policies served to further engrain Arab colonialism in North Africa by imposing yet another foreign language, Arabic, while even banning Tamazight.
Due to the significant oppression of Imazighen for our language and ethnicity, a great deal of Amazigh activism has focused on language rights. The current state of Amazigh language rights varies between countries, but Tamazight is not systematically taught in any North African country and no Amazigh children receive mother tongue education. This provides a significant disadvantage to Amazigh children, who are often banned from speaking their mother tongue in school and are violently punished for doing so.
Linguistic repression has meant that Tamazight has largely not benefitted from language development such as mass media production. As a result, the different dialects of Tamazight are not always mutually intelligible and a natural process of language standardization cannot occur. Opponents of Amazigh language rights argue that Tamazight is too difficult to learn or that the dialects are too disparate, but of course these issues cannot be addressed when there still exists legal discrimination against Tamazight.
- Imam Sajjad (a.s.)
This is the home of French designer Philippe Xerri and his partner Martial Viahero. The stunning residence, located within the historical Medina of Tunis (a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site), is housed in an Arab palace from 1725 that was carefully renovated to reveal the grandiose ceilings of painted wood as well as the original tiles with baroque designs. Throughout the house, named ‘Palais Rock the Kasbah’ after the eponymous design initiative that they run in Tunisia, Xerri and Viahero have added numerous stylish and yet personal touches in the form of reupholstered mid-twentieth century furniture and pieces of contemporary art and design.
I love the interplay between the home’s traditional middle eastern design and its modern contemporary influences. Gotta love the contrast between the white minimalism and playful color accents, as well as the contrast between the islamic/middle eastern art and the playful pop art featuring Jackie O and Elvis Presley. Playful, fun, interesting, dynamic and fresh. BEAUTIFUL! Absolute DREAM HOME!