The international NGO for the defense of the rights of the Amazigh people, the World Amazigh Assembly (AMA), in collaboration with the newspaper “Le Monde Amazigh“, the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, organized the tenth general assembly of the Amazighs (1) of world in the Moroccan region of Oued Draâ-Tafilalet, in the city of Ouarzazate – Commune of Tarmigte, on March 25, 26 and 27, 2022/2972.
Were present at this conference: activists, municipal representatives, Amazigh personalities and delegates of Amazigh associations and NGOs from North African countries and the European Diaspora, as well as some personalities from European countries and representatives of some friendly peoples such as the Catalans represented by Ms. Maria Dantas of ERC & Mrs. Mariona Illamola Dausa of Junts Per Catalunya, the Kurds represented by Mr. Ibrahim Hekmat, and members of the families of the Resistance and the Moroccan National Liberation Army (ALN) such as Mr. Khalil Messaadi, Khadarito Mohand Hamouti, Dr. Mohamed Chtatou, Mrs. Amina Ibnou-Cheikh, and Mr. Hicham Aboud from Algeria.
International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032
This tenth world meeting of the Amazighs was organized within the framework of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, (2) launched by UNESCO (3) and the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, under the theme of: “What urgent measures should be taken to protect, revitalize and promote the indigenous language of North Africans? “.
This 10th international meeting of the Amazighs of the world, which took place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, comes after the general assemblies held in Saint Rome de Dolan in France in 1995, in Tafira in the Canary Islands in 1997, in Lyon, France in 1999, in Roubaix, France in 2002, in Nador, Morocco in 2005, in Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria in 2008, in Brussels, Belgium in 2011, in Tiznit, Morocco in 2013, in Ifrane, Morocco in 2015 and in Marrakech, Morocco in 2018; to continue to be a forum for meetings, reflections, exchanges and debates on the question of the urgent need to succeed in the bet of the active participation of the Amazigh indigenous populations and communities, in general, and, more particularly, for Amazigh young people and women, to strengthen democratic values within their North African countries and their host countries in Europe and North America.
Nevertheless, this time, the tenth assembly of the Amazighs of the world is part and parcel of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, in order to draw attention of the international community to the critical loss of African indigenous languages and more particularly the language of the Amazigh people and to discuss the need to take urgent measures, at the national and international levels, for the preservation, revitalization and promotion of the said language.
The debates of this assembly, in the context of indigenous languages with reference to the Tamazight language, focused on the following axes:
Importance of language
Language plays an increasingly important role in development, ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural discussion, as well as stimulating cooperation and ensuring quality education for all. International Mother Language Day highlights the power of languages and multilingualism to promote inclusion. (4)
What is an indigenous language?
An indigenous language, or autochthonous language, is a language originating in a region and spoken by indigenous peoples. (5) This language comes from a linguistically distinct community originating in the region. In addition, many indigenous languages have been subject to linguicide (killing of the tongue).
The history, cultures and identities of indigenous peoples are embodied and shared in their languages. With the risk of linguistic extinction (6) comes the risk of losing centuries of information, traditional knowledge, understanding of the land around us, and the ability to fully transmit culture and traditions to future generations.
Revalorization of Indigenous languages
The revitalization of indigenous languages is essential to ensure the continuity and transmission of culture, customs and history, but it is also important to address biodiversity loss and climate change. (7)
The most common methods used to protect the tongue:
– Creation of recorded and printed resources: Recorded and printed materials are essential to preserve the sound and context of languages;
– Teach and follow language courses;
– Use digital and social media, and;
– Insist on speaking mother tongue.
Why do languages disappear? In recent decades, a complex set of circumstances has accelerated the disappearance of indigenous languages: contact with other peoples, death of native speakers, radical changes in their way of life, loss of land, mass migrations, etc. (8)
Tamazight Language Revitalization Approaches and Strategies
Language revitalization can take several paths, but they are not mutually exclusive. A central aspect of language revitalization is the creation of new speakers. One way is for families to learn and pass on the endangered language at home. Schools are also important places for language learning. (9) Moreover, language nests and immersion schools have proven to be particularly effective. Adult language education has also become an essential part of language revitalization. Not forgetting, however, the universities and the “start-up” methods such as the master-apprentice program which have made it possible to bring adults to a high level of competence. Language archives have been helpful in accessing the language, especially when there are no more speakers. Modernization of the language is also inevitable, including new vocabulary and the development of writing systems, if necessary. Most importantly, language revitalization should involve increased language use, by both native speakers and learners.
It has also been found that there are three effective approaches to language revival:
– The total immersion method;
– The bilingual method, and;
– The language recovery method.
The most common methods used to protect the tongue are as follows:
– Creation of recorded and printed resources. Recorded and printed materials are essential to preserve the sound and context of languages;
– Teach and follow language courses;
– Use of digital and social media, and;
– Insist on speaking their mother tongue.
Linguistic revival has moral, aesthetic, psychological, cognitive and economic benefits. It encompasses social justice and harmony, diversity, employability and mental health.
A revived language is one that, after experiencing near or complete extinction as a spoken or written language, has been intentionally revived and regained some of its former status.
Amazigh cultural trinity
There are specifically and exclusively three main themes in Amazigh culture which are defined as an important and overriding trinity in its value system and are easily identifiable in North African culture today. These themes have transcended Amazigh culture and have been widely accepted as basic concepts of identity.
The trinity in question revolves around the following notions: (10)
1- The importance of language as a vehicle of culture and the main marker of identity (11) (Tamazight/awal) in terms of both communication and the perpetuation of history;
2- The omnipresence of the strong and indivisible system of kinship and belonging to the extended family (ddam/tamount) which is expressed by solidarity and coexistence, and;
3- The strong connection to the land and the identification with these benefits and the belief in its sacredness (akkal/tammourt/tamazirt) which is also strong among other peoples around the Mediterranean. (12)
The most obvious theme, which is present in the Amazigh community, is the importance of language in society, civilization and life. When one contemplates the culture of the Amazigh people, there is a clear correlation between the relevance of the language and the preservation of civilization and millennial traditions (see the tradition of the Master Musicians Jahjouka in the northeast of Morocco). Their trance music and anthropological theater has gone through four thousand years of history without a scratch. (13)
The history and belief system of the Amazigh people have been preserved orally from father to son; where one generation transmitted history, wisdom and laws (azref) (14) to another, automatically through the mother tongue, a powerful linguistic vehicle. In fact, despite the existence of different distinct Amazigh dialects, the history and laws of the Amazigh people have synchronized and survived countless invasions throughout its long history of eight millennia.
The idea of a nation-state was an alien concept from Western invaders that the indigenous Amazighs had vigorously rejected. For the Amazighs, it is accepted that the similarities between men are not defined by imaginary lines but rather by an identity that stems from a common language, a shared history (tamount). (15)
However, the idea of kinship that manifests itself through people related by blood, experience and history shows a relevant distinction between the Amazigh culture in the sense that the Amazigh community system emphasizes the notion of matriarch as a pivotal person in the family imbued with democratic values, while the North African culture, of Arab substrate, prefers a patriarchy, very strong and undivided.
Among the Amazighs, blood ties (ddam) are sacred in marriage, paternity and family affiliations. Indeed, two tribes sign their alliance by a marriage. Blood in the context of sacrifice and also a sign of reconciliation, asking for forgiveness and respect, tagharst (sacrificial tradition). (16)
Challenges to the preservation of Tamazight
The biggest challenge for the preservation of the Amazigh language and culture is the lack of implementation. This includes a lack of trained teachers who only teach Tamazight and a lack of material resources from students and teachers. (17)
In addition, there is a negative social stigma attached to Tamazight that needs to be removed in a conscious effort and a disparity between the research that has been done by institutions and the implementation measures that have been taken by different countries in the world. North Africa.
Apart from issues of resources and accessibility, there are those who are completely opposed to the teaching of Tamazight. These opponents make the following argument: Tamazgha countries already have a complex linguistic landscape with students learning fusha (Standard Arabic) and French and that if it is necessary for students to learn a third language, it should be a global language like English.
Moreover, many who are against the teaching of Tamazight believe that it has no real functional value and is included in the curriculum only tokenism.
Although the Amazigh language has been recognized by some states in North Africa, it is also important to remember that these states may use recognition as a political tool and as a means of maintaining peace and supporting regimes during periods of instability.
Therefore, although governments may have included Amazighs in the constitution, this may not have been a mere act of goodwill, but a carefully calculated move to retain the support of the Amazigh population in a period of instability throughout the North African region.
Another important point to take into consideration is the choice of Morocco to use Tifinagh as script/alphabet for the standardization of Amazigh while Algeria has also decided to recognize Amazigh as an official language and to standardize it, but she chose to use Arabic script.
Although there are probably many possible explanations for this choice, it seems that the choice of different scripts and the creation of different standardized languages prevent the numerous Amazigh communities of North Africa from creating a single large linguistic community in the Tamazgha space.
This preventive measure can also be seen as a political manoeuvre aimed at preventing the creation of a community with common political objectives and which could disrupt public order and the sustainability of the nation-states already formed in North Africa.
Develop education in Tamazgha
The importance of education has been emphasized by a number of international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. Women’s Day, held in Beijing in 1995, recognized that literacy for women was essential to enable them to participate in the decisions of society and to improve the well-being of families. (18) In addition, the United Nations has defined the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), (19) which include targets for improving education, gender equality and empowering women. The MDGs (20) emphasize the essential role of education in building democratic societies and laying the foundations for sustained economic growth. (21)
Education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force. A recent study of 19 developing countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, concluded that a country’s long-term economic growth increases by 3.7% per year of increase in the average level of schooling of the adult population. (22)
Education is therefore a key strategy for reducing poverty, especially in the MENA region, where poverty is not as deep as in other developing regions. According to the United Nations Population Fund -UNFPA-, countries that have made social investments in health, family planning and education have slower population growth and faster economic growth than countries that do not. have not made such investments.
In an increasingly open global economy, countries with high illiteracy rates and gender gaps in educational attainment tend to be less competitive as foreign investors seek labor both qualified and inexpensive. Various global trends pose particular challenges for women who are illiterate or have limited education. The export orientation of economies and the growing importance of small and medium-sized enterprises create opportunities for women, but they need the right education and training to take full advantage of them.
In addition, the benefits of educating women for women’s empowerment and gender equality are widely recognised:
1- When women’s education increases, fertility, population growth and infant and child mortality decrease and the health of families improves.
2- Increased secondary school enrollment of girls is associated with an increase in women’s participation in the labor force and their contribution to household income and national income.
3- The increase in women’s earning capacity has, in turn, a positive effect on the nutrition of children.
4- Children – especially girls – of educated mothers are more likely to attend school and have a higher level of education.
5- Educated women are more politically active and better informed of their legal rights and how to exercise them.
Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Strategy in Tamazgha
The quality of a nation, (23) let us say, depends on the quality of the skills, abilities and ideals of its people. Literacy improves it. It is a means of fulfillment and personal development. Being illiterate is a huge intellectual, political and economic handicap. However, this does not prevent the development of policies adapted to the particular situation of the regions. Often, national adult education policies and strategies do not sufficiently address the content and method of adult education in various communities.
Educational interventions in these communities require an understanding of the social, cultural, and economic conditions that directly affect them, as well as their particular needs and circumstances. Based on the national structure of adult education, the government should create a separate department/commission and a monitoring body at the national level. This body should have a legal status and be intensively involved in adult education issues at the grassroots level. It should also be responsible for formulating and coordinating adult education programs, and be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of policies and programs relevant to pastoral adult education in the various regions.
Functional Adult Education should not only be designed to enable the grassroots to read and write and perform simple calculations (3 Rs), but also to teach them basic skills that can be used in daily life. The curriculum should be developed on the basis of a detailed and sound knowledge of their lifestyle and social and physical environment. It should enable them to cope with the challenges of daily life and contribute to economic diversification and poverty reduction in their local communities as well as at the national level.
Rachid Raha, President of the Amazigh World Assembly -AWA-
The proposed FAL program must overcome a certain distortion between political discourse and the social and individual demands of the people, a distortion that leads to the proposal of a uniform literacy program with precise and limited objectives that proves inadequate to the variety of motivations expressed. This is not to say that the government should offer programs adapted to all the motivations mentioned. However, it might be appropriate to diversify the offer in order to better respond to the needs, particularly for continuing education and professional integration, expressed by some of the beneficiaries.
The FAL approach also highlights the fact that motivations vary by location, age and gender. Young men in urban areas expect more socialization and skills training from this immersion, while women are more interested in opening up to the world and finding their bearings. Some operators, particularly NGOs, advertise the possibility of learning a trade in addition to the literacy program. These are very often sewing and embroidery trades, mainly for women. Although these skills can be acquired through other activities, this functional aspect of literacy continues to serve as a lure because it is likely to attract beneficiaries.
Amazigh present demands
In relation to the pace of political changes that affect the interests of the Amazigh people and Amazigh-speaking communities, within the states of Tamazgha (24) and within the framework of the degrading human rights situation, the Amazigh World Assembly, declares and demands the following:
- Concerning Morocco:
The Amazigh World Assembly welcomes the political will of the new Moroccan government, which emerged from the last legislative elections of September 8, 2021/2971, to take the Amazigh file seriously and to have dedicated an annual budget to it.
The Amazigh World Assembly calls for the implementation of the laws relating to the recognition of the official character of Amazigh culture and as a matter of urgency, to generalize the teaching of the Amazigh language in preschool and primary education, and to appoint a specialist who masters the themes of normalization and standardization of the Amazigh language at the head of the National Council of Languages and Moroccan Culture.
The Amazigh World Assembly insists on the recognition of the Amazigh calendar and new year and recalls its demand to change the discriminatory name of the “Arab Maghreb” into “Greater Maghreb”, while reiterating its demand for the release of all detainees of the “Hirak of the Rif” protest who remain in prison and end of the despoiling of the collective lands of the marginalized Amazigh tribes. (25)
- Regarding Algeria:
The Amazigh World Assembly demands to the Algerian authorities, and more concretely to the military generals, who hold the real power, the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees and to put an end to all forms of intimidation, judicial harassment, criminalization and arbitrary arrest or detention against journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, lawyers, demonstrators and all activists, especially those from Kabylia, wrongly accused of belonging to a terrorist movement, namely the Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK). (26)
The Amazigh World Assembly also demands that the Algerian authorities respond immediately to all legitimate and democratic demands of the “Hirak of Algeria”.
The Amazigh World Assembly demands that the highest Algerian military authorities guarantee accountability and democratic control and the effective subordination of the latter to a legally constituted civilian authority, and to ensure that the role of the army, which should be redefined in a new People’s Constitution, is explicitly limited to matters of national defense. And to organize, therefore, immediate and transparent presidential and legislative elections, resume diplomatic and economic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco, proceed to the opening of the borders with it, and to stop immediately the state terrorism that it sows against the Algerian people and the peoples of the Sahel.
- Regarding Libya:
The Amazigh World Assembly calls on the United Nations and the European Union to put more pressure on the “foreign mercenaries” to leave the Libyan territory and to actively involve the Amazighs in the talks they are sponsoring to find a consensual and participatory solution to peace in post-revolutionary Libya.
The Amazigh World Assembly calls, also, for the promulgation of a new democratic and inclusive constitutional charter, following the failure of the December 24 elections; which ought to decree a federal state allowing the Libyan people to govern themselves and to preserve their cultural specificities within the framework of a participatory democracy.
The Amazigh World Assembly affirms its support to the Amazighs of Libya, and to the High Council of Amazighs of Libya, for their firm position to boycott any electoral consultation, be it presidential or legislative, as long as the reform of the constitutional text does not officially recognize the Amazigh language and identity within the new Libya.
- Concerning the Tuareg people of Azawad and Niger:
The Amazigh World Assembly condemns with all its might the abject crimes committed by terrorist groups against civilian populations in the Sahel tri-border region, and more particularly in Azawad, and calls on the international community to intervene urgently to stop this ethnic cleansing. (27)
The Amazigh World Assembly affirms that the key to stability in the Sahel and Great Sahara region should go beyond the Algiers Agreements and seriously consider granting political autonomy to the Azawad region, which would allow the local population to govern itself, within the framework of a civil, federal and plural Malian state.
The Amazigh World Assembly vigorously condemns the words of the new President of Niger, Mr. Bazoum Mohamed, who claims to want to “fight Tuareg irredentism”, as his predecessor had done, a way of stigmatizing the Imazighen of Niger once again. Such remarks are from the colonial era, and one know the consequences of such remarks on social peace.
The Amazigh World Assembly urges Amazigh and human rights NGOs to stand in solidarity with the “Imouhar” communities and to call the attention of international organizations and institutions to the need to ensure the defense and security of the civilian population.
- Regarding the Amazighs of the Diaspora in European countries:
The Amazigh World Assembly calls on Amazigh citizens in the European Union and North America to take more action to raise awareness of their identity and linguistic characteristics and to actively protest being treated as “Arabs” from the Arabian Gulf and not as Amazighs from North Africa.
The Amazigh World Assembly asks the governments of the European Union (EU) states and their diplomatic institutions to get involved in the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032 and to collaborate with UNESCO in order to urgently revalorize the Amazigh language, culture and identity, by teaching it to the children of the diaspora who constitute the absolute majority of the emigrants in the European countries and to integrate it within their cultural and educational institutions accredited in the countries of Tamazgha.
The Amazigh World Assembly insists that the Amazigh identity and language be taken into consideration by European governments in their integration policies and educational programs related to the children of the emigrant communities, as well as in their foreign policy and relations with the North African states; and this in order to curb the Salafist radicalization of the young people from the said North African emigration.
Agraw Amadlan Amazigh, election of a new Confederal Bureau
Finally, the General Assembly of the Amazighs of the world in Ouarzazate, Morocco allowed the renewal of the structures of AGRAW AMADLAN AMAZIGH, by electing a new Confederal Bureau and a new Confederal Council, for the next mandate 2022-2026/2972-2976.
In accordance with its statutes, the General Assembly was chaired by Mrs. Souad Benkachouh, and the work gave rise to the presentation of the moral report and the financial report for the period of 2018-2021/2968-2971. After discussion and validation of the aforementioned reports, the General Assembly led to the election of the president, reappointing Mr. Rachid Raha unanimously in his position as president of the NGO and trusting him to form the members of the new Confederal Bureau. The General Assembly then elected the members of the Confederal Board.
Thus, the new Confederal Board is now composed as follows:
– Mr. Rachid Raha, President of the Amazigh World Assembly (AWA);
– Dr. Mimoun Charqi, Honorary President and head of legal affairs;
– Mr. Hassan Douhou, Delegate President for France;
– Mrs. Salwa Gharbi, Delegate President for Spain and Catalonia;
– Mr. Sekouti Khoudir, Delegate President for Algeria;
– Mrs. Amina Ibnou-Cheikh, Delegate President for Morocco;
– Mrs. Belkiss Al Ansari, Delegate President for the Tuaregs of Azawad
– Mr. Seydou-Kaocen Maiga, Delegate President for the Tuaregs of Niger
– Mr. Hamma Ag Mahmoud, Delegate President for Mauritania
– Mrs. Touria Abarkani, Secretary General and representative in Germany
– Mr. Montacer Ahouli, Deputy Secretary General;
– Mr. Mhamed Bihmedn, Treasurer General
– Mr. Aissa Akaoui, Assistant Treasurer General;
– Mr. Alhousseini Ag Chekhou, Itinerant Ambassador of the Tuareg Culture.
Conclusion: Some of Amazigh World Assembly’s Actions on Behalf of the Amazighs of the World
– In May 2020, the AWA sent a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron calling for urgent measures to end the Libyan civil war by taking into account the active participation and rights of the Amazigh.
– In July 2020, the AWA sent a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron on the occasion of the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Anoual on July 21, in which the AWA President drew his attention once again to “the great unresolved prejudice involving the responsibility of the French Republic in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population of the Great Moroccan Rif during the Rif War of 1921-1927.’’ Jean Le Roch, from the Private Staff of the Presidency of the Republic, replies to the Amazigh World Assembly “The President of the Republic has received the correspondence in which you request, in favor of the heirs of the victims of the Rif war (1921-1926), the reparation of the prejudices undergone in the context of the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. The Head of State has entrusted me with the task of assuring you of the best attention with which he has been acquainted with your letter and the concerns that motivate your approach.’’ Stressing that this is a delicate subject, he said that it falls within the remit of the Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Armed Forces in charge of Memory and Veterans. Mr. Le Roch assured that Mr. Raha’s request will be carefully examined, adding, “His services will not fail to let you know directly what action may be taken.’’
– In September 2020, the AWA appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the rights of Amazighs in Morocco by sending a letter whose subject is Request for the Moroccan authorities to respect the rights of the Amazighs and to release the political detainees of the “Hirak of Rif”.
You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu
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