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The Amazigh View: Let my people in

Reader comment on item: Berbers as Anti-Islamists and Anti-Arab Nationalists

Submitted by Atlas Kahena (United States), Mar 27, 2009 at 03:26

As an Amazigh woman, I was extremely moved by the comments I've read about the Amazigh. From the ones that digged deep into history to criminalize us to the ones that wanted the USA to factor us in its foreign policy. None of these comments have touched the core of what the Berber people really are.

These comments are a mere reflection of the dichotomy that the Amazigh people have been living with for quiet a while. A perfect example for this could be found in the question of our origins. Different ideologies swing us back and forth and our identity gets quashed every time we are subject to a pull or a push.

Before we attempt to answer the question Where do the Amazigh Stand in regard to this or to that issue, we first need to define who the berbers are. This is perfectly legitimate if we strive to get the right answer. Since the berbers have undergone so many brainwashing under different political, religion, cultural and linguistic systems, it has become very hard not to notice the fractionalization among the berbers themselves. This is where the great caution is needed from any one who attempts to ask that overwhelming question.

If this question is directed to the wrong people, the wrong answer will be given. If we ask an arab-islamist, for instance, the answer would be that the Amazigh are Muslims and he/she may even add that they are more Arabs than the Arabs themselves. Another extreme view would only find the truth in one place and one only - The middle Ages: "the Almoravids who established a brutal and bigoted regime on southern Spain in the Middle Ages were Amazigh." What this view failed to mention is that this was done – if it was done at all, in the same exact terms – under the arab-islamist ideology.

The berbers didn't just conquer Spain. It happened with the Arab-Muslim push and conquest that has swept the berbers of North Africa on its way to Spain. Otherwise, why hadn't they done it before? Approaching the Amazigh question is quite a controversy unless we check with the Amazigh themselves. The whistles of the current identity crisis of the berbers were not blown by the copy-cuts of the arab-islamists because those are the ones who lost their Amazighity and if they don't have it, they won't give it.

Similarly, this event was not fired by the poor oppressed average amazigh who fights hunger and cold in the Atlas Mountains, with no schooling and no basic means of existence. The last time I checked on these people In Anfgou, high Atlas, they got cold, they got sick and a many of them died…The surfacing or rather resurfacing of the Amazigh was triggered by the Amazigh elite which mainly immigrated to Europe and started reading into our past to understand the present and redefine the future. These people had a dream of fulfilling the meaning of the "Amazigh" word (Amazigh = free, in Berber language).

Their actions even though banned and labeled as "racist" from opposing views had a positive spillover on the younger generations and became popular among students coming from the so-called Berber areas. These people have become more and more conscious of who they are, who they want to be and who they don't want to be. Along side with an active NGO network, and many ups and down featuring The Tafsut n leqbayel in Algeria in the eighties to the incarceration of berber activists in Goulmima, south of Morocco in the nineties, many other events have gradually ironed the inelastic views and led to the birth of the IRCAM (Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh).

Now, as berbers, where do we stand in regard to the Middle East crisis? The answer to this question depends very much on how we define ourselves. Most of the berbers who are fully knowledgeable of their camouflaged history and of the need to break free from the Middle East ideologies understand that the future does not have to and should not be a copy of an imposed past. We should be granted the choice to make our own choice without being labeled as racists or traitors, simply because we are not. We are freedom and justice seekers as we have been deprived of these two vital elements for centuries and it's high time we got them back.

If Israel is an enemy of the Palestine and of the Arabs and I don't see myself as a Palestinian or as an Arab, I don't see why the berbers should be dictated what position to take in this matter. The berbers hardly have the weight to change their own economic conditions, how in the world would they have the power to alter a deeply rooted historically intertwined political problem – More than that, if the Arab countries have not only watched the problem go on for so long but they have contributed to it, what would the berbers do? – knowing that the berbers hardly exist in the eyes of the Arabs.

More over, if the UN didn't do or couldn't do or doesn't want to do – Pick whichever option suits you – what would the berbers do? Further more, if the Arabs believe that the Palestinians have the right to the holy land, why don't I have the right to My Holy Land – North Africa- and to my Holy Culture and language Tamazight?

I believe each people have the right to life, to freedom of choice and to peaceful neighbors, including my people.

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