Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

Berbers

Eight years ago, residents of Imider in Morocco’s rural southeast shut down a silver mining company’s water pipe on a nearby mountain to protest the damages to their health and livelihoods. This direct action turned into the longest sit-in protest encampment in Moroccan history. Perched on a rugged mountain top, the camp has become a living archive of decades of struggle manifested in documents, drawings, poetry and songs.

In Nador, a regional capital located on the Mediterranean Sea at the eastern end of the Rif Mountains in Morocco, coffee shop talk often turns to the relationship with the capital city, Rabat, a five-hour car ride or a nine-hour train or bus ride to the west. Nadoris are sensitive about their status as residents of an underserved province that they believe the government disdains. But recent, locally driven economic development is also a source of pride for the region.

The website of Morocco’s National Tourist Office, a government organization, advertises the North African country as a land of cultural festivals and moussems (traditional fairs honoring a saint). According to the Ministry of Information, about 150 such festivals take place each year. The Ministry of Tourism describes these gatherings as occasions for Moroccans to celebrate the diverse cultural identities of the country as expressed in all artistic fields.

02.4.2010

Nearly 50 years after independence, the North African states of Algeria and Morocco face challenges to their national unity and territorial integrity. In Algeria, a

When primary school students in the major Berber-speaking regions of Morocco returned to class in September 2004, for the first time ever they were required to study Berber (Tamazight) language. The mandatory language classes in the Rif, the Middle Atlas, the High Atlas and the Sous Valley represent the first significant policy change implemented by the Royal Institute of the Amazigh [Berber] Culture, a government body established by King Mohammed VI on October 17, 2001, following through on a promise made in July of that year on the second anniversary of his ascension to the Moroccan throne.

In the past ten years of political crisis, Algerians have been wary of public protest. Terrorized by relentless violence and impoverished by structural adjustment, they have repeatedly given the impression that what they want most is the chance to get on with their lives quietly. Despite the cancellation of one election and the staging of several fraudulent ones — not to mention wholesale public sector downsizings and devaluation of the currency — the streets remained calm and mass protest looked like an unlikely prospect.

Rebels and Martyrs

A Kenza a yelli / D iseflan neghli /
F Lzzayer uzekka / A Kenza a yelli /
Ur tru ara

(O Kenza my daughter / We have sacrificed our lives / For the Algeria of tomorrow / O Kenza my daughter / Do not cry)

—"Kenza," written by Lounès Matoub in 1993 for the daughter of assassinated Kabyle journalist and playwright, Tahar Djaout

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