By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 12 January 2013:
The president of . . .[restrict]the General National Congress, Mohamed Magarief, has said that the Amazigh language, Tamazight, should be made an official language in the new constitution alongside Arabic.
Emphasising that he was speaking personally, he also said he supported Amazigh demands for protection of their culture. No one could forget what the Amazigh people had done for the Libyan revolution, he said. Moreover, the language was a local Libyan language. It should be recognised in the constitution. There was nothing to fear in doing that, he said. It would not endanger the country.
He was speaking at the “Constitutional Rights Forum for the Amazigh of Libya” held at the Congress building today, Saturday, the eve of the Amazigh New Year.
The forum was also attended by the Minister of Culture, Habib Mohammed Al-Amin, everal members of Congress, a strong presence from the diplomatic community plus many hundreds of Libyans — Amazigh as well as non-Amazigh.
The recognition of Tamazight as an official Libyan language was one of the forum’s aims, according to the president of the Amazigh World Congress, Fathi Khalifa. The others are the establishment of state-funded institutions to safeguard Amazigh culture and equal rights for all Libya’s ethnic groups.
Khalifa told the Libya Herald that, ethnically, most Libyans are Amazigh and that of a quarter of the population can speak the language.
A more conservative estimate — 750,000 speakers — came from Salem Badrani, the head of Jadu local council. According to him, the Amazigh community is far more widely spread than simply the Jebel Nafousa. There are Amazigh in Zawia, Warshefana, Dafniya near Misrata as well as in Kufra, Jalu, Aujla and Jaghbub, he said.
The mood at the forum was upbeat and optimistic, helped possibly by Magarief’s support for Tamzight. But “it’s only one vote. We’ll need many more,”, said Jadu Congressman Said Khalifa Al-Khattaly, referring the need to get the Constitution approved by Congress. Will they be found, he was aksed.
“Inshallah,” he replied.
Tomorrow is the first day of the Amazigh year 2963. It will be celebrated as a public holiday in Amazigh towns such as Jadu, Nalut, Yefren and Zuara and in Tripoli suburbs with large Amazigh communities, such as Janzour. A major Amazigh New Year’s Eve concert is to take place tonight in the stadium in Tripoli’s Sports City.