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Tunisia: Akal Movement struggles to revive Tamazight language and identity

Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole on the 61st anniversary of Tunisia's independence during a ceremony at Belvedere Park in Tunis, Tunisia on 20 March, 2017 [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian flag is raised up to the highest flagpole on the 61st anniversary of Tunisia's independence during a ceremony at Belvedere Park in Tunis, Tunisia on 20 March, 2017 [Amine Landoulsi/Anadolu Agency]

Founders of the emerging AKAL party in Tunisia stated that the time has come to rehabilitate Tamazight language and identity of the country’s indigenous people, which have been marginalized for decades.

The word “Akal,” which means land in the Tamazight language, bears a foundational meaning to the newly born cultural movement. During this week, the Akal Movement’s founders decided to engage in political work by establishing a party; a project that is still waiting to obtain official permission from the authorities. The movement’s vision and presentation revolve around the principle of secularism and civil work, promoting the Tamazight culture and identity essentially.

Samir Al-Nefzi, head of the emerging Akal party indicated during an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that “there have been calls for recognition of the Tamazight identity and language; however, all of these demands have been rejected on the pretext of fears of discrimination. Now, the Amazighs have appeared to the public since the revolution, and a wave of willingness to embrace the Amazighs culture has been intensifying after 2011.”

Al-Nefzi commented on turning the movement into a political party saying: “There are many active associations on the ground nowadays, so we wanted to diversify the experience by moving from the stage of cultural activism to political action and from demanding rights to assuming responsibilities.”

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Most of the movement’s founders and members belong to young generations, including university students. As such, the Akal party’s leader is a doctoral student in criminal science in Japan. The party does not differ in its economic and social demands from other opposition parties, including the promotion of marginalised Tamazight areas.

Founders of the Akal party are particularly concerned about several acts enacted in the current constitution, which focuses on Arab and Islamic identity without any reference to the other components of Tunisian culture, including Tamazight. The party also criticised the civil status law which prohibits the use of non-Arab names for newborns.

Historically, the Amazighs in Tunisia have been perceived as active fighters who resisted the invaders and colonisers, including their resistance against Arab Muslims when they invaded the country in the seventh century, leading to centuries of an Arabisation process.

There are no official figures on the number of Amazighs in Tunisia today, but most of them still live in desert villages close to the mountains in the southern parts of the country. Most of them have preserved their excavated homes in the hills, which constitute an essential tourist destination in Tunisia.

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Middle EastNewsTunisia
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