News / Middle East

Libya's Minority Berbers Renew Equality Demands

Libya's Minority Berbers Renew Equality Demandsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Al Pessin
August 15, 2012 6:31 PM
Libya's revolution has led to renewed demands from the country's Berber minority for cultural and language rights and full integration into the Arab-majority country. Such demands have been heard before, but as VOA's Al Pessin found during a recent visit to a Berber village, this time the local people believe their goals are being achieved.
Al Pessin
YEFREN, Libya — Libya's revolution has led to renewed demands from the country's Berber minority for cultural and language rights and full integration into the Arab-majority country.  Such demands have been heard before, but this time the local people believe their goals are being achieved.

The Berber village of Yefren is remote, dry and dusty.  It was also one of the cradles of last year's Libyan uprising, claiming one of the first anti-regime demonstrations, and several of the revolution's martyrs.

One symbol of the Berber people's aspirations is their radio station, which was shuttered by the security forces of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Now, it is open again, with technicians in training for its first broadcasts in the Berber language, or what local people prefer to call the Amazigh language.

One of the founders of the Libyan Amazigh Youth Assembly, Said Henshir, says Berbers, like all Libyans, live in freedom now.  But he says they also have some demands for the newly elected government.

"We want the full rights of language and culture granted in the previously marginalized Amazigh areas without any restrictions whatsoever," said Henshir.  "We want to be treated as 100 percent Libyans, not as a minority, and not as if we were faking being Libyan."

The Berbers are an ancient people who live across North Africa.  Through the centuries, many of them have maintained their own language and identity, while also becoming part of the largely-Arab cultures of their home countries.

Said Henshir says the Berbers don't want any special status in Libya, only the recognition that their bonds with other Libyans were sealed during the revolution.

"We are connected with the ties of blood and the blood that has been spilled," Henshir added.  "When Libyans were martyred during the Feb 17th Revolution Berber and non-Berber blood was mixed together."
 
In the cave under a friend's traditional Berber house, Henshir shares tea and homemade bread.  His host, Bilgassem Ali Maadi, introduces himself in the Berber, or Amazigh, language.

Maadi opens his family home to tourists interested in the local culture, something he says Gadhafi's police didn't like.

"This house was open but, sort of, not officially, as there was always some kind of harassment from security units," Maadi recalled.  "Visiting tourists would be followed by officers or summoned for questioning, and their visits to this house and other Berber heritage sites were restricted."
 
Today, the Berber flag and the Berber symbol depicting a free man are displayed alongside the Libyan flag in the village, with local residents openly and equally proud of both their cultural heritage and their national identity.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid