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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid