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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid