Libyan Amazigh ..The struggle of identity
Although the Amazigh are the ethnically dominant group in the Libyan identity component, many people still consider them to be an ethnic minority, given the number of Amazigh speakers in our time.
But have you ever thought about seeking and revisiting for your genetic origins, your genealogy could be Amazigh since it’s widely linked to the genetic origin of North Africans.
Try not to judge the Libyan identity from your own aspect, but you have to look carefully at the privacy and ethnic and cultural diversity.
There are numerous studies and researches on the genetic origin of North Africans. Their phenotypic diversity stands in the way of determining whether Amazigh is one of the oldest human races or is the product of cross-fertilization of several different genetic components. The genetic mutation (E1b1b1b1) E-M81 The most common masculine gene in North Africa.
Family tree DNA
It is the original gene of the North African population from which the Berber tribes "Amazigh" descend. It is believed that their first appearance was 5,600 years ago.
The most densely populated Amazigh region in Libya is the Adrar Nafusa “Nefusa mountain” series and the coastal city of Zuwara, also in Ghadames. Where its called by the people of Ademis, Ghat, Obari, Wadi Ataba, Sokhna, Ujlah, Fakha and a small percentage in Jaghbub and in different parts of southern Libya, and of course "Imuhag" nomads, but there are no official statistics of the Amazigh census in Libya.
(Tifinagh), also known as ancient Libyan or Berber script, is one of the oldest alphabets known in history, classified as Afro-Asian. It is divided into several dialects spoken by the region, common to grammatical rules, and differences in the lexicon and toning.
Some experts confirm that it was the first writing known in the Sumer region of Mesopotamia, dating back three thousand years before the birth of Christ, as evidenced by the writings and inscriptions found in the Sahara, as the researcher "Hagi Amy" states.
In general, Tifinagh's life is an unresolved matter until now and still needs some time. But Tifinagh is undoubtedly a centuries-old precedent for the Phoenician alphabet, as modern archaeological studies have shown, which unambiguously negates the assumption that many foreign scholars have assumed that Tifinagh is indeed of Phoenician origin.
The major variations in the Amazigh language are according to the number of speakers in the region, the diversity of dialects in Libya are as; Oasis’s Amazigh dialect, Tuwariq Amazigh dialect, Nefusa dialect, Zuwarian dialect, and Ghadames dialect.
Tamazight in Libya, from a prohibited language to a school taught subject.
Based on article 14 of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that "Indigenous peoples have the right to establish, control and provide education in their own language, in accordance with their cultural methods of teaching and learning”.
In May 2012, the local councils of Amazigh-speaking cities issued a decision to include the Amazigh language as a subject in the primary school curriculum. Seven municipalities in Libya adopt the Amazigh language curriculum as primary school material; in 2015, the Ministry of Education decided to establish the Amazigh Language Department in Zuwarah faculty for Literature.
Nafie Malti, head of the Amazigh language department at the Faculty of Zuwara, says that his efforts to create a dedicated section for the Amazigh language have been a major concern since 2013 when he was dean of the Faculty of Arts and literature. He then contacted a university in Algeria on the curricula to be adopted and lecturers. The Department of Language, which went through many procedures in the Ministry of Education, and in 2015 the Ministry issued a decision to establish the Department of Amazigh language at the University of Zuwara.
Malti describes his feelings after the decision as one of the most important achievements he has ever made. The next year will witness the graduation of the first batch in Libya for the Amazigh language department. He adds that there are attempts by some activists and academics to establish a similar department at Jebel Nafusa University.
A step that is the first of its kind in Libya, which many see as an achievement of identity and a big step to the survival and development of the language.
The Amazigh Folklore
Amazigh people are characterized by their arts and culture. Where the Amazighs of Libya consider that the customs, traditions and rites of Libyan society are derived from Amazigh origins and were enriched by other cultures without being eradicated. Amazigh language is what distinguishes them from other peoples and races in Libya. Until today the Amazigh New Year is still celebrated by the people, known as the agricultural calendar, and coincides with the thirteenth day of the New Year. This calendar was adopted in 950 BC, which means that this year 2018 is 2968 in the Amazigh calendar.
The Amazigh Libyan art
For ages the arts were seen as a mirror of the spirit and a preserve of the identity and culture of the people, singing and music were part of the culture of the Amazigh communities. Several instruments were unique within the society such as the guitar, pundit and mandolin. Many were influenced by the old stories known as Tenafas, In which the women played an important role in preserving it in the Amazigh culture.
Ramzi El Ghali An artist from the city of Zuwara, influenced by the old stories, poetry and long singing who has heard from his grandmother, he had this musical ear since his youth and began his interest in music ever since. The guitarist, the musical string instrument he considered the favorite instrument of the Amazigh community since ever, The rest of the musical instruments had different frequencies and rhythms, initially attached to Moroccan music and Algerian Kabayl, he says;
I listened to many styles of international music and I enjoyed them but when I listen to Amazigh artists like Idir I had a different feeling that was moving something inside and I did not know what it was, but when I grew up I knew it was tickling my identity
The Libyan Amazigh music went through many stages, beginning with Zayed Semama in the sixties of the last century, and then the seventies, which was developed by artists such as Saleh Haush and Boujila Okasha, followed by the eighties hugely impacted by Said Sifaw Almahrouq who made a quantum leap In the Amazigh song with his words and poems, as well as other artists such as Khalid Najjar, Abdullah Ashini, Abdullah Aldenbawi and Almalti, and then comes the nineties, where he was one of its pioneers. Ramzi al-Ghali tells us the difficulties faced by the artists of the last century. He says that every artist or activist in the cultural field was under surveillance and pursued by the former regime. Our names were on the travel ban list.
I played several concerts in Tripoli, Tunisia and the city of Siwa in Egypt and in Algeria but were all organized in a secret way away from the eyes of the regime, and my trip to Egypt and Algeria where i had to cross borders illegally for the sake of my life
Al-Ghali did not dream of being a singer. All his dreams of music were in writing and rhyming. But the ban on cultural activities in Libya led to a void in the city and the interest of the few in this music. that led him to sing for the first time in 1996 an old famous song called “Edennat”.
Clothing and cuisine features
Since ancient times, societies have had their specificity in clothing and cuisine based on many demographic, biological and psychological factors, and the Libyan Amazighs, like other peoples, have their own privacy and culture.
Wael Fattis, a researcher of Amazigh history, says that the atmosphere in Libya was an important factor in the formation of food. Because of the dry climate, the ancient Libyans depended on Coscos, Zamitta, Admmin and mullet food in general. Historians such as Herodoith and Bellini were quoted as saying that the Amazighs were dependent on austerity and non-consumption policy of eating in the fourth century BC.
"Fattis" also added that the first to invent leather underwear were the Amazigh, and they dressed in one large unsewn piece of leather, and the clothes that are still present to our time is Ahuli and Timdqelt which were made of wool, in addition to Bllerie, a robe worn by women taking a certain character in each tribe, each Amazigh tribe had a specific way and color in how to wear the Bllerie so that the women of each tribe could be distinguished from the other.
Clothing habits went through different stages, while the initial purpose was to cover and warm the body, but then the people started to innovate in the creation of clothes to express and distinguish their identity.
The Amazigh tattoo a struggle for identity and religion
Since ancient times people have mastered the art of drawing on the body in different ways and for a variety of purposes. Tattooing is one of the oldest practices, as it has appeared in various civilizations throughout history. In Libya, tattooing with the Amazigh is considered an ancient and indigenous heritage in its culture and part of its identity. It was mainly associated with women and, to a lesser extent, men. It is almost impossible to find an Amazigh grandmother who is not printed. And since it’s an ancient tradition in the Amazigh culture that has mythical and aesthetic connotations. Tattooing takes an aesthetic dimension in the Amazigh and is considered one of the most important means of adornment of Amazigh women. It is tattooed at puberty to announce the entry into maturity. Tattoos are placed in various areas of her body, such as the face, arm, hand, chest, nipples, legs, and sensitive areas, turning it into a painting that is appealing to the other to impress him. The men cling to just some areas of palms in the hand, arm and legs.
With the appearance of Islam and its spread in the country and it being embraced by the Amazigh, they did not abandon this practice directly despite the prohibition of tattooing, but it began gradually to fade away since the majority of Amazigh people believe that religion denies such practices. The 80-year-old woman “Talaez” from Zuwara put a tattoo on her forehead when she was 11 years old as a sign of her maturity and her ability to get married. The Amazigh considers women who wear tattoos at this age ready to marry and start a family. Talaez said that the tattoo was a tradition followed by all the people of the city. When talking about her experience with tattoos, she said that her parents tattooed her in a small age. She says that she remembers this very well. And describes that the process of tattooing as very painful and was not aware of its importance, but it is a tradition followed by their race of the Amazigh since ever. she continues that she is sorry for this tattoos after realizing that this is forbidden in the religion of Islam as told by some seniors in her city and that she wishes to remove it as if it didn’t exist on her body because she sees this tattoo only as a distortion of her face.
A preview on Amazigh rights
Madghis Omadi, an Amazigh activist, tells us about the Amazigh of Libya that when talking about the Amazigh race it can be addressed from a humanitarian aspect because most people agree on the basic principles of human rights. Omadi considers that the talk about Amazigh or Amazigh rights that have been persecuted by previous or current regimes is always supported by many people of different races.
Omadi begins by talking about the existence of certain sensitivities about the rights of the Amazigh, which come from a mistaken concept, asserting that these feelings often have a link to tribal differences.
In his view:
Cultural diversity and adherence to each race in its culture, language and arts does not mean excluding the other
He continued by saying that recognition of the right of different ethnicities is the basis for diving into details and the inclusion of these rights by experts in terms of legislation through clear legal provisions that guarantee the right of each component of the Libyan nation.
In his view on the ethnic diversity of Libya and the rights of the Amazigh, he argues that the issue of Amazigh should not be traded in exchange for Arabs or Arabs versus Tebu or Tebu for Amazigh, etc. As these three races are the current situation in Libya and should be dealt with as opposed to international human rights treaties.
At the end of his talk, Madghis says that cultural diversity and the multi-ethnic environment is what will create security and stability, expressing this by saying that
Multicultural, religious, partisan, cultural and ethnic communities are the most stable and developed societies
Living under threat
The Amazigh were known for their loyalty for the Ibadi doctrine which has some differences with the Maliki doctrine followed by the Libyan state, In July 2017, the Higher Committee for Fatwa Issuing and Islamic Affairs issued a Fatwa on the expiation of Ibadi and described its followers as Khwarij “infidels”.
Siham bin Taleb, an Amazigh rights activist and a member of the Supreme Council of Amazigh Libya says that we Amazigh people face a call for liquidation, especially after the advisory opinion issued by the Supreme Committee to expiate the Ibadi and described them as Khwarij, recently attacked the mosque Ibadi in the area of Tndmira and kidnapped the imam of the mosque and judged him as an infidel by a group from outside the region, In addition to the abduction of the Amazigh activist Rabi Jiashi in Benghazi, accusing him of being spy and a foreign agent because of his usage to Amazigh letters.
Ben Taleb commented on the constitutional and legal rights, saying that during the period of the former regime (the Gaddafi regime) prohibited us from using the Amazigh language we spoke where it was only inside the house and even prevented us from naming our children by Amazigh names.
Today, we have some gains, such as teaching the language in schools and celebrating the New Year, but the state and its institutions still do not recognize our rights and holidays
Since the promulgation of the constitutional declaration in 2011 and its amendment in 2012 Amazigh objected to Article 30 on the mechanism of election, which states that the decisions of the constituent body for the drafting of the Constitution to issue its decisions by a two-thirds majority of members plus one, and after nearly two years of obligations and advocacy it was amended by adding consensus with cultural components in their concerns. Ben Talib says that the amendment is rubbery and calls for many interpretations unless they specify the issues that concern the cultural components.
In 2017, Minority International issued its annual report, in which the Amazigh group in Libya were classified as a group under threat.