A long battle for acceptance for Morocco’s Amazigh community

For decades, Morocco’s Amazigh community has advocated for official recognition of the new year as an official paid holiday, a symbolic recognition of the indigenous identity they hope to gain under the leadership of Amazigh Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch.

Every year, Morocco’s Amazigh community is on hot coals ahead of Idh Yennayer, the Amazigh New Year, as they hope for a last-minute official recognition of the indigenous holiday as a paid national holiday – a symbolic move the community has advocated for decades.

“The recognition of Idh Yennayer is an essential step for Moroccans to come to terms with their history and cultural identity,” said Abellah Badou, former head of the executive office of the Amazigh Network for Citizenship in Morocco. The New Arab.

“This would help strengthen their sense of belonging to the homeland and strengthen the values ​​of pluralism, cultural diversity and coexistence, especially since the Amazigh community has been marginalized and discriminated against over the past decades,” Badou added.

“The recognition of Idh Yennayer is an essential step for Moroccans to reconcile with their history and their cultural identity”

950 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar, the first day of the Amazigh calendar falls on January 13 each year. Other Amazigh communities in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt begin Yennayer celebrations on January 12.

Historians are also divided on the origin of Idh Yennayer between those who believe that the choice of January 13 symbolizes the celebration of land and agriculture, and those who say the day is a commemoration of the Berber king Chachnak on Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II.

A beautiful diverse party

Each year in Morocco, the various Amazigh tribes – numbering more than eight million people out of the country’s 36.9 inhabitants – celebrate the indigenous year with traditional meals and folk music.

“I remember helping my family make couscous and then going to my grandmother’s house to celebrate Yennayer at night while showing off our colorful traditional scarves and dance moves,” said Fadma, 50, who left her Berber village near Agadir to live in the city of Kenitra, where she tries to preserve her identity by partying with her daughters.

“Idh JYnnayer”, “Idh Skas” or “Hakouzah”, the names differ according to the regions and the plates too, which can include the dish “Orkemen”, the porridge “Takla”, “Imshikhen” or “couscous with seven vegetables” – each region has its own preferences.

In the Souss region, for example, the natives celebrate the day with Tagoulla, a kind of mash made from barley or corn, served with a mixture of honey and Argan oil or butter. The plate has become a “taste identity” of the day.

Imazighen (Berbers) wearing traditional clothes celebrate the New Year according to the Imazighen calendar in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria on January 12, 2021

“When I was young, we used to put agormi (date kernels) inside takla porridge before serving it to family members, because it is believed that whoever finds the kernels in eating the hot dish will be the luckiest person in the next year. , Fadma said laughing while stirring the couscous broth.

Tastes, rhythms and dance moves vary between Rif, Sous and Ishelhien but the concept of celebration is the same, commemorating land and identity.

“But we must not forget that Idh Yennayer is more than Tagoulla and folklore – it is a celebration of land, citizens and memory as essential components of multiple national identities and different regions without any exclusions”, said said Amazigh activist Badou.

No more broken promises of recognition

In this Amazigh year 2972, the indigenous community of Morocco had higher hopes of finally obtaining the longed-for recognition after the appointment of the Amazigh politician Aziz Akhannouch as head of the country’s government, following the massive victory of his party the National Rally of Independents (RNI). in the September 8 elections.

Born in a small Moroccan Berber town near Agadir, the 61-year-old businessman built his political identity and his party’s electoral platform on representing the concerns and problems of the Amazigh community, winning the approval indigenous people in the country’s last elections.

Members of the Moroccan Amazigh Berber community sing as they celebrate the Amazigh New Year’s Eve near the parliament in the Moroccan capital, Rabat [Getty Images]

Once in power, the party has repeatedly echoed demands from the indigenous community to recognize Amazigh heritage, language and celebrations, but has so far failed to deliver on its promises.

The long-awaited real-time Amazigh translation during the parliamentary session was suspended, while government spokesman Mustapha Baitass dodged questions from journalists about the lack of official recognition of the Amazigh New Year that the RNI had been promising for a decade .

The country’s former cabinet, led by the Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party, has repeatedly said that recognition of Idh Ynnayer belongs to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

The biggest victory for Morocco’s indigenous peoples in their decades-long struggle was the recognition of Tamazight – the indigenous Amazigh language – as the country’s official language, following the 2011 constitution.

Released by the palace, the constitution has stifled the Arab Spring protests that have taken the country by storm, with young protesters waving the Moroccan flag alongside the Amazigh flag in massive demonstrations.

“The weak policy of establishing Tamazight as an official language reveals to us that we are facing a great collective “maneuver”, in which all political parties, without exception, have participated to varying degrees, to absorb the anger of the street. Moroccan in February 2011,” added Amazigh activist Badou.

Despite the recognition of the Amazigh language a decade ago, Tamazight is still limited to official signs of public administrations and institutions, while administrative formalities, the media and school curricula are still largely dominated by the French. since the years of colonization.

Nevertheless, with the new year comes new hope, and as the Amazigh community celebrates Yennayer, their struggle for recognition in Morocco persists.

Basma El Atti is New Arab’s correspondent in Morocco

Follow her on Twitter: @elattibasma

About Wesley V. Finley

Check Also

Tunisian Hamama Tribe: Many Stories, One Feeling

adventurous spirit The Hamama tribe was an annoying neighbor to the surrounding tribes, as its …