The rally marks the continued efforts of the Amazigh identity movement to gain recognition from the government.
Hundreds of people gathered in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to mark the start of the Amazigh New Year with a sit-in, calling on the state to make the celebration a national day.
“This day is an opportunity to underline our strong attachment to the land and to pay homage to those who defended our freedom”, declared Saturday Adil Adasko, a leader of the Amazigh community.
The first day of the year in the Amazigh calendar, anchored in seasons and agriculture, marks the anniversary of the ascension of Libyan King Sheshong to the throne of Egypt, according to historians.
The New Year, also called Yennayer, which began on Sunday, is the year 2969.
Last week, 143 of Morocco’s 395 members of parliament submitted a motion to Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani, calling for the Amazigh New Year to be recognized as a national holiday, a step already taken by neighboring Algeria.
Government spokesman Mustapha el-Khalfi said Othmani was studying the matter.
Language, marginalized culture
Home to the largest Amazigh or Berber population in North Africa, Morocco has long marginalized its language and culture in favor of Arabic and French, giving rise to an Amazigh identity movement that has continued to gain influence. .
The demands of the Amazigh movement featured prominently in the 2011 protests, which led to Morocco adopting a constitution and the king delegating some of his powers to an elected government.
Morocco only recognized Amazigh as an official language with the new constitution of 2011.
Eight years later, Parliament still has not passed the necessary legislation to establish its use in education and public life. Activists accuse the government of dragging its feet.
While forming large populations in these countries, the Tamazight languages have only recently started to be formally recognized.
The word Tamazight refers to the spectrum of related dialects spoken by the Berber people.
In the early 2000s, the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture was launched in Rabat and Tamazight lessons were introduced in primary schools. An Amazigh TV channel was also launched in 2006.
The Amazigh movement has also played a role in protests in some of Morocco’s marginalized areas, including protests against economic and social grievances in the Rif region in 2016 and in Souss last year.
The Berbers inhabit an area covering most of North Africa, with large populations in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and western Egypt.
Berber tribes and ethnic groups can also be found as far south as Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Berber dialects have the status of “national” language in Algeria, Mali and Niger.