Berber protesters force their way into Libyan parliament

TRIPOLI: Members of Libya’s ethnic Berber minority broke into the parliament building in Tripoli yesterday, smashing windows and destroying furniture, during a protest demanding greater recognition, a spokesman said of the assembly.

The protest took place during a break in a regular assembly session, General National Congress spokesman Omar Hmaiden said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but Hmaiden said furniture was smashed and some documents belonging to assembly members were missing.

The demonstrators demanded that a constitution being drafted make Berber an official language on the same level as Arabic.

Violence and lawlessness, largely involving former rebel groups, have plagued the North African oil producer since the war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The indigenous peoples of North Africa, known to others as Berbers and to each other as Amazigh, were brutally suppressed under Gaddafi, who viewed the teaching of their language and culture as a challenge to Arab domination.

They were among the mainstays of the rebellion, with their stronghold in the Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli emerging as one of the main fronts.

Berber was the main language of North Africa before the arrival of Arabic with the conquest in the 7th century. It is still spoken in the Sahara and in the mountainous regions of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia as well as in Libya.


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