Morocco adopts law confirming Berber as official language

Moroccan lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that confirms the official status of the Berber language, eight years after its preliminary recognition in a new constitution.

The new law is designed to cement the use of Berber – alongside Arabic – by government administration, local authorities, public services, schools and in cultural life.

Berber, or Amazigh, was initially recognized as an official language in 2011, after a decades-long battle waged by militants.

The kingdom has struggled to consolidate the status of the language, despite being the mother tongue of much of the population.

The new law “will operationalize the official status of Amazigh (…) by preserving the language and protecting cultural heritage,” Culture Minister Mohamed Laaraj said after the vote, which took place on Monday evening.

But a prominent Berber activist and intellectual said the law does not go far enough. “This is not what most Amazighs expected – this law remains vague, it does not say that Amazigh should be taught or used by the media,” Mohamed Assid told AFP.

“We demand a conceptual change for equality between the two official languages. But this is not the case – discrimination continues with this law, ”he lamented.

According to a 2004 census, eight million people – a quarter of the Moroccan population – speak one of the three Berber dialects every day.

One of the most notable consequences of the officialization of the language was the appearance of the Berber Tifinagh alphabet on public buildings, alongside Arabic and French.

Since 2010, a state television channel, Tamazight TV, has been promoting Amazigh culture.

A few years ago, lawmakers caused a sensation by speaking Berber in parliament. Moroccan administrators have sporadically refused to register Berber first names in civil status registers.

The Amazigh flag – a red emblem against a background of thick horizontal yellow, blue and green stripes – has featured prominently in protests in Berber regions, including the periodically agitated northern Rif.

About Wesley V. Finley

Check Also

Bread & Net panel to explore the intersection of digital rights and MENA languages ​​Rising Voices

On November 24, 2021, Global Voices, through its Rising Voices initiative, will host an online …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.