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About the portal

AmazighWorld is a portal to the world of the Amazigh. We encourage cooperation in order to more efficiently gather information on language and traditions, which may be lost if we do not coordinate our efforts and work diligently toward preserving the information that we can still gather from our grandparents and great-grandparents. But time is running out.

Open the door to the world of the Amazigh, where tradition blends with modernity, where the strength and courage handed down from generations living the hard life of the mountains transforms into the independent spirit that fights for its identity while pursuing democratic ideals and professional ambitions of the 21st century.

This site focuses on issues dealing with the native identity of north Africa. When referring to the Amazigh people, the boundaries stretch across the _borders of all of north Africa, and even beyond, including the Canary Islands, Mauritania, Niger, etc. (The area including north Africa and the Canary Islands is called Tamazgha, land of the Amazigh.)

Three terms, which should be kept straight are: Amazigh, Imazighen, and Tamazight. The first is the singular for the people and the culture. Imazighen is the plural. Tamazight refers to the umbrella language group, as well as to a specific regionalism of the language, spoken in some areas of Morocco and Algeria. When the term is used by non-linguists, it inevitably refers to the language of the Imazighen in general. The term "Amazigh" is also used ideologically and politically to denote those who identify themselves first and foremost as Amazigh (rather than, for example, by the country of origin or as Muslim) and adhere to principles of democracy and secularism.   

The term "berber," while still used by some, is problematic. The term is of Greek derivation, meaning "foreigner" or "non-Greek speaker." The people, however, have historically referred to themselves as the people of Mazices (i.e., Amazigh), and there are early references to that effect in Roman and ancient Egyptian texts. Many names have been given to the Amazigh by others, including Libyans, Afrikans, Numidians, etc., but the term "berber" stuck, probably due to the history written by north African historian, Ibn Khaldun. Nevertheless, the term has a derogatory connotation. In the case of Algeria, the government uses "berber" as an equivalent to "Kabyle" (people of or originating from Kabylia, in the north-central region of the country). When referring to other Imazighen, the regional name will be used (i.e., Chaoui, M'zoabite, Touareg, Targui, etc.). The government's specific use of the term, which is also used by many Algerians, causes confusion in regard to statistics relating to the number of "berbers," which has been interpreted by the media as all berbers.

Another problem with the word "berber" is that it has been used to refer only to those who have retained the language or whose parents have retained the language. It also brings images to many minds of traditional people of the desert or the mountains. In reality, most of the people of Tamazgha are of Amazigh descent. At least 90 percent of the population of countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, etc. can claim some Amazigh ancestry. The identity of "arab" is based on the official language of these countries (in the Canary Islands, it is Spanish), but this Arab identity has been artificially enforced through strong arabization programs with the intent of wiping out the native identity, language, and culture. The program goes so far as to disallow Amazigh names, either through written law or through other pressures, lists of accepted names existing in both Morocco and Algeria, where movements to reclaim the native identity are the most visible.

Nevertheless, both "Berber" and "Amazigh" are used in these pages. While many authors, including Amazigh themselves, will use "berber" since it is the most commonly known word, others,  make a distinction between the ethnicity and the ideology. Berber is used either as a general ethnicity or, more often to refer to those who merely speak the language or whose first language in the home was Tamazight, but who have no awareness of their own identity or are the equivalent of what is called in the US, "Uncle Toms," (i.e., harkis, traitors to their own people). Amazigh is used for those who strive for self-identification as Amazigh, i.e., as an ideology.

Anyone who wishes to include an article in this area to help educate people about the Amazigh--the language, culture, the people's struggles for the right to self-identification--is welcome and encouraged to send the document to Articles considered polemical will be included in the editorials section. However, please avoid the use of racist or otherwise offensive terminology. AmazighWorld retains the right to refuse such articles.


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