Tenth Session of the United Nations
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
New York, May 16-27, 2011
Intervention of Belkacem Lounes
Chairman of the Amazigh World Conference
Dear Brothers and Sisters Representing Indigenous Peoples
Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations
Representatives of United Nations Bodies
Representatives of States and IGOs
Representatives of NGOs
Our participation this year at this session holds a special significance because our people, the Amazigh people, indigenous people from North Africa, whom we call Tamazgha, are undergoing at this time a crucial period in our existence. As a result of colonization, our country has been divided into 10 States, and they all have the same policies toward the Amazighs: negation, concealment, marginalization and repression. For a few months now, some of these countries, such as Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, have been witnessing popular uprisings against the antidemocratic systems that have ravaged these countries for decades and against which the Amazigh people have never stopped denouncing and fighting. Therefore, it is natural that the Amazigh people are actively taking part, and with enthusiasm, in the ongoing popular protests in order to put an end to the despotic, tyrannical regimes and to establish democratic States.
It goes without saying—however, it’s better to say it—that future democracies will have to make up for the injustices that the Amazigh people have suffered for centuries and continue to be subjected to individually and collectively. The new governments will have to recognize and respect every right of the Amazigh people, especially those defined in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The uprisings in North Africa must lead to a radical break with the past, which implies the recognition of the pluralistic characteristics of the countries and respect for all of their constituents. Without that, there can be neither progress nor lasting peace.
Madam Chair, I would like to take the opportunity during this intervention to draw the attention of all the members of this honorable assembly to the devastating consequences of the cruel war currently imposed by Qaddafi’s government on the Libyan populations. For several months he has been using heavy artilleries, military tanks, helicopters and Grad missiles in order to heavily bombard towns and villages, thereby killing and wounding thousands of innocents, destroying homes and infrastructure buildings, such as hospitals. In certain regions, for example, the Western part of the country, which is for the most part inhabited by Amazighs, Qaddafi’s troops, composed in part of mercenaries, occupy the roads, thereby preventing food and medication deliveries to the people, as well as forbidding evacuation of the wounded. People are dying due to lack of care. Due to threats and terror, tens of thousands of families have fled to the neighboring countries in the East, the South and the West. Last week, our organization and the World Mountain People Association (WMPA) visited various Libyan refugee sites located in the South of Tunisia. In this region bordering Libya, approximately 50,000, primarily Amazighs, have been received by Tunisians who are also Amazighs. Many refugees are sheltered by the inhabitants, while others are in UNHCR camps. All of them fled at once, leaving behind their homes, their fields and their livestock. They are asking for emergency care, but, above all, they say that Qaddafi must be removed quickly in order for the war to cease and to allow them to return home.
Dear indigenous brothers and sisters, I know that Qaddafi has helped with some liberation movements, notably in Latin America, and that he makes impassioned speeches against Imperialism and promotes the peoples’ emancipation; therefore, he may receive some sympathy. However, this is only a front designed to dupe and manipulate international public opinion and to give him an image of defender of the oppressed, an image that serves his personal ego. To his people, however, the potion is very bitter. In reality, Qaddafi has left his people in poverty and has deprived them of freedom. He does not allow any voice but his, and he threatens and violently suppresses anyone who does not applaud it. With him, it is silence or departure from the country for ever; otherwise, it is prison or death. The Amazigh indigenous people were particularly targeted because Qaddafi could not conceive that one could be Libyan as him, but not Arab. He threw in jail and tortured people whose only fault was singing in Amazigh. Anyone who declares himself/herself Amazigh is called a traitor.
You may think whatever you want of the real objectives of NATO, which is bombarding Qaddafi; however, nothing can justify supporting him or being on his side. In this war, Qaddafi is first and foremost an opponent of his people. Faithful to his criminal methods, he does not hesitate to arrest civilians in order to use them as human shields to protect himself, his family and his stocks of weapons. Instead of supporting him, on the contrary, we must do everything we can to speed up his leaving to stop the sufferings of innocents. Every additional day that Qaddafi stays in Libya is one day too many—a day that carries its share of dead, of wounded, of exiled and of destructions.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear indigenous people, I’m asking that you immediately use your good relationships with your Heads of State to explain to them and convince them to use whatever means possible to stop Qaddafi from harming further—quickly. The peoples of Libya are asking this of you and will be eternally obliged.
Chairman of Amazigh World Conference