One consequence of the uprisings across North Africa is the new freedoms won by the Berber peoples.
Authoritarian Arab regimes had suppressed Berber history and language, claiming they threatened ‘national unity’. Islamists supported Arabic-only laws.
There are perhaps over 20 million Berbers, mainly in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger. They share a common history and mainly speak variations of the Tamazight language.
In Libya Qaddafi believed Berber culture was “colonialism’s poison” and banned their language. Many of the rebel fighters in the West of Libya are Berbers from their heartlands in the Nafusa Mountains. The rebel-controlled station, Libya TV, broadcasts in Tamazight for two-hours a day.
In Morocco, where the monarchy has made concessions to head-off democratic opposition, a new constitution officially recognises the Berber language.
In Tunisia and Egypt, each with only a few thousand Berbers, community associations have been formed for the first time.