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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT635 2006-04-07 16:08:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

THE AMAZIGH (BERBERS), PART IV: WESTERN ANTI-ATLAS

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PINR SCUL MO 
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1. (C) Summary: From March 10-17, Poloff and PAO were on a
combined outreach and reporting trip in the anti-Atlas, south
of the Atlas mountains on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
This cable is the fourth in a series. The population of the
western section of the anti-Atlas is larger, and, the
associations appeared to be better organized than those to
the east. Like the other associations, however, these are
concerned about the lack of water, economic development and
opportunities for the population. There was genuine concern
expressed, especially in the Agdaz area, about the education
of girls. Views on being an Amazigh and what that means
varied from place to place. End Summary.



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Suq Al-Had Area


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Driving west from Al-Nif into the anti-Atlas area
of the Souss-Massa region, the village housing style
gradually changes to multi-storeyed mudbrick constructions,
creating impressive vistas. In remote areas such as
Tazarine, roads are mud lanes with adjacent open water canal
systems. Women wash clothes by pounding them in the canals.
Doors of the houses open directly onto the mud lanes. There
is a gradual increase in the amount of water. As a result,
the area is more verdant and agricultural activities are
still possible; however, the people with whom Missionoffs met
again pointed to a lack of water (reftels). The Suq Al-Had
(Arabic, "wehad" -- the market on the "first day" or Sunday)
area has a total population of approximately 5,000.



3. (SBU) The Al-Manar Association, directed by Abdelsalam
Majdi, an apparently wealthy pharmacist, has worked with GTZ,
the German development organization, JICA, the Japanese
development organization, as well as with the GOM to provide
new wells for people. In part, the old system was
refurbished. JICA, according to Majdi, learned that it is
now necessary to drill at least fifty meters before reaching
clean water. French nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
have also worked with the Al-Manar Association.



4. (C) Missionoffs visited Majdi's house for lunch, where
the president of the commune and twenty other men gathered.
The commune consists of twenty-six villages; the president
has an assistant in each village. Conversation during the
lunch focused on the problems in the area: economic
development, cultural and women's issues. The tax base for
the commune is insufficient to provide necessary
infrastructure development, according to the president.



5. (C) At the request of Missionoffs, the women who had
prepared the traditional Moroccan lunch (Note: Traditional
Amazigh food was not served. End Note.) joined the group.
There were fifteen women, most of whom appeared to be fifty
or older. Only two of the women were literate. The women
were dressed traditionally: colorful skirts with over
blouses and loosely tied head scarves. Some of the women
wore heavy, traditional silver toggle pin jewelry. The
toggles are pinned almost at the shoulder, have large
broaches on each side and are connected by a large-linked
silver chain. These antique toggle adornments are passed
from mother to daughter. Only three of the women had these
toggles. One of the women told Poloff that other women had
had to sell their jewelry when money was needed, or, that
some of the women were not from wealthy enough families. She
assured Poloff that her jewelry was going to her daughter
when she died. When asked whether or not she was bothered
about not being able to read and write, the woman said not
really as she listened to the radio and saw television, and,
she talked to people. She did admit, though, that it might
have been "nice" to have learned when she was younger.
(Note: Not all of the women spoke Arabic and none of them
spoke French; whereas, the men were tri-lingual, including
Amazigh, and, some also spoke English. End Note.)



6. (C) Visits to other associations in the area indicated
diverse views on the development situation and about women.
In Taakilt, after seeing the association's office,
Missionoffs were shunted off to the women's section of the
Taakilt Association president's house. (Comment: This
action was rather odd as the Missionoffs had come to discuss
the association with the members, who were all men. The
women did not completely accept the gender differentiation.
Initially, the association president said he would stay and
tell Missionoffs what the women wanted to say. His offer was
declined, which seemed to please the women. The women were
engaging and Missionoffs extended their stay with them beyond
the original time allotted by the association president. End
Comment.) The group of ten women expressed deep regret that
they no longer had a literacy program in the village, and,
some implied that the men did not care. In Suq Al-Thulata
(the third day or Tuesday market), there is a vibrant
association with many women's and men's programs. This
association seemed proud of its women's programs and was
pleased to show Missionoffs the handicrafts the women make.
There was little or no gender differentiation during the
meeting, except that respect was shown for the older members
of the association.



--------------------------


Agdaz


--------------------------





7. (SBU) Agdaz, a town south of Ouarzazate is the regional
center for the western anti-Atlas and the central town for
forty-eight Amazigh associations. These associations
coordinate under the umbrella of UDRAD (the Da'ra Development
Union in Agdaz). (Note: Da'ra is a major wadi, once filled
with water and now dry. It is referred to as the "ghost
river." End Note.) The Agdaz area is a mixture of rugged
mountain terrain and flat desert. Water, while more abundant
than to the east, remains an issue for this area as well
(reftels). The associations each have their own priorities,
but, as Missionoffs were told, the general foci are economic
development, children and women's issues, and water. The
associations represent a population of approximately 300,000.
The associations have worked with USAID, the Belgian
government, the Near East Foundation (NEF) and UNICEF. UDRAD
views Zagora, a city to the south, as the central city and
the authority with which it must negotiate.



8. (C) In Taliouine, the association showed Missionoffs an
impressive, restored "kasbah" (dwelling). The restoration of
the kasbah was part of a tourism development project funded
by USAID. The association members were pleased, and, eagerly
discussed the opportunities for the village once visitors
come to the area. The Ait Saadane Association in the village
of the same name is well-organized. It has received money
from numerous sources including the GOM over the nine years
of its existence. The delivery of a new water system and
girls education are the two projects of which the association
is the most proud. During lunch in the village, a discussion
about the importance of Amazigh culture, history and language
took place. There was disagreement about the role of
Amazighs in Morocco: some of the group felt that everything
Amazigh should be restricted to the home while others did
not, and, all agreed that emphasis should be placed on music
and dance within the home.



9. (SBU) The most remote association visited was the one in
the village of Aynas (Amazigh for Monday). With a population
of approximately 600, Aynas appears to be a village
struggling to continue to exist. The president of the
association, while proud of his village, stated bluntly that
there was no real reason for young people to stay there. The
association takes education seriously and is improving it for
both boys and girls; however, women older than eighteen are
not literate. The association has handicraft programs for
the women, but is now lacking teachers. Once the area was
visited frequently because of the number of saints tombs,
but, according to the villagers, there are few visitors now.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





10. (C) The western area of the anti-Atlas, while still
having water problems, does not appear to be in as difficult
a situation as the eastern area of the anti-Atlas. Towns and
villages, however, are remote and often accessible only on
dried mud one-lane roads. Even in the most remote places,
however, Missionoffs encountered well-educated men, sometimes
fluent in English, who are committed to making their town or
village prosper. UDRAD and the individual associations
projected a sense of hope about their area and activities.
The UDRAD council knows that it must make difficult decisions
sometimes about funding; however, it was quick to point out
that if an association did not receive assistance one year,
that it would in the future. The council expressed a sense
of fair play and clearly it feels responsible for the area.

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