wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06RABAT676 2006-04-14 16:33:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Rabat
Cable title:  

IS THERE AN AMAZIGH (BERBER) IDENTITY IN MOROCCO?

Tags:   PREL PGOV PHUM PINR MO 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0016
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0676/01 1041633
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141633Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3401
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3918
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2895
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 3123
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 4150
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 8800
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 1569
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L RABAT 000676 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG, DRL/PHD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2011
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR MO
SUBJECT: IS THERE AN AMAZIGH (BERBER) IDENTITY IN MOROCCO?

REF: A. RABAT 00540


B. RABAT 00567

C. RABAT 00615

D. RABAT 00618

E. RABAT 00635

Classified By: Political Counselor Timothy Lenderking, reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d)



1. (C) Summary: While the constitution of Morocco
recognizes ethnic and religious diversity, it is also clear
that citizens are to think of themselves as Moroccan, not as
members of separate ethnic or religious groups. Recent
Amazigh history in Morocco (reftel A), however, points to the
perseverance of a separate identity, steeped in the pride of
ancient history as well as the strength of the tribes
following independence. Definitions of Amazigh identity and
the importance of this identity vary, as might be expected.
At the same time, though, a national identity is being
fabricated dependent on Amazigh traditions and history, and a
political identity is being formed. Tourism is defining the
former and the possibility of political reform is encouraging
the latter. End Summary.



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


The Problem of the Blue Scarf


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





2. (SBU) The anti-Atlas reporting trip (reftels A, B, C,
E), particularly in the Erfoud area and again in the Agdaz
area up to Ouarzazate, raised the issue of Amazigh identity
and tourism. (Note: Erfoud is located in the southeastern
section of the anti-Atlas; Agdaz is in the southwestern
section; and, Ouarzazate is just south of the High Atlas
range. End Note.) In the Erfoud area, the majesty of the
sand dunes, camel rides emulating the ancient caravans when
Sijilmassa, modern Rissani, controlled the area, are all sold
to the tourist (reftel B). (Note: Rissani is approximately
one-half hour south of Erfoud. End Note.) A moment in
history becomes what travelers from primarily Europe and
secondarily North America buy. The people selling the moment
are blue scarved men who appear to be Tuareg, a more familiar
North African "oddity" than just the Amazigh of the
anti-Atlas. The tourists are buying "fractured history," as
the Tuareg were likely never as far west as Morocco and
certainly played no role in the modern nation-state. On the
other hand, the Amazigh tribes did and have played a primary
role in the history and formation of the present state.
(Comment: Over lunch at Al-Akhawayn University, one
non-Moroccan faculty member suggested, on the one hand, that
the mixing of Tuareg history and Amazigh history was
laughable, but that, on the other hand, it was income
generating and consequently understandable, if not
acceptable, reftel D. End Comment.)



3. (SBU) One of the questions raised is: "Is tourism
creating an identity?" By selling blue-scarved Tuaregs,
Alaouite history in the Rissani Research Center (reftel B),
the restored kasbahs, and souvenirs such as jewelry and
knives, tourism is creating an identity for people and
provides an illusion of preserving the past. Tourism is, in
effect, redefining the group identity. At the same time,
tourism is creating a national identity, weaving Alaouite
history with Amazigh, albeit with its Tuareg blue scarf, and
an appreciation of the desert. The disadvantage is that
myths are created which may ultimately negate written and
oral history.



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


The Role of the Associations


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





4. (SBU) While the issues with which the civil society
associations in the anti-Atlas are dealing are generally
stated to be the same, e.g., economic and social development
with Amazigh culture taking second place, the emphasis in
each association varies. None of the associations could
exist without a "human development" component, yet each of
them is eager to preserve aspects of Amazigh culture.
Individuals in Erfoud (reftel B) wanted to be viewed as
"integrated," likely because of the strict military
occupation of the region during Hassan II's reign. Only the
two teachers in Erfoud identified themselves as integrated.
Most of the men readily identified themselves as Amazigh, or
of mixed Arab and Amazigh heritage, and all of the women
identified themselves as Amazigh.



5. (C) The associations are the visible signs of the tribes
today; they seem to have taken over the role tribal councils
played in the past. Negotiating with regional authorities,
particularly in the case of the anti-Atlas, means not
necessarily dealing with those from the largest urban area in
a region, rather with the closest town to the association.
For example, the representatives from the Al-Nif associations
think they must negotiate with the people in Erfoud in order
to have services and needs fulfilled in their communities.
The Agdaz associations also felt that they should negotiate
with Zagora authorities. Political identification as an
Amazigh was only important, apparently, to the Boughafer
Association members in Al-Nif (reftel C). (Note: Al-Nif is
mid-way between Erfoud and Agdaz. End Note.)



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


Different Views


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





6. (C) Poloff met with Abdelwahad Driouche (reftel A) April
6 to discuss identity issues specifically. Driouche's
identity as an Amazigh is paramount for him. He, like many
other Amazighs, identifies himself as an Amazigh first and a
Moroccan second. Until recently, Driouche was a member of
the Popular Movement (MP) political party, which merged with
another Berber party, the National Popular Movement (MNP) and
the Democratic Union (UD) March 24 to form the Popular
Movement Union (UPM). The MP, originally formed in the
1950s, represented Amazighs. Driouche, at a party meeting in
March, presented the idea that the old leadership needed to
step down. He was asked to leave the party for making such a
suggestion by Mahjubi Aherdane, the party leader. Driouche
thinks political parties have been usurped for corrupt
reasons and cannot represent Amazigh or any other
constituency adequately. When Poloff questioned Driouche
about the new political party law and how it might impact
Amazigh political parties, i.e., that these might have to be
dissolved, he said that political parties will always
represent ethnic or other groups.



7. (C) Driouche was hesitant about discussing religiously
aligned parties. This hesitancy arose because of his
attendance at an Amazigh conference in Meknes the week of
March 26. (Note: The conference declaration will be public.
Post will report when it is published. End Note.) Amazigh
from throughout the country attended, including
representatives of one group from the anti-Atlas who stated
publicly that they wished to reclaim their Jewish heritage
and to say they are Jews. Driouche explained that these
Amazigh, along with the other attendees, were not concerned
with denigrating Islam, i.e., one could be an Amazigh and
Muslim, but that being Muslim did not demand giving up an
Amazigh identity.



8. (C) For Driouche, there must be changes in the
constitution; he predicted a new constitution within the next
four to five months. The changes Driouche thinks will occur
are: the Amazigh language will be recognized; there will be
a system of federated (autonomous) states, enabling the
Amazigh population to express itself; and, the Amazigh
through the federated states system, will have the role in
the GOM which they should have.



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


Comment


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





9. (C) If the indicators of being an Amazigh are the
traditionally accepted anthropological definitions, e.g.,
language and self-identification through cultural attributes
such as poetry, music, dance and celebrations, then the
individuals and associations (reftels A, B, C, E) in the
anti-Atlas are Amazigh. It may well be that people in the
anti-Atlas were unwilling to discuss political actions or
affiliations, excluding the president of the Erfoud area
commune (reftel B), if they were not of mixed Arab-Amazigh
heritage, or because they wanted Missionoffs to have a
positive impression and, by extension, assist them. At the
same time, though, the continuance of the fear felt during
the reign of Hassan II may account for hesitancy to discuss
political actions or plans. Driouche said that 95 percent of
the cases which the Equity and Reconciliation Commission
(IER) reviewed were from members of Amazigh communities.



10. (C) In Rabat and Casablanca, the political, economic and
commercial urban centers, elite members of society over the
age of thirty consistently say they were not raised to think
of being Amazigh or not -- they were raised to think of
themselves as Moroccan. Even those who say they are "part
Amazigh" do not identify with those like Driouche and the
participants in the Meknes conference.



11. (C) Language cannot be the major internal
identification marker. Too many Amazigh have said that there
needs to be an Amazigh "classical" language, i.e., a "fuhsa"
for Amazigh. While the Tamaynout organization (reftel A) is
attempting to fashion one, it does not seem to be accepted.
Members of the older generation readily admit that individual
dialects of Amazigh are not comprehensible to others, making
French or Arabic an easier universal language. People are
well-aware of the fact that to function in Moroccan society
they must be at least tri-lingual -- Arabic, French, and
Amazigh -- and, increasingly, the importance of English is
being underscored. If language is not the primary ethnic
marker, then neither can celebrations, music and dance be.
Identity must extend beyond the intangible cultural/ethnic
markers and include history, e.g., as with the Boughafer
Association (reftel C), and a recognized presence within the
fabric of the modern society. For some, like Driouche, it is
a federated Morocco which identifies the past and present
significance of the Amazigh within the country. It remains
to be seen, however, how much power the Amazigh who desire a
federated state have to influence constitutional change in
the country.

******************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
******************************************

Riley