Also called Berbers, the Amazigh are indigenous inhabitants of North Africa with a population extending from Morocco´s Atlantic coast to the west bank of the Nile, in Egypt. Touareg tribes deep in the Sahara desert share the same common language.
The arrival of the Arabs in the region in the seventh century was the starting point of a gradual process of Arabisation that was sharply boosted during Muammar Gaddafi´s four-decade rule in Libya. Estimates put the number of Amazighs in this country at around 600,000 – about 10 percent of the total population.
“We are the true guardians of the revolution” reads a banner.“The government does not recognise us and we do not recognise the government,” reads another.
“We´re strongly against the committee in charge of writing the new constitution, as we have literally no chance to achieve our rights as a people through it,” says Ayub Sufian, another member of the rebel group controlling the port. He is referring to the 60-member constituent assembly set to work on the draft of Libya’s post-Gaddafi constitution. The crux of the matter seems to be the six-seat quota given to the country´s minorities. “Two for the Amazigh, two for the Touareg and two for the Tubu [a group living in the far south of the country],” the rebel tells IPS. “It is a system that will rule on majorities of two-thirds plus one, so you basically need 41 votes out of 60 to reach an agreement. What are our choices as non-Arab Libyans? We want our language to be co-official, and we want to be able to decide on key issues concerning the country,” says the rebel spokesman, who would favour an agreement “based on consensus, not on majorities.”