The Amazigh Question and National Identity in Morocco

The Amazighs in Morocco have become vocal in demanding recognition of their rights and resort to diverse strategies to voice them. While the monarchy has taken progressive initiatives in support of their rights as a minority, and has come to be seen as a pioneer among regional states with an Amazigh community, public authorities continue to perceive cultural and ethnic differences as a security concern and pursue practices of deliberate discrimination and persecution. These contradictory attitudes contribute to a growing sense of cultural and linguistic alienation and exacerbate feelings of exclusion among Amazigh, thereby complicating national integration. The Amazigh groups themselves have been tempted lately by a more radical line, some have sought to internationalize their cause and a few have forged alliances with outside parties, including with Kurds and with some Israeli organizations, thus attracting harsh accusations from political and civil society actors. A sound approach to the challenges posed by the Amazigh question lies in introducing political measures consistent with those that frame Moroccan cultural and linguistic pluralism, and are in harmony with democratic values. The royal initiative is an encouraging one provided the king shows stronger political will to enforce it in face of a hostile administration and an outdated vision of national unity that still prevails among influential Moroccan elites.