By Maria Kuiper
Rabat- The city council of Agadir agreed to change Tamazight (Berber) street names to names of Palestinian cities in support of Palestine on Monday.
Although some Amazigh (Berber) people agree the Palestinian conflict should be addressed, many are angry with what they perceive to be the continued erasure of their culture and history.
Abdullah Badou, head of the Amazigh Network, said: “We do not have a problem with Palestine. Certainly, we support the Palestinians, but we do not agree with those who ignore the nature of the area and the history of Morocco.”
Likewise, Ismael Khejjou, project manager of The Voice of the Amazigh Women (Le Voix De La Femme Amazighe) in Rabat, stated he does not see the point changing the names.
“Changing street names to Palestinian names is totally against our identity and we do not accept that,” Khejjou said. “We don’t want 40 strange names.”
According to Khejjou, although Morocco stands in solidarity with Palestine, its original peoples believe that changing a street name is not the way to show support and help the people of Palestine, but rather it is only a visual representation of the ideological standpoint.
In Agadir, the Amazigh are the bedrock of the city. Agadir is home to the Timitar festival, which celebrates the Amazigh and their music, as well as the Amazigh Heritage Museum.
The Amazigh have lived in Morocco for thousands of years, many centuries before Arab Muslims conquered the region, instituted Islam as the main religion, and Arabized the culture.
In line with Arabization, Amazigh parents cannot name their children traditional Tamazight names. According to Morocco’s Law of Civil Registry, all children born in Morocco must be given an Arabic or Islamic name.
If parents continue to give their child a Tamazight name that is not accepted by the Civil Registry, the child may have difficulty applying for a passport, getting reimbursement for medical insurance, or obtaining other services provided by the nation.
As much as 80 percent of the Moroccan population claims to have Amazigh blood, and Morocco has recently started to implement the education of Amazigh history and language in schools.
King Mohammed VI announced in 2001 the opening of an academic institute to develop and promote Tamazight and Amazigh culture in the public schools in Morocco after multiple demonstrations from the Amazigh.