* Berber seek to revive identity denied under Gaddafi
* Want language recognised alongside Arabic
* Post-Gaddafi Libya will be faced with competing demands
By Matt Robinson
JADU, Libya, May 26 On entering the building
after the revolution began, the first thing Mazigh Buzakhar and
his colleagues did was to unplug the surveillance cameras and
switch the satellite Internet provider.
The smartly furnished building in the Libyan town of Jadu
belonged to an investment group led by Saif al-Islam, son of
Muammar Gaddafi, and was rumoured to be used by the state
Then they began publishing, in a language banned for four
decades under Gaddafi.
"For us the revolution is a revolution of a new Libya, with
its own identity and root and history -- it's an Amazigh
country," said Buzakhar, editor of the Tilleli newsletter in
both Arabic and the language of Libya's Berber, or Amazigh,
minority in the rebel-held Western Mountains.
"We couldn't express the Amazigh language and culture and
identity. It was like you're committing a crime, you're
threatening state security," said Buzakhar, 29, who was educated
in Canada and Australia before returning to the mountains of
Berbers, who call themselves Amazigh or "Free Ones",
inhabited north Africa for thousands of years before the Arabs
brought Islam to the region in the seventh century.
They remain in large numbers in Morocco and Algeria, and
smaller communities in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Mauritania, and
say they struggle with discrimination.
Tensions between Berber and Arabs have in the past flared
BERBER TV, RADIO
Looking to a Libya without Gaddafi, the Berber say they have
one key demand; that their language hold equal status with
Arabic in the new Libyan constitution.
Already, the Libyan television channel of the revolution,
broadcasting from Qatar, carries Berber-language news broadcasts
and the Berber of the rebel-held town of Jadu plan to start up a
radio station in their own language.
"We have hope that in the new constitution for a free Libya,
Amazigh will be included as an official language, to be taught
to all Libyans, that they have the right to learn Amazigh and
also a right to express themselves in Amazigh," said Buzakhar.
"For the first time in 42 years we have news in Amazigh, we
have programmes in Amazigh. Now the newspapers are being
distributed in the Nafusah (Western Mountains)."
"We hope one day it will be printed in an official format,
and will be distributed in the whole
- of Libya."
The idea would be anathema to Gaddafi, who espoused
Buzakhar says he and his brother were jailed late last year
for contacting Berber emigre groups in Europe and for promoting
Berber culture. They were released on Feb. 19, just days after
the uprising that would turn to war when Gaddafi opened fire on
It remains to be seen how post-Gaddafi Libya will
accommodate the competing demands of groups who have found a
voice in the rebellion, let alone the more than 140 tribes and
clans that form the basis of society in the absence of political
life under the system created by the Libyan strongman.
Berber demands for greater rights have stirred tensions,
sometimes violence, in Algeria and Morocco.
For now, people in this region say the war has joined Berber
and Arab in a common cause to overthrow Gaddafi.
"We are just seeking our right, as a whole Libyan people,"
said Colonel Tarek Zanbou, a senior rebel in the town of Berber
town of Kabaw. "It's our right, our language."
"I'm a Libyan, just a Libyan, from east to west, from the
sea to the deep desert."