Morocco: Interview with an Amazigh Blogger

I first discovered Ghasbouba, the blog of Moroccan Amazigh and activist Bouba, when he wrote an article entitled “exotic blogs for exotic al morocco,” which criticized the typical Western expat's view of his native country. I even reacted to the post in my own blog. Intrigued by Bouba's frankness, I continued to follow his blog and now consider it among my favorites. Recently, he granted me the opportunity to interview him on all things Morocco and Amazigh.

Jillian York: How did you get involved in blogging?

Bouba: Azul (hello in Tamazight),

First I would like to thank Jillian and all the GV crew for for their outstanding work in keeping the blogging communities together.

Blogging was always a dream for me. It is attached to free and independent expression. I come from an area where red lines are still red. Blogging is one of many ways I chose to express myself without having anyone to report to but my conscience and my love for my country and my culture are above everything else. I blog for Tamazight, a culture and an identity that has always been oppressed and misrepresented.

The International Conference on Media Issues, Marrakech, 2004
, was one of the events that got me into thinking that alternative progressive media might be the only way for us to overcome the under representation of Amazigh culture and people.

Later on I discussed many options with friends from the GV project and this is how I started my Tamazight blog Blognegh. After that blogging and daily life got closer.

JY: What are your goals as a blogger – specifically an Amazigh blogger?

Bouba: I want to share with my friends and the world that Tamazight (Berber as most people call it) is not as dead as post cards represent it. It is the oldest and the most important culture in the Mediterranean. As indigenous peoples of North Africa, our identity is very important to us and we share this with many other people in the world. Imazighen found out that Internet and all other means of communication are important. that is why they invested time and energy in designing thousands of websites and other audio visual and digital documents. Now some of that is called Cyber activism. I am glad millions of people now are involved in this struggle for freedom, liberation and democracy.

Blogging for me is one of many ways of doing this struggle. If my readers learn one thing about Imazighen through my blog, some of the job is done. The rest is the work of all of us.

Blogger Ghasbouba

JY: You're from a country where the national language is Arabic, the secondary French, and you speak dialects of Tamazight…so why blog in English?

Bouba: In many areas of Morocco learning foreign languages is a survival strategy. We have always been forced to learn and use other languages, since the dawn of time. I speak seven languages, four varieties of Tamazight. But I do not think it is a luxury. We are forced to learn Classical Arabic at school and then French. Later on we learn other languages like English, Spanish, etc… My mother languages Hassania, Darija and Tamazight were never taught at school. They fall below the other languages and that's why they are always labeled as “dialects”, which is foreign to linguistics. It is a pure political term.

I blog both in English and Tamazight. English is just another window to look through. As an Amazigh activist, I believe that any cause needs international support. Imazighen had to use all means of communication to talk to the world about themselves and their issues and they have always done it in different languages . Like all other social movements in the world, if we do not have international support we can not go much further. The forces of oppression can kill the forces of survival. I am not afraid of extinction as much as I am afraid of loss and forgetting.

You might have noticed the Struggles of Ait Hadiddou people in the Province of Ouarzazate. It is bloggers that transmitted their message to the world. None of the media organs in Morocco spoke about them. The children of Anefgou, the floods of Boumalen, the people who were frozen to death last winter and so on.

I feel a lot of Amazigh people, and many other people in the world do not have the luxury of blogging in their mother languages. So blogging in English is not a choice for me, it is rather an obligation. I would like to enjoy the illusion that I blog for myself, but I really don’t. There is nothing personal about Blogging for a cause. Although commitment to a cause does not restrict the choice of topics.

I want my friends and readers to understand our issues. We as Amazigh people know them well and we are extending ourselves beyond our real abilities to communicate with the world outside the foundries of our nation states and we do it in our languages and other (foreign) languages too.

JY: What do you think of the recent Moroccan elections?

Bouba: I wrote about this earlier and I think it was a disaster, to say the least, only because there were many people who are excluded from all these processes. You know the number of people who refused to play this game. They were the majority. We need constitutional reforms that would secure us as citizens and recognize all components of our society.

I think the last elections provided the opportunity for people outside Morocco to hear more about our lives and our problems and how much greater reforms are really needed. Before that happens, we are going to see more failed elections, weaker governments like the present one and more Moroccans shy away from any political involvement.

JY: What do you think of the recent false sighting of Madeleine McCann in the Rif region?

Bouba: There are more horrible sides to this story but Bouchra as a little as she was had to teach the Western media again about Moroccan diversity and all of that. It is not the first time that Moroccan poor families got into the media pot but this case was really bad and has many layers to it. My immediate response when I heard this was: how many times do we have to prove that we are who we are? I am noticing that this is a great example of the distance between societies although we tend to think that we can be well informed about each others identities not that most of us have better access to information. I do not want to say that some tourists who visit the country know more about “sites” than about people. Bouchra was a Kodak moment stretched to the extreme. However, there is some learning we all got out of it.

JY: 6. Morocco (specifically Maroc Telecom) has been accused of censorship – particularly of major sites Livejournal and YouTube – is there any value in censoring these sites?

Bouba: There is a mentality of fear in the Moroccan Makhzen (Central Government) circles inherited from decades past. It is a tendency to want to always keep Moroccans in Dar Ghefloun (the house of ignorance) as we say in Morocco. The Makhzen invests in our ignorance more than in our education. Our governments have to learn that freedom of speech and the right to protest are fundamental rights granted by international laws as well as by the morocan constitution.

But there are institutions in my country that think they can stand above the constitution and the law. MarocTelecom is part of that. They are censuring YouTube, LiveJournal, Google Earth, many sites and blogs about Western Sahara, chat rooms…etc. There is no value to censorship whatsoever. It is one of the worst forms of oppression. How do you deprive people from one of the fundamental rights– the right to information- and then come round and invite them to vote for you?

JY: In the past few months, I've noticed an increase of Moroccans blogging in English – whether they live in Morocco, Europe, or elsewhere – why do you think so many Moroccans are choosing to blog in their third or fourth language?

Bouba: I have noticed that too. I do not have any statistics but I am glad people blog in all languages including English.

However, the increase in number of bloggers in English does not say anything about the number f Moroccans who speak this language actually. There are English language departments in every university of morocco and many hundreds of thousands of students have to learn the English language as part of school curricula. They are introduced to the world wide web through their schools, cybercafés and friends. They blog their ideas and their feelings in many languages including English.

I have a friend who speaks Tamazight and German and does not speak any of the Arabic languages. His French is very poor. He has never been to school. Now he learned to read and write in German. He is definitely a special case but many people learn many languages in Morocco.

The only difference is “choice”, I mean who chooses to learn what language.

JY: Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer my questions. Last but not least, what would you like to see the blogging world accomplish?

Bouba: First of all I would like Global Voices and other communities to include the struggles of the Amazigh people. There are so many bloggers in Tamazight who need to be recognized and included. I know the mission of GV is initially inclusive.

I trust our bloggers who take the time to write about all different kinds of issues and I really like to read the Blogma [Moroccan blogosphere] community. I am glad the internet provides a safe space for communities like this one to grow, interact and plan great initiatives (like Bloguons-Utile, free bloggers, etc…)

Blogging is sharing information about anything, learning and educating . It is a loud voice against the corporate media and we do use it. Now that the blogging community is growing, I think there are over 106 million blogs according to Technorati as of September 2007. I want this community to stick together and keep up the good work.

Tanemmirt (thank you) and good luck.

NB: Links provided by the author.


  • […] the full story here Der Beitrag wurde am Sunday, den 21. October 2007 um 22:27 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde […]

  • […] Morocco: Interview with an Amazigh Blogger I first discovered Ghasbouba , the blog of Moroccan Amazigh and activist Bouba, when he wrote an article entitled ” exotic blogs for exotic al morocco ,” which criticized the typical Western expat’s view of his … […]

  • […] and I just wrapped up an interview for Global Voices that is currently featured on the front page – check it […]

  • Quote: (Berber as most people call it)
    Well, my fourth grandma on my father’s side was Berber. All the characters in my novel, “The Philosopher”, are Berber. Excerpt:

    A month went peacefully by, and then, one day, there was a thud. Muhammad’s heart went pitapat. A woman’s shriek made his ears prick up. He then started to his feet and hurried to the road.
    “What’s going on?” he asked the first passer-by.
    “You don’t know?” gasped the other, struggling to rein in his horse. “Aït Mimoon are on the way to invading us. Rumour has it that they’ll be here within nine to twelve days! May God help us!”
    The passer-by urged his horse on and Muhammad collapsed to his knees and held his head in his hands.

    A moment later, he struggled to his feet and trudged on. The road reeled before his eyes. “What shall I tell the students when they come back from market?” he thought gloomily. “What shall I tell Hassan, who is from Aït Mimoon? Now Yetto is gone! Hassan, too, is gone. All Azlu is gone. What can I do? Oh, my God!” He sighed. Then, all of a sudden, he broke into a run. He flew into the reed-mosque and burst into prayer. A little later, he heard a hubbub around the mosque. He wiped his eyes and dressed his jellaba and went out. The students rushed to him, their faces sunk in gloom.
    “What’s the matter?” he said, forcing a smile.
    “A misfortune is about to befall us, teacher!” said one voice.
    “Aït Mimoon tribes are said to be on their way to Tensift, teacher!” said another.
    “Where’s Hassan?” said Muhammad, striving to look calm and composed.
    “We left him back at the market together with three other students,” said Ismaïl rather soberly. “They’re all from Aït Mimoon, you know, and they are fearing for their lives.”
    “They are right,” said Muhammad, looking down. “This is what I feared,” he thought. Then, he looked up and said:
    “Now you are looking to me for help, aren’t you? I am sorry to say I can’t help you. Let’s pray to God to help us!”
    “But, teacher,” interrupted one of the students, “time is running out! We have to do something to save ourselves!”
    “If you are anxious about your own life, then you’ll not be saved!” said Muhammad, fixing the speaker with an angry glare. Then, he turned round and said in a subdued voice, “Those who want the Hereafter follow me!” And he set off, chanting:
    “Khalaqany, razaqany, âllamany; hadany…” And as he went along he felt that there was only one man following him. And that was Ismaïl, who suddenly interrupted him, “Shall I go and call Hassan back?” Muhammad turned and favoured him with a smile, and said, “No, please! Leave him alone!” Then he looked up. The other students were coming at a trot towards him. And so he had a lovely smile on his face when all the students crowded round him, and said, “Take us wherever you want, teacher! We shall go with you!”
    “Then, let’s go in God’s name!” said Muhammad. And he set off again, with the students following right behind him, and chanting:
    “Khalaqany, razaqany, âllamany; hadany…”
    And there, in the middle of the village, Muhammad stood on the rock, and said:
    “O Students!
    “Now is the hour of truth. Aït Mimoon tribes are on the way to you. They are not coming to teach or preach you, but to take your lives if they can. At best, they’ll take your money and you’ll be reduced to begging. You’ll say you have no money? Alright! But you have knowledge, a lot of knowledge. That knowledge may end here, if you are killed. But if one –at least one of you– managed to escape, then he’d be able to carry that knowledge to other people; he’d be able to light the way for others. So now you have to choose for yourselves. As to me, I have made my choice. I shall cross the wadi. The wadi we call Igri and you call Tensift. I shall cross it together with those who are willing and ready to go; otherwise, I’ll go it alone! God Save Azlu!”
    As he stepped down, Ismaïl shouted:
    “We shall go with you, teacher! We shall cross the wadi with you!”
    Then another student shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Great!), and all the others echoed his words, then started chanting:
    “Khalaqany, razaqany, âllamany; hadany…”
    At that moment, an old man tottered towards Muhammad and said:
    “Do you really mean to cross Igri?”
    “Yes!” said Muhammad.
    “Oh, how funny! Last time I believed you when you said you were not a fool because you loved Yetto. Now I believe you are crazy! You want to cross Igri at this time of year? Go!”
    The old man’s words raised a roar of laughter from other village men. Muhammad cast a last glance at them and turned his steps to the wadi, while the students filled the air with their chants. Soon Muhammad began to hear children’s voices: they too joined in the chanting.

    Once they had reached the wadi, Muhammad faced the students and said:
    “Last time you cut down the reed to build your shacks. Now cut them down to make boats. Those who know will show those who don’t. And let me remind you that God helps those who never tire of invoking His help. God Help You!”
    Then he turned to the children and said:
    “And you, dear children!
    “If you want to cross with us, please fetch us as many saws and knives and ropes as you can! I’m waiting for you!”
    The children nodded respectfully and skipped up towards their homes.
    Within less than an hour, the students were busy cutting down the reed, the doum and palm-branches.
    At midday, the children lined up in prayer behind the students. And while in prayer, Muhammad heard hurried footsteps. When the prayers were over, he looked up to his right, wondering whether he was in a dream. A dozen teenage boys were standing up patiently and looking at him with almost pleading eyes. Among them was seventeen-year-old Sêed, Yetto’s brother. Muhammad struggled to his feet and shuffled up to them.
    “Are you going to join us?” he said, his voice shaking with emotion.
    “Yes, if we can be of assistance,” said Sêed in a rather confident voice.
    “We’d be very grateful to you then,” replied Muhammad, looking tenderly at Sêed.
    “What shall we do?” said Sêed eagerly.
    “Well, we need reeds, doum, palm-branches and ropes to make boats. We’ll use these boats to cross the wadi. I know this operation entails a risk. But we have no choice.”
    “Alright!” said Sêed, glancing at the other boys.
    “We also need some food and water,” said Muhammad.
    “No problem!” said Sêed, beckoning the boys to follow him.
    Muhammad watched them with glistening eyes as they trotted away towards the other end of the village.


  • BRE

    This interview is in a word “beautiful”. Good job Jillian and a special thanks to Bouba for his frankness about everyday life for the Moroccan Amizigh and his enthusiasm for the power of free speech and how serious bloggers help to support it.

  • Aza pour vous deux.

    Bravo Mokee et Ayuzz pour ces réponses trés bien réfléchies et trés bien pensée.
    je ne peux dire mieux, merci de avoir partager avec moi ces question réponse avec Global voice.

  • […] Artikel erschien zuerst auf Global Voices. Die Übersetzung erfolgte durch Clemens Harten, Teil des “Project Lingua“. Die […]

  • abdellah

    hello everybody i’m a Moroccan Amazigh and i’m proud of that. anyway i would like to thank BOUBA about his answers it’s really very very interesting and vivid we hope more so we can transmet our message in the whole world .you know “we are Amazigh and we’ll always be” whatever happened .”todert i Tmazight imazighen i todert” which mean in berber life for Amazigh language and life for amazigh people .

  • […] Patrick Kurp wrote an engrossing place today onHere’s a hurried excerptI prototypal unconcealed Ghasbouba, the journal of African Amazigh and reformist Bouba, when he wrote an article entitled “exotic blogs for foreign al morocco,” which criticized the exemplary Western expat’s analyse of his autochthonous country. … […]

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