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.
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.