In an article published April 27, 2012 in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Moroccan-Italian journalist and author Anna Mahjar-Barducci, reviewed the efforts of the Berber Tuareg rebels in Mali to secede and establish the independent state of Azawad.
The following is extracted from the article:
“There is a new country in North Africa, but no one wants to recognize it. On April 6, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, known by its French acronym MNLA, unilaterally declared the independence of the State of Azawad from Mali. However, the emergence of a new state faced immediate opposition. It wasn’t only Mali that panicked. Azawad, a desert region twice the size of California, with considerable reserves of oil, also faces obstruction from neighboring Arab countries, who oppose the emergence of a Berber country in the midst of Arab North Africa, as well as a hostile international press.
“The MNLA is made up principally of Tuareg, part of the Berber people, the indigenous ethnic group of North Africa. The Berbers (who call themselves imazighen, meaning “free people” in their language) lived in the region before the Arab invasion of the eighth century and today are spread across Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and in the Sahel region.
“Despite being the original inhabitants, the Berbers, a majority of whom are Muslims, have been subjected to humiliation and discrimination, especially in Algeria, where the regime has systematically pursued de-Berberization and Arabization policies, excluding Berbers from equal access to government services and political power. Hence, the declaration of independence of a Berber state was a slap in the face to North African countries like Algeria, which is pushing the idea of Al-Maghreb Al-Arabi, an Arab North Africa with no Berber heritage.
“Now that Azawad has become a reality, it is clear that North Africa can no longer be “Al-Arabi,” as it now includes a state that is geographically and culturally part of the Maghreb but declares itself Berber. That is a situation that is unacceptable to Arab countries.