Morocco - New king, Mohammed VI, founds Royal Moroccan Institute of Amazigh Culture
Algeria - lethal provocations by elements of Algeria’s National Gendarmerie trigger protracted and deadly rioting in Kabylia. “Black Spring” protests in Kabylie are bloodily suppressed. At least 126 deaths are reported. The government concedes some language rights.
Arab Spring protests begin in Tunisia, quickly spreading across region. Algeria stays largely quiet, but in Morocco, activists hail the “Democratic Spring”, recognising that Berbers are a major part of the February 20 movement.
Libya - Berbers in the Nafusa mountains are among first to rise against Colonel Qaddafi. With the state gone, Berbers gain unprecedented media freedom and begin to teach Tamazight in schools. The National Transitional Council still refuses to recognise Amazigh rights in a new constitution.
The Moroccan King pushes through a new constitution recognising Tamazight as an official language, but legislation to bring the language into schools, courtrooms and administration has yet to be passed.
Algeria - Berber Spring. In 1979, students at Tizi-Ouzou University went on strike in protest at state policies of “Arabisation”. The strike quickly turned into a weeks-long Berber protest movement demanding language and cultural rights. The state responded by arresting hundreds of activists, but the movement was a turning point in the Berber political struggle.
North Africa’s Amazigh people, commonly known as Berbers, are an ancient ethnic group with roots from Egypt’s Siwa Oasis to Morocco.
Following the Arab conquests of the 7th century, most adopted Islam and over time, the majority shifted to speaking Arabic.
But Berber culture and dialects of the Tamazight language survived, with particular strength in Morocco, Algeria and among the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara.
Since the North African independence movements began gaining ground in the 1940s, Amazigh cultural and political movements have developed, demanding everything from linguistic rights to full autonomy.
Up to 30 million people speak dialects of Berber (Tamazight), mostly in Algeria and Morocco. But reliable data is very hard to come by because of the difficulty of studying the issue and the complex politics surrounding it.
A lot can be gleaned, however, from looking at how the Berber language is treated in different countries, and state leaders’ attitudes towards Berber speakers.
Although Algeria recognised Tamazight as a “national” language in 2002, after years of Berber activism, Morocco is the only country so far that has recognised it as an official language. But the Kingdom has yet to introduce legislation that would see Tamazight introduced to courts, schools and state administration. Since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s Transitional National Council has rejected Berber demands for more language rights, but the collapse of state authority has meant Tamazight is taught at schools in Berber areas anyway. Mali and Niger both recognised the Berber dialect of Tamashek as a “national language” in the 1960s, but French remains the only official language in those countries. Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritania have such small Tamazight-speaking communities that the question of their language rights has been largely ignored.
Morocco and Algeria - Newly independent states “Arabise” national identities, making Arabic the official language of the state and sidelining Berber culture. In response, the modern Berber movement begins to emerge in Algeria’s Kabylie region.
Berber associations begin to take root in Morocco and Algeria. Colonel Gaddafi crushes similar movements in Libya, condemning Berber identity as the “enemy of the people.”
Second Tuareg Rebellion. Drought, government discrimination and long-standing grievances push Tuareg and Arab groups to begin rebellions against governments of Niger and Mali. The fighting costs up to 8,000 lives before groups reach an uneasy peace.
France - Following years of activism in North Africa and among Berber diasporas in Europe, various Berber groups form the Amazigh World Congress, the first Amazigh movement covering whole of North Africa. It aims to coordinate Amazigh political and cultural activism.
Mali and Niger - Tuareg soldiers desert the Malian army and attack military barracks in the Kidal region, seizing weapons and demanding greater autonomy and development assistance. Tuaregs in Niger also rise up, demanding greater share in country’s mineral wealth.
January - Mali - Tuareg fighters rebel and claim independence of Azawad region. Their allies turn against them and announce Sharia, prompting French intervention in December 2012
Mali - Following Mali’s independence, Tuaregs in northern Azawad region carry out hit-and-run attacks against the southern-dominated government. But despite dreams of an independent state of Azawad, there is no united leadership and the government crushes the uprising. Many Tuareg flee as refugees.
Libya - Berber protesters occupy a major oil export hub to prevent oil exports, then shut Libya's only gas export pipeline in protest at the National Transitional Council. The cutting of the pipeline to Italy deprives the weak government of a major source of income.
Algerian Civil War. In 1992, Islamistc Salvation Front won a general election, but the regime annulled the result, triggering a bloody civil war in which more than 150,000 people died. The government gave Berbers cultural rights to keep them on their side against the Islamists.