Nation profile

Amazigh people

General information
Between 22 and 40 million
With no defined borders
Major cities
Tizi-Ouzou, Batna (Bathenth), Tamanghasset (Tamenghest), Agadez, Tombouctou (Tin Bektu), Nador, Melilla (Tamelilt), Al Hoceima, Houmt Souk.
Administració estatal
Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Niger and Egypt
Territorial languages
Amazigh, which some linguists believe to be one single language and others, several ones
Official languages
Arabic and Amazigh (Morocco, Algeria), Arabic (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt), French (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso)
Major religion
Sunni Islam (majority), Shi'a and Ibadi Islam, Christianity
National day
Yennayer, or Amazigh New Year (14 January)

The traditional territory of the Amazigh people —which spans most of North Africa, from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts up to the Sahel— is called "Tamazgha" in the Amazigh language. Many of the region's inhabitants have Amazigh ancestors, but after centuries of Arabization, not all of them have preserved an Amazigh cultural and linguistic heritage. As a result, as of today, those territories of Tamazgha where significant populations recognize themselves as Amazigh do not have territorial continuity, being separated by areas where most of the people consider themselves to be culturally and linguistically Arab.

Thus Rif, Atlas and Souss (Morocco), Kabylia, Mzab and Aurès (Algeria), Djerba (Tunisia), the Nafusa mountains (Libya), the Siwa oasis (Egypt) and the Tuareg-populated Saharan and Sahelian regions —including Azawad—  spanning Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso can be named among Tamazgha's most prominent territories where a cultural and linguistic Amazigh character has been preserved. In some of those cases, an Amazigh-based political movement has also developed.

While Amazigh political and cultural movements share a consensus over the cultural and linguistic unity of the Amazigh world, its political unity and the consideration of the Amazigh as a nation is more controversial. A part of the Amazigh movement advocates the concept of the Amazigh people as one single nation living within a more or less defined territory —Tamazgha—, while another part argues that each of Tamazgha's major regions are separate nations by themselves, having their own, distinct political projects —this is mostly true for the Kabyle and Tuareg sovereignty movements. In this latter case, the notion of "Amazigh peoples," rather than "the Amazigh people," is sometimes used.

Late modern and contemporary Amazigh states

In the contemporary age, no state has ever existed with a clear Amazigh majority and identity that has consolidated in time or that has received a general recognition from the rest of countries. This does not mean, however, that attempts to create them have not been made. From 1921 to 1926 Riffian tribes proclaimed the Republic of Rif in northern Morocco, at that time a Spanish protectorate. At war against Spain during all its existence, it was liquidated by colonial power. In 2012 a Tuareg- and Arab-led in northern Mali proclaimed the independence of the State of Azawad. The new political entity lasted a few months before being destroyed by a coalition of Islamist armed movements.

(Last updated February 2018.)