• Indigenous peoples in Tunisia

    Indigenous peoples in Tunisia

    The Amazigh peoples are the indigenous peoples of Tunesia. Although Tunesia has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Tunesian government does not recognise the existence of the country’s Amazigh population.
  • Organisations

    10 Amazigh associations with a mission to defend and promote the Amazigh language and culture in Tunesia are established
  • Rights

    2007: Tunesia votes in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, it remains unknown to the vast majority of citizens and legal professionals, and are not applied in domestic courts.
  • Current state

    2014: The Parliament adopts a new Constitution, that obscures the country’s Amazigh historical, cultural, and linguistic dimensions

Tunesia

The Amazigh peoples are the indigenous peoples of Tunisia. Although Tunisia has voted in favour and adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the text remains unknown to the vast majority of citizens and legal professionals and does not apply in national courts.

In addition, the government of Tunisia does not recognize the existence of the Amazigh population of the country, and there is no legislative text, nor any public institution dedicated to promoting the cultural, economic and social rights of the country's Amazigh population.

Since 2011, Amazigh cultural associations have emerged with the aim of recognizing the Amazigh language and culture. In 2014, the Parliament adopted a new Constitution that obscures the Amazigh historical, cultural and linguistic dimensions of the country: it refers to the Tunisian sources of "Arab and Muslim identity" and expressly states that Tunisia is a member of the "culture and civilization of the Arabs and the Muslim Nation ", committing the state to work to strengthen" the union of the Maghreb as a stage towards the achievement of Arab unity ".

The Amazigh are the indigenous peoples of Tunesia

As in other parts of North Africa, the Amazigh from the indigenous population of Tunisia. There are no official statistics on their number in the country, but Amazigh associations estimate that there are around 1 million speakers of Tamazight, the Amazigh language, which represents about 10% of the total population.

The Amazigh indigenous population can be distinguished not only by its Tamazight language but also by its cultural features, such as the traditional dress, music, cooking and the Ibadite religion practised by the Amazigh of Djerba.

The Amazigh of Tunisia spread throughout all regions of the country. Many Amazigh of Tunisia have abandoned mountains and deserts to seek work in cities and abroad. Therefore, there are a lot of Amazighs in Tunisia, particularly the old town, Medina, which works mainly on specialized crafts and small businesses.

Amazigh cultural traits and their language

There is no legislative text in Tunisia, nor any public institution, dedicated to promoting the cultural, economic and social rights of the Amazigh population of the country. The use of the Amazigh language in public administration and schools is prohibited, and Amazigh indigenous history is absent from school textbooks.

Some civil society organizations ignore or boycott the Amazigh problems. In different official annual reports for the last five years, for example, neither the Human Rights League of Tunisia nor the Higher Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms have mentioned violations of the fundamental rights of the Amazigh population.

Possible progress for the Amazigh peoples of Tunesia

Due to political changes in Tunisia since 2011, Amazigh tunes from different regions have taken steps towards a renaissance of their language and culture. Now there are at least 10 Amazigh associations established with the mission to defend and promote the Amazigh language and culture in Tunisia, which regularly organises awareness activities consisting of traditional events, conferences and festivals with a local dimension.

Measures have also been taken to convince some parliamentarians of the need to change the Tunisian legislation in favor of recognizing the rights of Amazigh people in the country.

On November 20, 2017, the Ministry of Relations with the Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights organized a national consultation workshop in Tunisia on the issue of racial discrimination in Tunisia, aimed at designing and presenting a bill about this theme. adopted during the first quarter of 2018.

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About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

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