Morocco parliament introduces Tifinagh in draft organic law on Amazigh

Parliament unanimously adopts draft organic law on Amazigh to be written in Tifinagh after years of waiting.

CASABLANCA – Morocco’s parliament unanimously adopted the draft organic law on Amazigh to be written in the Tifinagh signs.

The bill confirms the Berber language's official status, eight years after it was preliminarily recognised in a new constitution.

The new law is designed to cement the use of Amazigh -- alongside Arabic -- by government administration, local authorities, public services, schools and in cultural life.

After two years of blockage, parliament finally approved late Monday in a plenary session the adoption of Tifinagh after the issue drew the ire of the ruling Justice and Development Party, which was pushing for Amazigh to be written in Arabic.

This text was approved by the members of the Committee on Culture and Education of the House of Representatives last week.

The draft law stipulates that national identification cards, passports, securities, money, water and electricity bills, telephone, all administrative certificates must be issued in Tifinagh as well as other areas of public services.

One of the most notable consequences of giving the language official status has been the appearance of Tifinagh on public buildings, alongside Arabic and French.

According to a 2004 census, eight million people -- a quarter of Morocco's population -- speak one of the three Berber dialects every day.

Amazigh was initially recognised as an official langauge in 2011, after a decades-long battle by activists.

The kingdom has struggled to cement the language's status, despite it being the mother tongue of a large part of the population.

The new law will "operationalise the official status of Amazigh ... preserving the language and protecting cultural heritage", said Culture Minister Mohamed Laaraj after the vote, which took place late on Monday.

But a prominent Berber activist and intellectual said the law does not go far enough.

"It is not what most Amazigh were waiting for -- this law remains vague, it does not say that Amazigh must be taught or used by the media", Mohamed Assid said.

"We demand a conceptual change for equality between the two official languages. But it is not the case -- discrimination continues with this law", he lamented.