Berbers : A Forgotten People
I had a piece in the April 8 issue of the Wall Street Journal Europe arguing that policymakers ought to pay far more attention to the plight of the Berbers. - Jonathan Eric Lewis
With a population of approximately twenty-five million, the Berbers live in the vast expanse of land that stretches across North Africa. As a non-Arabic population in countries increasingly under the sway of Arab-Islamic nationalism, the Berbers were, during much of the twentieth-century, disenfranchised from political power. Berbers, who speak several regional dialects of the Afro-Asiatic language Tamazight, have had an enormous impact on the culture and history of the Maghreb and are, apart from arch-secularist Kabyle intellectuals, nominally Sunni Muslims. While Berber dynasties once ruled the important cities of Fez and Tunis, their culture and music have become integral parts of modern Algerian and Moroccan national identity.
The Berbers, or Imazighen, have been, on balance, marginalized in the post-independence period in both Algeria and Morocco. In the interest of both promoting democratic reforms in the Arab world and countering Islamic militancy, the U.S. should begin to become more engaged in mediating the cultural and political disputes between Arabs and Berbers. With the fall of Saddam Hussein and the growing rapprochement with Gadhafi, Washington now has an opportunity to mediate an ethnic dispute that the international community has done little to ameliorate and which, if left unresolved, could become both a rallying cry for disenchanted Arab nationalists and a major hindrance to promoting a stable, pro-Western North Africa at peace with its neighbors.
More Arrests in Syria of Democracy Dissidents
This time, it's one of Syria's leading human rights activists that has been "disappeared". This is what the Baath do, they attempt to immediately wipe out any dissident group, no matter how small, before such groups flower into popular movements. Then, when anti-Baath dissidents are forced out of the country either by exile or fear for life, the Baath recycle the claim that such dissidents are attempting to impose "unrealistic" reform "from abroad"