Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Morocco's policy on recognizing Amazigh Names

2010 will be remembered as a breakthrough year for Moroccan parents wanting to name their children with Amazigh names. And, according to Human Rights Watch, the government directive liberalizing Morocco's policy is having positive results.

Back in April, the Ministry of Interior issued a directive that for the first time defined Amazigh names as meeting the legal prerequisite of being "Moroccan in nature." In the eight months since, there have been fewer complaints from citizens that local bureaus of the Civil Registry have refused to register Amazigh given names, several Amazigh rights activists told Human Rights Watch. However, the general requirement that parents choose names that are deemed "Moroccan in nature" continues to limit parents' choices and create administrative obstacles and should be eased, Human Rights Watch said.

"By explicitly recognizing Amazigh names as Moroccan, the government has eased a restriction on the right of parents to choose their children's names," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This move shows greater respect and recognition for Morocco's ethnically and culturally diverse population."

Some members of Morocco's Amazigh population have in recent years grown increasingly assertive in demanding official recognition of their culture and Tamazight language. The Moroccan state responded by creating a Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture in 2001 and initiating elementary school instruction and programs on state television in Tamazight.

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