Despite the involvement of human rights
NGOs and Amazigh organisations, Moroccan authorities continue to
reject the use of Amazigh names on official documents.
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in
Casablanca – 10/06/2008
Moroccan Amazigh activists demonstrate
on Labour Day.
Moroccan Amazighs have criticised the
Moroccan authorities' refusal to register some Amazigh names on
Moroccan citizens face a refusal by the
authorities to register their Amazigh names on official documents,
numerous cases show. Names including Bahac, Damya, Diyia, Mayssa,
Guraya, Yuba, Ijja, Aderfy, Amzin, Idir, Massinissa, Tihia, Tinass,
Taynust, Sifaw, Massin and others appear to be categorically banned
from entry into the register of births, marriages and deaths.
Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa has
rejected allegations of discrimination, saying that in the High
Commission for Civil Status, the body in charge of approving or
rejecting name choices, "there is no restriction on the choice
of names, nor is there a list to restrict public freedom on this
Instead, to explain how the commission
chooses whether or not to register names, Benmoussa pointed to law
No. 37-99 which stipulates that "the name chosen by the person
declaring the birth...must be Moroccan in nature and must not be
either a family name nor a name composed of more than two forenames,
nor the name of a town, village or tribe; similarly it must not be
such that it would challenge morality or public order".
Amazigh activists counter that the list
of rejected names gets longer every year. Of the 88 cases examined in
2007 by the commission, Benmoussa said 75 names were accepted.
Thirteen, however, were rejected for being "un-Moroccan"
Amazigh names. The most recent examples of rejected names include
Illy, Tilili, Chaden, Dihia. Those names determined not to be in
conformance with the law are shared with all of Morocco's registry
offices and its embassies and consulates abroad.
Moroccan citizens Farid El Mouchni and
his wife found in March that they could not register the name of
their daughter, Chaden.
Farid told reporters that three months
after her birth, his daughter still has no name because the Moroccan
embassy in Madrid, where the family lives, said the name Chaden is
forbidden by the High Commission for Civil Status.
"I don't understand why they
haven't allowed me to call my daughter Chaden, given that it's not
morally offensive, and doesn't break any of the rules," he said,
adding that he appealed to Moroccan state officials and the Moroccan
ambassador in Madrid, but in vain.
The El Mouchni family is not alone.
In the north east city of Al Hociema,
the Nouizia family spent five years fighting in vain to register
their child's name – Sifaw. In Errachidia, the name Tihia was
In June 2007, authorities at the Agadir
registry rejected the Amazigh forename "Illy". After
several attempts, Illy's parents eventually decided to take the
matter to the courts, where the case is currently being heard.
Amazigh activists say the refusal to
accept Amazigh names is a form of discrimination.
Rachid Rakha, a member of the Amazigh
World Congress, told Magharebia that the rejection of Amazigh names
is an "injustice" against the future of Amazigh identity.
names don't carry any notion of hatred
or challenge morality or public order. Quite the contrary; these are
names which recall Amazigh culture, identity, history and great
historical figures," he
Amazigh movements in Morocco have
joined in solidarity against the government's actions and contacted a
number of national and international NGOs to draw attention to the
In Parliament, three MPs from the Party
for Renewal and Equity have proposed an amendment to law No. 37-99,
seeking to better protect the right of newborn Moroccan children to
have a legally recognised name according to the choice of his or her
parents or legal guardians.
Casablanca nurse El Taeïbi told
Magharebia that the Amazighs' reaction to the rejection of the names
they choose is natural. "It's unfortunate and unjust in my view,
and the issue needs to be