The Berber or Amazigh people live in northern Africa throughout the Mediterranian coast, the Sahara and Sahel. Before the arrival of Arabs, this was a Berber world. The Amazigh territory, this broad homeland, is also referred as Tamazgha. Nowadays, there are important communities in Mali, Niger and Lybia, and smaller groups in Tunis, Mauritania, Burkina-Faso and Egypt. The Tuareg or Imajaghen of the desert are one branch of the Amazigh. There may be around 20 million speakers of Tamazight or Berber, a broad group of dialects or languages, that can be considered in an unitary way. But no country does recognize this indigenous language. Islamic states north of the Sahara are considered Arab and only Arab. This idea is extended among many Amazigh as well, who consider themselves to be Arabs", although ethnic consciousness is also high among many.
Amazigh in Algeria:
Amazigh population is around 20 - 25 % of the total (around 6 - 7 million). Kabylians are the most important group, west of Argel, in the northern part of the country (Kabyle). There are also Shawi (from 500 000 to 1 million) in the Aures mountains and Mozabites (100 000) in Mzab, and other smaller groups, including some 20 000 Tuareg in Ahaggar and Ajjer regions. In Algeria Islam equals Arabity and any other suggestion is against the unity of the nation". Curiously, in the present civil war this idea is shared by both the secular government and the radical islamic armed opposition.
Amazigh in Morocco:
Morocco can be considered a truly Amazigh country, as around 40 or 60 % of the population are Amazighs (12 or 18 million people). There are three main groups: Tarifit speaking people in the northern Rif coastal region, Tamazight proper in the Medium Atlas and part of High Atlas, and in the south and southeast (High Atlas, Antiatlas, Souss), Shelha or Chleuh.
Ceuta and Melilla:
Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish colonies on the northern coast of Morocco. Both cities are mainly inhabited by Spanish colonisers, but the muslim native Berbers are still numerous, mainly in Melilla. These are Berbers of the Rif, that speak Tarifit and also use Arab as a language of culture and religion.
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