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Tunisia: CMA asks government to withdraw new banknotes referring to Berbers and not to Amazighs

Date : 2020-09-25 10:34:00

Mr. Marouane El Abassi

Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Tunisia
25, rue Hédi Nouira - 1080 Tunis, Tunisia

Subject: request for withdrawal of the new banknote

Mr. Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CBT,

Recently, your institution put into circulation a new banknote of ten Tunisian Dinars, featuring a woman doctor on one side of the note and "Berber pottery and jewellery" on the other side.

As you cannot be unaware, the term "Berber" comes from the Latin "barbarus", applied by the Romans to all those who did not speak their language. They therefore applied it to the Amazighs, the indigenous people of North Africa, when they invaded this region in the 2nd century BC.

Centuries later, in a completely inappropriate manner, Tunisia is the only state that persists in using the Berber term instead of the authentic name "Amazigh". Worse than that, on your banknote, the adjective "Berbers" is translated into Arabic as "barbaria", i.e. "barbarians"? Is this a Tunisian way of offending and stigmatising the Amazighs? Why then this institutional hatred towards a founding part of Tunisia?

It seems to us very useful to remind you, Mr. Governor, that the barbarians are not the peaceful Amazighs known for their sense of hospitality, but the foreigners invading their territories, from the Romans to the French, through the Arabs, the Othomans and many others. The irony of the story is that it was the aggressors and colonisers of North Africa who called the indigenous Amazighs barbarians.

Moreover, have you, Mr. Governor, thought of consulting experts and representatives of Amazigh civil society on this subject? Are you aware that in international law adopted by Tunisia, there is the principle of "free, prior and informed consent" for any decision concerning indigenous peoples? Therefore, you should have not only consulted but also obtained the consent of the Amazighs before deciding to present this Amazigh heritage inscribed in 2018 by UNESCO on the World Heritage List. We had, moreover, drawn your government's attention to this principle at the time, but it was obviously without effect.

Therefore, we urge you, Mr. Governor, to correct your mistake by withdrawing all these new banknotes from circulation and reissue them with the following inscription: "Amazigh Pottery and Jewellery" and its translation into Arabic.

We would like to inform you that, should the need arise, we are at your disposal to lend you, free of charge, our expertise and to mobilise useful skills for any question relating to Amazighity in your country.

Pending the consideration and implementation of our request, please accept, Mr. Governor and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Tunisia, the expression of our best wishes.

Paris, 10/09/2970 – 22/09/2020

The co-chairs
Kamira Nait Sid – Khalid Zerrari

Copy to :
- Mr. Hichem Mechichi, head of government
- Mr. Ali Kooli, Minister of Economy and Finance

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