The Amazigh population of Morocco represents at least fifty percent of the total population of this country, and this excludes the Arab-speaking population of Amazigh origin, as well as the bilingual population which has always been considered Arab in all the censuses that have been conducted so far (2). Despite this high percentage, the Amazigh population at large lacks awareness as far as its rights and cultural and ethnic identity are concerned. This is due in part to its geographical dispersion and isolation, which contributed to the formation of several groups with different tendencies, and to the repressive policies of the government towards the Amazigh culture. The Amazigh identity consciousness has long been present among Imazighen of Morocco, years before the wars of liberation from the Spanish and French occupants, but it was not expressed publicly. The victorious war led by Irifiyen (3) against the Spanish and the one led by Imazighen of the middle Atlas and Icelhiyen (4) against the French added new elements to their consciousness and endowed them with the power that allowed the Amazigh people to express, at a national level, its demands for equality. Unfortunately, divisions among the Amazigh groups prevented them from achieving their goals by helping the government get back the control of power in the country and purge Imazighen of the middle Atlas from the army where they were very influential. Three decades have passed since the independence of Morocco and none of the promises for a fair society that the government made were concretized. With the new generation, largely educated, the Amazigh consciousness is being revived and the revindications of Imazighen consolidated. The cultural associations that have emerged in the recent years played an important role in spreading the message, educating, and raising the level of consciousness of the people. Moreover, the Amazigh cultural movements of Algeria have had a great influence in inspiring the cultural movements of Morocco. Because of this, nowadays more and more people are becoming aware of the identity crisis that their country is going through and are becoming more convinced that their survival as an ethnic group will depend on their taking destiny into their hands.
(2) According to Robert Montagne, the census conducted by the French government in late 1800's revealed that 75% of the Moroccan population was Amazigh and two thirds of the remaining 25% were bilingual, that is, speak both Tamazight and Arabic. He added that this bilingual population was Amazigh but it was counted as Arab. The census of the 70's indicated a much lower percentage (50% versus 75%), a direct consequence of the arabization process. There was no mention of the bilingual population.
(3) Irifiyen are the Imazighen who live in the Riff area located in the north of Morocco.
(4) Icelhiyen are the Imazighen who live in the High Atlas mountains, south of Morocco.
(2) Robert Montagne, La vie sociale et la vie politique des Berberes, Comite de l'Afrique Francaise, Paris, 1931.