S. Pouessel, Les identités amazighes au Maroc

Posté par Michael Peyron le 8 janvier 2012

Notes de lecture 

Stéphanie POUESSEL, Les identités amazighes au Maroc, Non Lieu, 2010.

Travail de doctorant rédigé en vue d’une soutenance de thèse sur le très complexe sujet de l’amazighité (timuzġa), dont voici la version grand public, d’entrée de jeu l’auteur souhaite se démarquer  des « coopérants chercheurs sous le Protectorat ». Catégorie du reste inexistante, les coopérants, pour autant, que je sache n’appartenant qu’à la période post-Protectorat. L’auteur, qui appartient à la jeune génération montante des chercheurs français tournés vers le Maghreb, nous prévient qu’elle s’est basée en partie sur des Amazighes de 3ème ou 4ème génération en France, faussant ainsi les données car, divorcés de leur cadre d’origine, les intéressés ne réagissent nullement comme s’ils étaient au pays (p. 6). De plus, certains ne connaissent plus la langue amazighe.

 

Pouessel tend de trouver des excuses pour une recherche majoritairement excentrée par rapport au terrain (l’Atlas et le Sud marocain). Chevauchant peut-être là le dada de son directeur de thèse, elle « envisage les différents champs d’inscriptions de l’ethnicité et d’opérer ainsi à sa démystification » (p. 8). Il est clair, cependant, qu’elle s’est rendue au Maroc à plusieurs reprises afin de mieux s’imprégner de la réalité amazighe. Démarche nécessaire pour une quasi-néophyte en questions ès-berbères.

 

Pour ce qu’il en est des dynasties du « groupe berbère », on notera que les  Almoravides sont venus avant (non pas après) les Almohades. Avancer une supposée absence d’écriture en ces temps-là comme obstacle à l’unité linguistique ne tient pas la route.  La majorité des ruraux habitant les plaines atlantiques entre le XIe et XIIIe siècle, amazighophones, parlaient une langue proche de la Tachelhit, nommée lisan al ġarbi. Celle-ci pouvait se rédiger en caractères arabes, à l’image des nombreux travaux écrits des ṭṭelba du Souss (p. 14) ; il existait par ailleurs des dictionnaires arabo-berbères afin de faciliter la tâche aux usagers (cf. N. van den Boogert, 1998). Largesse d’esprit médiévale contrastant positivement avec la période post-coliniale de la fin du 20ème siècle.

 

La thèse selon laquelle la renaissance berbère repose uniquement sur l’élite intellectuelle de Rabat (véritable nébuleuse imaginaire créée de toutes pièces par Pouessel, et qu’elle évoque plusieurs fois dans son ouvrage, pp. 102, 128 & 167) ne constitue qu’une demi-vérité. Si les universitaires marocains, notamment ceux de la diaspora y ont puissamment contribué, certes, la part des gens du cru, du fin-fond du bled, surtout depuis l’émergence du sentiment de hogra, n’est pas négligeable. [Bien que ne citant pas explicitement le terme hogra, l’auteur semble y faire allusion lorsqu’elle signale l’essaimage des revendications identitaires amazighes vers les « zones rurales périphériques » (p. 107).]

 

En revanche, il est erroné de prétendre qu’il existe une unité culturelle berbère, la planète amazighe – c’est bien connu – comptant de multiples composantes chacune marquant des nuances (p. 16).

 

Il aurait fallu aussi signaler que « l’arabisation des berbérophones », en cours depuis treize siècles, a pour corollaire un bilinguisme fort actif et que cela ne fonctionne pas à sens unique ; la langue amazighe, a force de cohabiter avec fusḥa, a produit dariža, ce que reconnaît du reste l’auteur (p. 159).

 

A mon avis on fait fausse route en apposant l’étiquette commode du « subalternisme » sur le renouveau amazigh alors que celui-ci est dans l’air du temps, allant de pair avec la réhabilitation des peuples autochtones et de la culture orale (pp. 22-23).

 

Les évènements de 1994 à Goulmima, qui serviront de déclic politico-culturel dans la lutte identitaire amazighe au Maroc, sont mentionnés (p. 24, également pp. 53, 59, 63 & 129) sans plus de détails. Quant à l’officialisation de l’Amazigh, à propos de laquelle Pouessel exprime des réserves, c’est chose faite depuis juillet 2011.

 

Il existe malheureusement beaucoup de désinformation à propos de la standardisation de cette langue. En fait, plutôt à l’aise entre les diverses variétés dialectales, les Imazighen parviennent à un certain degré de compréhension mutuelle qui tend à démontrer que la standardisation se fera non seulement grâce à l’IRCAM, mais aussi et surtout grâce à l’interaction des intéressés. Les 22 étudiants berbères marocains qui fréquentent mon cours de littérature orale en sont l’illustration vivante.

 

Le chapitre sur « L’arabe : langue et culture du nationalisme marocain », hormis qu’il fasse remonter la dynastie alaouite au XIIème siècle (!!), nous livre un résumé satisfaisant de la question. Cependant, on y trouve un aperçu biaisé, schématisé du dahir berbère et l’on fait la part belle au salafisme en négligeant le wahhabisme. On omet de signaler que l’IERA a été fondé explicitement comme contrepoids à l’IRCAM – combat d’arrière-garde – pour défendre fusḥa, alors que dariža est la langue nationale de l’écrasant majorité des Marocains (pp. 27-32). Quant au « complexe de la berbérité » celui-ci remonte aux années de l’immédiat post-Protectorat, avec son obnubilation moyen-orientale et le « tout pour l’arabe » mâtiné d’influences jacobines; tout ceci précédant de quelques années le regain d’intérêt universelle pour les langues vernaculaires, dont entre autres le Breton, le Catalan, le Gaëlique, le Gallois, phénomène déterminant dont a grandement bénéficié la langue amazighe.

 

Concernant les Noirs on retiendra que beaucoup d’entre eux sont berbérophones, mais qu’Essaouira-Mogador (tassurt), capitale des Haha (iḥaḥn), où se déroule le très branché festival des ignawn ne fait pas partie du « sud marocain », mais du Maroc atlantique (p. 47). A la p. 50 on frôle le farfelu avec l’amalgame Mogador-lusophonie-Brésil.

 

Quant à la faiblesse de la tendance « amazighisante » chez les Chaouïs de l’Aurès (p. 57), il suffit de visionner le film La maison jaune, au dialogue tout entier en tašawit, pour se persuader du contraire.

Il est vrai, aussi, que bon nombre de jeunes de Rachidia (Imteghren) effectuent leurs études en Agadir, d’où la confusion faite par l’auteur entre Sud-Est et Sud-Ouest marocain (p. 61). Si, par ailleurs, certains militants de Tinghir traitent l’IRCAM d’iršan (‘saleté’), ils conservent la célèbre et incontournable lettre z emphatique, signe berbère passe-partout. A ce titre, l’auteur aurait pu mentionner le militantisme de la chanteuse Fatima Tabaamrant qui, sur scène, fait le salut amazigh des krad iḍuḍan (‘trois doigts’). L’auteur semble également faire sienne certaines opinions critiques à l’égard de l’IRCAM, en oubliant un peu vite que cet organisme a le mérite d’exister ; qu’il a mis en place l’enseignement de la Tamazight, facilité la recherche sur le terrain, organisé de nombreux colloques et produit une trentaine de publications dans le domaine des études amazighes – chose impensable sous Hassan II. Prétendre que cet organisme cherche « à tuer l’amazighité » (p. 126) est une inexactitude notoire.

 

L’auteur semble encore cautionner les idées « istqlaliennes » concernant le dahir berbère, en évoquant des arguments issus d’une mythologie anticoloniale actuellement dépassée. De nos jours il est vrai, c’est du « dahir de 1930 » que parlent les militants amazighs, ou du « dahir de l’Istiqlal », ce qu’admet l’auteur du bout des lèvres (p. 83). Du reste, elle a tendance à prendre pour argent comptant un important corpus de littérature révisionniste (Ageron, Hammoudi, Laroui, & al. des années 1960-2000) qui s’emploie à brouiller les cartes. Ainsi assiste-t-on à une caricature de la recherche coloniale sur les Berbères, celle-ci étant qualifiée de « racialiste » (p. 69). Ceci est en phase avec certains chercheurs de l’actuelle génération, à tendance quelque peu « misérabiliste », qui cherchent a posteriori à disqualifier la philosophie de leurs devanciers en leur collant des étiquettes peu flatteuses. C’est oublier un peu rapidement la sympathie que des « Berbérisants » comme Roux éprouvaient à l’égard des ces populations – du souvenir de leur passage qu’ils ont laissé chez elles. Roux qui avait parfaitement compris qu’il était vain de rechercher une langue amazighe pure, dépourvue d’arabismes.

 

Quant à l’interprétation de l’histoire de l’AFN des chercheurs de l’époque coloniale celle-ci ne cherchait pas à minimiser l’islamisme médiéval (p. 71) ; elle tendait simplement à affirmer qu’il y avait eu un riche passé préislamique. A ce propos on s’en prend avec délectation à Robert Montagne, une des cibles préférées des historiens révisionnistes, alors que ce chercheur a réalisé une étude très fine (Pouessel l’a-t-elle seulement lue ?) des sociétés du haut Atlas occidental.

 

Nous ne polémiquerons pas avec l’auteur sur le « mythe kabyle », ni à propos de la politique coloniale de Lyautey au Maroc, nous étant exprimé par ailleurs sur ce deuxième sujet (pp. 74-78). Il en va de même des « réserves de barbares blancs » (Peyron, 2009) chères à Jacques Berque.

 

D’un autre côté Pouessel a raison de mettre en relief l’importance accordée par les Imazighen à la notion de « marocanité » (p. 93, tamġrabiyt).

 

L’auteur évoque une fois de plus cette élite berbérophone de Rabat en tant que « moteur » de l’amazighité (p. 102), en oubliant la contribution significative des intellectuels amazighs issus directement du bled (A. Iken, Z. Ouchna, H. Yakobi, H. Khettouch, A. Skounti, etc.), dont certains n’ont pas fait d’études en Europe.

 

Au sujet du droit coutumier il est vrai que l’on cherche à le réactualiser ; vrai aussi que la prison ne fait pas partie de l’arsenal juridique des izerfan, la peine de mort non plus pour la plupart d’entre eux. Il est, par contre inexact de prétendre que la peine capitale était inexistante (p. 121) ; des cas de précipitation du haut d’un rocher sont cités par Berque (Structures sociales du Haut Atlas, 1955), ainsi que par Gellner (Saints of the Atlas, 1969).

 

Le chapitre sur la « datte pourrie » réussit le tour de force de schématiser en une phrase (p. 125) près de trente ans de résistance anticoloniale dans le Sud-Est marocain. C’est vraiment faire « bon marché » des épopées du Tazigzaout, du Bou Gafer, du Baddou, et j’en passe, sites de mémoire en voie de sacralisation où tant d’Imazighen ont donné leur vie. Par contre, il est clair que certains jeunes militants du Sud marocain pratiquent actuellement un « jeunisme » exacerbé et injustifié lorsqu’ils proclament à l’intention des premiers militants de Goulmima : « L’histoire vous oubliera. (p. 128)» Ce n’est en tout cas pas vrai en ce qui concerne Ali Iken, auteur du premier roman en langue amazighe, asekkif inzaden, car mes étudiants lui ont réservé un accueil plutôt enthousiaste lorsqu’il est venu la semaine dernière faire une intervention dans mon cours.

 

Autre point important : on notera que bien que de nombreux festivals amazighs soient régulièrement organisés (p. 131) il faut tout de même relever en parallèle une volonté assez forte de « dé-folkloriser » la culture berbère.

 

Qu’on le veuille ou non, pour des raisons pratiques d’universalité, c’est la graphie latine, plutôt que l’écriture arabe ou les Tifinagh (pp. 139-140, 153), qui demeure très largement utilisé dans le monde universitaire. Ce qui n’est pas incompatible avec une utilisation, souvent décorative et limitée des Tifinagh, ce qui sert à donner à l’amazigh une profondeur historique (pp. 147-148). Cependant, la souplesse reste de mise. En effet, les claviers des ordinateurs de l’IRCAM comportent des touches permettant de passer d’une graphie à l’autre quasi-instantanément.

 

En définitive, la querelle autour de la standardisation de l’amazigh ou du maintien de « standards régionaux » (pp. 163-165), entre l’IRCAM et des chercheurs basés en France comme Abdellah Bounfour et Salem Chaker, me semble à la fois byzantine et contre-productive. Mon expérience du terrain tend à démontrer que des Imazighen aux idées ouvertes, et ayant voyagé à travers leur pays, peuvent fort bien s’adapter à d’autres variantes de l’amazigh que la leur. Sans vouloir dénigrer les efforts de l’IRCAM, ce sont par conséquent les locuteurs natifs de la langue, dans leur grande diversité, qui aboutiront en son temps à une forme de standardisation de fait, tout en respectant la tamġrabiyt.

 

Constatation édifiante : on ne peut qu’être d’accord avec l’auteur lorsqu’elle affirme : « C’est clair, l’amazighité constitue bien le substrat de la culture marocaine aussi bien démographiquement que culturellement. (p. 161)» Enfin, malgré les quelques réserves émises ci-dessus, on peut féliciter Stéphanie Pouessel d’avoir en un temps relativement restreint fait le point sur un problématique plutôt complexe, aux multiples facettes, et où il est malaisé de trouver des explications simples à une situation confuse, fruit d’une longue histoire suivie d’une période de recherche identitaire de la part des Imazighen.

 

michael.peyron@voila.fr

 

 

 

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Les almu-s et agdal-s de l’Atlas oriental: état des lieux (2007)

Posté par Michael Peyron le 16 septembre 2010

Les almu-s et agdal-s de l’Atlas

oriental ; état des lieux

Colloque international: “Les agdal-s de l’Atlas marocain: savoirs locaux, droits d’accès, gestion de la biodiversité” (Marrakech, les 10,11, 12 mai 2007)

Introduction

Les massifs montagneux dont il est question comprennent le Moyen Atlas et le Haut Atlas oriental marocain. Cette communication procède à un état des lieux de certains almu-s de ce vaste ensemble, dont bon nombre d’anciens agdal-s en butte à la déréglementation, assortie d’atteintes diverses. Nous nous efforcerons, à travers les savoirs locaux, de démontrer ce qui perdure de ces règles d’accès aux parcours d’altitude ; d’examiner le fonctionnement actuel des agdal-s sur le plan de l’interaction socioculturelle; d’établir le bilan d’une bien précaire biodiversité (assortie de notes ornithologiques) ; d’attirer l’attention sur la situation préoccupante des agdal–s de l’Atlas marocain et de propose quelques solutions.

Les savoirs locaux

Le terme almu est employé pour désigner un herbage d’altitude. Chez les pastoraux de langue amazighe il revêt une connotation positive ; d’un homme heureux on dira, iy-as ul almu (‘il a le cœur en fête’). La poésie locale, par ailleurs, reflète un imaginaire sous-jacent riche en allusions :-

Quiconque détient destrier, tapis, fusil, la belle calée
Sur selle, fera halte sur gazon fleuri, entendra théière
Chanter ; pourra alors l’adversité défier ! (Roux & Peyron 2002)

Considérons également ce distique, tiré du répertoire d’un barde nomade :-

Petit gazon, demeure tel que tu es ; deviens, au besoin, desséché ;
Peu m’importe, dès lors qu’à tes fleurs j’ai goûté ! (Peyron 1993)

Ajoutons-y proverbe qui résume le regard que porte sur la vie un Amazigh du Moyen Atlas :-

Trois choses comptent ici-bas : les belles femmes,
La danse de l’ahidus, et l’herbe des verts pâturages ! (Peyron 1992)

Modalités d’accès

Tout almu n’est pas obligatoirement un agdal. Il ne le devient que suite à un accord entre les usagers des lieux, pastoraux obéissant aux lois de la transhumance. À l’époque ancienne où s’appliquait l’izerf (‘droit coutumier’), si un almu était jugé indispensable à la survie des troupeaux du groupe, l’assemblé (jemmaâ) prenait la décision d’en réglementer l’accès et désignait, pour l’année, un amghar n-igudlan (‘cheikh des pâturages’). Celui-ci était chargé de veiller à la mise en défens de l’agdal, donnant à ce terme sa pleine signification (√ GDL = ‘protéger’, en Tamazight). L’amghar n-igudlan avait le droit, s’il surprenait sur les lieux un troupeau contrevenant, d’imposer une amende (izmaz), voire d’y prélever un bélier à titre de sanction.

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almu de xérophytes sous le Ma’asker, région de Tounfit, mai 2007 (photo: M. Peyron)

Habituellement, l’agdal de montagne était ouvert depuis fin-mai (ou fin-juin) jusqu’à la fin-septembre selon les massifs, moyennant quelques aménagements hors saison pour de petits troupeaux locaux. C’est à ce calendrier schématique qu’obéissaient les mouvements de transhumance observés pendant les années 1960/1970, notamment en ce qui concerne le massif du Bou Iblan – montée des gens de Tanchraramt vers Tisserouine (1) – ou de la fréquentation des almu-s d’Aïn Taghighat (Raynal 1960) et de Tafraout n-Serdoun dans l’Ayyachi (2).

Des modifications pouvaient être apportées à ce calendrier, à la discrétion de l’amghar n-igudlan, concernant la date de descente depuis l’estive, notamment en cas de précipitations nivales précoces. À prolonger le séjour en altitude, les troupeaux couraient de graves risques ; de plus, la neige risquait, en les aplatissant, de rendre hors d’usage les tentes des transhumants (3).

De nombreux indices laissent à penser qu’aux temps anciens, de manière à renforcer les lois qui en régissaient l’accès, il y avait sacralisation de l’agdal. En outre, les sources faisaient l’objet d’une vénération quasi-religieuse, dont subsistent des vestiges. C’est le cas de la source d’Almou n-Ouensa (4), ainsi que celle de Taghbalout n-Zagmouzen, rive gauche de l’Asif Melloul, à la limite des Ayt Hadiddou et des Ayt Sokhman.

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Berger Ou-’Ammar près d’Anefgou (photo: M. Peyron)

Parfois, le culte d’un saint local, ou agurram, est associé à l’almu voisin. Il en est ainsi du sanctuaire de Sidi Amandar, juché sur un avant-mont escarpé de 2 950m, à 5 kilomètres au sud-ouest d’Imilchil, et dont la baraka s’étend sur les pâturages de Tanoutfit, d’Almou n-Oumandar, ainsi que sur le sommet principal d’Amandar (3 037m). Effectivement, le sanctuaire comprend deux cabanes contenant un nécessaire de bivouac : bougies, nattes, vivres, combustible, etc. D’après la présence de cornes et d’ossements de béliers il y a tout lieu d’en déduire que des sacrifices propitiatoires y sont régulièrement célébrés (5). De même a-t-on relevé, dans un canton voisin du pays Ayt Yahya, des traces similaires d’immolations au sommet du Tizraouline (3 118m) – ceci à mettre en rapport avec la fréquentation de l’Almou n-Igri voisin (‘pâturage des grenouilles’) (6).

Par ailleurs, en faisant appel aux forces surnaturelles, la tradition orale peut renforcer la magie des lieux, de façon à éviter toute infraction aux lois de la transhumance. Les Ayt Warayn (notamment la fraction des Ahl Tanchraramt) qui fréquentent en été les parcours de Tisserouine dans le Bou Iblane, désignent un amoncellement rocheux en expliquant qu’il s’agit là « d’une vieille, sa tente, son berger, et son troupeau ». C’est la légende de « La Vieille » (tafqirt) (7). Janvier étant achevé, la vieille femme, fière d’avoir tenue en montagne grâce au beau temps du plein hiver, nargue le mois finissant. Ce dernier appelle à la rescousse son collègue Février, lequel envoie une tempête qui ensevelit et pétrifie humains, tente et bêtes – d’où les roches actuelles.

Si les ethnologues font ainsi moisson en matière de tradition orale, les scientifiques, perçoivent essentiellement les agdal-s comme contribuant à entretenir la biodiversité.

De possibles sanctuaires de biodiversité

Le tandem pâturage/zone humide, réunissant cheptel, flore, avifaune, batraciens et lépidoptères, constitue le plus fécond des biotopes. Nous en présentons brièvement quelques cas concrets.

1) Agelmam Afennourir (< ikhf n-awrir = ‘tête de la montagne’).

Situé parmi des pâturages à 1 796m d’altitude au sud-est d’Aïn Leuh, cet étang marécageux, aux abords asylvatiques, incarne la notion de biodiversité au Moyen Atlas. Site privilégié pour oiseaux aquatiques résidents et/ou migrateurs, on y recense une quarantaine d’espèces, dont certaines relativement rares. Érigé en site Ramsar, il fait l’objet d’un certain suivi scientifique, sans être entièrement à l’abri du braconnage (Peyron 2005), car une route, non goudronnée en fin de parcours, en facilite l’accès. Avec l’effondrement de la réglementation traditionnelle sur les pâturages qui caractérise le Moyen Atlas depuis quinze ans, les anciens transhumants, devenus sédentaires, maintiennent sur les pelouses riveraines une pression permanente (Chillasse & al. 2001). En effet, un nombre considérable de ces nouveaux bergers, dont des éléments allogènes (8), remplacent la classique tente berbère des transhumants par des abris permanents en pierre, bois, plastique, et « squattent » les lieux. Pour l’heure, il règne un équilibre précaire à Afennourir entre avifaune et transhumants, la proximité d’une pelouse de joncs (Juncus bufonius), ainsi que des îlots de végétation aquatique (Scirpus holosehoeunus) permettant la nidification de certaines espèces, dont des grèbes et des canards (9).

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Pâturages en bordure d’Agelmam Afennourir, mars 2009 (photo: M. Peyron)

2) Pâturages de Tassamakt.

Situés au sud-ouest de Timhadit entre 1 850 et 1 950m d’altitude, sur les parcours de la fraction des Imrabden des Ayt Myill (Beni Mguild), ceux-ci s’étendent sur sept kilomètres entre le Ras Admar Izem au nord et les anticlinaux d’El-Koubbat (2 255m) et du Jbel Hayane (2 409m) au sud, constituant un des plus vastes ensembles de pacages du Moyen Atlas occidental. Site exceptionnel, combinant pelouses sèches, semi humides, voire humides (présence de nombreux étangs saisonniers), il a été contaminé en un premier temps par l’installation d’une exploitation de schistes bitumineux, opérationnel au début des années 1980 (site dit « de Beqrit » fermé depuis, Peyron 2000), avec construction d’un axe goudronnée, le CT 3389, et édification d’une école. En un deuxième temps, dans le courant des années 1990, l’accès étant ainsi facilité aux pastoraux, ceux-ci se sont installés en force (Johnson & Bencherifa 1993). Ainsi peut-on actuellement y dénombrer au moins dix bergeries permanentes, chacune abritant un cheptel dépassant une centaine de têtes (10). Tendance généralisée à travers le Moyen Atlas, cela provoque l’effondrement du principe même de l’agdal, d’où des répercussions néfastes à terme sur les herbages : disparition de la notion de mise en défens ; pression exagérée sur les points d’eau ; impossibilité pour l’herbe de dépasser le stade de pelouse rase et apparition généralisée de gazons écorchés sur les bordures.

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Pâturages de Tassamakt, belle pelouse & gazon écorché, Moyen-Atlas, mai 2006  (photo: M. Peyron)

Il convient de faire remarquer, toutefois, qu’au moins deux zones de parcours du Moyen Atlas échappent partiellement à cette règle : celles de Zaouia Oued Ifran et d’Agelmam Sidi Ali. La première, grâce à une impulsion dynamique donnée par le maire de l’agglomération, Mohamed Fadili, a réussi à rétablir pour les troupeaux la classique alternance entre azaghar en hiver et jbel en été (11). La deuxième, comprend les nombreux pacages qui bordent la RP 21 entre le lac de Sidi Ali et le Col du Zad. Si, malgré la sècheresse, certains troupeaux des Ayt Raho ou Ali y accèdent en mars depuis Boulâajoul en Haute Moulouya, la fermeture est respectée en avril/mai. C’est à la fin-mai que devient effective la montée en estive (12).

3) Le Jbel ‘Ayyachi (Âari n-ou Ayyach).

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Champ de maïs & ‘Ayyachi vu des Imtchimen, Haut Atlas oriental, nov 1983 (photo: M. Peyron)

Troisième massif marocain par l’altitude et l’étendue, il constitue un véritable carrefour de mouvements pastoraux, dont les pâturages sont convoités, à des degrés divers, par plusieurs groupements faisant partie de la « super-tribu » des Ayt Yafelman: les Ayt Yahya, Ayt Ayyach, Ayt Merghad et Ayt Hadiddou. Dès le 17e siècle ce sont les igurramn de la Zaouia Sidi Hamza, qui, profitant de leur situation stratégique, arbitreront les conflits pastoraux dans l’Ayyachi (Peyron 1984). Démêlées inter- et intra-tribaux ayant abouti à une répartition relativement équitable des pâturages de l’Ayyachi. C’est la conclusion qui s’imposait au terme de tournées sur le terrain effectuées entre 1975 et 1991.

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Nomades Ayt Merghad, cirque de Ja’afar, mai 1969 (photo: M. Peyron) 

En effet, la fréquentation des igudlan d’Aïn Taghgighat et de Tafraout n-Ouallil, étagés entre 2 600 et 3 000m, représentait au début des années 1990 un cas assez exemplaire de compromis basé sur la coutume locale. Des transhumants Ayt Merghad et Ayt Hadiddou en partageaient l’accès avec un minimum de frictions ; les premiers montaient depuis Tattiouine au Nord par la vallée d’Ikkis et passaient le Tizi n-Tserdount (3 046m) ; les seconds, venus de Tannghrift sur le versant assamer (‘adret’), avaient franchis le Tizi n-Mawtfoud (2 788m) et le Tizi n-Bou Âadil (3 078m). L’unique source d’Aïn Taghighat (2 750m), avec sa pelouse humide, desservait une communauté nomade comptant une trentaine de tentes en juillet/août. Après l’arrivée en estive à la fin mai, les dromadaires porteurs divaguaient sur les crêtes, se nourrissant de chardons et de xérophytes. La vie collective pastorale régnait ainsi jusqu’en septembre, ponctuée par la sortie/rentrée du cheptel, le salage des pierres plates à destination des ovins, des séances de réparation de tentes, de préparation du petit lait (aghu) et des soirées d’ahidus (13).

D’autres fractions Ayt Hadiddou, celles d’Ayt Yakoub et d’Afraskou, ayant également empruntées le Tizi n-Mawtfoud, une fois leurs tentes installées, se contentaient des parcours de l’Aqqa n-Tâarâart, de l’Aqqa n-Bou Oustour et de Tafraout n-Serdoun. À chaque fraction ses emplacements de tentes, reconnaissables à des cercles de pierres, et reconduits d’une année sur l’autre.

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Haute vallée de Ta’ara’art, massif de l’Ayyachi, nov 1974 (photo: M. Peyron)

Les Ayt Ayyach des ksour de Tâarâart et de Mendaïour, quant à eux, n’utilisaient que les bas versants sud de l’Ayyachi, rive droite de l’Aqqa n-Tâarâart, à partir des bergeries d’Iblilou (2 470m) et de Tadaout n-Woudi, ainsi que certains parcours au nord-est du Tizi n-Mawtfoud (Bou Imterga).

Quatre fractions Ayt Yahya se partageaient la partie ouest de l’Ayyachi. Les Ayt Sliman de la basse vallée de Tâarâart, répartis en trois douars (Tighermine, Louggagh et Massou), accédaient aux almu-s des versants leur faisant face au sud, entre le Tizi n-Itgel (‘col du cèdre’) et le Tizi n-Mawtfoud, notamment sur l’Igourdan. Les Ayt Bou Arbi, qui occupent les cluses de l’Anzegmir entre l’Ayyachi et le Mâasker, avaient accès à l’Aqqa n-Bou Isly et l’Aqqa n-Bou Irifi (‘ravin de la soif’). Les xérophyteraies du versant nord revenaient aux Imitchimen, notamment dans l’Aqqa n-Bou Ghaba, l’Agouni n-Arfa, l’Agouni n-Tidouggwa et l’Imi n-Tkhamt. Plus à l’est sur le même versant, la dépaissance des Ayt Tawlghaout les amenaient sur les parcours de Mitqane, au pied du Tizouliyne (3 407m).

Signalons, pour compléter le recensement des pâturages de l’Ayyachi, que ce sont des éléments Ayt Merghad qui nomadisent, dès la fin-mai aux environs de Jâafar, Tafrant n-Ijimi, Agouni n-Bou Âarar, Taarbat et Tizi n-Toufli n-Wadou. À la fin-septembre ils prennent leurs quartiers d’hiver dans le vallon d’Ikkis, ou sur les glacis de piedmont au-delà de Tagouilelt (Peyron 1975 & 1977)(14).

4) Le plateau des Lacs et sa bordure nord.

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Transhumants montant de Tirghist vers le plateau des Lacs, mai 1998 (photo: M. Peyron)

Il s’agit d’un vaste synclinal perché riche en biodiversité, centré sur une zone de pâturages – Izlan et Igran n-Igenna (‘champs du ciel’) – entourant le célèbre Plateau des Lacs, qui se partage entre pozzines, pelouses sèches et steppe à armoise (Sghir & Fennane 2003) ; en altitude, apparaît la steppe semi-aride de montagne à xérophytes, de type méditerranéen froid.

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almu pour équidés, Tizi n-Inouzan, oct 1997 (photo: M. Peyron)

En bordure, s’élève une guirlande de montagnes arides, jouxtant d’autres pacages (Amalou n-Inouzan et Tizi n-Taoughrist) ainsi que la cédraie des Ayt Yahya. C’est à près de 3 000m d’altitude dans les escarpements du Fazaz et du Hayim voisins, qu’apparaît le mouflon à manchettes (Ammotragus lervia), au sein d’une zone érigée en SIBE (Site d’Intérêt Biologique et Écologique), laquelle constitue le noyau du futur PNHAO, ou Parc National du Haut Atlas Oriental (Billand 1996). Démarche environnementale, depuis longtemps annoncée, qui souligne le caractère privilégié de cette zone sur le plan faunistique, ainsi que l’absolue nécessité d’une prise de conscience collective de la part des riverains – des ksouriens de Tirghist notamment – quant à l’utilité que revêt pour eux un parc bien géré, générateur de devises, et dans le suivi duquel ils seraient nécessairement impliqués (Bourbouze 1997 ; Peyron 2004). Le mouflon, autrefois menacé, était présent à hauteur de 156 têtes en octobre 1997, d’après un comptage effectué par des Volontaires de la Paix américains (15). Pour le moment, les habitants de Tirghist se plaignent de ce que les mouflons broutent leurs cultures (tshan-akh luhush ! disent-ils), d’autant plus que ces mammifères, bénéficiant de mesures de protection, s’étendent à l’est dans l’Aberdouz et le Wilghissen, ainsi qu’à l’ouest vers le Msedrid, l’Isswal, l’Iger n-Igenna et le Tawjjâaout, broutant les graminées et herbacés de ces massifs, et entrant en compétition avec les ovins et caprins domestiques.

Deux groupements de populations montagnardes ont majoritairement accès au Plateau des Lacs :-

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Transhumance d’Anefgou en direction du Tizi n-Inouzan, mai 2009 (photo: M. Peyron)

1) les Ayt Ameur d’Anefgou : cette ancienne fraction Ayt Hadiddou relève actuellement de l’Annexe de Tounfit, étant inféodée aux Ayt Yahya depuis 1933. Le Capitaine Parlange (burlanj) des Affaires Indigènes avait alors fait remarquer aux Ayt Ameur, occupant un canton remarquable par la qualité de ses cédraies, qu’ils avaient désormais intérêt à faire partie du commandement de Tounfit, dont l’autorité les protégerait contre les incursions nocturnes de leurs frères Ayt Hadiddou d’Imilchil, voleurs de bois réputés (16);

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almu de Taghighacht, Haut Atlas d’Imilchil, mars 1977 (photo: M. Peyron)

2) les Ayt Yâzza, fraction importante des Ayt Hadiddou de l’Asif n-Tilmi (notamment ceux de Taghighacht) et de l’Asif Melloul (région d’Imilchil). Ils se doivent, cependant, d’y accueillir sans rechigner d’autres éléments Ayt Hadiddou venus des Isellaten (Ou-Terbat), ainsi que des Ayt Brahim du Haut Asif Melloul. Ces dispositions, cependant, ne s’étendent pas à leurs cousins situés sur le versant sud, ceux de l’Imdghas (Haut Dadès), d’où la tribu est originaire. Ce modus vivendi est l’aboutissement d’une longue série de confrontations entre fractions, ayant marqué la période précoloniale, et dont l’enjeu était l’accès aux agdal-s du Plateau des Lacs. Quoi qu’il en soit, cette situation, perçue par certains groupements comme légitimant leurs droits d’estive, remise en cause par d’autres, aura été l’objet de litiges incessants, même si le fait d’accéder aux pâturages d’Izlan demeure un très fort symbole d’unité parmi les Ayt Hadiddou (Kraus 1998).

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almu au bord de l’Asif Melloul, en amont d’Imilchil, oct 1997 (photo: M. Peyron)

Les igudlan du Plateau des Lacs ont subi une dégradation inexorable pendant les années 1975-1989, période marquée par un début de stress hydrique significatif. Le schéma de fréquentation, déjà signalé (Couvreur 1968 ), était le suivant en 1979: les ksouriens de Taghighecht disposaient de bergeries permanentes entre Izli et le Tizi n’Irig, ainsi que d’une demi-douzaine dans l’Aqqa n-Ouanine (17). À la fin mars, leurs troupeaux d’un effectif inférieur à une cinquantaine de têtes, avaient encore droit d’accès aux igudlan. Suivait la mise en défens totale (avril-juin) ; à la fin juin c’était la montée en estive d’autres fractions, qui campaient sous la tente. L’accès à d’autres pâturages pouvait être différencié : ceux de Tanoutfit et d’Amandar, par exemple. Ils étaient occupés dès la fin mai 1978 par des transhumants Ayt Hadiddou d’Ou-Terbat.

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Pâturage d’automne en bordure du Plateau des Lacs, Ayt Hadiddou, oct. 2002 (photo: M. Peyron)

Lors d’un passage en septembre 1982, nous avions constaté une accélération du phénomène de surpâturage, notamment entre Izli et l’Aqqa n-Moutzeli, marquant les effets secondaires d’une série d’années de sécheresse ; impression confirmée en juillet 1989, époque à laquelle les pâturages d’Igran n-Igenna, massivement transformés en gazons écorchés, présentaient un aspect de dust bowl (Peyron 1992). Simultanément, une autre tendance pouvait être constatée : l’extension sauvage de l’habitat dispersé en bordure des igudlan, accompagnée de mises en culture sur les piedmonts nord du Msedrid et de l’Âari n-Tghighecht (18). Il m’a été confirmé alors que les dispositions habituelles d’accès aux igudlan n’étaient plus respectées en raison de périodes de stress hydrique prolongé. Si on a pu assister (juillet 1991) à une timide tentative de restauration de l’ancienne réglementation, avec désignation d’un amghar n-igudlan stationné à Tasgount, cette initiative semblerait être restée sans lendemain. Effectivement, en mai 2007, à une période où auparavant s’appliquait la mise en défens, on nous annonçait que l’accès aux pâturages était libre pendant toute l’année. Triste constat ! Ainsi, le 20/05/2007, a-t-on pu dénombrer sept troupeaux de plus d’une centaine de têtes sur les pacages entre Izli et l’Aqqa n-Moutzeli. Autre signe d’incurie pastorale : le cadavre d’une brebis flottant au fond du puits situé au bord de la piste qui mène de Tasgount au Tizi n-Irig, sur le rebord nord du plateau. Interrogé à ce propos par nos soins, un berger de Taghighecht a répondu que cela ne le concernait pas ; que cela relevait des gens d’Imilchil.

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Pâturage d’Imilchil (Plateau des Lacs) en accès illimité aux troupeaux, mai 2007 (photo: M. Peyron)

Malgré cette fréquentation pastorale accrue, à laquelle il convient d’ajouter la pollution sonore (et autre) des bivouacs de trekkeurs et des adeptes de VTT et de 4×4, phénomène déjà dénoncé (Peyron 2003 & 2004), on constate la difficile survie de la biodiversité à proximité des deux lacs – Izli et Tizlit. Le premier, aux berges érodées et dépourvues de roselières, est plutôt pauvre sur le plan faunistique; le deuxième, malgré par la pression touristique, dont présence d’une auberge (Ramou 2005), présente une faune aviaire relativement riche, dont les trois variétés de grèbes répertoriées au Maroc, favorisée par la présence de cinq importantes roselières, que des baisses de niveaux successives mettent parfois en danger. En mai 2007, toutefois, une pluviométrie généreuse avait contribué à une remontée spectaculaire du niveau des eaux.

On ne peut évoquer le Plateau des Lacs et ses bordures sans mentionner les somptueuses cédraies voisines des Ayt Yahya, dont la présence serait de nature à apporter une valeur ajoutée au futur PNHAO. Or, certains triages, loin des axes routiers et des regards indiscrets, font l’objet de campagnes d’abattage, de coupes illicites à grande échelle, de surpâturage intensif (Tarrier 2007) (19). Loin d’être tenu en échec par les rondes d’agents forestiers (20), ce fléau connaît une montée en puissance, une demande grandissante de bois pour l’ébénisterie et l’artisanat alimentant un trafique fleurissant, où chacun trouve son compte, exception faite pour l’indigent paysan marocain du coin, floué une fois de plus (Bennani 2007) (21)! Pratiques qu’il conviendrait de dénoncer et de combattre avec toute la rigueur nécessaire. De tout ceci il ressort clairement que l’ensemble altimontain que constitue le Plateau des Lacs, avec ses zones humides, pelouses d’altitude et forêts, de par la biodiversité qu’il renferme, mérite un suivi sérieux, si l’on entend le conserver pour les générations futures.

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Pâturages écorchés, est du Plateau des Lacs, mai 2009 (photo: M. Peyron)

5) Les almu-s les plus inaccessibles de l’Atlas marocain.

Il s’agit des pâturages d’Almou n-Ouensa, de Timitt, d’Asfalou n-Timitt et d’Almou n-Selloult. Site totalement asylvatique d’une grande austérité, entouré de chaînons dépassant les 3 000m d’altitude, Almou n-Ouensa est un pâturage de montagne (2 500m) situé à une journée de marche au sud-ouest d’Imilchil. Son intérêt pour la biodiversité réside en une steppe xérophytique, ainsi qu’un ensemble de pelouses rases de plusieurs hectares. Une partie de celles-ci sont semi-humides et abritent des batraciens, notamment à proximité des sources, que fréquente un rapace solitaire observé deux années de suite (2004 & 2005), identifié comme étant un  Circaète jean-le-Blanc (Circaetus gallicus), et dont l’interaction avec les dits batraciens est un garant précieux de biodiversité. Bien que les poissons constituent l’essentiel de l’alimentation de son alimentation, le Circaète peut effectivement se contenter de grenouilles. Sa présence en mai est tout à fait compatible avec les couloirs de migration qu’emprunte l’espèce, compte tenu des observations dont elle a fait l’objet (22).

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Source & pâturages d’Almou n-Wensa, mai 2004 (photo: E. Hatt)

À la fin mai la présence des Ayt Hadiddou se limite à une dizaine de tentes, occupées principalement par des filles et jeunes femmes. Pendant la journée les coussinets épineux (Alysum spinosum, Erinacea antyllis, etc.) des versants voisins sont mis à contribution par les ovins et caprins, ainsi que par les femmes qui s’en servent comme combustible. Quant aux pelouses principales, elles sont fréquentées par de petits groupes d’ânes, en symbiose avec des vols d’oiseaux, qui capturent les insectes dérangés par les sabots des équidés ; il s’agit de la Bergeronnette printanière (Motacilla flava) et du Pipit spioncelle (Anthus spinoletta). Autres représentants de l’avifaune : le Crave à bec rouge (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), dont on observe des vols importants, ainsi que l’Alouette pispolette (Calandrella rufescens), présente à la lisière des pelouses rases. Il est à noter que la consommation d’herbe rend particulièrement nerveux les ânes en question, dont on voit certains lancés au galop, apparemment sans raison (23). En mai 2004, année humide, l’almu, d’un vert saturé, était gorgé d’eau et présentait un aspect de saine abondance. L’année suivante à la même époque, le lisières paraissaient desséchées, voir écorchées, alors que le débit de la source principale était visiblement moins important. Ceci souligne, s’il en était besoin, le caractère fragile d’Almou n-Ouensa, raison pour laquelle nous en avions proposé la candidature comme zone SIBE dans un travail antérieur (Peyron 2004).

Timitt et Asfalou n-Timitt se situent à deux/trois heures de marche au sud-ouest d’Almou n-Ouensa. On se trouve là au carrefour de la transhumance Ayt Hadiddou, Ayt Merghad et Ayt Sokhman, tristement célèbre par le passé pour ses nombreux litiges, dégénérant parfois en rixes entre bergers pouvant entraîner l’intervention sur les lieux des autorités, parfois jusqu’au grade de qayd mumtaz. Déjà, du temps du Protectorat, la fréquentation de Timitt donnait lieu à des tensions entres groupements (Couvreur 1968). Du reste, Timitt ne détient pas l’exclusivité en matière d’affrontements entre bergers ; la tradition orale locale signale à maintes reprises le même phénomène entre pâtres Ayt Abdi et Ayt Daoud ou Ali pendant les années 1990, à l’agdal de Tinguerft, rive droite de l’Asif Melloul. Les années de sécheresse n’ont fait qu’aggraver le phénomène ; ici ovins, caprins et camélidés doivent se contenter de xérophytes épineux, les pelouses étant rares, les pozzines faisant défaut – impression générale de pâturages dégradés, de manque de biodiversité (24). Deux années successives (fin mai 2004 & 2005) une quinzaine de tentes a été observée sur le site dans son ensemble. Quant à l’unique point d’eau, Anou n-Timitt, ce puits était plein à ras bord en 2004, alors que le niveau avait baissé de 30cm en 2005.

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Almou n-Selloult, mai 2004 (photo: M. Peyron)

À cinq kilomètres au sud-ouest, par un ravin escarpé, siège d’une humidité résiduelle, avec de loin en loin une tente Ayt Hadiddou sous des surplombs, ou une bergerie en pierres sèches, l’on parvient au cirque d’Allen Ighboula (‘les yeux de la source’) : champs d’orge irrigués, les premiers depuis Imilchil. On se situe à la limite entre Ayt Hadiddou et Ayt Sokhman ; les deux groupements, il convient de le souligner, semblent entretenir là de meilleurs rapports de voisinage que par le passé (25).

En remontant un vallon plein sud, parcouru par un asif (‘torrent’) on atteint le premier des almu-s de Selloult, vaste complexe de pelouses et sources, de champs d’orge également (26), appartenant aux Ayt Sokhman (fraction des Ayt Abdi). D’après nos observations (1982, 2004 & 2005), il est permis d’affirmer que les pastoraux de ce secteur n’ont plus recours à la tente, mais à des bergeries permanentes installées à proximité en ordre dispersé. À la fin mai un amghar n-igudlan y passait ses journées à veiller au bon déroulement de l’accès aux pâturages. Sa seule présence constitue un facteur rassurant : le makhzen marque ainsi son intérêt, fût-ce de façon tenue et lointaine, à ce que l’ordre règne sur place. Du reste, une aire d’atterrissage pour hélicoptère, aménagée à côté de la demeure de l’amghar n-igudlan, indique une présence virtuelle de l’autorité.

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Partie écorchée d’Almou Akhattar, mai 2005  (photo: M. Peyron)

Une conjoncture alarmante

Les cas concrets ci-dessus exposés ont permis de constater que, bien que les usagers comprennent la nécessité de règlementer l’accès aux pâturages et des écosystèmes avoisinants, on aboutit, dans la majorité des cas, au non-respect de la réglementation sur les agdal-s et les parcours forestiers avec comme résultat une perte de biodiversité dans de nombreux sites, accompagnée par une dégradation des sols. Ceci pour les raisons suivantes :-

a) les sécheresses à répétition depuis 1980, caractérisées par un stress hydrique nuisible à la survie des forêts et herbages, lesquels, de plus en plus sollicités, prennent davantage de valeur, tout en diminuant de superficie, à cause de
b) la spéculation ovine effrénée de la part de propriétaires de troupeaux citadins et absentéistes;
c) la pression touristique et démographique (implantations d’habitat sauvage), avec comme corollaire le goudronnage de nouvelles pistes de pénétration, facilitant
d) le saccage de la cédraie, animé par le trafique du bois d’ébénisterie et de menuiserie (plafonds en cèdre, etc.)

De ce fait, compte tenu de la conjoncture actuelle, les phénomènes c) et d) sont totalement déphasés, tant par rapport aux critères écologiques mondialement reconnus, qu’à la demande très forte du marché de l’éco-tourisme, dit « tourisme vert ». Situation locale particulière où, s’agissant des marchés de la viande et du bois d’œuvre, la loi de l’offre et de la demande semblerait rester souveraine, le tout assorti de « langue de bois », de pieuses déclarations d’intention, et ce au détriment de mesures effectives de préservation de la biodiversité. Conjoncture néfaste qui est en passe de gagner la totalité du Moyen Atlas, au risque de s’étendre à l’ensemble du Haut Atlas marocain. Déjà, parmi les massifs orientaux de l’Atlas qui nous concernent, les signes avant-coureurs de l’inéluctable désastre sont clairement visibles. En effet, à la vue des atteintes que subissent les biotopes, il est possible d’effectuer des projections sur une cinquantaine d’année en aval selon un scénario se déroulant en quatre stades.

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Cédraie fossile, Tizi n-Mawtfoud, vallée de Ta’ara’art, nov 1974 (photo: M. Peyron)

1° Apparition de cédraies fossiles, voire « thérophytisées » (Benabid 1995), revêtant l’aspect d’un maquis de chênes-verts comportant quelques cèdres squelettiques témoins ; exemple : versant sud du Tizi n-Ighil, région de Tounfit ;
2° chênaies aux arbres moribonds, réduits à l’état de moignons à peine feuillus ; exemple : versant nord du Jbel Harouch (2 974m), Haut Ziz ;
3° avant-dernier stade : versants à xérophytes résiduels, servant éventuellement de parcours aux caprins, devenus difficilement accessibles (mai 2007), car érodés, ravagés, par le ruissellement des orages estivaux, alors qu’en avril 1970, on y circulait facilement sur sentier ; exemple : crête du Tizi n-Ighil entre sommet-2 690 et Tizi n-Ou Houdim, région de Tounfit ;
4° phase finale : versants totalement décapés, dépourvus de végétation, infréquentables par des troupeaux ; exemple : versant dit Bou Imterga (« le raviné »), vallée de Tâarâart, massif de l’Ayyachi.

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Bouimterga (‘le raviné’), vallée de Ta’ara’art, nov 1977 (photo: M. Peyron)

Enchaînement pouvant contribuer, à terme, sur le plan écologique, à un « scénario catastrophe », d’autant plus que le réchauffement planétaire ne semblerait pas épargner le Maroc.

Conclusion

Malgré la complexité, la gravité de la conjoncture actuelle, envers et contre tous, l’institution de l’agdal, régie par la coutume semblerait vouloir perdurer, grâce à sa souplesse, adaptée qu’elle est à une situation souvent fluide, conflictuelle. C’est ainsi que l’on pourrait entrevoir, comme moyen de sortie de crise, un heureux mariage entre des méthodes modernes de gestions de conflits et les sages dispositions sur les igudlan contenues dans l’izerf traditionnel (27). Initiative qui sera, toutefois, vouée à l’échec tant que, au mépris de toute considération environnementale, l’appât du gain (spéculation ovine, trafique du bois de cèdre, etc.) demeurera le seul critère pouvant régir l’approche de la problématique des igudlan et autres parcours forestiers.

Il est souhaitable, en tout cas, que l’actuelle génération de chercheurs marocains –scientifiques et hommes de terrain convaincus de la nécessité d’une démarche conviviale envers l’environnement, à l’instar de ceux que nous avons rencontrés à Marrakech le 12 mai 2007 – puisse mener à bien ses travaux, faire entendre sa voix ! Faire comprendre, en haut lieu, que pacages et cédraies protégés valent mieux que pâturages et cédraies saccagés ; qu’ils y ont tout à gagner. Quelque chose pourra alors être sauvé.

Compte tenu de ces impératifs il y a urgence absolue à mener un certain nombre d’actions en profondeur, et d’en garantir le suivi :-

a) Réactualiser une transhumance respectueuse de la biodiversité, qu’il s’agisse de la conservation des sols, des gazons d’altitude et des différents formes de vie végétale, animale, aviaire et autre qu’ils renferment ; en particulier, sensibiliser les adultes au besoin de respecter la biodiversité afin de redresser certaines tendances néfastes (capture de macaques, de porcs-épics, ou abattage au lance-pierres des passereaux, élimination aveugle – et par ignorance – des reptiles de toutes sortes), etc. ;

b) Veiller sur le terrain à l’application effective des règlements interdisant le braconnage, notamment en ce qui concerne des représentants « nobles » de la faune, tels le mouflon ;

c) Rechercher un équilibre permettant d’assurer une gestion performante des ressources naturelles (eaux, forêts, faune, etc.);

d) Compte tenu de l’importance grandissante de l’écotourisme, doter l’industrie touristique marocaine d’une déontologie de la biodiversité, notamment de façon à mieux gérer les déchets à proximité des gîtes, ainsi que la pollution qui apparaît le long des itinéraires de trekking ;

e) Former des guides du CFAMM à Tabant (Ayt Bouguemmez), notamment ceux provenant du nouveau recrutement citadin, moins avertis des choses de la montagne que leurs collègues du jbel, de façon à ce qu’ils soient conscients des enjeux gouvernant l’environnement et la transhumance, notions auxquelles ils ne sont pas naturellement sensibilisés ;

f) Etablir un cadre de planification décentralisé et participatif (comités de co-ordination nationaux et régionaux incorporant les instances traditionnelles) ;

g) Ériger un code national pastoral (du style « charte des pâturages » ) qui insisterait, en particulier, sur une réduction au moins de moitié de la taille de chaque troupeau, de façon à soulager la pression insoutenable dont les biotopes font l’objet ;

h) Créer un centre de formation pastorale combinant savoirs locaux et connaissances technologiques modernes (28).

Ainsi, l’importance des massifs orientaux de l’Atlas marocain, « point chaud » de la biodiversité méditerranéenne, est-elle désormais largement reconnue. L’institution des agdal-s se situant, on le sait, au cœur d’un système national, voire international, impliquant le traditionnel, le politique, le social, le tourisme, on ne peut qu’espérer une prise de conscience des responsables afin que soit sauvée une fleuron millénaire, vital à l’équilibre écologique du pays.

Appendice A : observations ornithologiques

Agelmam Afennourir

Voici une liste non-exhaustive (observ. pers. le 24/05/2005) :- Cigogne (Ciconia ciconia), Balbuzard-pêcheur (Pandion haliaetus), Faucon hobereau (Falco subbuteo), Grèbe à cou noir (Podiceps nigricolis), Grèbe huppé (Podiceps cristatus) ; Héron cendré (Ardea cinerea), Tadorne casarca (Tadorna ferruginea), Fuligule milouin (Arthya ferina), Échasse blanche (Himantopus himantopus), Chevalier guignette (Tringa hypoleucos), Chevalier gambette (Tringa totanus), Sterne pierregarin (Sterna hirundo), Pie-grièche à tête rousse (Lanius senator), un Traquet (Oenanthe lugens), deux variétés de Foulque (Fulica cristata & Fulica atra) ; auxquels il convient d’ajouter une Avocette (Recurvirosa avosetta), observ. pers. en mai 1999.

Plateau de Tassamakt

Observ. pers. (mai 1984, ainsi que les 21/04/2006 & 05/05/2007). L’avifaune est relativement pauvre, dont deux espèces de Traquet (Oenanthe oenanthe seebohmi & Oenanthe lugens) ainsi que les deux espèces de Foulque répertoriés dans le Moyen Atlas (dans l’agelmam en bordure de route à 1 km à l’est du plateau); Milan noir (Milvus migrans), Aigle botté (Hieraaëtus pennatus), Glaréole à collier (Glareola pratincola), Alouette Hausse-col (Eremophila alpestris).

Plateau des Lacs

dsc00198.jpg

Roselières en bordure de Tizlit, mai 2007 (photo: M. Morgenthaler)

Avifaune de Tizlit (liste non exhaustive) : Circaète Jean-le-Blanc (Circaetus gallicus), Grèbe huppé (Podiceps cristatus), Grèbe à cou noir (Podiceps nigricolis) présent également à Izli, Grèbe castagneux (Tachybaptus ruficolis), Tadorne casarca (Tadorna ferruginea), Canard souchet (Anas clypeata), Chevalier guignette (Tringa hypoleucos), Chevalier culblanc (Tringa ochropus), ainsi que l’omniprésent Foulque (Fulica cristata) ; également un visiteur rarissime, le Panure à moustaches (Panurus biarmicus), observ. Le 10/04/2004. Biotope moins riche à Izli :- Courlis (Numenius arquata), Alouette hausse-col (Eremophila alpestris), Goéland leucophée (Larus cacchinans michahellis) qui est une sous-espèce du Goéland argenté (observ. le 24/12/1987).

NOTES

1  Observation personnelle, désormais « Observ. pers. », (22/05/1981).
2 Observ. pers. à Agheddou (02/07/1978), ainsi qu’à Anefgou (30/06/1988).
3 Observ. pers. d’une tente écrasée par la neige, à Imi n-Tkhamt, Imitchimen, versant N de l’Ayyachi (01/11/1978).
4 Cf. J. Robichez, Maroc central, Arthaud, Paris/Grenoble, 1946 (p. 174), pour une photo ancienne de cette source, point de rencontre de la transhumance des Ayt Hadiddou et des Ayt Merghad.
5 Observ. pers. (22/05/2001).
6 Observ. pers. de Denis Dourron (15/10/1975), co-auteur De l’Ayachi au Koucer (1976) ; cf. également, une coutume similaire chez les Ilemchan des Ayt ‘Atta ( J. Robichez, op. cit., p.45).

7 Également haguza (ar.) chez certains groupements amazighes du Moyen Atlas.
8 Dont certains pâtres arabophones montés de l’azaghar ; observ. pers. (février 2003).
9 Cf. également > http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lac_Afennourir
10 Observ. pers. in situ en février et mai 2007.
11 Conversation avec l’intéressé le 17 avril 2007, lors de la tenue à l’Université Al-Akhawayn d’Ifrane, du Colloque « Implication des populations amazighes dans le tourisme de montagne au Maroc ».
12 Observ. pers. sur la période 1998-2007.
13 Résultats d’observ. pers. effectuées in situ. Informations, toutefois, marquées par une absence de données sur la période 1991-2007.
14 Oberv. pers. en septembre 1999, mars 2001, mai 2002 et mai 2007, lors de tournées sur les piedmonts nord-ouest de l’Ayyachi.
15 Observ. pers in situ. Par ailleurs, une fois définitivement en place, le PNHAO pourra intervenir sur les rapaces de la région, dont le nombre a fortement diminué ces dernières années, principalement en raison d’un abus de pesticides.
16 Tradition orale, Anefgou, printemps 1978.
17 En mai 2007 on dénombrait dans l’Aqqa n-Ouanine une demi-douzaine de hameaux composés de « résidences secondaires », ainsi que des champs multiples et des peupliers plantés le long du cours d’eau.
18 La généralisation de cette tendance, parfois avec plantation de vergers (urtan), a été constatée sur le terrain par nos soins entre Taghighecht (Asif n-Tilmi et Sountat (Asdif Melloul), en septembre 1998.
19 Cas affligeant du site sacré du Tazizawt, l’un des plus prestigieux cimetières des héros de la résistance marocaine. Étant l’objet d’un pèlerinage annuel le 24 août, deux sentiers ont été aménagés dans la forêt pour faciliter l’accès des pèlerins ; malheureusement, entre 2005 et 2007 des voleurs de bois de la région d’Aghbala en ont profité pour s’y livrer à des coupages sauvages. Le chemin que suivent les pèlerins vers le cèdre sacré est désormais jonché de troncs en instance d’équarrissage, de copeaux de cèdre…
20 Ceux-ci, à l’instar de deux forestiers du poste de Tirghist, rencontrés dans le Haut Asif n-Ougheddou le 22/05/2007, qui sont obligés de circuler armés, tant est grand le danger que représente une rencontre avec une équipe décidée de voleurs de bois (ikhewwan n-ikshuddn).
21 C’est la douloureuse affaire d’Anefgou (hiver 2006-2007) – signalée par la chaîne de TV arabe Al-Jazeera – avec la mort de 29 jeunes femmes et enfants en bas âge, suite à une maladie non encore identifiée (pneumonie mal soignée ?), dont l’hebdomadaire Tel Quel s’est fait l’écho, et qui a déclenché un véritable scandale national en exposant l’inefficacité des services de santé. Depuis, on a procédé à Anefgou à l’installation d’une borne de téléphonie portable et le goudronnage de la piste avance de mois en mois.
22 Rapace aperçu à contre-jour le 21/05/2005 ; probabilité à 80 % qu’il s’agisse effectivement d’un Circaète, bien que l’on ait pu le confondre intialiement avec un Balbuzzard. À signaler, en revanche, une perte de biodiversité sensible sur l’almu voisin de Tanoutfit, où une colonie d’écureuils de Gétulie (Atlantoxerus getulus) qui peuplait la pelouse avoisinant la source (observ. nov . 1986) avait disparue en mai 2002.
23 Nervosité de la part des équidés également (observ. le 23/05/2005) à Almou Amezzan (pâturage fréquenté par les Ayt Hadiddou de l’Imdghas), où, après avoir copieusement consommé des graminées, deux mulets ont chargé un troupeau de moutons.
24 Avifaune très pauvre : Faucon lannier (Falco biarmicus erlangeri), observ. Le 19/05/2004, Perdrix gambra (Alectortis barbara), exemplaire unique, observ. le 24/05/2005.
25 Une rivalité tenace opposait autrefois ces deux groupements ; cf. D.M. Hart (1984). Nous avions effectivement remarqué des comportements conflictuels, relevant de ce phénomène, en mars 1975 dans l’Asif Melloul, ainsi qu’en novembre 1979 dans l’Imdghas.
26 Champs d’Almou n-Selloult où, fin mai 2004, l’on notait la présence de la Caille des blés (Coturnix coturnix), ou tazerkilla en Tamazight ; également observ. en juillet 1982 : Traquet du désert (Oenanthe deserti) et Gypaète barbu (Gyaëtus barbatus).
27 Cf. projet de recherché “Capstone”, de N. Maouni, 2005. Université Al-Akhawayn Ifrane, 2005.
28 Cf. Projet UNDP (Programme de Développement des Nations Unies), n° MOR/98/G41/A1G/31, “Morocco : Transhumance for Biodiversity Conservation in the Southern High Atlas”.

BIBLIOGRAPHIE

BENABID, 1995, “Les problèmes de préservation des éco-systems forestiers marocains en rapport avec le développement économique”, L’Afrique du Nord face aux menaces écologiques, (A. Bencherifa & W.D. Swearingen, éds.), Fac. des Lettres, Rabat, pp. 109-124.
BENCHERIFA, A., & JOHNSON, D.L., 1993, “Environment, population pressue and resouce use strategies in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco”, Montagnes & Haut-Pays d’Afrique, (A. Bencherifa, éd;), Fac. des Lettres, Rabat, pp. 101-121.
BILLAND, A., 1996, « Développement touristique des parcs de montagne au Maroc : principe de zonage et aménagement », Revue de Géographie Alpine, n°4, pp. 95-108.
BOURBOUZE, A., 1997, « Des agdal et des mouflons », Courrier de l’environnement, n° 30, avril, 14p., disponible sur :-

http://www.INRA.fr/Internet/Produits/dpenv/bourbe30.htm

CHILLASSE & al., 2001, «Valeurs et fonctions écologiques des zones humides du Moyen Atlas (Maroc) », Humedales Mediterráneos, I , pp. 139-146 ; disponible sur http://sehumed.uv.es/revista/numero17/sehumed_17_colecc139.PDF
COUVREUR, F., 1968, « La vie pastorale dans le Haut Atlas central », Revue de Géographie Marocaine, n°13, pp. 3-54.
HART, D.M., 1984, “The Ait Sukhman of the Moroccan Central Atlas : an ethnographic survey and case study in socio-cultural anomaly”, Revue de l’Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée, n°38/2, pp. 137-152.
HEINZEL, H., FITTER, R., & PARSLOW, J., 1975, The Birds of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East, Collins, Londres.
HUME, R., LESAFFRE, G., & DUQUET, M., 2004, Oiseaux de France et d’Europe, Paris, Larousse.
KRAUS,W., 1998, “Contestable identities: tribal structures, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 4, n°1, pp. 1-22.
MAOUNI, N., 2005, The Use of Soft Systems Methods in Solving Tribal System Related Conflicts, projet de recherché “Capstone”, Université Al-Akhawayn, Ifrane.
PEYRON, M., 1975, Tounfit et le pays Ayt Yahya, Institut de Géographie Alpine, Grenoble.
____________, 1976, «Habitat rural et vie montagnarde dans le Haut Atlas de Midelt (Maroc) », in Revue de Géographie Alpine, n°2, pp. 327-363.
____________& DOURRON, D., 1977, De l’Ayachi au Koucer, Club Alpin Français, Rabat.
____________, 1984, « Contribution à l’histoire du Haut Atlas oriental : les Ayt Yafelman », in Revue de l’Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée, n°38, pp.117-135.
____________, 1992, « Mutations en cours dans le mode de vie des Ayt Yafelman (haut Atlas marocain) », Les Cahiers d’URBAMA, n°7, pp. 79-98.
____________, 2000, « Les inadéquations entre savoir et développement : le cas du Moyen-Atlas marocain », Montagnes Méditerranéennes, n°12, pp. 49-52.
____________, 2003, “Promotion and protection : eco-tourism in the Moroccan Middle Atlas”, Sustainable Mountain Tourism Workshop, Univ. Al-Akhawayn, Irane, disponible sur :- http://www.aui.ma/VPAA/shss/mpeyron.htm
____________, 2004, « L’éco-tourisme comme levier de développement des ressources territoriales : le cas des massif orientaux de l’Atlas marocain », Montagnes Méditerranéennes, n° 20, pp. 187-194.
RAMOU, H., « Le tourisme de nature : un secteur en développement à Imilchil », Tourisme rural et développement durable (sous la dir., Z. Chattou), E.N.A., Meknès, pp. 146-156.
RAYNAL., R., 1960, « La terre et l’homme en Haut Moulouya », Bulletin Économique et Social du Maroc, vol. XXIV, n°86, pp. 281-346.
ROBICHEZ, J., 1946, Maroc central, Arthaud, Grenoble & Paris.
TALEB, M.S., & FENNANE, M., 2003, « Études des groupements steppiques du Parc national du Haut Atlas oriental et ses bordures (Maroc) », Bulletin de l’Institut Scientifique, Rabat, n°25, pp. 25-41.
Projet de développement des Nations Unies (UNDP, 1995) n° MOR/98/G41/A/1G/31 “Morocco : Transhumance for Biodiversity Conservation in the Southern High Atlas”, disponible sur :- http://www.gefweb.org/COUNCIL/GEF_C14/morocco/part1.doc

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michael.peyron@voila.fr

Text copyright by Michael Peyron; material and/or illustrations from same may be quoted in compliance with current academic practice.

Publié dans Berber geography, General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Catherine Manhardt – Religion and Legitimacy: Amazigh challenges to the central government in Morocco in the 16th-19th centuries

Posté par Michael Peyron le 2 juillet 2010

Catherine Manhardt 

Amazigh History and Culture 

Professor Michael Peyron 

Final Paper 

Religion and Legitimacy:  Amazigh Challenges to the Central Government in Morocco in the 16th- 19th Centuries 

One of the most striking features of the Moroccan political system has, and continues to be, the interaction between religion and politics.  From the King whose legitimacy rests in his role as Commander of the Faithful to the local marabout who serves as an arbiter in tribal politics, political legitimacy and action in Morocco is deeply entwined with religious belief and practice.  This paper will focus on the appropriation of religious institutions as a tool for challenging the central government by Morocco’s Amazigh populations.  It shall endeavor to explain the social and political context which made this action possible and then outline specific key instances where Amazigh populations used religious institutions as a vehicle for achieving political objectives. 

For Morocco’s rural, Berber speaking populations, religion has consistently played a key role in ordering social, political, and economic life.  In these Amazigh societies saints, also called murabitin or igurramen, helped to maintain a level of political stability in what is conventionally understood to be an inherently anarchic tribal system of social ordering.  These men (and occasional women), are defined by Ernest Gellner in his seminal work, Saints of the Atlas, as: 

“one who is descended from the Prophet…and is thus a sharif, is visibly a recipient of divine blessing, baraka, mediates between men and God and arbitrates between men and men, dispenses blessing, possesses magical powers, is a good and pious man, observes Koranic precepts…is uncalculatingly generous and hospitable and rich, does not fight or engage in feuds… [2]” 

While certain parts of this description are not terribly helpful to this analysis, it is important to note that these saints do derive their legitimacy from religious grounds.  As Gellner states, the saint possesses a sort of divine blessing, or baraka.  Baraka, however, is not a static personal characteristic or attribute.  The saint has the ability to transmit this baraka to others.  This phenomenon places saints in a position where they are uniquely suited to serve as an intermediary between God and the people of their community, passing divine blessing along to their clients.  The possession and ability to transmit baraka, personal characteristics, such as generosity and hospitality, and the neutrality lent to their position by the inability of saints to engage in feuding, are all factors that helped saints rise to occupy positions of political importance within their communities.    It is also necessary to briefly touch on the issue of descent from the Prophet Mohammed, or being a sharif.  This lineage could act as a powerful source of legitimacy for saints, but being a sharif was not strictly necessary to qualify a person as a saint.  This issue will be explored in greater depth later in this analysis.   

Once a person achieved the status of saint, they could fulfill a number of roles within their society, some of them decidedly political.  One action consistently associated with saints is that of arbitration.  Because of their inherent neutrality, saints were seen as a occupying a position whereby they could serve as intermediaries and help the disputing parties come to a mutually beneficial resolution.  On a more specific level, Gellner describes the activities of the saints in the village of Zaouia Ahansal.  In this community the local marabouts also supervised the elections of chiefs from amongst the lay tribes, provided a type of political continuity as tribal offices did not have permanent occupants, and played an important role in the main legal decision procedure of trial by oath.

These saints could also serve as leaders if more than one tribe needed to band together against outside aggression, a trait that will play a large role in this analysis.  Morocco’s political system throughout much of the 15th and 16th centuries lent itself extraordinarily well to the proliferation of these local saint leaders.  The central authority of the Sultanate was not nearly as well ordered or strong as it had been during the previous centuries, under the rule of the Almoravid and Almohad Dynasties.  The Marinid Dynasty was in definite decline and under serious threat from Spanish and Portuguese invaders looking to Morocco to expand their commercial interests. When the Marinid Dynasty finally collapsed, the Wattasids that succeeded them were unable to keep the same level of centralized control over the country.  The Wattasids ruled with a more tribally oriented strategy.  The Wattasid Sultan was not an absolute ruler by any stretch of the imagination.  He was much more like a patron and protector of the tribes that supported him, gaining their allegiance through marriage and the granting of land use rights.

In practicing politics this way, the Wattasid Dynasty established the foundation for the political system that would define Morocco until the advent of the protectorate period.  This system is that of the bled-makhzen and the bled-siba.  In this system the Sultanate was not the absolute center of power and legitimacy in the country.  Instead it was one of many competing centers of power in the Moroccan political field.  Tribes who swore allegiance to the Sultan, paid taxes, and/or provided troops for the Sultan’s armed forces were considered to be part of the makhzen. Tribes that refused to pay taxes and recognize the administrative authority of the Sultan made up the siba.  These tribes could still recognize the religious authority held by the Sultan as the Commander of the Faithful, but remained outside the central government as they would not submit to the Sultan’s fiscal authority.   

Every new Sultan would have to renegotiate alliances with tribal leaders once he came into power, regardless of the relationships these same tribes held with his predecessor.  Then, once these relationships were reconstructed, there was no real guarantee that the tribes would stay within the makhzen fold for the Sultan’s full reign.  A good example is the case of Massa, a city in the Sous region of Morocco.  In the year 1835 Massa rebelled against the Sultan after an attempt to dramatically raise the annual taxes paid.  The people of Massa won a decisive victory against the forces that the Sultan Moulay Abd al-Rahman sent to collect the taxes owed, with the end result being that for the short term, at least, Massa no longer had to pay taxes.   

This situation of outside threats from Christian European powers and lack of strong central authority created an environment where local saints and religious brotherhoods were able to flourish.  For this reason, the period in Moroccan history from the 15th century to the 17th century has been termed by some as the “Maraboutic Crisis”. As mentioned earlier, local saints had the ability to draw together people from various tribes in times of trouble.  Throughout this era, the Sultanate was unable to face the threat of Portuguese and Spanish invasion on their own, and the local murabitin were the ones to organize the resistance movements needed to push the Europeans back.  Men who distinguished themselves in the jihad against the Christian forces also sometimes gained the standing needed to become a marabout after successful campaigns.   

In addition to local saints, trans-tribal religious brotherhoods, or zawiya-s also began to expand their political role during this period.  While not exclusive to Berber speaking areas, these brotherhoods certainly did include a number of Amazigh peoples in their membership.  Sufism gained prominence in the Moroccan religious scene from the 13th century onwards,  and increasing numbers of Sufi shaykh-s began creating their own religious practice and establishing zawiya-s through the collection of members. Some of these brotherhoods, such as the Nasiriyya based out of southern Morocco, were primarily concerned with economic interests.  These types of brotherhoods generally maintained, if not friendly, neutral relationships with the central governing power and did not try to mobilize their substantial membership for the purposes of directly challenging the rule of the Sultanate.  They limited their political activities to arbitration in economic issues such as water disputes.  Other zawiya-s did take on more political roles and in some cases acted as arbiters between the makhzen and other local political or economic groups.  These zawiya-s tended to be conceived as more of a threat to the makhzen powers, as they had the potential to become dissident and challenge the central government.   

Zawiya-s or murabitin were seen especially threatening to the Sultanate because of the fact that they drew their source of legitimacy from a primarily religious base.  When the Sa’adi Dynasty rose to power in the 16th century, one of their greatest claims for legitimacy in ruling was their status as sharif-s or descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.  Although conventional history shows that the Sa’adians were actually members of a Berber tribe, their claim to the Sultanate on the basis of religious lineage was strong enough to assist them in winning the throne.  This success, in turn, ushered in a new trend of Arab lineage as a justification for ruling power.  This tradition has continued though Morocco’s current rulers, the ‘Alawi Dynasty who derive much of their legitimacy from their status as sharif-s.  In fact, the King in today’s monarchy is still considered to command a substantial amount of Baraka, resulting from his sharif-ian heritage, which helps legitimate his claim to the position of Commander of the Faithful.

            This emphasis on religion as a source of legitimacy provided something of a conundrum for the makhzen powers in their dealings with saints and zawiya-s.  No small number of saints or shaykh-s claimed sharif-ian descent of their own.  All of these actors, regardless of their status as Amazigh or sharif claimed the same legitimacy on the basis of possession of divine grace, or Baraka.  Thus, it was difficult for the Sultan to attack the ideological basis for marabout-ism, even though saints and zawiya-s could potentially command the influence, political legitimacy, and sheer numbers necessary to present a serious challenge to the ruling power.  As such, tensions remained high between the makhzen and popular religious institutions, particularly those considered powerful enough to serve as a viable threat. 

              So, to briefly summarize, by the ascension of the Sa’adian Dynasty to the Sultanate in the 16th century, the political system in Morocco was one based on the interaction between the bled-makhzen and the bled-siba, in which the central governing body drew its legitimacy from the fundamentally Arab concept of descent from the Prophet Mohammed.  The weak control of the central state apparatus as personified by the makhzen, as well as the influx of Christian European invaders created a situation that lent itself well to the proliferation of trans-tribal religious brotherhoods and local saints who already held political power according to the social traditions of Morocco’s Amazigh population.  It is in this political environment, which defined the rule of the Sa’adian Dynasty and the sharif-ian ‘Alawite Dynasty that succeeded them that Morocco’s Amazigh populations began turning to these traditional religious institutions as tools to challenge the makhzen authority.  The remainder of the paper will focus on two specific instances where this phenomenon occurred, namely the rise and fall of the Dila Zawiya in the 17th century and the so called “Berber Revolts” of the 19th century. 

            The Dila Zawiya was founded in the 16th century by a shaykh named Abu Bakr ibn Mohammed.  The Dila Zawiya quickly rose to prominence, in part, because of their vast pool of human resources.  The Dila initially enjoyed the support of the Sanhaja Berbers of the Middle Atlas and gained more followers as it spread beyond the Middle Atlas region.  As the zawiya grew it began to expand its economic interests far beyond the homelands of the Sanhaja.  At the pinnacle of their economic power, the Dila controlled important commercial such as Salé, Fez, and Tetuan, as well as the rich agricultural grounds of the Sais plain and the Gharb.  It was under the leadership of Mohammed al-Hajj in the period of 1640- 1660 that the Dila Zawiya achieved the height of their political and economic power.   

            The decaying Sa’adian Dynasty was not best pleased with the amount of political power that Mohammed al-Hajj was beginning to amass, and felt particularly threatened by his efforts to raise a regular army.  When confronted by the central government, al-Hajj, realizing the political weakness of the Sa’adian Dynasty professed his respect for the Sultan’s status as a sharif but refused to recognize their right to rule on the basis of their failure to establish a stable government. He used the position of the zawiya as the strongest political actor in the region to unify the Sanhaja Berbers and in 1638 the Dila forces defeated the army of the Sa’adian Sultan in the battle of Abu Aqaba. Instead of pursuing a total victory over the Sa’adian forces, al-Hajj backed down out of respect for the Sultan’s religious authority, thus giving up the best chance that the zawiya ever had of challenging the state authority.  

            Although the economic power of the Dila continued to expand throughout the next two decades, the military and moral base of the zawiya remained strongly tied to its Sanhaja Berber origins.  This alienated the Arab tribes that came under Dila control, and ultimately weakened their political power. By the 1660s the zawiya was experiencing a decline in its political and economic power after the loss of important cities, such as Fez and Salé.

            At this point, Moulay Rachid of the ‘Alawi family from the region of Tafilalt decided to step into the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Sa’adian Dynasty and establish himself as ruler of Morocco.  In 1668 he met the Dila forces and achieved a decisive military victory against the zawiya.  Rachid then razed the zawiya to the ground, effectively destroyed their political base, and continued to unify Morocco under his new dynasty.  

The Dila Zawiya holds an important place in Morocco’s Amazigh history as it represents a time when a largely Amazigh based institution was almost able to gain control of the Moroccan central government.  Unfortunately the Dila Zawiya relied too heavily on their Sanhaja origins and was not able to overcome the status held by the Sa’adian Sultan as a sharif, even while the dynasty was clearly in the midst of collapse.  Instead it was another family claiming descent from the Prophet that was able to step into the power vacuum and establish control after the Sa’adians. 

            The second instance of Amazigh peoples appropriating religious institutions as a means of achieving political goals that will be examined in this analysis took place in the 19th century under the rule of the ‘Alawi Sultan Moualy Sliman.  Moulay Sliman, under the influence of Moroccan pilgrims and ambassadors returning from ecca, decided to embrace the Wahhabite doctrine of Islam. This particular brand of Islamic ideology calls for a return to pure Islamic principles and is opposed to institutions such as saint worship.  In the ensuing years Moulay Sliman began a campaign against orocco’s traditional religious institutions of saints and brotherhoods.    

         Needless to say this did not go over terrifically well with the Amazigh tribes who still relied heavily on their local murabitin for political and social stability or the murabatin themselves who saw this as threat to their authority.  In 1818 Boubker Amhaoush, a marabout from the Middle Atlas and the zawiya of Ayt Sid ‘Ali gathered the Ayt Oumalou and the tribes of Ayt Seghoushen n-Sidi ‘Ali and Marmousha to defend their institution of saint worship from the threat put to their zawiya by Moulay Sliman.  Several other tribes, the Idrassen and the Gerwan, who had been co-opted into the imperial army, defected as they were unable to fight against the marabout.  It is interesting to note briefly that Amhaoush’s zawiya was established in area once controlled by the Dila.  It is even possible to say that given the geographic proximity of the Dila Zawiya and the seat of Amhaoush’s rebellion, Amhaoush considered himself to be the spiritual heir of the Dila and viewed his actions as following in the Zawiya’s erstwhile footsteps.

The culmination of this rebellion was a battle near the village of Lenda, a locality that, once again, can claim a close proximity to the original site of the Dila Zawiya.  In the battle of Lenda Moulay Sliman was captured and many of his close companions, including his son were killed.  Strangely enough, the Sultan’s status as a sherif was enough to guarantee him gentle treatment at the hands of the Amhaoush supporters and was released a few days later in respect to his role as Morocco’s primary religious leader.   

The Amazigh forces rose again, however in 1820, and this time Amhaoush was aided by two powerful zawiya-s, the Derkawiya and the Wazzaniya, who had been formerly allied with the makhzen but cut off ties due to Moulay Sliman’s hostility towards religious brotherhoods.   This insurrection attempted to place a new Sultan on the throne, but ultimately failed due to the capture of the Derkawi shaykh.  The brotherhood members refused to do anything that could endanger their leader’s life, and as such Moulay Sliman held onto the man as his bargaining chip until his death.  This story ends rather anti climactically with the death of Moulay Sliman.  His successor, Moulay Abderahman freed the sheikh and backed down from the Wahhabite doctrines, thus reestablishing the status quo. 

A clear historical continuum can be seen between the events surrounding the Dila Zawiya in the mid 1600s and the rebellions of Amhaoush in the early 1800s.  In both cases, religious institutions with a primarily Amazigh base, and origins in the very same geographic location, rose up to challenge the authority of the central government.  In the case of Dila, a political opportunity to step in and fill the power vacuum left by the weakening Sa’adian Dynasty was presented, and the Dila tried to take advantage.  In the case of Amhaoush, the Sultan’s new policy of adherence Wahhabite doctrine presented a serious threat to the traditional institution of saint worship in Morocco, and the marabout was not about to let the Sultan take away his position of political and social authority.  In both cases the Amazigh groups almost met with success.  The Dila actually managed to defeat the Sa’adian military forces and Amhaoush had the Sultan Moulay Sliman as a prisoner for a few days.  Why then were these two attempts at seizing control from the central government unsuccessful? 

The answer to this question lies in the issue of political legitimacy and descent from the Prophet.  After the Sa’adian Dynasty used the fundamentally Arab idea of tracing their lineage back to the Prophet Mohammed as a source of political legitimacy, it became next to impossible for anyone not claiming this same lineage to challenge the central governing power.  Although the Dila Zawiya was stronger than the decaying Sa’adian Dynasty and the forces of Boubker Amhaoush actually managed to capture the Sultan himself at the battle of Lenda, neither group was able to overcome the respect and authority inherent in their opponents’ position as a sharif.   

Thus, given these historical instances, it is possible to say that even though Amazigh peoples were able to rise to positions of great political and economic power through the use of traditional religious institutions, in the new political system achieved through the success of the Sa’adian Dynasty, it became almost impossible for any Amazigh group to make a successful challenge to the central government because of their lack of sharif-ian lineage.    

Bibliography 

Anonymous, “Massa, Tazerwalt, and Tamgrout,” in The Amazigh Studies Reader, ed. Michael Peyron, 137- 142. Rabat: Imprimerie el Maarif al-Jadida, 2006.  Originally published in “The Personal Narrative of the Taleb Sidi Brahim Ben Muhammed al-Massi of the Province of Suss”, (transl. W.B. Hodgson), Journal of the Royal Atlantic Society. London, March 1837. 

Chiapuris, John. “The Dila zawiya and ‘The Berber Revolt,’” in The Amazigh Studies Reader, ed. Michael Peyron, 124-131. Rabat: Imprimerie el Maarif al-Jadida, 2006.  Originally published in The Ayt Ayash of the High Moulouya Plain, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1979). 

Cornell, Vincent J, “The Logic of Analogy and the Role of the Sufi Shaykh in Post-Marinid Morocco,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 15, no. 1 (Feb 1983): 67-93. Eikelman, Dale F. Moroccan Islam: Tradition and Society in a Pilgrimage Center. Austin:University of Texas Press, 1976. Gellner, Ernest. Saints of the Atlas. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969. 

Gutelius, David P. V., “The Path is Easy and the Benefits Large: The Nasiriyya, Social Networks, and Economic Change in Morocco,” The Journal of African History 43, no. 1 (2002): 27-49. 

Hagopian, Elaine C, “The Status and Role of the Marabout in Pre-Protectorate Morocco,” Ethnology 3, no.1 (Jan 1964): 42-52.  Mojueta, B.A., “Legitimacy in a Power State: Moroccan Politics in the Seventeenth Century during the Interregnum,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 13, no. 3 (Aug 1981): 347-360. 

Peyron, Michael.  Class Lecture. AMDEAST Rabat, Morocco. 25 February, 2010. 

Rabinow, Paul. Symbolic Domination: Cultural Form and Historical Change in Morocco. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. 

Vidal, F. S., “Religious Brotherhoods in Moroccan Politics,”
Middle East Journal 4, no. 4 (Oct 1950). 427-446. 

Vinogradov, Amal and Waterbury, John, “Situations of Contested Legitimacy in
Morocco: An Alternative Framework,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 13, no. 1 (Jan 1971): 32-59. 

Waterbury, John. Commander of the Faithful: The Moroccan Political Elite, A Study in Segmented Politics


N.B. For technical reasons, the end-notes originally accompanying this piece have not been included. I am greatly indebted to Miss Catherine Manhardt, one of 15 US students attending my Amazigh History & Culture lectures in Rabat, spring of 2010, to have accepted that I include her final paper here.

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

De- and re-construction of an Atlas Berber epic: battle of Tazizaout

Posté par Michael Peyron le 1 juillet 2010

De- and re-construction of an Atlas Berber epic: battle of Tazizaout (central Morocco, summer 1932).(1)

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Tazizaout battle site, general view from Taoujjaâout hill, May 2007 (photo: M. Peyron)

 Introduction 

By way of a preamble, suffice it to say that, today, in the Moroccan Middle Atlas cultural ensemble (2), among Amazigh militants and Berber peasantry, both of them fully aware of a recent heroic past, Tazizaout lives on as an exceedingly strong symbol. As a symbol of defiance, desperate courage and hopeless sacrifice in defence of one’s home turf. 

Tazizaout is a remote, rugged, cedar-clad ridge some 9,000 feet high, snowbound in winter, situated in the Imilchil region, east of Kasba Tadla.(3) It is irrevocably linked to the last stand made there by local marabout Sidi Lmekki in the summer of 1932, when, at the head of a thousand fighting men from Ayt Sokhman, Ayt Hadiddou and other tribes, he fought off two converging French army columns, until after a month-long siege, he was compelled to surrender. Last of a line of charismatic holy men (igurramn) who had dominated power politics in the area for upwards of a century, Sidi Lmekki has been since discredited in the local collective psyche for, not only capitulating, but eventually hobnobbing with the invader, to the point of being appointed qayd of the Ayt Sokhman in 1935. 

The legend grows 

Interestingly, the Tazizaout Berber epic went through a process exemplifying a reversal of the normal “orality to literacy” process. The first version, a colonial episode known prosaically in French as l’affaire du Tazigzaout, or, to strike a more heroic note, l’épopée du Tazigzaout, emerged in two stages:

1/ in the form of somewhat fragmented, sometimes personal, late-1930s accounts by junior French army cadres,(4) written for an esoteric audience; 2/ late-1940s/early 1950s semi-official descriptions featuring in senior French officers’ memoirs;(5) also a novel aimed at a broader reader-ship, La Légende du Goumier Saïd, a chapter of which is devoted to Le Jour du Tazigzaout (6). More than anything else this effectively set the seal of romanticism on the epic. 

The sum total of these written accounts thus constitutes the epic in its initial form, as seen through French eyes. An epic destined to be de- and eventually, re-constructed as and when oral accounts by Atlas Berbers (Imazighen) became available as a result of field-work by foreign and Moroccan researchers in the 1975-2005 period. 

In the meantime, knowledge about the Tazizaout epic remained sketchy. From 1932 to 1939 it was perceived as an heroic episode in the annals of the Armée d’Afrique, as the French colonial army was called. It was a text-book example of how firm persuasion, coupled with vigorous use of recently-recruited Berber levies, captained by high-minded young Frenchmen, with aircraft and artillery to support them, could subdue unruly mountain tribes for their own benefit. The fact that they were thus introduced at one fell swoop to the rule of law and so-called modern society came as a convincing contribution to the empire-building mystique. 

Although the siege of Tazizaout eventually receded from most French minds, being totally eclipsed by the all-encompassing horrors of the Second World War, together with events linked to decolonisation, it survived in the guise of popular, or regimental sub-culture, whenever be-meddalled veterans from the Goums, Tirailleurs and Foreign legion got together “for old times’ sake”. Thus enshrined in writing, Tazizaout continued for many a year to occupy pride of place in the battle records of various French units.(7) But that was not really where it belonged. It was time for the epic to come home, as it were. 

In Morocco, response to the epic was far more complex. It remained muted as long as the Protectorate lasted; even though ballads (timdyazin) were devoted to the event, they tended to be recited in a confidential manner, such material being perceived as subversive by the colonial authorities.(8) Even with the coming of home rule in 1956, an oddity such as Tazizaout, highlighting as it did desperate resistance by die-hard, marabout-led tribesmen from the back of beyond, was an unpleasant reminder that al-fitna al babariyya (‘Berber anarchy’; the bane of Islamic Spain(9) and an old Makhzan nightmare) might still be lurking up in those hills. Significantly, it also failed to fit in with the post-independence Moroccan vulgate and its emphasis on nation-building, the Arabic language, orthodox Islam, strong spiritual links to Saudi Arabia, and active sympathy with the Palestinian cause. For ideological reasons, the heroic contribution to national resistance by Imazighen from the mountains and deserts was wilfully ignored, down-played, or declared irrelevant, official-speak studiously maintaining that the urban-inspired Istiqlal movement alone had played a meaningful role in achieving independence. A version that endured until well into the 1980s. Early in that decade, however, Moroccan press magnate Moulay Ahmed Alaoui finally reversed the trend through a series of newspaper articles devoted to the great resistance period battles in which Imazighen had distinguished themselves: Lehri, Tarda (wi n-iwaliwn) and Bou Gafr (Jbel Saghro).(10) Yet, to the best of the present writer’s knowledge, the siege of Tazizaout was kept under wraps, linked as it was to the politically incorrect geste of the Imhiouach marabouts, long-time Makhzan adversaries and killers of two princes.(11)

Meanwhile, among Atlas villagers still recovering from the double trauma of French military conquest and imposition of full Makhzan rule, at the time of independence (1956), the hallowed memory of Tazizaout, and of all the heroes(12) who had fought and perished there, was carefully preserved and cherished. This would take the form of an annual three-day August pilgrimage (ziyart), when, summoned by one of Sidi Lmekki’s descendants, former fighters and/or their next of kin would congregate at the foot of a sacred cedar for commemoration, prayer, and sacrifice.(13) In fact, on a par with a visit to Mecca, a ziyart to Tazizaout is seen today as a poor man’s h’ajj. So much for the bare bones of the legend. 

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Wooden tomb of Tazizaout martyr, Aug. 2005 (photo: M. Peyron)

Reconstruction of the epic 

Tazizaout, in its reconstructed Moroccan Berber form, naturally draws heavily on the region’s living memory. Unsurprisingly, the recollections of surviving veterans tend to include quotes from period poets Taougrat n-Oult-‘Isa and Taoukhettalt, women both, who emerge as undisputed oral archival sources. Oft-quoted Taougrat, the subject of a book by Native Affairs officer Reyniers,(14) and a cult figure in her own right, actually died near Tounfit around 1930, but her repertoire remains relevant as it covers the decade of events leading up to Tazizaout. Taoukhettalt, an influential and by local standards wealthy woman, had, shortly before 1932, seen all of her seven sons happily married on the same day in a collective wedding ceremony, or tameġra. Before the net was drawn round Tazizaout at the end of July, 1932, she saw to it that her sons joined other resistance fighters in Sidi Lmekki’s mountain stronghold, also supplying much of her livestock, including all her camels, to feed the imžuhad. In the subsequent fighting, she lost all seven sons and her herds were decimated. To add insult to injury, Sidi Lmekki, whom she had backed to the hilt, treacherously surrendered, rendering vain not only her sacrifice, but that of countless other imžuhad and their entire families. The mindless slaughter, followed by the marabout’s final betrayal, became the favourite themes of the very engagé verse which is attributed to her in the aftermath of Tazizaout. 

Much of this oral production was diligently, almost confidentially, collected in the 1930s and 1940s by a French priest and life-long friend of the Imazighen – Lqbab-based Father Peyriguère.(15) Little of this material filtered through to the world of academia, however, until the 1970s, when Jeanine Drouin’s thesis on Middle Atlas hagiography, published by the Sorbonne in book form,(16) was seen to contain fragments of the Peyriguère corpus. 

After the early 1980s, thanks to the welcome, albeit snail-slow process of the Berber cultural renaissance in Morocco, there occurred a revival of local interest in Tazizaout. Subsequent to the setting up of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) in Rabat (2001), officially sanctioned field-work was conducted in February 2004 by IRCAM researchers Mustapha el-Qadery and Houssa Yakobi.

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Amazigh fox-hole sited between roots of giant cedar, Tazizaout, Feb 2004 (photo: H. Yakobi)

During this field-trip, the latter, who had lost a relative at Tazizaout, interviewed several local tribesmen and, aiming at further in-depth research, set up a useful network of informants.(17) 

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Lhajj Nacer Buqebbou, a Tazizaout veteran, Feb 2004 (photo: H. Yakobi)

In August 2005, Houssa Yakobi accompanied the present writer to Tazizaout. Together, they conducted video interviews of five veterans from surrounding villages, investigated a large cemetery at the eastern end of the mountain and carefully combed the rocky, bushy terrain. Some evidence of previous fighting was still visible: caved-in fox-holes and rifle-pits, bones and even a skull protruding from the dry, eroded, stream-banks of Aqqa n-Ouchlou. Sufficient information was gleaned, both from oral sources and on-the-spot observations, to whet their appetite for a further visit in the spring of 2006 (of which more in a separate paper). 

De- and re-construction of the Tazizaout epic 

By that time, enough data had been gathered to confront the classic French account of l’affaire du Tazigzaout, as contained in Guillaume’s landmark work describing pacification operations in the central Atlas,(18) with the Amazigh version of the battle obtained from local oral sources. A task rendered arduous by the bombast and inconsistencies of the former and a propensity for hyperbole in the latter. After a description running to well over twenty pages, general Guillaume has the reader wondering whether he actually set foot in the area; there are discrepancies between text and photographs, while the validity of numerous place-names that senior officer employs is questioned by local observers.(19) In fact ignorance of this kind accounts for a blatant example of toponymic confusion concerning two key features: Tawjjaâout hill, which is simplistically itemised as crête n°1, while Amalou n-Tezra becomes crête n°2. Even then, Guillaume’s text and pictures continue blithely to contradict each other. Be that as it may, for comparative purposes, thirteen items common to or contrasting with either account are enumerated below to enable the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. 

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Comparison between L’affaire du Tazigzaout (French version,

or F.V.) and ti n dzizawt (Moroccan Berber version, or M.B.V.)

(20 & 21)

1/  F.V. Enemy described as rebelles, insoumis, or dissidents

M.B.V. Imazighen refr to own fighters as imžuhad (mujahideen) or izmawn (lions). 

2/  F.V. Psychological effect: “une cartouche miraculeuse léguée par Sidi Ali Amhaouch à Sidi El Mekki, donnerait le signal de la délivrance”.        

M.B.V. Psychological effect: Sidi Lmekki’s pronouncement: “A magic cartridge my father did bequeath to me!” ( tella ġuri tadwatt iusa-yi baba ). Once fired, it will achieve victory. 

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Bou Genfou hill, where French artillery was sited, seen from cedars at head of Achlou ravine, Tazra hamlet L of centre, Aug 2005 (photo: M. Peyron)

3/ F.V. Elaborate French preparations: from rear base at Tassent supplies and pack howitzers sent to forward positions by mule-train; big guns manhandled to top of Bou Genfou hill. 

M.B.V. To counter devastating effects of artillery fire, Amazigh fighters dig in; “Hollow out holes and caves!” ( ġzat ixba, ġzat ifran ) their leaders tell them.(22)

 104ctazazoutphotograntbrill2009.png

  Map of Tazizaout battle-field, adapted from Google Earth, 2009 (photos: G. Brill)

4/ F.V. Another battery of French mule-guns set up on Tamderkal hill. 

M.B.V. French mule-guns actually on Agerd n-Oulghoum (disagreement over place-names).(23)

5/ F.V. As they dine in state in mess-tent on Lakes Plateau on August 18, 1932, wine-drinking French generals De Loustal and Dubuisson discuss tactical deployment of front-line troops.(24)

M.B.V. While Sidi Lmekki samples a pomegranate,(25) his firebrand brothers Lmortada and Mhand Lemhdi exhort imžuhad “to defend every inch of territory between Tafza and Tazra.” 

6/ F.V. Systematic three-week-long artillery and aerial bombardment. 

M.B.V. The imžuhad keep their heads down; onomatopoetic comments on noise made by different calibre guns; myth of corpse (decapitated by artillery shell) chasing its own head.(26)   

7/  F.V. Pre-sited machine-guns on crête n° 2 trained on water-holes. 

M.B.V. Women often killed or wounded by machine-gun fire from Amalou n-Tezra while fetching water at night from springs along Asif n-Ougheddou: “their blood was mingled with water” (šarr idammen nsent d waman)! 

8/ F.V. Heroic pro-French, tribal auxiliaries (Zaïan) suffer such heavy losses as they capture strategic hill (crête n° 1), that they have to be replaced and sent to the rear. 

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Taoujjaâout hill: scene of fierce fighting during Tazizaout battle, May 2006 (photo: M. Peyron)

M.B.V. According to poetess Taoukhettalt, strategic hill of Taoujjaâout thus replies: “Were it not for the Zaïan, never would the dogs in hob-nailed boots (the French) have trampled my summit!” 

9/  F.V. Decision taken to pursue operations with toute la rigueur nécessaire; French-led auxiliaries storm Sidi Lmekki’s encampments on left-bank of Aqqa n-Zebzbat. 

09.jpg

Aqqa n-Widammen (formerly Aqqa n-Zobzbat), Aug 2005 (photo: M. Peyron)

M.B.V. Mass charge by Zaïan cavalry along Aqqa n-Widammen literally “blots out the sun”.(27)

10/ F.V. On night of 6-7 September, dissidents counter-attack on “Cedar Pinnacle” and capture two light machine-guns; weapons recovered a week later (episode minimised). 

M.B.V. Heroic exploits by machine-gun-wielding Ahaqqar in sector adjacent to “Cedar Pinnacle”; Bakkour and Achaoui mount successful nocturnal cattle-rustling raids into surrounding areas. 

11/ F.V. Use of laconic euphemism –  nettoyage des campements des insoumis – to describe final phase. 

M.B.V. “The Roumi forced their way into our foxholes and dragged us out by force”. 

12/  F.V. Heroic Berber dissidents surrender to chivalrous French officers, who, impressed by courage of their adversaries, treat them decently. 

M.B.V. French-led native auxiliaries beat up and rob surrendering Amazigh tribesmen, who are chided for cowardice by women of Tazra as they perform ‘dance of disaster’ (ah’idus n wiha) at foot of Achlou ravine. 

13/ F.V. Sidi Lmekki capitulates on September 13, 1932; in 1935, appointed qayd over Ayt Sokhman. 

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Achlou ravine, where Sidi Lemkki held out till Sep 13, 1932 (photo: M. Peyron)

M.B.V. Break-out operations by determined fighters in direction of Ayt Hadiddou country (“where true Muslims are still to be found!”); also towards Hamdoun/Baddou citadel to continue the fight till summer 1933; their former leader (Sidi Lmekki) is satirised in verse.(28)

Conclusion 

Typically, as in any situation of this kind, the two accounts are poles apart. Everything hinges on whether the protagonists/observers are on the Moroccan Berber or French colonial side, each obviously representing totally different thought patterns. Apart from disagreement over place-names, differences in attitudes to warfare, and variations in terminology used to describe a specific event, any re-construction will entail radical change, making it even harder to see the wood for the trees. Strengthened by the knowledge that they are defending their home-land, Imazighen tend to demonise the French. Contrastingly, the latter seek solace in the certitudes of the age and the noble, mission civilisatrice with which they feel invested, not to mention the lingering threat of German re-armament that requires swift redeployment of troops to Europe. Consequently, in an attempt to obtain a quick fix, they find themselves trapped into bombarding éléments dissidents, whereas they should be leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to talk the tribesmen into surrendering. A disappointing result at variance with their politique de la main tendue, la conquête des cœurs, and other period clichés in keeping with the above-stated mission civilisatrice

                                                        NOTES 

(1) The transliteration of Amazigh words that figure in this paper is a simplified version of the one normally used by Berber scholars. Thus Tazigzaout or Tazizaout in French/English becomes tazizawt in Berber (henceforth Ber.).

(2) The Middle Atlas proper, considered jointly with the eastern High Atlas, constitutes a tamaziġt-speaking cultural ensemble

(3)The toponym Tazizawt refers to the green colour (azizaw, azegzaw, in Ber.) of this forest-draped mountain when seen from a distance. Another suggestion is that the name derives from the green-coloured turbans worn by adepts of the Derkaoui sect (tariqa darqawiyya), to which the Imhiouach marabouts belonged, and with whom the mountain is inevitably associated (Conversation with Houssa Yakobi, May 21, 2006).

(4) Lieut. Joubert des Ouches, L’Adieu au Bled, (1936); R. Marcireau, Souvenirs d’un Goumier : Grand Atlas 1932-1933, (Poitiers : L’action intellectuelle 1938). 

(5) Gen. A. Guillaume, Les Berbères marocains et la Pacification de l’Atlas central (1912-1933), (Paris : René Julliard 1946) pp.359-387; Gen. A. Huré, La Pacification du Maroc (Dernière étape : 1931-34), (Paris-Berger-Levrault 1952) pp.83-92; Col. L. Voinot, Sur les traces glorieuses des Pacificateurs du Maroc, (Paris : Charles-Lavauzelle 1939) pp.423-425; Col. J. Saulay, Histoire des Goums marocains, Tome 1, (Paris: La Koumia 1985) pp.332-339. 

(6) J. Peyré, La Légende du Goumier Saïd, (Paris: Flammarion 1950) pp.103-108. Considered inspiring stuff for future decision-makers in a France that failed to realise it was in full colonial decline, this was a book any boarding-school pupil might expect to receive as an end-of-term prize

(7) These veterans’ associations carried on for a surprisingly long time – well after the French withdrawal from North Africa at the end of the Algerian war (1962), in fact.

(8) Cf. tamdyazt xef tzizawt; one of Roux’s informants collected this ballad in 1932-1933. After lying dormant for 70 years in Roux’s personal files, it eventually appeared in A. Roux & M. Peyron, Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque, Maroc central (1908-1932), (Aix-en-Provence: Edisud 2002) pp.194-199.

(9) For example, a revolt by Berber soldiery in Cordoba contributed to the XIth century downfall of the Umayyad dynasty; cf. R. Pennell, Morocco: from Empire to Independence (Oxford 2003) p.37.

(10) These appeared in serial form in Alaoui’s evening paper, Maroc-Soir.

(11) The first one was Moulay Sliman’s son Moulay Brahim, who lost his life during a disastrous confrontation with a coalition of Amazigh tribesmen under Boubker Amhaouch at Lenda (1819); the second, was Moulay Srou, a son of Moulay Sliman, killed near Aghbala in the mid-1880s in an ambush allegedly mounted at the instigation of Sidi ‘Ali Amhaouch (Sidi Lmekki’s father).

(12) Generally described as imžuhad, (< mužahidin, Ar.), ‘fighters of the faith’, or izmawn, ‘lions’.

 06b.jpg

Iconic Tazizaout cedar, focal point of annual poor man’s hajj on Aug 24 (photo: M. Peyron)

(13) Known as idgel n tzizawt, the cedar in question is claimed by locals to have almost withered away during the colonial period, only to regain vitality with the coming of independence. It is now a truly impressive tree, and a conspicuous landmark visible for miles around, which accounts for its other name: idgel amažžyal (‘tall cedar’).

(14) F. Reyniers, Taougrat, ou les Berbères racontés par eux-mêmes, (Paris : Paul Geuthner 1930). 

(15) Some of his notes on Middle Atlas Berbers were actually published locally ; cf. P. Peyriguère, “Psychologie linguistique et psychologie ethnique des Berbères”, Amazigh, n°7/1981: 55-64. 

(16) J. Drouin, Un cycle oral hagiographique dans le Moyen-Atlas marocain, (Paris : Sorbonne 1975). 

(17) Yakobi published some of his findings in an article : “Trous de mémoire lors de l’enregistrement de témoins oculaires de la bataille de Tazizaout” in the April 2005 Sites de Mémoire et Tradion orale amazighe conference proceedings, (M. Peyron ed.), Ifrane: AUI Press, 2007.

(18) Gen. A. Guillaume, op. cit

(19) For example, confusion between Tazra and Tafza (A. Guillaume, op. cit., p.363) – an easily committed pronunciation error as noticed in the field by this writer during his August 2005 visit; also, a cliff described as Tazra n-Ismekh is labelled Tanra n-Ismekh on a photograph (A. Guillaume, op. cit., p.377). On the same document, crête n°1 is depicted in a somewhat haphazard manner. And yet, Guillaume, at the time a Commandant on De Loustal’s staff, was seen by a French journalist at Tassent, a mere ten miles west of Tazizaout; cf. H. Clérisse, Du Grand Nord à l’Atlas (Paris: Tallandier 1933) p.202. So he must have had some knowledge of the area.

(20) Account chiefly based on A. Guillaume, op. cit., generally considered to be the most exhaustive from the French angle, together with some input from J. Saulay, op. cit.

(21) Based on both eye-witness accounts by veterans of the Tounfit-Aghbala region; backed up by second-hand information gleaned from less elderly relatives and neighbours.

(22) Moroccan deserters from French units (Tirailleurs, Spahis, etc.) with experience of trench warfare (1914-18) had shown their imžuhad brethren how to minimise the effects of artillery bombardment by burrowing into the ground, even digging fox-holes between the roots of giant cedars.

(23) The present 100M ordnance survey map (IGN 1971-72) of the area is literally riddled with errors of this kind.

(24) This is no exaggeration. British news reporter Ward Price writes: “…on the Moroccan front (…) the heure de l’apéritif never failed to produce an appropriate bottle which was offered with unfailing hospitality to the visiting stranger.” He goes on to enthuse about “the amenities of the Headquarters’ Mess, where apéritifs, two kinds of wine and liqueurs were the regular accompaniment of the evening meal.” Cf. G. Ward Price, In Morocco with the Legion (London: Jarrolds 1934) pp.152-153.

(25) In the beleaguered citadel of Tazizawt with imžuhad down to survival rations, only someone with access to the outside world could possibly afford a luxury such as this, the implication being that Sidi Lmekki (denounced subsequently by poets as the arch-traitor) was already in touch with the enemy.

(26) That the informant should have described this event in such a manner may be interpreted as a case of long delayed post-traumatic shock (conversation with H. Yakobi, May 21, 2006).

(27) This event occurred on September 7-8, 1932 (A. Guillaume, op. cit. p.385). A further, interesting case of toponymic confusion; stream-bed between Tazra and Tafza, referred to as Aqqa n-Zebzbat by Guillaume, is now called Aqqa n-Ouidammen (‘ravine of blood’) by the locals, in memory of the massacre that took place there in 1932.

(28) For different versions of a well-known tamdyazt criticising Sidi Lmekki, probably attributable to the poetess Taoukhettalt, cf. J. Drouin, (op. cit. p.129); B. Hamri, La poésie amazighe dans l’Atlas central marocain: approche culturelle et analytique, PhD thesis, (Beni Mellal: Faculty of Letters 2005) pp.150-154; M. Peyron, “Emprunts, manipulations et confusion des genres izli, tamawayt, tayffart, et tamdyazt dans la poésie amazighe épique: le cas de Tazizaout”, Colloque sur la Poésie Amazighe, (Rabat: IRCAM, October 1, 2005, in the press). 

     Michael PEYRON 

michael.peyron@voila.fr 

Publishing HistoryPaper read at the Oxford University/AUI organized “Popular Cultures” conference, April 6, 2006.

N.B. Text copyright by Michael Peyron, from which material may be quoted in compliance with current academic norms.

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Hannah Farda – Rebels with a cause: Berber resistance to French colonization

Posté par Michael Peyron le 25 juin 2010

Hannah Farda

Amazigh Studies

Professor Peyron

22-April-2010

Rebels with a Cause: An Examination of the Historical and Cultural Reasons for Berber Resistance to French Colonization 

INTRODUCTION: 

The Berbers are the original inhabitants of Morocco, with some Rifian tribes having roots that trace back to the end of the 8th century. When Morocco became a protectorate of France and Spain in 1912, it was in areas that were Berber speaking that resistance to colonization was the strongest. Berber resistance to colonization, beginning in 1913 and lasting until 1933, spanned from the Rif Mountains as far South as the Anti-Atlas. With the submission of the Ait Atta, Ait Murghad and Ait Hadiddu tribes in 1933, any significant Berber resistance to colonization ended (Hart, ASR, 21-22).

At first glance, the strong Berber resistance to colonization seems nonsensical. What chance did autonomous, semi-nomadic tribes, armed only with their rifles, have against a modern European enemy, backed by unlimited resources and manpower? However, upon further examination of the subject, a number of reasons become evident, which serve to illustrate why the Berbers felt they had a real, “fighting” chance of preventing colonization. It also becomes clear that it was never a question of whether or not to resist, but that it was a matter of a people defending a homeland that meant everything to them. This paper will discuss the historical and cultural reasons that serve to shed light on why the Berbers put up such a strong fight against colonization, and why the Berbers did in fact have, a “fighting” chance.

A HISTORY OF RESISTANCE AND AUTONOMY 

Rebelling against an entity that threatened the status quo was not a new phenomenon amongst the Berbers. The relationship between the Berbers and the Makhzen, or central government, had historically been a delicate one, which was easily disturbed. This meant that if the Berbers sensed any attempt by the Makhzen to undermine their autonomy and lifestyle, they would demonstrate their dismay by attacking the current capital city, or through some other form of rebellion, as the following examples demonstrate. The Berbers operated within a tribal system, with each tribe reporting to a chief. The idea of being subjected to an omnipotent Sultan was always regarded with suspicion by the Berbers. Therefore, the Berbers were not scared to challenge decisions made by the Sultanate that displeased them, and were usually successful in doing so.

 In the 1630’s, the Dilaiya zawiya represented a large threat to the Saadian Sultanate, defeating the Sultan when he sent an army to attack Dila after the marabouts challenged his ability to orchestrate and effective government, and for a time were a powerful sultanate themselves (Chiapuris,ASR,126-127). Also, the tribes inhabiting the surrounding mountains of the Alawite capital of Fes during the 17th century inflicted many defeats on the Makhzen army, which were always an embarrassment to the Sultan, and forced Fassi merchants to be on constant alert (Peyron, ASR, 38). In the early 1800’s Moulay Sliam tried to enforce a Wahhabite interpretation of Islam that threatened the Berbers’ “maraboutic” practices. In response, a number of Middle Atlas tribes, rallied by the Ait Sidi Ali zawiya united aginst Moulay Sliman. At the battle of Lenda, the sultan was taken captive, but later released. This united Berber front then forced the Sultan into a position of negotiation by placing
Meknes under siege. (Chiapuris,ASR, 128-130).    

These events illustrate a Berber tradition of rebelling against threats to their autonomy and way of life. The Berbers questioned the authority of their leader, the Sultan, on a regular basis. So naturally they would be in furious opposition to the invasion of their land by a foreign European power, with whom in their eyes, they had no link or commonality on any cultural or religious level.

MASTERS OF WARFARE AND TERRAIN 

The Berbers of this period were warriors through and through. Feuding and raiding came first, then tending to herds and crops (Hart, ASR, 35). It has been said that with their knowledge of the terrain, agility, and stamina, “one Berber fighter was equal to at least two Frenchmen” (Michael Peyron). In addition, the Berbers had the advantage of guerilla warfare being their native style of fighting. This guerilla fighting style held a two-fold advantage for the Berbers. Besides being their native fighting style, it was the style of fighting most appropriate for mountainous terrain. This therefore made it an effective way for the Berbers’ small fighting force to take the French by surprise. The French made themselves easy targets to ambush by marching in columns on open roads and announcing their presence.  However, it seems they were aware of the flaws with this tactic, as they had the habit of putting native Moroccan soldiers on the front lines (Maghraoui). 

The Berbers also had the confidence of previous success against the European force of Spain in the Melilla war of 1893.  Beginning in October, the war at first went in Spain’s favor, as the Rifian fighters were out-gunned. However when a Mosque was targeted, fighters came from all over the region, with infantry numbers reaching 20,000. Finally, after a year of Rifian fighters holding on, and Spain pulling out all the stops, bringing in a huge number of reinforcement and naval forces, and performing cruel night search parties that were brutal to any rebels found,  peace was negotiated with the Sultan in 1894 (Rodriquez-Gonzalez). The second conflict between the Spanish and the Rifians, that inspired Berber confidence in their ability to challenge colonization, began in 1908 when the Rifians attacked a Spanish mine. The outcome was similar, with the Spanish suffering 2000 casualties, and being forced to call in 42,000 troops in November of 1909 to quell the small Rifian forces, which were finally subdued in the next six months (Thomas).

Despite not being ultimate victories for the Berbers, these two conflicts in Melilla served to inspire confidence in the Berbers. The Berbers learned from the Battles of Melilla that they could pose a real threat to European powers, and inflict heavy losses on their larger, better armed fighting forces. Later, when the time came to resist French colonization, the Berbers had these two events as reminders that they could put up a successful and effective defense against French occupation.

The skillful Berber rebel leaders demonstrate the Berbers’ keen aptitude for warfare.  The Berber Resistance included a number of key leaders, who led their tribesman with tenacity and passion. The archetype Berber leader was Abd Al-Krim El-Khattabi, who led the Rif Rebellion during the 1920’s (Hart,ASR, 21). He knew how to keep his troops’ morale up. For example he allowed them to farm and harvest their crops and he never sent too many men to the front lines at one time. This helped maintain a sense of normalcy in the village, and therefore kept the men’s morale high. Abd El Krim was a master of respecting and working within the tribal system, which allowed him to successfully recruit other tribes to fight with him against colonization. His Rebellion encompassed two separate wars, in which Abd El Krim and his troops put up such a fight that France had to call in 300,000 well trained soldiers to finally regain Spanish Morocco in 1926. Despite ultimately being defeated, Abd El Krim’s valiant resistance served as an inspiration to later rebels (Brace).

In the Middle Atlas, there was Moha Ou Hammou Zayani, most famous for his the confederation of tribes he created called the Zaian. In November of 1914, Moha Ou Hammou defeated the French outside the city of Khenifra at the Battle of El Herri, where the invaders suffered a high number of casualties. However, the French retaliated the next day, and the rebels retreated to the hills. However, it was under Moha ou Hammou’s strong leadership, or more accurately the fear that he instilled in his men, that these Rebels held out until 1920 (O’Connor, ASR, 149-152).

The strength and commitment of the rebels and their leaders is well illustrated by some of the direst events of Berber resistance to colonization. Two of these events were the Battle of Tazizawt and the Battle of Mount Baddou. The Battle of Tazizawt took place in the Middle Atlas in 1932. One important character in this battle was Taoukhettalt, a rare female Berber leader, who sacrificed everything in the name of fighting against the French and defending the Berber homeland. The conditions during this battle were intolerable, yet the Berber combatants held out for a month. Taoukhettalt sent her 7 sons to Sidi Lmekki’s mountain stronghold so they would continue fighting, and gave all her camels to the cause to provide food. Women risked artillery fire to fetch water at night, so that the rebel forces could hold out in the mountains longer. This example also illustrates the strength and fortitude that Berber women posses (The Battle of Tazizawt, Peyron).

In another of the final battles of Berber resistance, the diehards at the Battle of Mount Baddou held out for a fortnight in the face of certain defeat before surrendering. Resolve was strong leading up to this last conflict, because of the excessive bloodshed and lack of resolution at Ayt Ya’qoub in 1929 (Peyron, ASR, 154). The leader of the rebels was Ou-Skounti. He inspired fear in deserters, which is a contributing factor to the long duration of this final stand. He was committed to defending

Mount Baddou against the “infidels.” The Ayt Morghad had been autonomous since the time of the Romans, why should they give that up without a fight? Besides, aerial bombing had done little damage. However, because of being surrounded, with access to water entirely blocked off, they were forced to surrender in the face of starvation and dehydration (ASR, Price, 154-160).

The examples of these rebel leaders and these two final battles give insight into what motivated the Berbers the most: the defense of their sacred land and the preservation of their autonomy. They knew no other lifestyle, and they certainly did not know how to give up without a fight. In addition, the Berbers were led by exceptional individuals, who were able to unite typically unorganized Berber tribes into menacing fighting forces, and sometimes used fear to maintain discipline and loyalty.

THE IMPORTANCE OF LAND 

Land was hugely important to the Berbers for a variety of reason. The first reason is because of lineage ties to the land. Traditional Moroccan society is tribal, kinship-based and patri-lineal. As a result of the strong emphasis placed on lineage, and the careful efforts to keep ancestral lines clear, most Berbers could trace their lineage back at least four generations (Bourdieu et al.,ASR, 25). Land was also the tool that enabled their survival, as it provided grazing lands for their livestock, and produced the crops that the Berbers cultivated. Many Berbers were, and still are, semi, or fully nomadic. These tribes follow the same migratory patterns every year, and have been doing so for centuries. The division of this communal land was linked to the organization of tribes and clans as well. Land is also important because it is attached to traditions and culture. For these reasons, to the Berbers, the loss of land equaled the loss of autonomy, identity, and traditions.

This land was quite literally sacred to the Berbers, as many marabouts’ tombs could be found across the countryside and throughout Berber lands. In addition, there are a number of myths about sacred livestock belonging to the prophet traveling through Berber territories. In fact, Ou-Skounti, the famous resistance leader at the Battle of Ayt Baddou was know to proclaim regularly that “Allah would never allow infidels to set foot upon the holy Baddou mountain, sanctified as it had been by the passage of the Prophet’s mule” (Price, ASR, 155). This illustrates the belief that the land itself was sacred, and therefore protected by Allah. In addition, it shows a connection between Berber resistance and the belief that the war they were waging was sacred and supported by Allah. The notion of a Holy War was seen when the marabout Sidi Ali Amhaouch announced a Holy War from the Dades Valley as far as the desert beyond the anti-Atlas Mountains. This was in response to news of the outbreak of the Great War in Europe. This was seen as an opportunity to capitalize on a weakened French force, who would be busy managing the war in Europe (O’Connor,ASR, 149).

The high importance of land to Berbers, and the reality that they were in fact defending their homeland gave the Berbers yet another advantage over the French. The larger part of fighting forces used by the French in Morocco during this period was composed of soldiers from the French Foreign Legion. The French Foreign Legion was made up of soldiers who were serving to have prison sentences forgiven, or who were just trying to start over. Other soldiers came from Senegal, Sudan, and even Morocco. None of these soldiers were very much invested in the fighting; they were simply obliged to fight. On the other hand, the Berbers were fighting to defend everything that was important to them; their land, identity, and autonomy.  In the words of Taougrat oult ‘Aissa: “Better for me to wear an ill-fitting cloak among Muslims than to become a mule-driver among Christians” (Reyniers, 46)! Meaning, they had nothing to lose by fighting, because if they didn’t fight, they risked losing all things sacred, among which was their Muslim identity.

FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN AND THE INFIDEL 

When colonizing forces came to Morocco, the Berbers never had a choice. If they didn’t resist colonization, they had no idea what the outcome would be. Would they have to give up their land and their rifles? What would these European infidels do with their women and children, and would they still be allowed to practice their religion? To the Berbers, the coming of the French to Morocco was seen as doomsday. Berber poetry of the time expressed the fear of evil times and tidings to come (Peyron, Amazigh Poetry, 111). Inspired by their passion for their homeland, and the idea that it was a Holy War that Allah was in favor of, they had no choice but to resist.

 The fear of the unknown was a large motivating factor in resisting occupation. For the Berber man, his rifle was his manhood, and a symbol of status and prestige (Price,ASR, 159).  When forced to give up their rifles in surrender, one Berber stated,

             … Our guns’ve been confiscated, O Berbers, for all of you,

                  The sound of steel is silent, and honour is gone,

                 You now react to an alien form of logic… (Peyron, Amazigh Poetry, 115).

This short poem shows that for the Berber man, to give up his gun, was to also give away his honor and self-worth. Therefore if colonial forces were allowed to come in, he risked having to give up that prized possession.

 The Europeans represented everything that was foreign. The French were not Muslim and they were city dwellers. Traditionally, mountainous people look down on city-dwellers, and think of them as choosing to live in polluted areas with bad water sources. The Berbers were also suspicious of Europeans because they had an entirely different legal system. Different Berber tribes had very detailed customary law (izerf) that was heavily based in Berber cultural practices. This legal code covered every situation from hosting a guest to punishing a murderer (Hart, ASR, 178-185).

This doubt and mistrust of Europeans was evident when the Berbers eventually surrendered. At the moment of surrender Berbers were reluctant to part with their weapons, and asked when they would be able to have their rifles back. This short poem demonstrates feelings of doubt towards surrender:-

“Should I change my mind, would go and steal a Chassepot rifle,

Then hold out at the pass till the bitter end” (Roux & Peyron, 63).

Just after surrendering, this Berber had doubts and was ready to once again take up arms against the French. French officers observed the Berber rebels behaving anxiously and sullenly, as they were unsure what was going to happen to them next (Price,ASR, 159). Accounts after the surrender of the Battle of Baddou mention that the Berbers expressed no regret for their actions. In addition, they were reluctant to give information about their wounded and dead. When asked why they had rebelled against the Europeans, they simply said that they were defending their land.

CONCLUSION 

From the outset, Berber resistance to colonization seems rather foolhardy; however, upon further examination of the circumstances, it becomes evident that it was the only option. Historically, the Berbers were characterized by revolt and resistance to the Moroccan sultanate. Therefore, when the new threat was a foreign European power that represented tyranny and an uncertain future, naturally they were not going to take occupation lying down.  Even Tourguillal hill in the Tadla region exclaimed:-

“A wild boar have I espoused, O Hammou ou Aamr ! / Go lurk in the hills’ remotest cranny, Endure freezing cold rather than suffer Christians’ tyranny!”

(Roux and Peyron, 49).

This expressed a widespread attitude amongst the Berbers that resistance, and the consequent hardships that accompanied it, was better than being under control of the French at all costs.

In addition, the Berbers felt they had a real chance of stopping colonization, and rightfully so. In the two Rif wars of 1893 and 1909, the Berbers proved difficult opponents to a much larger, better equipped Spanish fighting force. The Berbers fought with such tenacity that the Sultan was called in to end the First Rif War by means of a truce, and in the Second Rif War, the French became involved to eventually quell the Berbers. The Berbers did not choose to resist French colonization on a whim; they were defending life as they knew it. They were fighting in defense of the land of their forefathers, a sacred land, as it was the final resting place of Marabouts, and had provided passage for sacred animals belonging to the Prophet. They were fighting in defense of their identity, which was based on their faith, Islam, and their independence. This independence was founded on their semi-nomadic lifestyle, and an autonomy that most Berbers had maintained since at least the 8th century, and in the case of the Ayt Morghad, since the time of the Romans. The Berber men were fighting to defend their status and self-worth, which was based on their possession of a rifle, which they were sure to lose if they came under French occupation.   Motivated and organized by strong, fearless leaders, the Berbers were fighting, as they had for centuries, to maintain their status quo and life as they knew it. Not resisting colonization for these Berbers represented a sure end to their lifestyle, and so it was never a question.

  Works Cited 

Brace, Richard M. Rev. of “Rebels in the Rif: Abd el Krim and the Rif Rebellion”. The American Historical Review June 1969: 1678-679. JSTOR. 21 Apr. 2010. Keyword: Rebels in the Rif.

Maghraoui, Driss. « Moroccan colonial soldiers: between selective memory and collective memory – Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in North Africa. » Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ) (1998). 

Peyron, Michael. “Amazigh Poetry of the Resistance Period”. London: The Journal of North African Studies, 2000. 

Peyron, Michael, ed. Amazigh Studies Reader. Rabat: Imprimerie El Maarif Al Jadida, 2006. 

Reyniers, Cf. F. Taougrat, ou les Berbères racontés par eux-mêmes. Paris: P. Geuthner, 1930. 

Rodriguez Gonzalez, Austin R. « The Melilla War of 1893. » Revista Espanola de Historia 49 (1989): 235-66. Historical Abstracts. EBSCO host. 20 Apr. 2010. Keyword: Melilla War of 1893. 

Roux, Arsène, and Michael Peyron. Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque, Maroc central. Edisud, 2002. 

Thomas, Steven. « Timeline for the Second Rif War. » Steven’s Balagan. 21 Apr. 2010 http://www.balagan.org.uk/war/rif-wars/timeline_second.htm.

I am grateful to Miss Hannah Farda, one of 15 US students attending my lectures on « Amazigh History and Culture » in Rabat in the spring of 2010, for permission to publish her paper.  M. Peyron       

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Sarah Hawkins – The Barghawata Heresy: Contextualizing a Berber Cultural Rebellion

Posté par Michael Peyron le 28 mai 2010

Sarah Hawkins 

Amazigh History and Culture

The Barghawata Heresy: Contextualizing a Berber Cultural Rebellion

The Barghawata reigned over Tamesna, the coastal plain home to modern day Casablanca and Rabat, from the early eighth until the mid twelfth century.  They ruled a fiercely independent kingdom for four centuries.  Not only did they enjoy freedom from outside political interference and Arab domination, one of their kings, Yunus (ruled 842-884), attempted to assert Berber cultural and religious autonomy by introducing a Berberized version of Islam.  While this new Islam only lasted as orthodoxy in their kingdom for less than a century, its mere existence, complete with a new prophet and sacred text, is a testament to the Barghawata’s determination to remain separate from the Arab conquerors, both politically and culturally.  Of the various Berber kingdoms of North Africa, the Barghawata were especially predisposed to leading a cultural rebellion in the form of Berberized Islam; their political and economic independence from the surrounding Arab-ruled areas brought them into constant contact with Arabs who sought to conquer them.  In addition, the Umayyad caliphate treated non-Arab Muslims very poorly, furthering Berber resentment of the Arabs.  The time that Barghawata Islam appeared, the ninth century, was a turbulent time when Berbers were wresting back control of their land from the Arabs.  The Barghawata religion sought to distinguish Berbers from the conquering Arabs, but did not consider itself a new faith altogether; this suggests that the people of the Barghawata kingdom (or, rather, its king) embraced Islam, but rejected a perceived ethnic Arab slant to the faith as it was practiced in ninth century Morocco.    

 

            The Barghawata kingdom was founded by Tarif in the early eighth century.  Tarif and his descendants were most likely Sufrite Khariji Muslims; some sources even posit that they promoted an extremely orthodox version of Khariji Islam.[1]  The Barghawata ruled a territory stretching from Safi in the south and Salé in the north, with the Atlantic Ocean as its eastern border and the territory of the Haha people as its western border.[2]  Tarif was succeeded by his son, Salih Ibn Tarif (b. 729/730-d. 793).  He was considered an extremely pious and just ruler, as was his son Elias (ruled 793-842).  Salih’s grandson, Yunus, took the throne after Elias’s death in 842.  In the same year, he announced that his grandfather had received a new revelation from God—a Quran written in the Berber language—and introduced these revelations as a new form of Islam.  The religion remained the faith of the Barghawata kingdom until 912.[3] 

            Some speculate that Yunus fabricated the new religion and its Quran in its entirety, then retroactively made his grandfather its prophet to take advantage of Salih’s lofty reputation and untarnished legacy.  Slightly more forgivingly, one source posits that the Berber Quran might have evolved from Salih’s commentary on the Arabic Quran (an early example of the lmazghi tradition—Berber language commentary on the Quran, written in the Arabic script).[4]  If we accept Yunus as the mastermind behind Barghawata Islam, it is important to note that he went on a pilgrimage to the East in 816, and some scholars speculate that he found the inspiration to create a new, Berberized Islam after visiting the Arab world. [5] 

            The largest difference between Barghawata Islam and Muslim Orthodoxy is their sacred texts.  The Barghawata had a Berber language Quran with eighty suras, which followers believed was the direct word of God as He had revealed it to Salih Ibn Tarif. As a result, Salih was considered the final and greatest prophet of Islam.  The Barghawata still believed that Muhammad was a prophet, but simply the prophet of the Arabs.  Salih Ibn Tarif was the prophet of the Berbers, [6] or waryawari, “the one after whom none other would come” [7]

            Barghawata Islam differed vastly from “Arab” Islam in ritual.  Many Muslim practices were maintained, but somehow adjusted.  Instead of fasting during the month of Ramadan, they fasted during Rajab; they assembled for collective prayer on Thursday, not Friday, and prayed an additional five times at night.  Their prayers occurred at no set time, and there was no call to prayer.  Men could take as many wives as they pleased.[8]  In addition to modified Muslim practices, we also see hints of Judaism and paganism in their religious practice, such as their taboo surrounding eating eggs and chickens, and the belief that the saliva of the prophet contained baraka, or, roughly translated, blessedness.[9]   

            This new Barghawata religion is wildly different from Muslim orthodoxy, but it still clearly considers itself a form of Islam.  Firstly, Salih’s position as prophet is partially justified by the mention of a Salih in the Arabic Quran in the Surat al-Tahrim: 

If ye both turn repentant unto God—for your hearts have swerved!—but if ye back each other up against him, verily God, He is the sovereign; and Gabriel and the righteous of the believers (salih al-mu’minin), and the angels after that will back him up.[10] 

               Here, “salih” is among those most protected by God; this was used as proof that Salih Ibn Tarif’s prophethood was foretold in the Quran of the Arabs, thus making Barghawata Islam more credible. [11]  In contrast, a typical Muslim would not go hunting for Muhammad’s legitimacy in the Bible or Torah.  This is our first indication that, while the Barghawata wanted to make a clean break with Islam as it was practiced by the Arabs, they did not seek to abandon Islam altogether.  Muhammad is also an important figure in the Berber Quran, appearing the in the very first sura, entitled the Sura of Job: 

 

In the name of Allah who has sent this book to mankind.  Allah has made plain His reports therein.  They have said that Satan (Iblis) had a knowledge of destiny.  Allah forbid it.  Satan has not the power to know as Allah knows.  Enquire of anything which will master tongues in what they say.  Allah alone is the One who commands the utterances of men’s tongues.  He does so by His will for the tongue which He has sent with the truth for mankind.  The truth has become straight and steadfast and well established.  Behold Muhammad!…when he was alive all those who were his Companions were upright until his decease.  Then men became corrupt.  He is a liar who says that the truth is sound and correct, yet there is no messenger of Allah…[12] 

  

           This first sura affirms that God has revealed truths to mankind, and one instance of this was Muhammad’s revelations in Arabia.  The Berber Quran uses Muhammad, not Salih, as an example of a human who knew God’s truth and lived piously.  Favoring Muhammad in this case is proof that the Arab prophet and his religious tradition would continue to be an integral part of this Berberized Islam, and that this was certainly not an unrelated religion. 

            In addition to these nods to the Arab Muslim tradition in Barghawata Islam, El-Bekri and others emphasize another reason that a Berber Quran could be an acceptable part of Muslim practice.  As stated in the first Barghawata sura, Iskander explains, “the truth could not be preserved without a Prophet whom they [the Berbers] could recognize.” This, he explains, blends well with the Muslim belief that God sent messages to earth in many different vernaculars so that all peoples could learn the truth.  In light of this belief, the Barghawata’s Berber Quran seems necessary and more legitimate; they had finally received God’s word in their language, and could now worship properly, having been delivered from ignorance.[14] 

            We have seen how the Barghawata’s new Islam was a break with orthodoxy, yet did not strive to be a completely new religion. However, this does not explain why this particular Berber kingdom, at this particular point in history, decided to introduce a radically different version of Islam.  

           When we examine the Barghawata’s political independence and durability as a regime, it seems only natural that they would be the Berber kingdom to seek a cultural emancipation from the Arabs.  They maintained an independent Berber regime for four centuries, starting less than one century after the Arab conquests.  Their longevity can be attributed to several factors.  Firstly, they had an advantageous geographical position.  A huge portion of their border was along the Atlantic Ocean, and only one nearby kingdom, Al-Andalous, had a skilled navy.  The Barghawata were friendly with Al-Andalous, meaning they were able to focus the bulk of their defenses on their land borders.[15]  Since they spent so little energy protecting their oceanic border, the Barghawata could afford to maintain an unusually large army to defend their land frontiers.  The topography of their land was complex, with countless winding river valleys, which made it difficult to navigate as an invading outsider; this discouraged neighboring kingdoms from invading.  

          We also cannot discount the importance of the Barghawata’s lines of communication, which made use of fire  signals and local rivers, in allowing them to have the upper hand over an invading army.  In addition, their strategically located territory had very fertile soil, permitting them to produce their own crops and minimize their material dependence on surrounding kingdoms.  The benefits of their geography—along an ocean with no nearby threatening navies, complex topography, and fertile soil—permitted the Barghawata to thrive for four centuries as a politically and economically independent Berber kingdom.[16] 

          The Barghawata defied the historical convention that Berbers were merely foot soldiers in the service of the mighty Arabs; this Berberized Islam serves as proof that, for a time, the Barghawata also sought to defy the notion that Berbers merrily abandoned their savage heresies in favor of Arab Islamic Orthodoxy.  In this context, it is significant that Yunus, the man who introduced this new Islam to the Barghawata, traveled to the Arab East.  While the historical record is spotty on Yunus’s trip to the East (the only readily available information is that he traveled with four other Kharijis, visited Damascus, and became addicted to mind-altering substances[17]), we can surmise that he was confronted with an Islamic culture that was very different from his own in Morocco.  And, being from a remote part of the Muslim world, his practice of the faith was probably mocked or perceived to be greatly flawed by those who inhabited the Muslim world’s epicenter.  After being mocked for his difference, Yunus was encouraged to return home and further promote this difference.  The emergence of ethnic identity has been explained in similar terms, in Gellner’s classic example of the Ruritanian who visits Megalomania.  A Ruritanian from a small village goes to his capital city, Megalomania, looking for work, and is mocked for his various cultural differences, which he had never noticed before.  Upon returning to his hometown, he is proud of his Ruritanian culture and preaches political emancipation from Megalomania’s rule.[18] 

           In this case, Yunus traveled from Morocco to the East, thinking himself a devout Muslim like any other.  Upon arrival, he realizes that he is different from the Arabs around him, and is possibly mocked or looked down upon because of this difference or Berberness.  Upon his return to Morocco he seeks to assert the Berbers’ ethnic difference from Arabs, and liberate them from Arab cultural domination, by modifying and Berberizing Islam. 

          The Barghawata’s unique historical attributes, such as long-lived political independence and Yunus’s trip to the East, made them an obvious breeding ground for the assertion of ethnic and religious difference.  However, we must still explain why their new religion emerged when it did, in the mid-9th century.  First, we must note the fundamental changes to the Berber universe with the first Arab invasions, carried out by the Umayyads in the seventh century.  The caliphate, and therefore Islam, reached northwest Africa excepting Morocco (Ifriqiyya), by the mid seventh century; Morocco was also under Umayyad control by the early eighth century.  The early Umayyad caliphate was tolerant of religious diversity, but had a demonstrated prejudice against non-Arab Muslims, called mawali.  This angered Berber converts to Islam; one Berber leader in what is modern-day Algeria, named Kusayla, reportedly vented this frustration by leading Berbers and Byzantines in killing an Arab commander in 680.  After this success, Kusayla continued on to Qayrawan and briefly became the regional political authority, but he was quickly chased out by the Arabs and ultimately defeated in 686.[19]  This is one of several early examples of Berber resistance to the Arab invasion, setting a precedent for the rebellious actions of the Barghawata.   

          For a time after the initial Arab conquests, Berbers mainly lived under Arab rule.  The first Arab rulers were the Umayyad Caliphate, whose capital was in faraway Damascus.  Although many Berbers had converted to Islam and had aided the Arabs in their conquest of Al-Andalous, they continued to be mistreated by the caliphate, in some cases being taxed heavily or even taken as slaves.  These inequities sparked a full-fledged Berber revolt in Ifriqiyya in 741.[20]  However, in the centuries following the Arab conquests, Berber-controlled states began to reclaim their sovereignty and authority.  The Abbasid caliphate, which took power in the mid eighth century, treated non-Arab Muslims much better than the Umayyads had, even ceding direct control of Morocco to the Idrisids.  While the Idrisid dynasty was founded by Arabs, its sultan intermarried with Berbers and lived in Morocco, as opposed to in the Sham;[21] this undoubtedly led to an improvement in the treatment of Berbers in Morocco.  In Ifriqiyya, there are also instances of Berbers gaining more autonomy from the Mashriq, such as the Hammadids.   They were a Berber dynasty located in modern day Algeria, who declared their independence from the Fatimids and renounced Fatimid Shiite doctrine in 1014.[22]  In the context of this Berber political renaissance, the Barghawata’s new religious tradition can be seen as a cultural rebellion from Arab domination, a logical compliment to their already successful political rebellion. 

           There are clear reasons as to why the 9th century Barghawatas, as opposed to any other Berber kingdom at any other time, chose to introduce a radically different form of Islam, but one question remains: why maintain any vestiges of Islam?  Why not create an entirely new religion, which builds upon the previous monotheistic traditions like Islam builds on Christianity and Judaism?  There is no single explanation for this.  However, we can speculate that Yunus might have been concerned about the packaging of this new religion.  We have already seen his attention to this matter in the (supposed) decision to make his revered grandfather the prophet of this new faith in an attempt to lend it credence.  He was selling an extremely different, even blasphemous, version of Islam to his people, who probably considered themselves devout Muslims.  Yunus must have perceived that his people would accept changes in their practice, so long as they remained Muslims in title.  Even today, foreign Muslims would consider some Moroccan traditions, such as praying to a saint, to be heretical, yet Moroccan Muslims who visit saints would never consider it so.  Thus, it is not so difficult to envision the Barghawata reciting Berber text as they pray—a vision that would scandalize an Arab Muslim—while still considering themselves good Muslims. 

           The introduction, then disappearance, of Barghawata Islam is an interesting historical phenomenon that contradicts our common perception of the post-Arab invasion Maghreb.  We have been taught that the Berbers of North Africa welcomed the Arabs and their new religion with open arms.  However, the Barghawata’s new Islam proves that this was not entirely so, and that some Berbers sought to free themselves from Arab imperialism.  The Barghawata kingdom persisted for four centuries and was founded during the Arab invasions.  This means they endured the bulk of early Arab cultural and political domination, repeatedly defending their territory from Arab incursion.  Their political and economic self-reliance flies in the face of the perception that Berbers happily and passively served their Arab overlords.  The Barghawata’s introduction of a Berberized Islam also indicates that Berbers did not quietly submit to Arab cultural norms; instead, they tried to modify an ethnically Arab religion to fit the Berber experience.  Berberized Islam ultimately failed, but modern Moroccan deviations from Muslim orthodoxy, such as the cult of saints, remind us of the Berbers’ persisting determination to practice Islam in their own cultural context. 

 

Works Cited 

Abun-Nasr, Jamil M.  A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. 

El-Bekri.  Description de l’Afrique Septentrionale. Translated by Mac Guckin de Slane.  Paris: Imprimerie Impériale, 1859. 

Gellner, Ernest.  Nations and Nationalism.  Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.   

Iskander, John. “Devout Heretics: The Barghawata in Maghribi Historiography.” The Journal of North African Studies, vol. 12, no. 1 (2007): 37-53. 

Kifani, Abdelouahab.  « Berghwata, nos ancêtres les païens. »  TelQuel Online, 18 Nov 2006.  .   

L’houari, Bouattar.  “Le Royaume des Berghouata.”  Amazigh World, 19 Aug 2009.   

< http://www.amazighworld.org/history/index_show.php?id=1916>. 

Naylor, Phillip Chiviges.  North Africa: A History from Antiquity to Present.  Austin, Texas: The University of Texas Press, 2009. 

Nicholle, David, and Angus McBride.  The Moors: The Islamic West 7th-15th Century AD.  Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited, 2001.   

Norris, H.T.  The Berbers in Arabic Literature.  Harlow, Essex: Longman Group Limited, 1982. 

Peyron, Michael.  « Barghawata et Résistance. »  La Résistance marocaine à travers l’histoire, ou le Maroc des Résistances. (Mohammed Hammam & Abdellah Salih, eds.), Rabat: IRCAM, vol. 2 (2005): 165-181.

N.B. For technical reasons, the original end-notes have not been included in this version of the paper.

N.B. Miss Sarah Hawkins, one of 15 US students who attended my lectures on « Amazigh History and Culture » in Rabat during the spring of 2010, kindly gave permission for this paper to be included here.

 

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

The Ayt Yahya of Tounfit, central Morocco

Posté par Michael Peyron le 17 avril 2010

The Ayt Yahya of Tounfit, central Morocco 

by Michael PEYRON

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Ardouz village at foot of Jbel Ma’asker (photo: M. Peyron)

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As the traveller heads down through the cedars from the Zad Pass (Tizi Tebruri = ‘hailstone pass’), the wide-sky expanses of the Upper Moulouya unfold before him, backed by the lofty, snow-capped ‘Ayyachi-Ma’asker range, over 3700 metres high. As with many others who have gone before, there dawns on him the notion of imminent transition. Behind lie forested, well-watered, Mediterranean style highlands, while the gaunt, rugged ranges on the horizon represent the “last stop before the Sahara”, beyond which live none but tribesmen like the Ayt Hadiddou “who fear naught but God”.

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‘Ayyachi dominates the upper Melwiya (photo: M. Peyron)

Our traveller is, in fact, contemplating one of the most important regions of inner Morocco, its dramatic scenery somehow equal to the epoch-shaping events it has witnessed throughout history. Not so much a highland sanctuary as a cultural cross-roads, a haven of “intellectual rurality”, famous for its wandering minstrels and local poets (imdyazn and ineššadn) who reflect the conscience, both religious and worldly, of the mountain Imazighen who inhabit the area. 

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Tounfit and Jbal Ma’asker with dusting of snow (photo: M. Peyron) 

Among these the Ayt Yahya, a Tamazight-speaking tribal group, occupies the area between Midelt and Imilchil in the High Atlas. They may be conveniently classified as highland semi- transhumants, some living in village clusters (qşur or iġerman), some in dispersed villages. The Ayt Yahya brought to the shady (amalu) north slopes of the Atlas a social organisation and general pattern of existence evolved in the dry, pre-Saharan steppe, and which they eventually adapted to a colder, wetter environment featuring extensive winter snow-fall.

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Izza ‘Athman village, Asif Wirin, March 1976 (photo: M. Peyron)

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Qsar of Tagoudit, Ayt Yahya (photo: M. Peyron)

Hence the classic, mud-built qşar, or fortified hamlet survives chiefly in the arid, upland valleys south of ‘Ayyachi or Jbel Ma’asker, whereas in the well-wooded areas to the north, stronger-built houses cedar-planks and stone predominate in dispersed villages. Likewise, pastoralism remaining the chief activity, among the southern clans, transhumance is the name of the game. To the north, however, village-based grazing prevails. 

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Ploughing scene, Lmerri, Bou Ijellaben in background, January 1973 (photo: M. Peyron) 

There is also a generalised use of irrigated patches, producing barley, buckwheat, maize, and wheat,  while on nearby fruit-trees, cherries, apricots and a few walnuts are to be found. As to habits inherited from the Saharan region, use of the baggage-camel (alġum) and baggage-ox (ayugu), together with the institution of the communal bull, were reported in the Ayt Yahya area as late as the mid-1970s. 

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Muleteers returning from Sunday ssuq at Tounfit, May 1967 (photo: M. Peyron)

The Ayt Yahya tribal grouping was in the forefront of the SW-NE push by Senhaja Berber pastoralists that lasted from the 10th to the 19th century. In fact, one of their clans has remained to this day at Aghbalou n-Kerdous, on the south side of the High Atlas. The Ayt Yahya and their kindred groups, the Ayt Merghad, Ayt Hadiddou and Ayt Izdeg, with some Ayt ‘Ayyach, became fellow members of the Ayt Yafelman (lit. ‘the peaceful ones’), a confederation set up some time around 1650 to counter-balance expansion by an aggressive rival entity, the Ayt ‘Atta of Jbel Saghro. 

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Heading home from the fields, Ayt Sliman, Ta’ara’art valley (photo: M. Peyron)

Before listiεmar, as with many other Imazighen tribes, activities for which the Ayt Yahya were famous included raiding, sheep-rustling, plundering and/or “protecting” caravans along the triq aqdim between the Ziz valley and Tounfit. There existed a pattern of alliances (the leff system) by which each clan could call on the support of one, possibly two, friendly clans, if attacked by a rival group. The fighting that resulted would be limited in time, usually between fairly well-balanced groups, and was frequently interrupted by truces engineered by the saints (igurramn) of Sidi Yahya ou Youssef.

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Tribesmen playing takkurt, Lmerri, Oct. 1982 (photo: M. Peyron)

Contrary to modern behavioural standards, intermittent raiding and clan warfare were perceived as making life more exciting and giving young men (iεerrimn) a healthy opportunity to prove their bravery. Without the use of bayonet, dagger or musket (“the voice of steel” as it was called), points of honour could not be properly settled. This was a very strong notion throughout tribal society. Not that warfare was by any means permanent or total; eradicating a rival clan made no sense; it was much wiser to allow it to survive so as not to cut off the source of supply that sensible raiding and plundering so easily guaranteed. This was a typical Heroic Age situation. 

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Prowess with weapons being second nature to these mountaineers, no wonder the Ayt Yahya fought hard against French forces which invaded their region between 1922 and 1932. Desperately tragic battles such as Ayt Yâqoub and Tazizaout saw highly manoeuvrable, lightly-equipped Berber fighters more than hold their own against well-armed French regular troops. In fact, man to man, the Berbers were usually superior to their opponents; against aeroplanes, machine-guns and mountain artillery, however, bravery was of no avail. Yet, they fought on to the last, distinguishing themselves in daring, single-handed operations, a lone rifleman occasionally succeeding in pinning down crack Foreign Legion troops with accurate fire from some hill-top. 

The Ayt Yahya themselves consist of several clans. The southern Ayt Yahya clans, living on the sunny (assamer) slope of the main range, include the Ayt Sliman, Ayt Moussa ou ‘Atman, Ayt Fedouli, Ayt Hattab, Ichichaoun and Ayt ‘Ammar, the last-named clan being of ou-Hadiddou origin, but now incorporated into the Tounfit region. Chief among the northern Ayt Yahya are the Ayt ‘Ali ou-Brahim of Tounfit proper, the Imtchimen at the foot of ‘Ayyachi, the Ayt Hnini at the Moulouya source, the Ayt Bou ‘Arbi of the upper Anzegmir, and the Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef. These clans all claim a Saharan origin, except for the Ayt Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, who are marabouts, or igurrramn, allegedly hailing from Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, one of their sub-clans retaining a dialect strongly reminiscent of that spoken in the Zerhoun.

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Zawiya Sidi Yahya ou Youssef, Jan. 1974 (photo: M. Peyron) 

While on the topic of maraboutism it should be mentioned that the Tounfit area was also under the influence of the neighbouring Imhiwach saints of Aghbala. As to the other clans, they include some elements from the Ayt Yoummour and Ayt Ihand that the Ayt Yahya absorbed when they arrived in the area in the late-18th century. 

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Typical taddart, Assaka village, January 1974 (photo: M. Peyron)

The 1970s proved the heyday of the “segmentary society”, a theory (challenged before the century was out) to describe tribal organisation, as devised by Evans-Pritchard after his study of the Sudanese Nuer, and described by Anglo-Saxon anthropologists as corresponding to the Berbers’ socio-political organisation. Basically, it was a case of “me against my brother; my brother and I against the rest of the world.” This made sense in a society where customary law izerf, vendetta, retribution and/or payment of blood money were the order of the day. The Ayt Yahya, arranged in sub-clans, clans, and inter-clan alliances carefully calculated to curb the excesses of intra-tribal warfare, could be seen as fitting fairly neatly into the segmentary pattern. Early reports by colonial observers, before the actual conquest of the area (1931-1932), described Yahya clans as regularly at each others’ throats. Faced with the threat of a common outside foe, as with the French, however, they tended to oppose a united front. 

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Hard-working Lmerri housewife, March 1983, (photo: M. Peyron)

To-day, however, tribal disunity prevails. Since independence, while overall group awareness remains outside the tribe in terms of recognizing Ayt Yahya, say, from Ayt Sokhman, tribal solidarity within has become eroded among the Ayt Yahya. An ou-Yahya will introduce himself as an ou-Sliman, or an ou-Fedouli, rather than as the member of an overall Yahya tribe. The more so as, technically and administratively, such an entity no longer exists. Thus have allegiances become strictly local, a tendency reinforced by the introduction, in the 1960s, of the local commune (žamaε qarawiya), an administrative unit that usually duplicates the ancient clans. Initially a rubber-stamp institution, it has been acquiring a certain measure of autonomy and power in recent years, as local assemblies have worked out a new, realistic relationship vis-à-vis the makhzan. All of which has tended to make nonsense of the segmentary theory, which is no longer valid stricto sensu, in the modern context. This being said, on the judiciary plane, I was told in Tounfit, in 1974, that while decisions were made according to Koranic Law (ššraε), they still contained a dash of izerf just for good measure. 

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Woman washing wool in Asif Tasfalalyt, Ayt Sliman (photo: M. Peyron)

Great were the changes experienced by tribesmen in the aftermath of foreign military conquest and subsequent independence. Now that peace prevails among the Ayt Yahya, life has, in a way, lost its salt, its bravado. The element of panache is gone. No longer may a man proudly sing one of those famous short poems (timawayin) such as:- 

            sassbu l-lkissan t-tadawt iyyis d-uhezz, uxribn bu šuk, 

            t-tadda yżill, unna tent-ismun ay-as-iwten i-ddunit ġr ixf! 

            Full happy is he who rides with his lady-friend on horse-back, 

            While rifle, tea-pot, tent pegs in the saddle-bag go clank-clank!

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Ult-Sliman woman, Louggagh, Taaraart valley (photo: M. Peyron)

Nowadays, the sound of gun-shots no longer echoes back from the heights; except when musket-wielding horseman stage mock charges on days of powder-play, called tafrawt in Tamazight. If sheep-stealing is now officially frowned upon, it has been replaced by timber-rustling, the Ayt Hadiddou frequently leaving their treeless plateaux at night to come and cut down cedars in Ayt Yahya forests, despite opposition from armed Forest Guards. Poaching Barbary Sheep in the Jbel Fazaz game reserve near Tirghist is also a tempting proposition. But the fine (bruşşi) involved, if caught red-handed, will no doubt deter all but the lion-hearted. The element of risk, then, is till there, but remains a poor substitute for the real thing! 

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Ou-Yahya shepherd, Ighil ou Ahbari forest, Nov. 1967 (photo: M. Peyron)

Thus must Yahya tribesmen now learn to become law-abiding Moroccan citizens. This involves channelling their energies into peaceful pursuits such as farming, harvesting, animal husbandry, or else working with road-repair gangs or woodcutters’ co-operatives.

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At the threshing-post, Massou, summer 1989 (photo: M. Peyron)

Though such solutions may mean exiling oneself to the cities, or even going abroad, the ou-Yahya remains strongly attached to his native turf. One of my best friends in the area, aged 58, has, in his lifetime, only been to Casablanca once; twice to Meknes, and about half a dozen times to Midelt. Being without a TV set does not make him feel in any way deprived. If he goes to Tounfit for ssuq al-h’ad (‘Sunday market’), he can always enter a café and watch “Crocodile Dundee” or “The Halls of Montezuma” dubbed into German. So what? 

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Brother and sister from Assaka, spring 1982 (photo: M. Peyron)

Like other Imazighen, and despite changing times, the Ayt Yahya endeavour to retain the qualities which they upheld in the Heroic Age: approachability, adaptability, honour, hospitality, industry, solidarity and belief in God. While some remain at home to eke out a living, a minority have emigrated, either to Midelt or some other Moroccan city, or even abroad. As old habits die hard, others join the Army, as did their forbears under the French, and many have fought in the Western Sahara. Poetry alone, together with the ah’idus dance, ever a powerful sign of “Berberdom” (timuzġa), still provides some measure of release. 

   Michael PEYRON 

michael.peyron@voila.fr

                                  GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY 

BRYANS R., 1965, Morocco: land of the farthest West,
London: Faber & Faber. 

GELLNER E., 1969, Saints of the Atlas,
London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 

GUENNOUN  S., 1934, La Voix des Monts: mœurs de guerre berbères, Rabat : Omnia.

GUILLAUME A., 1946, Les Berbères marocains et la Pacification de l’Atlas central, Paris: René Julliard.

HART D.M., 1984, The Ait ‘Atta of Southern Morocco: daily life and recent history, Wisbech: MENAS Press. 

HART D.M., 1993, “Four centuries of history on the hoof: the North-west passage of the Berber sheep transhumants across the Moroccan Atlas1550-1912”, Journal of the Society for Moroccan Studies, n°3: 21-55. 

PEYRON M., 1976, “Habitat rural et vie montagnarde dans le Haut Atlas de Midelt (Maroc) », Revue de Géographie Alpine, n°2 : 327-363.

RAYNAL R., 1960-1961, « La terre et l’homme en Haute-Moulouya », Bulletin Économique et Social du Maroc, n°86 & 87 : 281-346.

ROUX  A. & PEYRON M., 2002, Poésies berbères de l’époque héroïque, Maroc central (1908-1932), Aix-en-Provence: Édisud.

 

Publishing history

Unpublished paper based on a presentation given at AUI on February 2, 2000.

N.B. Unless otherwise stated, all texts copyright by Michael Peyron. Material from same may be quoted in compliance with current academic practice.

Publié dans General Berber History | Pas de Commentaire »

Moroccan Berber lifestyle and Atlas mountain ecosystems under threat

Posté par Michael Peyron le 5 avril 2010

Moroccan Berber lifestyle and Atlas mountain ecosystems under threat

This brief article, part of a series (cf. working paper IIa) devoted to the Atlas Mountains, provides further insight into the ongoing drama that is being played out up there. As previously stated the Berber lifestyle, as well as a broad spectrum of unique Atlas mountain ecosystems, is coming increasingly under threat from one of the worst manifestations of the World Tourism Order (WTO). Adventure trekking is the name of the game as played by gaggles of gawking, garbage-generating, camera-toting pleasure-seekers with full back-up of mules, mess tent and cook. Each participant moves within his bubble, nurtured by an imaginary concept of the voyage he is consuming, and cocooned from the real world by fellow-trekkers, tour leaders and interpreters. Biblical scenes are there for him to photograph and sunsets to relish, with the rough camaraderie of the bivouac to fall upon should he be unable to raise a signal on his cell-phone for that vital call home before snuggling into his sleeping bag.

Thoughtless activities such as these, aided and abetted by Tour Operators (TOs), solely aimed at short-term profits, are now becoming the rule rather than the exception. People indulge in them with a clear conscience given that they expose remote societies to the supposed advantages of the market economy and its attendant material well-being, perceived as the ultimate good. Anybody suspected of criticism is at once labelled by agents of the WTO as a subversive killjoy. Arguably, however, financial gains that accrue from tourist-derived revenue – initially a blesing – can contribute in the long run to untold damage, best defined as the self-destruct factor. True, free-wheeling visitors bring in new ideas, create envy and aspirations to modern consumerism, together with other forms of socio-economic fall-out. Many mountaineers, especially youngsters, feel tempted to abandon their humdrum rural existence and head for the bright city lights, thus paving the way for depopulation of mountain villages in the medium term. Others, who chalk up a profit from tourist-related activities, generally belong to the wealthier families in the valley. Yet others, however, failing to get in on the act, are content to perform as bit-players in folklore events, bringing in bitterness, cultural debasement and an uneven distribution of new-found gains. The sum of these causes, potentially leading to the disappearance of traditional Berber villages and lifestyle, together with vernacular architecture – normally a source of pride to the locals – would make nonsense of TO brochure talk, as these aspects of local lore are specifically the things that are on offer. That the visitor wants to see and sample. That he’s paid for.

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  In Souf Ifendasen cedar forest, Bou Iblane area (M. Peyron)

The only way to avert this calamity would be for the agencies involved to achieve some form of self-imposed scale-down of their activities. In other words, each TO would have to comply with a moratorium on the number of treks programmed per season. A move that they could never stomach, running counter as it does to their staid capitalistic notions of turning a fast buck. Failing this, the commercial operators press on regardless, merely hiding behind official clean-up exercises of Toubkal and Mgoun areas and pious declarations of commitment to Responsible Tourism, with code of practice, avowedly aiming at self-proclaimed ‘high’ environmental standards, as if this were sufficient to undo decades of ecosystem degradation! Especially when one decision would be to limit the size of groups to 22 – still far too high a figure !!! Furthermore, in an ideal situation a sizeable percentage of the sustainable revenues netted in the area should be ploughed back into conservation. Easier said than done! In other words, adventure trekking in the Atlas is not about to take a downturn. Far from it; things will even get worse. As if this were not bad enough, at least three other threats are looming.

1/ Off-road tourism

Coupled with surfacing of former pistes, off-road tourism has taken off in recent years chiefly due to the ‘Gandini factor’. Gandini, a prominent French 4 x 4 exponent, has been producing guide-books on North African dirt roads at the rate of one a year since 2000, thus unleashing the 4-WD brigade upon countless new destinations. This phenomenon is bringing disturbance to peaceful valleys and causing irreversible damage to valley ecosystems. Frequent use by 4 x 4 vehicles is damaging to piste surfaces, not to mention the noxious exhaust fumes produced.

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Off-road bivvy near Berkine, Bou Nasser in background, May 1990, (photo: M. Peyron) 

Luckily, there are limits to 4 x 4 access. Excessively muddy conditions, as on some Middle Atlas tracks in springtime near Beqrit (an attempt is currently being made to de-Amazigh this place-name by calling it Baqria!), or simple erosion as on Gandini’s piste des cols from Bou Ouzemou to Anargi, can eventually bring even off-road vehicles to a halt! Latter piste is actually impassable at time of writing.

Off-road bivouacs, like those near lakes Tislit and Isly (Imilchil region), also leave an unenviable legacy of un-disposed garbage. Added to this, trail bikes and quads now bring noise and pollution to ever remoter locations. Spreading tarmac also makes it easier for logging trucks to penetrate ever deeper into the hills, with catastrophic impact on already badly hit cedar forests.

2/ Indiscriminate logging

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Furtive logging near hollow between Michliffen and jbel Hebri, spring 2008 (photo: M. Peyron)

A less then acceptable dose of double-think surrounds most environment-related problems in the country. A case in hand is protection of Morocco’s cedar forests. Frequent conferences are held at which officials and guest speakers in suits, white shirts and ties (looking as much like field workers as arch-bishops!) carefully reiterate a series of measures taken to protect this unique Mediterranean ecosystem, followed by communiqués with all sorts of immediately applicable recommendations. Then everybody goes home basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. Trouble is that on the ground nothing happens and, next morning (and the morning after), felling of Atlas cedars is carried on unabated. In fact this activity is being taken to well beyond sustainable limits.

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Another view of timber rustling site between Michliffen and jbel Hebri, spring 2008 (photo: M. Peyron)

Actually, there seems to be a kind of nameless logging lobby in Morocco which is allowed to operate with almost total total impunity. Its visible participants, clearly identifiable on the ground, include would-be respectable loggers and saw-mill owners, Moroccan handicraft merchants, furniture makers and carpenters, the Forestry Commission, and gangs of timber rustlers. It is, however, more difficult to establish any visible relationship between these diverse agents. Yet related they are! The Forester who, at best, turns a blind eye when the timber rustlers go past, or at worst, pockets a fine, may actually be in cahoots with the rest of them. In cedar areas beyond Bou Iblane, at the foot of Ayyachi, or on Jbel Tazizawt – conveniently out of sight of officialdom – small gangs of unemployed locals maintain a lucrative trade. 

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    Wanton cedar demolition by timber-rustlers, Tazizawt, May 2007 (photo: M. Peyron)

They fell cedars at night, returning to chop them down to size, loading the resulting logs on to specially-equipped mules and heading for the nearest saw-mill or official logger willing to buy their cargo on the quiet. The illegally procured wood is then resold for a profit to town merchants, thus becoming perfectly respectable, and ends up at the local Co-opérative artisanale, or adorning the ceiling of some bigwig’s villa. Everybody knows that the racket is going on; nothing or little is done seriously to throttle it.

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Cirque of Ja’afar in happier days when cedars still grew there, May 1969 (photo: M. Peyron)

Not that the Forestry commission is totally inactive. Fresh plantations of cedars, however, are usually sited close to main roads (Zad pass or Tizi n-Tanout ou Filal), in a kind of window-dressing operation to demonstrate to all and sundry that the Forestry people are up and running! In other instances, young cedars are not always planted in ideal conditions, i.e. on NE-facing slopes and suitably close to Mediterranean oaks, which provide cedar saplings with shade during the early stages of their growth. Young cedars on one SW-facing site on Jbel Misouguine (Bou Iblane) were in pretty poor condition when observed in March 2004.

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Young cedars, Jbal Missougine, Bou Iblane, spring 2004 (photo: M. Peyron)

3/ Mammoth development projects

Typical of environment-unfriendly development projects is the 1.4 billion dollar UAE-sponsored package aimed at revamping the Oukaimedden ski resort. An 18-hole golf course, 25,000 square metres of business premises, shopping malls with Gucci-style boutiques, eleven 4* and 5* hotels are planned, together with a massive upgrade of ski facilities that will include extending the ski area and ensuring a November-April ski season with the use of blowers and artificial snow. Typically, Amazigh culture will be misrepresented – a bogus water-front complete with artificial palm-trees and ‘Berber’ kasbahs (the ultimate eyesore) features on illustrations of the project!

Those in favour of the project are waxing eloquent over hoped-for fall-out. Hundreds of jobs will be created, and the entire Marrakech area will take off economically! What’s more, they claim, global warming will soon be putting Alpine resorts out of business, while Ouka and some unknown resort in Israel (of all places!) will unaccountably attract jet-set skiers. A ludicrous piece of information that totally disregards the sobering reports of weather experts to the effect that Morocco will be getting hotter and hotter as the years go by! Either way, trickle-down benefits for local inhabitants are likely to be insignificant with job opportunities limited to the car-wash, general stooge, parking attendant, and night watchman categories. As a result, locals will have next to no empowerment; hence, they will be absent from decision-making process and benefit sharing, whereas they should be involved at all levels of the project.

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Oukaimeden artifificial lake and snow slopes, March 2006 (photo: M. Peyron)

The Ouka pastures are used as an agdal by local stock-breeders every summer. Now, this activity will be drastically curtailed. Any opposition by shepherds will be swept aside, no doubt thanks to some token financial compensation to sweeten the pill. Anyway, most local Berbers connected with the resort are reportedly enthusiastic at the idea of the project, one reporter even shrewdly observing that many Berbers would no doubt willingly swap their picturesque yet harsh existence for the relative comfort of an Austrian-style ski resort existence.

There is no escaping the fact, however, that waste disposal, especially concerning plastic, already a headache for the present small resort, will pose real problems during peak periods with several thousand tourists in residence, including possible contamination of water supplies to down-valley villages on the Ourika side. Water facilities will be strained to the limit for toilet flushing, hot showers and artificial snow. Worse still, the existing Ouka road, narrow and winding as it is, and quite unsuited in its present state to the heavy traffic that development work will entail, will need a total upgrade.

It’s not hard to visualise other, seedier aspects of this Disneyland of the heights! The comfort of Ouka’s wealthy clients will have to be satisfied round the clock. Once they will have exhausted the possibilities of ski, golf and window-shopping, bored bachelors will want to head for the pub and their early evening pint. Night-club teasers will invariably be in strong demand for more serious after-dinner entertainment, with professionals from Eastern Europe no doubt on hand to bolster locally recruited talent. Talk about a sun, sex and snow ambience…

Michael PEYRON

           

 

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