Morocco Bans Berber (Amazigh) Baby Names

Here’s something I wasn’t aware of until I did some research on Berber names for the St. Monica post.

In 2009, human rights groups called out the Moroccan government for not allowing Berber (a.k.a. Amazigh) parents to choose Amazigh names for their babies. Activists claimed it amounted to ethnic discrimination.

According to a Moroccan government official, the names were rejected because they “contradict the Moroccan identity” — despite the fact that Berbers are native to Morocco.

The handful of Amazigh parents who’d fought for and won the right to use Amazigh names for their babies had to endure an expensive, time-consuming appeals process. They also had a hard time obtaining things like passports and medical insurance for their (officially) nameless newborns.

Here are some Amazigh names that were initially rejected, but later accepted, by the Moroccan government:

  • Ayyur – “moon” in Tamazight (the Berber language)
  • Massine – the diminutive form of Massinissa, the name of an ancient Berber king
  • Sifaw – “enlightened” in Tamazight
  • Tara – the name of an aromatic plant in Tamazight
  • Tin-Ass* – “light” in Tamazight
  • Tiziri – “moonlight” in Tamazight

I haven’t been able to find any updates on the story, so I’m not sure if Morocco has since changed its stance on Amazigh names.

*Not to make light of the issue, but…Tin-Ass reminds me of a post I wrote a few years ago on lost-in-translation Hebrew names like Mangina and Dudu.

Sources: Morocco bans Berber names on birth certificates, Letter to Morocco Interior Minister Benmoussa on the Refusal of Amazigh Names, Morocco: Lift Restrictions on Amazigh (Berber) Names

One Response to Morocco Bans Berber (Amazigh) Baby Names

  1. I would be most interestedto know does the Moroccan government’s ban on use of Berber names still endure. Incredible that the names are rejected because they “contradict the Moroccan identity” — despite the fact that Berbers are native to Morocco. It would be like banning aboriginal names in Australia, where I am based.

    Thanks.

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