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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Calls to end Libya's naming ban
By Rana Jawad
BBC News, Tripoli

Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi
Seif Gaddafi says his charity is independent from the state
A charity headed by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son has called on the government to lift a 1970s ban on the registration of non-Arab names.

It follows a visit by Seif al-Islam Gaddafi to the minority Amazigh communities in the west of the country.

They voiced their frustration to him at not being able to register traditional names at local municipalities.

The Amazigh in Libya have few rights and their language is not taught in state schools or used in the media.

'Infringes liberty'

Tala, Mazir, Numdia and Manzoo are just a few examples of Amazigh names that are considered to be non-Arab and are banned under a law that came into existence in the 1970s.

A Berber granary, Libya
Ethnic Berbers claim to pre-date the Arabs in North Africa

The law, infringes on people's liberty and prevents them from choosing a name that reflects their cultural heritage, the Gaddafi Charity Foundation says.

The Amazigh, who are also known as Berbers, make up more than 10% of the population and consider themselves to be Libyans, but not Arabs.

Muammar Gaddafi has long proclaimed that the Berbers are originally pure Arabs.

But Berbers claim to have occupied the mountains and deserts of northern Africa before the Arabs arrived.

They take pride in their cultural identity and have a long tradition of rejecting cross-cultural marriages in an effort to protect their heritage.

In neighbouring Algeria and Morocco, Berbers enjoy more rights, with their language being taught in schools and used in the media.

While Libyan Amazigh privately wish such practices would spill over to their country, they are, for now, only asking for the right to name their children in their own language.

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