Human rights organizations in Morocco lashed out at the government for refusing to issue birth certificates with Berber names under the pretext that they contradict Moroccan identity.
The Moroccan civil registry recently rejected 13 Berber names after receiving a list from the Ministry of Interior with specific Berber names considered in violation of law 99-37 that determines names fit for males and females.
"The same list was distributed in Moroccan embassies and consulates abroad," said administrative authority officer Idris Bajdi.
"The names on the list contradict the Moroccan identity and it opens the door for the random spread of meaningless names," he told AlArabiya.net.
According to law 99-37, names of new born babies should be Moroccan in essence. Names that the law rejects include those made up of more than two parts, named after a city or a village or a tribe, or having an indecent meaning.
Banning Berber names is considered part of an exclusion policy practiced by Moroccan officials against the mother culture of Morocco, said human rights activist Rabeia al-Zuheiri.
"This policy ranges from the marginalization of Berber regions to banning Berber names," she told AlArabiya.net.
Zuheiri recounted a story of a girl from the city of al-Hasima who was not allowed to be named, Elli, although officials promised to modify the law that bans Berber names since "Morocco entered a phase of self-reconciliation," which Zuheiri labeled as "crippled."
Zuheiri expressed her surprise that authorities allow other foreign names that are not Moroccan, yet have a problem with Berber names.
Turkish and Mexican names
Mokhles Moha, researcher at the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, said there is no excuse for banning Berber names since they have nothing unethical and are, on the contrary, names of famous Berber heroes that played important roles in the history of North Africa.
"On the other hand, the government allows names taken from Mexican and Turkish soap operas," he told AlArabiya.net.
Berber activist Ali Khadawi accused the Moroccan government of acting absurdly, especially that some Berber names are banned in certain regions and allowed in others.
"The name Maseen for example, which means 'master,' was banned in Meknes in central Morocco and allowed in other regions," he told AlArabiya.net.
Khadawi added that these laws are not valid and are basically derived by political and ideological motives and called the ban a violation of basic human rights like the parents' right to choose their children's names.
"This is a disgrace for Morocco," he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)