Tripoli, 4 January:
A number of local councils in Amazigh (Berber) areas of the country have called on the General National Congress to make 13 January a national holiday. The date marks the start of the Amazigh New Year.
The Amazigh calendar, which is solar, is used by both Amazigh and Tuareg people, both of whom speak Tamazight, the Berber language.
The decision to petition Congress followed a meeting yesterday, Thursday, attended by officials from towns including Zuara, Jadu, Nalut, Yefren, Kabaw, Rahibat and Obari.
Amazigh culture is “the property and common heritage” of everyone in the country, the officials said, and the day should therefore be a national holiday for all Libyans.
The demand may have its opponents. There is already a strong group opposed to meeting the Amazign demand that the new constitution make Tamazight a national language alongside Arabic.
Islamists are unlikely to be supportive either. There were calls last week for New Year parties and celebrations to be banned because 1 January is not an Islamic date. In the event, however, this was ignored by many Libyans who welcomed in the new year with fireworks and festivities.
It is claimed that the Amazigh calendar starts from 950 BC, the supposed date of when the Pharoah Sheshonq came to power. He is believed to have been a Libyan Amazigh. In the Amazigh calander, this year will be 2963.