As elsewhere in North Africa, the Amazigh are Tunisia’s indigenous population. There are no official statistics regarding their number in the country, but Amazigh associations estimate that there are around 1 million speakers of Tamazight (the Amazigh language). This is approximately 10% of the total population. It is in Tunisia that the Amazigh have suffered the greatest forced Arabisation. This explains the low proportion of Tamazight speakers in the country. There are nonetheless many Tunisians who, while no longer able to speak Tamazight, still consider themselves to be Amazigh rather than Arab.
Since the 2011 “revolution”, numerous Amazigh cultural associations have emerged with the aim of achieving the recognition and use of the Amazigh language and culture. The Tunisian state does not, however, recognise the existence of the country’s Amazigh population. Parliament adopted a new Constitution in 2014 that totally obscures the country’s Amazigh (historical, cultural and linguistic) dimensions. In its recitals, the text refers to the Tunisians’ sources of “Arab and Muslim identity” and expressly affirms Tunisia’s membership of the “culture and civilisation of the Arab and Muslim nation.” It committs the State to working to strengthen “the Maghreb union as a stage towards achieving Arab unity […] ” Article 1 goes on to reaffirm that “Tunisia is a free State, […], Islam is its religion, Arabic its language” while Article 5 confirms that “the Tunisian Republic forms part of the Arab Maghreb”. For the Tunisian state, therefore, the Amazigh do not exist in this country.
On an international level, Tunisia has ratified the main international standards and voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. These international texts remain unknown to the vast majority of citizens and legal professionals, however, and are not applied in domestic courts.
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, The Indigenous World 2019