Libya: Imprisoned Berber musician on hunger strike

4 February 2011
Abdullah Ashini, a popular Amazigh singer in Libya, is reported to have started an indifinite hunger strike in his prison cell. In December 2010, he was convicted and given a five-year prison sentence on charges for ‘illegal migration’.

The popular Berber singer from the village of Zuara has since the beginning of the court case against him refused all charges.

Reporters of write that his main ‘crime’ has been that he participated in Festival of Amazigh Culture and Berber Music at Las Palmas on the Canary Islands in 2008. Upon his return, the Libyan authorities withdrew his passport and have since prevented him from travelling to other festivals.

Furthermore, he has not been allowed to record any albums in Libya because he sings in a language which is different from Arabic.

The Libyan singer started a hunger strike to call for attention from the international community, local and international NGOs, and human rights organisations.

Pressure on the Berber minority
Reports from Freemuse stringers in the region point to the fact that Abdullah was sentenced for ‘illegal migration’, rather than for performing and promoting the Amazigh Berber music at the festival. It remains unclear whether the charges against him have been fabricated in order silence the minority Berber community — a practice that has been seen in the region in the past.

The news of Abdullah Ashini’s hunger strike come amidst growing pressure on the Berber minority group in the region, lastly illustrated by the kidnapping of the two brothers Madghis and Mazigh Buzakhar who were active in the ARSAG Amazigh movement.

In North Africa, the Berber people often suffer various forms of discrimination and denial of identity. The legendary Berber singer Lounès Matoub — one of the most well-known Berber activists — was persecuted for years, and was assasinated on 25 June 1998.

A Belgium-based petitions site calls for concerned individuals to help exercise pressure on the Libyan government to release Abdullah Ashini.

Click here to sign the petition




Abdullah Ashini


Sources – 1 February 2011:

‘Le chanteur Libyen Abdullah Ashini en greve de la Faim’ (in French) – 10 December 2010:


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