By Rima Alefani
The southern region’s Tuareg and Tubu people regularly married and shared good relations, until the revolution, caused rifts and has led to fewer marriages amongst them.
“My wife insisted on leaving me and returning to the city of Murzuk after a war broke out between the Tuareg and Tubu in September 2014,” recalled Mustapha, a Tuareg, expressing his bitterness with the attitude of his Tubu wife. “She knew very well that I had nothing to do with the war and I did not even participate in it. She said, however, that she could not live with me while Tuareg people were killing Tubu people.”
Although a reconciliation agreement was signed by the two communities in Doha in November 2015, ending the war, Mustapha’s wife did not return. He still has not divorced her and he is still waiting for her to return home when peace prevails.
Mustapha got married before the 2011 revolution, when there were no wars between the Tubu and the Tuareg because Gaddafi’s regime was “strong and it controlled things,” he says. “Now, the state is fragile, so differences have surfaced and interests conflicted.”
Majida Dakka, a Tuareg media professional who works for the Ministry of Social Affairs, says marriages between the two tribes are very common and they happen smoothly and naturally. “The Tubu and the Tuareg have social conventions that date back to over 300 years,” she says. “They also have a peace treaty called Midi-Midi going back to 1893 that regulates the relationship between the two tribes.”
Dakka notes, however, that although there are no accurate official statistics, marriages between the two tribes have decreased due to the wars that broke out after 2011.
Children are descendants of their mothers
When a Tubu and a Tuareg get married, the marriage ceremony follows the traditions of the bride’s family. When the bride moves to the groom’s house, the ceremony starts following his tribe’s traditions.
According to Dakka, the children of those marriages are mostly Tubu because Tubu women teach their children that they are Tubu, though Tuareg in official papers.
When a Tuareg woman marries a Tubu man, the children are also Tubu, but they often mention their Tuareg roots when introducing themselves. They are proud of their connection to Tuareg people because the latter take care of their daughters’ children and they used to bequeath them power as well. “Previously, a Tuareg used to leave his nephew the drum – the ruling emblem of the tribe – even if he had ten sons,” says Dakka.
Dakka maintains that Tuareg men married to Tubu women have played a positive role in the last war, where they sheltered and protected vulnerable Tubu people. They also worked on lulling things between the two tribes and acted as mediators. “Marriage between the Tubu and the Tuareg has played a positive, rather than negative, role in the war,” she says.
Khadija Kanay, a Tubu social activist, says marriage relations between the two peoples are very natural because they have both lived in a common geographical area since times immemorial. And although they differ in customs, traditions, and language, they have many commonalities.
The Tubu and the Tuareg are Muslims who follow the Sunni-Maliki school and marriage is performed according to Islamic Sharia. However, there are specific local traditions for both tribes. Tubu people, for example, do not marry their relatives up to the seventh grandfather. “The Tubu consider marriages of relatives a major taboo because relatives up to the seventh grandfather to them are like siblings, and siblings should not marry one another,” says Kanay
According to Kanay, women in both tribes have a high and respectable status, sometimes to the point of sanctification. “The Tubu tribe considers the children of Tubu women to be Tubu,” she says. “The Tuareg treat women in a similar fashion where the latter gets inheritance and has the final say on family affairs. Tuareg women are free to marry any men and are not forced. Tuareg children belong to the mother’s tribe as well, and they are raised at their uncles’. Women have the right to divorce their husbands whenever they want and divorced women are not considered inferior to others.”
Kanay believes that the wars between the Tubu and Tuareg were “fueled by external parties and they broke out for external reasons. They have no historical bases, which is why they have not affected the social fabric despite the bloodshed.”
In spite of the opposition of extremists from both sides, marriage continues between the tribes. Kanay argues that young Tubu men go to Niger to marry Tuareg women and take them back to Libya. Most recently, a young Tubu man married a Tuareg woman despite her family’s opposition. There are many successful marriages between the two people despite the recent problems between them.
Kanay believes that what is happening in Libya is buried tribal, ethnic and regional conflicts that have been brought back to the surface by regional and international conflicts.
Rima Alefani – Holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Journalism from the University of Tripoli. She has worked at Al Hurra as an editor and has also supervised and been editor of the political page in Vsanaa. She has also contributed to several Libyan newspapers.