The Tuaregs are a nomadic Berber people. They inhabit the Saharan regions of North Africa (Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Burkina Faso). Tuareg is an Arabic contemptuous term meaning "abandoned by God". They call themselves "Imohag" i.e. "free men". The Tuareg dominated the trans-Saharan camel caravans which were the main stay of regional commerce until the 20th century. They became Muslims, but preserved many pre-Islamic traditions and do not strictly follow many Islamic rituals. The Tuareg for years resisted European domination. Among the Tuareg the women have a great freedom and participate in family and tribal decisions. Descent and inheritance are both through the maternal line. We have only limited information on clothing at this time. The men cover the face (today only in some circumstance), the women never and the young children commonly go naked.
The Tuaregs are a nomadic Berber peoplem from the north, not a black African people from the south. Tuareg is a contemptuous Arabic term meaning "abandoned by God". They call themselves "Imohag" i.e. "free men". Ethnically they are a diverse group who now share a common language.
Recorded Tuareg history begins in northern Africa where their presence was first recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus. The Tuareg like other some tribal groups have gradualy migrated south as a result of presure from northern tribes and better-watered land in the south. The Tuareg were once a nomadic people, but now live largely sedentary lives. They have settled arond the major towns of the southern boundary of the Sahara. These cities were once the great centers of trade which connected north and central Africa in the west. The Tuareg for years resisted European domination.
The Taureg once had their own religion. After conquest by the Arabs (8th century), they became fervent devotees of Islam. the
The Tuareg are intimately connected with the vast, arid Sahara Desert. They inhabit the western Saharan regions of North Africa (modern Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria, and Burkina Faso). These were countries colonized by France in the late-19th century, except for Libya which replaced the Ottomanns as the colonial power in the early-20th century. Because of their geographic distribution they were ble to dominate thecaravan trafic between West Africa and the Magreb, wither bu attacking the caravns are selling protection. This means that they were involved in the slve trade as slaves were one of the primary commodities transported over the caravn roots. The nomadic Tuareg gradually settled around the major commercial cities of the southern Sahara. At first this facilitated commerce because the Tuareg in the cities could cooperate with the nomadic tribesmen and the caravan tradesmen. Now most Tuareg have settled in the cities although their conndction with the Sahara continues. Thir influence is strongest in the Saharan regions of the countries mentioned above. This assocition with the Sahara means historicall stron connctions with cammels and cravn trade. An emotional attachment to cammels continues, but today trasport is more likely to mean pick-up trucks.
The Tuareg dominated the trans-Saharan camel caravans which were the main stay of regional commerce for centuries. This also made the Taureg a major factor in the slave trade. in the 20th century. The Tuareg profited by dominating the trade caravan routes between north and central Africa. For two milenia, central African products reached north Africa and Europe through these Tuareg caravan routes. For most of this era there was no or very limited seaborn trade. As with the Silk Road in Asia, the Saharan caravans had to focus on extremely valuable luxury goods to justify the cost of transport. In addition to goods the Tuareg brough captured people north for sales as slaves. The Europeans began establishing trading posts along the Gulf of Guinea coast (15th century). As a result of this and other developments, The trans-Saharan trade declined substantially (16th century). The Tuareg have also suffered both with advent of modern overland transport. In addition African countries more commonly now trade with European countries and much of this trade is conducted ny maritime transport. These changes have adversely affected the Tuareg economically.
The Taureg had a well developed slave system. They are the Berber people mot connected with slavery, One scholar writes, "The taureg had a highly differentiated system of slaverywith two separate types of slaves, special laws governing slave behavior, marriage property, and ingeritance, and special vocations for slaves. While slaves in the Arab world were primarily [but not exclusively] domestic servnts, among the Tuareg they acted as shepards, farmers and merchants as well as servants." [Starratta] Slavery in black Africa and the Muslim Arab world exhibit many differences. The Taureg situated between the Arabs along the coast and sub-Saharan blavk Africa eveloped slave system with aspects of both as well as some unique features of their own. Besides keeping slaves, the Taureg played an important role in the trans-Saharan slave which operated for two milenia, begining during antiuity. The Taureg not only were involved in the slave trade, but commonly kept slaves themselves. A scholar writes, "... a group of their slaves came directly from the Sudan. They also acted as slave hunters, slave merchants, slave caravan guides and prorectors of slave trade routes." [Starratta] The Taureg involvement with slvery has not ended with the abolition of slavery by the French during the colonial era. This role has varied somewhat from country to country since independence (1960s). Niger in particular has refused to move against Taureg slavers.
What is now modern Niger set as it is in the middle of the Sahara became important in the trahns-Saharan caravan trade. It was controlled in part or in whole by by both the Mali and Songhai Empires and other smaller African empires and kingdoms. This included the Dendi Kingdom, Gao, and Kanem-Bornu, as well as a several small Hausa states in what is now northern Nigeria. The nomadic Taureg became a major force in the Sahara, dominating trade routes. This made them a major player in the trans-Saharan slave trade. In modern times, the Tuareg people formed confederations and pushed south, forming alliances with various Hausa states. They engaged in extended fighting with the Fulani Empire of Sokoto, which managed to seize control of large areas of Hausa territory (late-18th century). A metal anklet camne to be a tradition in Niger for thise enslaved by the Taureg. These anklets are worn only by the slave-classes of Nigerien society. There are believed to bemore than 43,000 slaves in Niger. They do not now where the shackles commonly associated with the historic slave trade, the anklets serve as a way of identifying the slave class and setting them apart from Niger society.
The Sudan was east of the range of the Taureg. One scholar reports that the Taureg obrained some of their slves in the Sudan. [Starratta] We do not yet have the full story here. We know that the Sudan played an important role in the Nilotic slave trade.
The Tuareg became Muslims with Arabic invasion of North Africa. Tuareg follow Maliki sect of Islam. This is a sect which is based on the prophet, El Maghili, who preached in the early 16th century. While Muslims, the Tuareg have preserved many pre-Islamic traditions and do not strictly follow many Islamic rituals. The Tuareg normally comply with daily prayers and festivals, but fasting is much less commonly performed. Divination is popular and the Koran is commonly used for such insights.
Traditionally there were two basic groups in Tuareg society. One group was nomadic and engaged in commerce through cammel caravans accross the Sahaa. Another group was more sedentary and engaged in agricuulture. As wealth flowed from the caravan trade, the nomadic traders looked down on the generally less prosperous farmers. Agriculture labor came to be seen as lowe lass endevor. The sedentary Tuareg were organized into communities dominated by village nobels and community headmen. The status of the nomadic Tuareg has shifted in recent years. The French colonial authorities tended to prefer the sedentary Tuareg as more manageble. In addition the decline of the Sahara caravan trade has undermined the wealth of the trader class. Among the Tuareg the women have a great freedom and participate in family and tribal decisions. Descent and inheritance are both through the maternal line.
We have only limited information on clothing at this time. Men commonly wear protective amulets which have Koranic verses. Traditionally men began wearing a veil at age 25. The veil is worn even within the family. This convention has substantially to decline, but still exists. The men cover the face (today only in some circumstance), the women never and the young children commonly go naked.
The Tuaregs in northern Sahara regions of Mali and Chad launched a rebellion (2007–09). This was one of various insurgencies by the formerly nomadic Tuareg. Historians date these disorders to the 1910s as France began to internsify its control over its West African territories into the interior. French abolition of the slave trade was a major issue with the Tuareg. After independebnce (1960s), the Tuaregs began to resent control by the French-influenced largely black population in the south. Tuareg population dispersed to Algeria and Libya, as well as to the south of Niger and Mali in the 1990s returned to the Saharan regions (late-1990s). The governments of Chad and Mali sought to integrate former Tuareg disidents into their national militaries. This proved difficult. Malian Tuaregs conducted raids in south (2005-06). This ended with another peace agreement. Fighting in both Mali and Chad occurred at about the same time, but without any concerted command. The fighting was mostly Tuareg guerrilla attacks in the vast Saharan north followed by regular army counterattacks. The result was a large Saharan area of northern Chad and Mali became lawless no-go zones. The military and civilians fled south to regional capitals like Kidal Mali and Agadez Niger. The fighting occurred mostly in Mali's Kidal Region and Niger's Agadez Region. The Algerian military government helped negotiate a Malian peace accord (August 2008) which was broken by a Tuareg rebel group (December 2008). The rebels were then broken up by a Malian military and wholescale defections of rebels to the government. Algeria racked by a brutal civil war has found dealing with Mali frusrating. Niger saw heavy fighting and disruption of Uranium production in the mountainous north until Libyan helped negotiate a peace arrangement after the rebels split. This prmitted a negotiated ceasefire and amnesty (May 2009). Since then the allready complicated Tuareg insurgency had gotten even more complicated. Al Qaeda in the Magreb was formed. They initially were resisted by the Tuareg, but there are suigns of increased Al Qaeda penetration duch as the raid on the Algerian Amenas gas facility (January 2013). The mercurial Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, found the Tuareg could be bought and were more reliable than his own people as a security force. After his fall, many of his Tuareg mercenaries fled south with large quantities of modern weapons from Gaddafi's well-stocked arsenals (2012). Islamaists with fundamentalist outlooks financed by Middle Eastern oil are expanding their incluence throuhout the Sahara and northern areas of West African states. The Tuareg have found it very orofitable to kidnap westerners whose governments have found it easier to pay large ransoms than to confront the kidnppers in the Sahara. This is a policy with which the Algerian military strongly disagrees. Their approach was demonstrated at the Amenas gas facility (January 2013). The capability of the Malian Army to cionfront the Tuaregs and Al Qaeda has been substantially diminished because of a military coup and political division. French President François Hollande committed French forces to support the Malian Government and Army (January 2013). He is also attempting to organize support from African governments.
Starratta, Priscilla Ellen. "Tuareg slavery and slave trade," Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies Volume 2, Issue 2 (1981), pp. 83-113.
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