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RABAT, Morocco — Berbers young and old clenched balloons and flags last week as they gathered outside Parliament calling for a national observance of their new year. 

The Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa also referred to as the Amazigh, predate the Arabs of Morocco, but historically they have been left out of the political process. Jan. 13 marked the first day of year 2964 on the Berber calendar.

“For those who fight for Amazigh rights, [national observance of the new year] would mean a lot. It would mean our Amazigh identity would be more accepted by our country,” said Salma Idraïs, 20, a Berber journalism student studying in Rabat.

Since the Arab Spring, Berbers throughout North Africa have been advocating for their rights.

“You can equate their struggle to the Native Americans,” said anthropologist Susan Schafer Davis, who has spent more than 30 years living and working in Morocco. “They’ve been pushed further and further into isolated spaces.”

PHOTOS: What it means to be ‘Amazigh’ in Morocco

Photos by JP Keenan