July 31, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 4853

MNLA Political Bureau Member Nina Walet Intalou Issues 'Open Letter To The Free World'

July 31, 2012
Africa | Special Dispatch No. 4853


On July 12, 2012, the Tuareg media outlet Toumast Press published an "Open Letter to the Free World"[1] by Nina Walet Intalou, a member of the political bureau of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA). A prominent figure in the movement, Walet Intalou is the organization's director of humanitarian activities, and is also in charge women, children, and family affairs in the MLNA's Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (CTEA).[2] She is an outspoken champion of Azawadi independence and of the fight against Al-Qaeda and its proxies in the region. The Malian government has referred to her as the “strong man” in the MNLA.[3]

In the letter, Walet Intalou calls on the free world to support the MNLA in its fight for Azawad's independence and in the struggle against terror in this region. She points out that the MNLA is the only Azawadi movement that is opposing Al-Qaeda, and also defending the Tuareg heritage – including the freedom and dignity of Azawadi women – against the violence and repression of the fundamentalists.

The following are translated excerpts from her open letter, originally published in French.

The Tuareg Heritage Is Being Ransacked By Terrorists With No Culture Or History

"On January 17, 2012, we launched our struggle for freedom and dignity, [4] because the people of Azawad have suffered so much while the world has ignored [their plight]. Our nation, unrecognized to this very day, existed long before the colonial invasions and territorial divisions of which we, the Kel Tamasheq [i.e. Tuaregs] have been the main victims.[5] We cannot understand why the world is ignoring our legitimate struggle after so many years of massacre, suffering and sacrifice.

MNLA political bureau member Nina Walet Intalou [6]

"After we liberated our territory by our own efforts, Islamists suddenly appeared from every direction and started to exploit our struggle for freedom – killing our people, destroying our heritage, and threatening our thousand-year culture, which is a model [of progress] in terms of the rights and freedom [enjoyed by the] Tuareg woman. We are witnessing the destruction of our heritage, which is being ransacked by hordes of terrorists with no culture or history. They mean to eradicate every trace of our civilization, for they [are not only destroying] tombs in Timbuktu, which are a treasure of both Tuareg and global heritage,[7] but also the Tuareg culture [itself], with its matrilineal tradition, which is likewise a Tuareg but also a global asset."

Azawad, with a geographic area larger than that of France, constitutes some 60% of Mali's territory

The MNLA's Women Leaders Are Being Threatened By Islamists

"The Islamists destroy everything in their path. They indoctrinate young children and corrupt unemployed youths. On that dark day when the Ansar Al-Din militias beat up women demonstrating in Kidal,[9] Tuareg women experienced humiliation such as they never knew throughout their long history. Everywhere in Azawad, MNLA women leaders are being intimidated and threatened by the Islamists of Ansar Al-Din, of the Movement for Monotheism and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO),[10] and of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – which does provoke general indignation in the free world, as we might have expected. Despite their [international] isolation, [the women of the MNLA] continue their struggle and try to resist to the best of their ability.

Azawadi women demonstrate against the Islamists[11]

"However, [it is hard to say] how long they will be able to resist this 'international Islamist [coalition],' which is supported by hidden powers and has vast means at its disposal, with which [the MNLA] cannot compete unless it receives help and support. The lack of international support for the MNLA has benefited the various fundamentalist groups, which have cunningly occupied our territory for the last 15 years."

The MNLA Is The Only Movement Opposing The Islamists In Azawad

"Had common sense prevailed, the MNLA, which is the only movement opposing the Islamists in Azawad, would have been supported and helped by the global community fighting terrorism. Instead, to our great surprise, the UN has not taken any resolutions against the terrorists occupying our territory. Worse that that, despite the macabre history of years of massacres perpetrated by Mali against the Tuareg people, the UN is urging the MNLA to give up the [fight for] Azawadi independence, [rejecting our] right to self-determination...

Pro-MNLA banner

"Is the grim history we have experienced in Mali since 1963 of no importance? Are the 100,000 [Tuareg] victims of [Mali's policies] – which merit the description 'ethnic cleansing' – of no consequence? We are outraged by this indifference to our tragedy, but we will keep on fighting, ready to pay any price for our dignity and our freedom. The MNLA will not give in, and will continue its legitimate struggle for the freedom of Azawad.

"We hereby call on all the free and democratic nations to help the people of Azawad, whose only legitimate representative is the MNLA. It is totally unacceptable that Ansar Al-Din and MUJAO are considered respectable partners, while the MNLA, the only legitimate movement of the people of Azawad, is ignored."


[1], July 12, 2012.

[2] This body was established on June 7, 2012. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 848, "MNLA: The Fight For A Secular State Of Azawad," June 19, 2012, The MNLA's Fight For A Secular State Of Azawad.

[3] Le Monde (France), April 18, 2012.

[4] On January 17, the MNLA launched its war to liberate Azawad with an attack on Malian army forces in the town of Menaka, in northeastern Mali. On April 6, it declared Azawad an independent state after completing its takeover of the region.

[5] The MNLA considers the Azawad's inclusion in Mali a historical mistake by colonial France, which ruled the area until 1960 and annexed Azawad to Mali without considering its ethnic makeup or the will of its people. The present uprising was preceded by other Tuareg rebellions: in 1963, in the 1990s and again in 2006. The 1963 rebellion was violently repressed by the Malian army, creating a major refugee crisis.

[6] Image source:

[7] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.4734, "Desecration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu by Ansar Al-Din, AQIM," May 16, 2012, Desecration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Timbuktu by Ansar Al-Din, AQIM.

[8] Map source:

[9] Ansar Al-Din is an Islamist movement founded by Iyad Ag Ghaly. On June 5, 2012, Azawadi women were beaten up by members of this organization after they demonstrated against it the city of Kidal. According to Tuareg sources, this was the first time in Tuareg history that women were beaten in public. In the Tuareg culture, women have a central role in society, and violence by a woman's husband is immediate grounds for divorce.

[10] MUJAO is an Al-Qaeda splinter group engaged mainly in drug trafficking and abductions. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.854, "MNLA: The Fight For A Secular State Of Azawad – Part II: Fighting Terror In The Sahel," July 5, 2012, The Fight For A Secular State Of Azawad – Part II: Fighting Terror In The Sahel.

[11] Image source:

[12] Image source: Toumast Press Facebook page (!/toumastpress).

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