In Niger an army massacre at Tchin Tarabadene became the signal for a general Tuareg revolt in 1990. Just prior to this time, some of the Tuareg men (calling themselves ishumar, meaning unemployed) left for Libya, where they received military training and weapons. In the early 1990's they returned to their homes and demanded their autonomy. When the revolt spread to the towns of Gao and Timbuktu in the Niger River Valley, it was brutally suppressed and thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands fled to Algeria and Mauritania.
The Tuareg in rural areas still recognize social categories from the time before colonization. These are based on family descent and inherited occupation. For example, imajeghen (nobles) refers to Tuareg of noble birth, while inaden refers to the smiths and artisans. In principle, people are supposed to marry within their own social category. However, this practice has been breaking down for some time, especially in the towns.
In Tuareg culture, there is a great appreciation of visual and verbal arts. There is a large body of music, poetry, and song that is of central importance during courtship, rites of passage, and secular festivals. Visual arts consist primarily of metalwork, some woodwork, and dyed and embroidered leatherwork.
In direct contrast to Arab custom, all Tuareg men wear a veil, while their women are unveiled. The men's veil is the most distinctive and arresting article of clothing among the Tuareg. Self-respecting Tuareg think it shockingly indecent for a man to let his mouth be seen by anyone to whom he owes formal respect. Nor will he show his face to anyone whose social standing he considers superior to his own. Both young men and young women adopt the veil or head cloth at initiation or marriage, which shows that their social functions are identical. The most preferred veils are dyed indigo, though many make do with black ones.