AMELN VALLEY, MOROCCO // When the noon sun hits the mountains above the Ameln Valley in southern Morocco, stone and shadow interact to form the face of a gigantic lion that protects the women when the men are away.
That is the legend they tell in the valley, where the men have always worked and women have stayed indoors – until now.
“Women don’t need anyone to protect them,” said Mamass Outaleb, 25, director of the Tifaouine Women’s Co-operative. “They just need to be respected.”
In the past few years, some local women have emerged from their houses to capitalize on an influx of tourists hungry for oil from the rare Argan tree, which grows in the valley. In the process, they are quietly shattering tradition.
“In the past, women only went out to go to the Souq. Now they’re going out to work,” Ms Outaleb said. “It’s about discovering the world, so that a woman isn’t left sitting in a corner like an object.”
Ms Outaleb grew up in Tamaloukt, one of 26 tiny villages that seem to have sprouted from the mountainsides.
Pillars of red granite tower above, and the valley floor below is dotted with the green tufts of Argan trees.
Argans are rarely found outside Morocco, where they grow in abundance and most are protected by UNESCO.
The valley’s several hundred full-time inhabitants are Amazighs, or Berbers, herders and farmers who have inhabited North Africa since before recorded history.
With water increasingly scarce and agriculture difficult, most families now depend on sons and husbands working in Morocco’s cities.
Local women founded Tifaouine in 2000 to get themselves out of the house and into business, one of dozens of similar organizations working today in the surrounding Souss region.
In 2002, the US Peace Corps helped build a workshop for the group, part of efforts to get Tifaouine and another local women’s co-operative, El Baraka, up and running.
“The goal is to work ourselves out of a job, so that Peace Corps volunteers are no longer needed,” said David Lillie, the Peace Corps’ Morocco country director. “Within the cultural context of the community, if there are women interested in working with us, we definitely like to work with women.”
Many women in Tifaouine hope to move on to better things. But for now, it offers a rare chance to take charge of their affairs.
“I wanted to change my life, and change people’s mentality,” said Fatima, 31, yanked out of school at age 10 by her parents to mind younger siblings. “And I wanted to have fun.”
She has been part of Tifaouine from the start and comes to the workshop every day to make leather slippers, bags and cushions.
“At first, my parents were against it, but eventually they changed their attitude,” she said.
As she spoke, Fatima embroidered jagged multicolour patterns into a piece of red leather destined for the heel of a slipper.
“I still want to study,” she said, tying off a stitch. “But I’m not sure how.”
Meanwhile, a tapping came from outside, where Najat Bouloudn, 20, was cracking dried Argan fruit between two stones.
Nine years ago Ms Bouloudn’s parents took the unusual step of sending her to work as a housemaid in Casablanca. She returned home last year.
“I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t make friends, but now I come and go as I please,” she said. “Ultimately I want to do something different, but I don’t want to leave the valley again.”
Argan fruit, about the size of an almond, turns hard and brown in summer and falls to earth. The women shell out and roast the kernels, then use a machine to press out oil with a taste between that of olive and peanut.
Mixing the oil with almond paste creates a spread called amlou; unroasted oil is used as a skin ointment.
Most of Tifaouine’s business comes from European tourists who have discovered the area over the past few years. Some visit Tifaouine’s workshop, while others buy the group’s products at the nearby Chez Amaliya hotel.
Most of Tifaouine’s 24 regular members earn between 500 and 700 Moroccan dirhams (Dh210-295) a month, Ms Outaleb said.
“It’s just pocket money, but what matters is that the girls learn to work,” said Fatima’s brother, Khalid, 27, tending the family shop one evening.
Like other men in the valley, Khalid has cautiously embraced the idea of women working outside the home.
“If Fatima wanted to go to the city, or abroad, that’s different,” he said. “But here in the valley, no problem.”
On a cafe terrace over the shop, Ms Outaleb was drinking hot chocolate. High above, the shadows were deepening on the mountains and the vast face of the lion was melting back into the stone.
“In the beginning, the men’s attitude was that women couldn’t work,” she said. “Now they’re learning, little by little, that women can do things.”
Earth Day Network contributes US$25,000 to High Atlas Foundation's One Million Tree Campaign. by BI-ME staff / Sat July 17, 2010
INTERNATIONAL. The Earth Day Network recently announced a US$25,000 contribution to the High Atlas Foundation’s One Million Tree Campaign during a reception in Bethesda, Maryland, hosted by HE Aziz Mekouar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United States.
The Moroccan Ambassador to the United States hosted the reception in his home to honor the contributions of the High Atlas Foundation to rural development in Morocco. Yossef Ben-Meir, president of the High Atlas Foundation, said, “the High Atlas Foundation aims to raise US$200,000 to plant 200,000 fruit saplings in rural areas in 2011. Earth Day’s contribution represents a major milestone in meeting that goal.”
The Foundation’s goal for 2011 is part of the One Million Tree Campaign launched by the Foundation in 2006. Every dollar contributed will buy a sapling, according to Ben-Meir. The campaign was conceived to develop income for rural Moroccan communities in many regions of Morocco, particularly remote mountainous areas where traditional crops (barley and corn) were not producing enough food to feed the communities.
In addition to providing higher value cash crops for communities, the fruit trees (varieties that do not require pesticides) help to prevent erosion and desertification, and offset carbon emissions.
Since 2003, the High Atlas Foundation has planted 200,000 fruit saplings and trees, benefitting 25,000 people in six provinces of Morocco.
“Earth Day Network is honored to make this important contribution to the High Atlas Foundation One Million Trees Campaign. The Foundation’s campaign is reaching out to communities in Morocco that will truly benefit from these trees for food, income, and environmental needs,” said Kathleen Rogers, Earth Day Network President. “We are counting the Million Trees Campaign as a contribution to our Billion Acts of Green™ initiative, which counts green acts from individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to quantify sustainability efforts.”
Earth Day Network was founded on the premise that all people have a moral right to a healthy, sustainable environment. The organization works to broaden and diversify the environmental movement worldwide through education, public policy, and activism campaigns. More than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. The Network recognizes Morocco’s “exemplary” leadership, particularly in the area of renewable energy, and selected Morocco’s capital Rabat as the site of one of the major celebrations (April 17-25, 2010) marking Earth Day's 40th anniversary.
The High Atlas Foundation is a U.S. and Moroccan nonprofit organization that works to establish projects in rural communities of Morocco that local people design and manage, and that are in partnership with government and nongovernment agencies. It was founded by former Peace Corps Morocco Volunteers as a way to use their experience gained for the continued benefit of the Moroccan people.
The High Atlas Foundation supports projects in fruit tree agriculture, clean drinking water, irrigation, women’s cooperatives, youth development, and participatory training at its Center in with Hassan II University in Mohammedia. The Foundation often works together with communities that neighbor national parks and partners with the High Commission of Waters and Forests. Other major supporters of its tree project are Trees for Life International, G4S Maroc, the OCP Group, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, GlobalGiving, the Penney Family Fund Foundation, and the Kate-Jeans Gail Tree Nursery Memorial.
The next special fundraising event of the High Atlas Foundation is a Moroccan film festival to be held in New York City at TriBeca Cinemas on October 29-30, 2010. Organizing for the festival is well underway and the first sponsor has been secured – the Moroccan American Center.
More information about festival activities can be found here or by emailing Moroccanfilmfestival@highatlasfoundation.org.
For more information and to view photos of the Foundation’s One Million Tree Campaign please visit www.highatlasfoundation.org.
Morocco theatre school wages battle for young minds.
By Zakia Abdennebi and Tom Pfeiffer Mon Jul 12, 2010
SALE Morocco (Reuters) - It seems hard to object to Mohamed el-Assouni's street theatre school, set up on a patch of scrubland between a rail line and a huddle of slums on the outskirts of Morocco's capital Rabat.
But the idea of young boys and girls gathering to learn somersaults, dancing and walking a tightrope was too much to bear for the radical Islamists living nearby, he said.
Assouni dug a 200-metre trench to bring water and power to the school's tent.
"The bearded ones ripped out the pipe and cable in the night," he said. "Yes sir, we are in conflict with those people. We don't deliberately disturb them, but they say we corrupt the local children."
Judging by the numbers thronging the tent on a recent Sunday, the Islamists seem to be losing the argument.
Learning to trampoline, make puppets and take part in street parades is a big draw for the children, many of whom already work to supplement their parents' meagre income, leaving little time for play. More than 260 have enrolled but not all turn up.
Pupils who rebel against the workshop's quiet discipline are sent away and frustrations can boil over. Boys have thrown stones at the tent and one slashed it with a knife.
"Even when the school is shut you'll see lots of the kids nearby, practising their dance moves or stilt walking," said 25-year-old dance instructor Khalid Haissi, who turned down a circus job in Europe to join the school.
Assouni and his wife Soumia founded their Nomad Theatre Association in 2006 and set up their workshop with help from Morocco's National Human Development Initiative (INDH), Germany's Goethe Institut and the French government.
He says the self-control and talent of the workshop's young trainers, all from poor backgrounds, make them powerful role models for the children -- and will hopefully encourage more of them to return to school.
"Our school headmaster always ordered me and the other lazy boys to pick up rubbish, so I fled," said 14-year-old Said Mustapha Khalfi. "Here they encourage us. I feel like an artist and I have something to show."
WALKING A TIGHTROPE
Morocco has one of the worst school drop-out rates in the Arab world, with only one child in 10 completing their education, according to UNICEF.
A 2007 World Bank report ranked Morocco 11th in the region in terms of access, equality, effectiveness and quality of its education, above only Yemen, Iraq and Djibouti.
The government designated the last 10 years the decade of education and training. Now it has embarked on an "Emergency Programme for the Reform of Education," lasting to 2012.
The reforms need to start working if the kingdom is to find enough trained graduates to compete in world markets and overcome the youth unemployment that breeds despair and makes it easier for violent Islamist groups to recruit new members.
Assouni points to a boy queuing up to learn cartwheels.
"You see that boy? Each weekend I have to go to the cafe where he works as a waiter to bring him down here. That other boy with the red soccer shirt doesn't go to school. He goes around with a donkey and cart collecting plastic for recycling."
The workshop is set in the neighbourhood of Douar Mika -- Plastic Village -- so named because families who arrived over the years from the poverty-stricken countryside covered their makeshift shelters with sheets of polythene.
For Assouni, the local children are already walking a tightrope, in danger of falling for Western evils such as alcohol and drug abuse on one hand and religious fundamentalism imported from the Middle East on the other.
"I tell myself that if I save four or five of these children with every residence we do, that's enough," he said. "Save? Yes, I mean that. They are at risk of being lost to the streets."
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Where the kasbahs star
July 11, 2010
The mud-brick forts of the High Atlas fended off invaders for centuries - until Hollywood came along, writes Lee Atkinson.
A KASBAH is a bit like a lamington: fancy-looking and full of promise on the outside but a bit bland, boring and empty on the inside. Or at least the one I'm sitting in is. On the outside it's a fairy-tale concoction of crenellated ramparts, pointy-tipped towers and red pise (rammed earth) parapets decorated with ancient Berber symbols carved into the walls.
Inside, however, it's just a set of dark and dank empty rooms linked by an equally dark and dank winding staircase. Still, it's a great place to sit on the floor with your back to the wall and a glass of mint tea as you discuss the merits of Spanish A-league football with the owner's son and a welcome rest stop on a day-long walk though the Valley of the Roses.
The Vallee des Roses is a tight slithering valley in the stony High Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, better known as the Valley of 1000 Kasbahs. In spring, the terraced fields that hang above the threaded M'Goun River will be a riot of pink blooms that will strike a stunning contrast to the orange, purple, yellow and red banded mountains.
But we're here at the tail end of winter and the dense hedgerows of wild roses are just bare thorny bushes, although the pocket-sized fields are thick with the green shoots of young barley and broad beans and the almond trees are swathed in snow-white blossoms.
As we trek through the fields, we pass tiny women bent double under impossibly heavy loads of firewood strapped to their backs (I tried to lift one, much to the hilarious delight of the women but could not stand under the weight, let alone walk for hours up and down hillsides), diminutive donkeys laden with equally heavy loads and cheeky school kids on their way home for lunch. We wander through remote Berber villages where all the buildings are the same colour as the mountainside they cling to - they are after all, made from the same mud - and the old women have chin tattoos that match the symbols carved into the walls of the houses.
Each village clusters around a ruined kasbah or ksar - the fortified houses and watchtowers that speak of a tumultuous history of fending off invaders - and a mosque. Brightly coloured carpets covered in geometric designs hang from window ledges, goats bleat from rooftops and chickens squawk from behind mud brick walls. Our day-long trek is just one highlight of a five-day journey across central Morocco, from Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara not far from the Algerian border to Marrakesh, along a route nicknamed the Road of 1000 Kasbahs.
We'd set off in the midst of a Hollywood-style sand storm, badly tied makeshift turban tails swirling behind us in the wind, our ears, eyes and nostrils full of the red-gold Sarhara sand, watching the massive desert dunes reshape themselves as our convoy of camels lumbered to our Bedouin camp for the night.
By dawn, the desert is calm and beautiful and we hit the road that flanks the snow-capped High Atlas, leaving the now serene sands behind, taking time to walk through hidden gorges and peer down from hill-top vantage points at oasis-like palmeraies - river valleys full of date palms - that dot the otherwise barren desert landscape, before reaching Kelaa M'Gouna and its beautiful valley of roses.
We spend two nights here in a Berber house with great views, dodgy plumbing and some of the best home-style cooking we find anywhere in Morocco.
At Ouarzazate we wander through the partly ruined Taourirt Kasbah. Once the home of the former Pasha of Marrakesh - who, legend has it, was famous for his thousands of slaves and hundreds of wives - the rambling kasbah still features beautiful painted ceilings from the 17th century. These days, the labyrinthine dungeons are out of bounds but much of the rest of the complex has been used as a movie backdrop. In fact, Ouarzazate is Morrocco's Mollywood and the surrounding countryside with its sand dunes, palm-filled valleys, snow-capped mountains and fairy-tale like castles and kasbahs has stood in for Tibet, Rome, Egypt and Somalia in numerous movies, including Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator.
Many of the blockbusters were filmed at nearby Ait Benhaddou, the biggest and grandest mud-brick kasbah of them all. These days the World Heritage-listed hill-top fortress is home to just eight families. The fortified city hasn't changed much since it was built in the 11th century and most former inhabitants prefer to live in the more modern village across the river.
On the day we visit they have been left stranded by the rising floodwaters of the usually dry river at its base, now a raging torrent of fast-moving red mud uncrossable by the donkeys that usually ferry locals and visitors.
We climb ever upwards as we cross the High Atlas on the breathtaking mountain road called the Tizi n'Tichka, which winds its way in a series of hairpin bends, blind corners and switchback turns to more than 2260 metres above sea level - making it the highest mountain pass in Morocco - before descending to cross the plains towards the hustle and bustle and open-air theatre of Marrakesh.
It may just be a trick of the light but time really does seem to move slowly on the Road of 1000 Kasbahs.
Austerity plan jolts Moroccans.
2010-07-15 By Siham Ali for Magharebia
The Moroccan government announces austerity measures to stave off the type of economic difficulties faced by neighbouring countries.
Concern is mounting in Morocco about the nation's economic health, following an announcement that the government will adopt an austerity policy in 2011.
Economy and Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar announced to Parliament on Monday (July 12th) that due to unstable global economic conditions, Morocco must stay vigilant and implement measures that include controlling the wage bill and reducing government spending on telephony, fuel, travel, and vehicle and building procurement.
Compensation fund spending will also be controlled, with a ceiling of 2% of GDP set on the budget. Fund expenditures are set to reach 25 billion dirhams by then end of 2010, up from a projected 14 billion.
"This indicates the need to move forward with reforms by targeting the least privileged levels of society, so as to avoid unnecessary expenditures," Mezouar said.
MP Abdelaziz Hafidi Abdelaziz said the austerity measures must not affect certain projects, particularly in the area of social policy. He also called on the government to open up a national debate as soon as possible about the compensation fund, in order to implement long-awaited reforms without harming the interests of the middle and underprivileged classes.
According to economist Mohamed Bachaoui, an austerity policy is necessary, as 2011 will bring higher oil prices, rising costs for raw materials and more uncertainty in European markets.
"The government can't touch the investment budget, because that would compromise the development of the national economy and their major projects policy," he said. "Similarly, it will be difficult to change much in fiscal policy. So the choice has to be to change the way the administration works."
Public employees expressed fears immediately after the government's announcement.
"Are they going to remove performance bonuses and travel costs just when civil servants really need them?" asked S.R., a civil servant. "Until everything's been fully explained, we'll remain sceptical. I believe the government should start by reducing ministers' salaries and the benefits they enjoy. Middle- and lower-level civil servants must be protected, because their financial resources are very limited."
Hicham T. said it was time to reduce unnecessary spending by the administration and the benefits programmes enjoyed by top civil servants.
"With strict control on its operating budget, the state will be able to save a lot of money," he told Magharebia. "Charity begins at home; ministers must be the first to set a good example in times of crisis."
On the road to Morocco. BY DIANNA WRAY
Kelly Combs, 21, will board a plane next week with only one suitcase and a backpack in hand. He’ll be headed for the African country of Morocco as a recipient of the $25,000 Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship.
At the Wednesday meeting of the Rotary Club, Combs walked to the front of the room to accept a proclamation from Mayor Larry Melton, declaring the day to be "Kelly Combs, Rotary Ambassador Scholar Day."
His parents, Dean and Dianne Combs, beamed proudly as Melton read the proclamation.
"We’re very pleased and very happy to see him get this opportunity. We really appreciate the Rotary Club for doing this," Dean Combs said.
The younger Combs flushed with embarrassment as members of the Odessa Rotary Club cheered him, but his smile filled half of his face. It’s taken a long time to get to this point.
Two years ago, Combs came across a flier posted at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, advertising the Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship Program. The program, founded in 1947, was designed to further international understanding between people from different cultures.
Combs, who graduated from UTPB with degrees in political science and leadership, had already missed the application deadline for the year, but he started working right then to apply for the following year, he said. He contacted Rotary Club member R.C. Paulette about the program, and, after meeting, Paulette agreed to sponsor the younger Combs for the program.
"It enables us to go out as ambassadors to teach people about our country, our state and our city, and to learn about their culture at the same time," Paulette said. Combs is the first person from Odessa to win the scholarship, Paulette said.
Applicants design their own programs. The only requirements are that they go to a different country to study and that they act as ambassadors of Rotary while living abroad. When applying, they get to choose places they would want to go and study.
After a lot of research, Combs chose schools in three places including Turkey and Ghana, with Morocco topping the list.
"It’s just a really old culture, and it’s been around forever. They speak Arabic there. It just seemed really interesting," he said, his eyes lighting up. It’s a long way from his schooling at Permian, Bowie and Reagan Elementary in Odessa.
After arriving in Morocco, Combs will spend the first month in Rabat, the capital city, learning French. Then he’ll attend Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, a small town in the mountains of Morocco, working toward a master’s degree in international diplomacy.
The scholarship requires Combs to do community service projects and to hold presentations about where he comes from for the people of Morocco. He said he’s excited to get the chance to see a new place and to represent West Texas to the rest of the world.
"I’m going to get to see a new place in the world and learn about a new culture and new experiences totally different from the life I’ve led. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I can’t believe it’s happening to me," Combs said.
Morocco's drinking water facility invested over $ 422 mln in 2009
Rabat - Morocco's drinking water facility (ONEP) had invested in 2009 over 422 million dollars (3.7 billion dirhams), bringing its coverage rate to 89% in the rural area.
The program of generalizing access to drinking water in the rural area succeeded in 2009 in supplying an additional population of 246,000 inhabitants, besides 120,000 people in 24 centers, according to figures released, Friday in Rabat, by ONEP's board of directors.
As for the urban area, the 2009 newly-implemented projects required building 6 treatment plants, including a desalination plant and two demineralization plants. This enabled reaching an additional rate of flow of 1,706 l/s.
The state-owned facility carried out 240 km of supply mains, built 23 new water tanks with a capacity of 14,200 m3 and extended the supply network by 400 km. It had also operated a 308 km-wastewater collection system and three wastewater plants treating 11,026 m3 per day.
Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra, who was presiding over the board of directors' meeting, lauded ONEP's 2009 achievements.
Moroccan media distorts women's image, study says.
By Siham Ali 2010-07-06
In a recent survey, women in Morocco say the media portrays them in an inaccurate and distorted fashion.
Moroccan media distorts the image of women, according to a recent survey undertaken by the communication ministry.
Overall, Moroccan females believe that their image is so misrepresented and manipulated that it does not mirror the reality of Moroccan women, the survey said.
Advertising and drama are the farthest from reality in terms of perception of everyday women's lives, said women whose opinions were recorded in the final report released on June 30th.
According to survey participants, advertising focussed more on household chores and presented women as traditional, unskilled and submissive to men. In drama, women felt they were portrayed as more manipulative, promiscuous and dumb.
On the other hand, women are presented as educated, elegant, experienced, independent, responsible and highly regarded in the news.
According to the report, the news presents the reality of a minority of women elites, while the picture reflected in drama and advertising is that of extreme cases of a minority of Moroccan women.
Television does not present how women are capable of reconciling different functions of their professional, private and personal lives, survey participants said. Television does not alter the image of men, and continues to promote male dominance.
Participants said television never showed situations where a husband and wife help each other with chores, and gave the impression that women could gain respect in the workplace but were still inferior and oppressed in their homes.
Both print and audiovisual media play a major role in shaping public opinion, Communication Minister Khalid Naciri said on June 30th. In his view, it promotes certain principles and values and propagates thoughts.
"This kind of media, controlled by people who have their own agenda, can also spread stereotypes," he said. "These images and stereotypes have more impact than when they are communicated through television, because the picture, without a doubt, has an effect on public behaviour. Indeed, these stereotypes and prejudice do not reflect all the developments benefiting women's rights and do not follow all the progress made in this field."
The survey recommends that television should better reflect the social developments of women and attempt to correct the current problems of representation. The report also recommends that television should present a more diverse picture of women, and highlight their different professional and marital statuses.
In short, the report said, reality should be covered without being generalising or demeaning. For instance, when a drama shows young students engaging in prostitution for money or designer clothes, it can have a significant impact on rural parents who are already reluctant to send their daughters to boarding high schools in a neighbouring city.
In order to change stereotypes, monitoring committees must be created to make recommendations and raise awareness, sociologist Houda Smirni told Magharebia.
"Media, especially the audiovisual, must be involved in the equality of both genders through awareness programmes and through its other broadcasted programmes, because the messages they communicate have a major influence on viewers," she said.
Sanae Yaacoubi, a student, stressed that it is time to recognise what women really are worth, and to rise above the images of the past that confine them to a secondary role.
"Morocco has evolved and so has the status of women, even if there is still a long way to go to change some attitudes in order to achieve the desired freedom," she told Magharebia.
"Media must be a mirror reflecting the reality as is, all to raise awareness on the benefits of gender equality," she said.
Mullahs and music in Morocco. By Fawzia Afzal-Khan July 05, 2010
On my recent trip to Morocco, I did more than just sing. I was swept along on a tidal wave of song and music that has been swelling to gargantuan proportions, thanks to the royal decrees of King Hasan V. This perspicacious young ruler — and I am no fan of monarchies or monarchs — has been fanning the flames of musical madness as an antidote to extremist Islam in
This was my first visit to the Maghrebian kingdom. I was bowled over by the country that has seduced many before me, including the writer John Bowles. His Orientalist novel, The Sheltering Sky, popularised further by Bertolucci’s filmic version, certainly has done its bit to pique the desires of many westerners for the exotic “Moslem” Arab world. But of course, this is now part of a fast-receding past, however imaginary, to be replaced by the very real present of a world increasingly under the sway of religious revivalism, including a virulently fanatical, pleasure-hating puritanical strain we are witnessing particularly (though not exclusively) in the Muslim world.
Music, with its magical propensities to touch the human soul and soften even the hardest of hearts and open the most closed-off of minds — represents a particular threat to the forces of obscurantism, whose aim is precisely the opposite: the shutting down of thought. Bodies and minds swaying to the rhythms of the universe, in sync with the spirituality which resides in all of us and which wants to celebrate the life-source, the beating heart — these bodies, these hearts, these souls, participating in the exchange of musical breath — these are anathema to the killjoys who want to snuff out life itself.
King Hasan of Morocco seems to have realised that we are indeed in the midst of an epic battle between the forces of light and darkness, pleasure and pain, music and fanaticism, music and militarism. Thus, a few years ago, he decided to create public venues for the promotion of music all over the country, and the result today is a cornucopia of festivals dedicated to many local and international genres of music. The most well-known of these is perhaps the Festival of Sacred Music which this year marked its 16th anniversary. It takes place in the month of June in the ancient city of Fez, which also boasts the oldest, continuously-functioning university in the world, the Keraouine, which I had the pleasure to visit, although, sadly, I missed the festival. I did, however, make it in time for the Mewazine Festival which is on its way to becoming a huge world music festival, held in the imperial city of Rabat.
My friend and I careened around one night, taking cabs, two women alone, no problem, from place to place all over the city, attending free concerts in “plein air” as they say in French. Huge open-air stages with high-quality sound systems, offering free music in various neighbourhoods from the lower-class to the well-heeled, attracted audiences in the thousands representing all classes and age groups. I saw old women with heads covered, young girls in jeans and t-shirts, and men and boys of all ages, including young ones kicking soccer balls around while music blared and performers gyrated on stage and on giant screens. We heard a new group called Outlandish from Germany and then raced off to catch the latter half of Sir Elton John’s concert.
Despite angry protests against inviting a homosexual singer to perform, voiced by members of the religious right, the king and the festival organisers stood firm in their resolve. It’s the music that matters. That was their message — one, all Muslim governments and people need to heed. Singing my own mixture of Sufi-pop in the 14th century Kasbah Palace of Tangiers, I felt spiritually cleansed by the moon bath of my Moroccan musical journey. A journey which is already opening my heart and mind in unexpected ways.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2010.
A sampling of Moroccan culture, lore.
By Mary-Liz Shaw of the Journal Sentinel July 3, 2010
The Anglo-Afghan writer Tahir Shah began traveling when he was a teenager, and he soon recognized it as his life's calling.
Within a few years Shah had assumed the habits of the veteran traveler, writing travel articles for newspapers and magazines to pay for his wanderlust.
He turned to writing books soon after that, including the entertaining "In Search of King Solomon's Mines," about his attempts to trace the ancient king's treasure through Egypt.
Although most of Shah's work has elements of the personal, his later works are chronicles of his experiences settling down with his family in Morocco, the country he used to visit with his family when he was a boy.
"The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca" (2006) tells the story of his purchase and painstaking renovation of a derelict palace once owned by a caliph. This story, like so many others of its sort, owes a debt to Peter Mayle's "A Year in Provence."
But Shah's tale rises above the clichés of quirky neighbors and tasty food with its sober observations of the fantastic. The caliph's house is possessed by a jinn - a spirit - and three men called "guardians" hang out at the palace, claiming to be somehow connected to the jinn. They do no work but won't leave. Later, a woman Shah hires to manage renovations at the caliph's house tells him she has a 300-meter jinn residing on her shoulder.
Shah handles these revelations with a mixture of wry humor and restrained shock. And a shrug - the house still must be fixed, after all, jinn or no.
"In Arabian Nights" (Bantam, 2008), which was released in paperback last year, continues the story, this time with Shah traveling across his adopted country to know it after one of the guardians tells him, "Morocco may have passed under your feet but you haven't seen it."
Shah's writing can be uneven, with odd turns of phrase. After the guardian's admonition, for example, Shah writes that "a jab of disbelief pricked my stomach."
And more than once Shah will have people saying lines that seem too fabulous, even in a place where giant jinn live on women's shoulders. A barber cutting Shah's hair says of a well-known storyteller, "Murad will hypnotize you with the stories that stream from his lips, in a waterfall of words." That is one poetic barber.
But at his best, Shah is a sympathetic and energetic observer of Morocco's diverse culture, where the ancient tales of "A Thousand and One Nights" are alive and well and told many times over in cafes from Agadir on the southern Atlantic coast to Fes, Shah's boyhood city, in the High Atlas mountains.
And the food! Fragrant tagines (stews) prepared in conical clay pots, spicy couscous eaten at lunch on Fridays, stinging hot mint tea - Morocco is delicious in more than its lore.
This appetizer is adapted from a recipe by Lahcen Beqqi, a Moroccan chef who posts his recipes at http://fescooking.com. Beqqi lives in Fes, the city of Tahir Shah's youth.
Carrots with Cumin Seed and Feta
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pound carrots
¼ cup of olive oil
½ teaspoon of salt
½ tablespoon cumin seeds
½ cup feta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash and peel carrots. Cut into rounds. Put into a casserole with olive oil and salt. Cover with tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and cook in preheated oven 20 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 more minutes. Remove from oven. Grind cumin seeds and add to carrots. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Cool.
Sprinkle with feta and cilantro before serving with pita triangles.
This recipe is adapted from one by Lahcen Beqqi at http://fescooking.com. He writes that vegetarian tagines are not common in Morocco, but they can still be found among Berber communities. The Berbers are among the earliest settlers in Morocco. This recipe can be made in a traditional clay tagine pot or in a covered pot.
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 sliced onions
6 to 8 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 cup peas
1 tablespoon diced poblano pepper
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In ovenproof pot (with a lid) or tagine, heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to pot, stir, cover and place in preheated oven. Cook 30 to 40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Shah tells us that couscous is usually eaten at the noonday meal on Fridays in Morocco. The traditional version is steamed. This recipe is adapted from one by Alton Brown at the Food Network.
Makes 4 servings
1 cup couscous (see note)
¼ cup cold water
Olive oil, for spraying hands
Place couscous in a fine strainer and rinse under cold running water. Dump couscous onto a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and let stand until grains swell, about 10 minutes. Break up lumps with your fingers.
Partially fill a large steamer pot or stockpot with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a simmer. Place damp tea towel in steamer or colander and add couscous. Fold towel over couscous. Steam, covered, over simmering water 15 minutes.
Pour couscous onto large, rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with ½ cup cold water. Toss with slotted spatula until cool and water is absorbed. Spritz hands with olive oil and spread out couscous, breaking up any lumps as you go. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Refill pot with enough water to make 1 inch again. Return couscous to colander or steamer and steam, covered, for 10 minutes.
Note: Use whole-grain couscous (not instant), usually sold in bulk in specialty stores such as Outpost Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market.
This recipe is adapted from www.moroccan-recipes.com.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen
2 cups grated fresh coconut
¾ cup evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Line an 8-by-8 inch cake pan with wax paper.
In a saucepan, combine coconut, evaporated milk and sugar and simmer gently until mixture reaches 238 degrees (soft-ball stage). Add butter and lemon zest and let cool to room temperature. Beat vigorously until thick and glossy. Pour into prepared pan and chill. Cut into 1-inch squares.
This recipe is from Lahcen Beqqi at http://fescooking.com.
Moroccan Mint Tea
Makes 4 servings
4 ½ cups water (divided)
2 teaspoons gunpowder tea
1 cup mint
2 tablespoons sugar
Put 4 ½ cups water on to boil. Put tea in a teapot. Pour ½ cup boiled water over tea. Swirl the mixture for a minute or so, then pour out the water. Add remaining boiling water. Stir in mint and sugar. Let steep 3 minutes and serve.
• Veteran travel writer Rolf Potts (; click on "Writers," then "Travel Writer Profiles") interviews Tahir Shah about living in Morocco and about the business of travel writing. Among the revelations: Shah can bang out a 100,000-word book in about 50 days.
• Tahir Shah's website (www.tahirshah.com) has information about his books and his documentary films. There is a page detailing his 10-day stint in a Pakistani prison where he and his film crew were taken as suspected spies after they had traveled into disputed territory. "In Arabian Nights" opens with Shah in prison; he is thinking about Morocco as a means of escape - to drown out the cries of other prisoners being tortured.
Mary-Liz Shaw is a Journal Sentinel writer and copy editor. Her Literal Feasts feature suggests a different book-themed menu each month.
Morocco Inaugurates Largest Wind Farm in Africa.
With completion in 2020, the wind farm will decrease Morocco’s dependency on imported oil and coal by 42 percent. Nadia Ibanez Mon Jun 28, 2010
King of Morocco Mohammed VI inaugurated a 250 million euro wind farm in the town of Melloussa near Tangier in northern Morocco, on Monday June 28. This marks the largest wind farm in the country with 165 wind turbines spread over five farms creating 140 megawatts of wind power. The project, which includes wind, hydraulic and solar power, will supply the region with its power needs. Officials have said the farm will increase the country’s electricity consumption from renewable energy sources to 42 percent, or 2,000 megawatts, by 2020 – currently, the area only produces 280 megawatts in wind farms already operating.
Moroccan Minister of Energy and Mines, Yamsmina Benkhadra, says the wind farm’s overall cost is estimated at $3 billion and will be completed in 2020. “Morocco is open to all forms of partnership, if foreign firms have the capacity to provide expertise, technology and know-how,” Benkhardra says. “We are looking for partners in the public and private sphere both foreign and areas.”
Funding of the project will come from state and private capital and foreign investors. Investments came from the European Investment Bank, Official Credit Institute of Span, Germany’s Kreditanstalt fur Wienderaufbau, and the Moroccan National Office of Potable Water. Power generator powerhouse Alstom has signed the project’s contract and will supply, install and commission the farm. Alstom is also responsible for the operation and maintenance during the farm’s first five years of operation.
Morocco is the only North African country that doesn’t produce oil of its own and hopes this project will decrease its dependency on imported oil and coal. The energy produced will save 126,000 metril tons of oil per year and will reduce CO2 emissions considerably.
June 27, 2010
The 259 students who graduated this year from the Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco’s only English-language college, are practically guaranteed a job -- unlike those Moroccans who went through the country’s French-inspired education system.
Commencement weekend at AUI, as it is commonly known, is not a very Moroccan affair. The atmosphere at the campus, set amid the pine and cedar forests of the Mid-Atlas mountain range, is part Swiss ski village, part Ivy League college. The university is in Ifrane, a mountain resort originally built for the French colonial elite wishing to escape the summer heat of Casablanca and Rabat. On a recent weekend in June, it was beset by a different kind of elite: AUI’s class of 2010 and their proud parents.
It was quickly obvious from the speeches that AUI did things the American way.
“AUI gives you not just a degree but a whole new personality,” said alumni President Khalid Baddou.
“AUI is more than a university; it is a community with an amazing culture. Here, you are given the weapons to face the real world with,” said science and engineering graduate Ahmad Arjdane.
The underlying message was loud and clear: This is what you miss out on if you study at traditional French-inspired universities in Morocco.
“I lost all hope with the French system while I was in high school,” said Fahd El Hassan, a 2009 graduate. “It is all about memorizing, not about learning.”
El Hassan was invited to speak at this year’s commencement because he had won third place in the 2008 Imagine Cup, a student competition organized by Microsoft and Unesco to further sustainable businesses through technology. This year’s AUI graduates included winners of the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarschip and the Google Computer Excellence Award in computer science.
"Morocco has long been handicapped because it has been so oriented toward Europe and France," said the dean of the science and engineering school, Ahmed Legrouri. "Let’s face it: Where can you go with just French these days? France, Switzerland and Belgium? Even in France, technical publications are in English these days.”
The former Moroccan king, Hassan II -- although himself a strong Francophile -- was among the first to stress the need for Moroccans to learn English to help ensure international success. Fate lent a helping hand. In 1995, Morocco’s beaches were threatened by an oil spill from a foreign tanker off the coast. The oil eventually drifted away, but by then king Fahd of Saudi Arabia had written a $50-million check to come to Morocco’s aid. The money was used to found AUI.
The university likes to boast that Moroccan employers are falling over themselves to hire AUI graduates. A recent survey by the alumni association said 98% of AUI graduates had found a job, started a business or were working a master's degree within six months of graduation.
This is in stark contrast to other Moroccan universities, some of whose graduates have been demonstrating every day for months in front of the parliament building in the capital, Rabat, demanding to be given jobs. Passersby sometimes make snide remarks about these demonstrators, saying graduates think a university degree automatically entitles a person to a government job.
"Like in many developing countries, it was long policy in Morocco that college graduates were given government jobs straight out of school," said AUI alumni President Baddou. "It was part of an internal security strategy at the time."
Moroccans also have learned the value of learning English. Moroccans initially missed the boat of the economic boom in the Persian Gulf countries because French was of no use in Dubai or Kuwait. Now, English is becoming a requirement in Morocco. Even some French companies in Morocco require that employees know English.
“The demand for an institution like ours is insatiable for the moment," said Simon O'Rourke, AUI’s American communications director. “We are the only one to offer the overall college experience."
-- Gert van Langendonck in Rabat, Morocco
Photos: Graduation day at AUI in Ifrane, Morocco, a bastion of American-style education. Credit: Gert van Langendonck / Special to The Times
Mohammed Almasri Sunday, 27 June 2010
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The leather sector covers three main activities: footwear; leather made cloths and goods; and tanning and tawing. Strongly oriented towards exportation, footwear is considered as the most significant industry. Leather made cloths and goods activities are more oriented towards the local markets.
The leather industry has a great export potential. Being an integrated part of the Emergence Plan, this industry is considered as one of the 8 Moroccan worldwide businesses which should generate 70% of the industrial growth by 2015 to achieve three objectives: stimulate growth, create a strong industrial sector and consolidate foreign currency inflows. As such, it is part of the National Pact for an Advanced Industry adopted by the government.
Six initiatives aiming at creating a favorable environment for investment were encouraged to enable leather and textile industries to develop their respective potentials:
1. A development plan for export opportunities
2. An adaptation program for actors in terms of export market development
3. A plan for an aggressive development on the national market
4. A modernization system for companies operating in the sector
5. A training program tailored to the sector
6. A plan to improve conditions in the sector
Dedicated to exportation, the leather sector in the Export Plus Plan seeks greater international openness and relies on several approaches:
• Diversifying products,
• Increasing quality
• Products with high added value
• Service quality.
The strategy is founded on the many advantages Morocco offers:
• Strategic geographic situation
• Long tradition in the leather sector
• International standards relative to environmental protection
• Availability of raw material
• Permanent logistic organization
• Internationally recognized know-how
• Trained and competent workforce
• Simplified customs procedures
• Several free trade agreements: with the European Union, USA, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan.
The leather sector is a high potential sector in the Moroccan industry.
The leather industry, traditional sector in Morocco, has grown considerably since the 1980s and currently plays an important role in the economy.
In 2008, the sector registered a production of 227.23 million Euros, bringing its share in the overall production of transformation industry to 0.8%.
The added value reached 82, 59 million Euros, i.e. 1.2% of the generated total of the transformation industry. It is to be noted that the footwear activity is the first category in this sector. It contributes with 80% (65.9 million DH). Leather made cloths and goods contribute with 9% (8.8 million DH) while tanning and tawing branch worth 7.6 million Dirhams.
In 2008, the sector of leather and leather made products achieved 259.8 million Euros.
In 2008, the industry of leather and leather goods counted 360 companies and employs more than 17,500 employees, i.e. 3.48% of the transformation industry.
From 2003 to 2007, investments varied significantly from one year to another. However, they recorded a decline in 2008 (-36%).
The share of footwear branch, being the first investment contributor in this sector and industry, is maintained. With 7.63 million Dirhams in 2008, this activity recorded a total of 84.7% of investments in the sector. Tanning and tawing branch registered 9% (800,000 DH) of investment, while leather made cloths and goods reached 600 000 DH.
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By Moha Ennaji Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Morocco experienced dramatic changes in the 1990s when economic difficulties and social pressure led Morocco's King Hassan II to amend the constitution and allow for more political reform. Electoral law was revised so that all members of the country's House of Representatives were elected by popular vote. As the political sphere became more democratic, a multitude of civil society organisations and associations emerged on the national scene, improving human rights, women's rights, economic development, education and health, all the while propelling Morocco to the forefront of legal, social and political reform in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
These organisations' ongoing dialogue with the Moroccan government led the current King Mohammed VI to directly establish the first truth commission in the Arab world, the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER). Founded in January 2004, the IER investigated and documented the forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and other grave abuses that occurred from Morocco's independence from France in 1956 until 1999, when King Hassan II ended his 38-year rule. Since it was established, the IER has awarded financial compensation to over 9,000 victims and survivors of these abuses and proposed safeguards against such abuses from recurring, including the separation of powers and increased respect for human rights in domestic law.
The collaboration between the state and civil society has continued to move the country forward through other reforms in women's rights, labour and ethnic rights. The new family law, adopted in January 2004, secures several important rights for women, such as the right to divorce, the right to child custody in cases of divorce and raises the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years.
The new labour code guarantees equal rights to workers in the private and public sectors. The nationality code was reformed in 2008 after much input by women's rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women and The Union of Feminine Action. It now acknowledges the principle of gender equality by allowing a woman to pass Moroccan citizenship to her children from a non-Moroccan father - an issue which is still hotly debated in other Arab countries.
Finally, in 2001, pressure from Amazigh - or Berber - organisations led to the recognition and revival of the Amazigh language through the creation of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, which safeguards and promotes the Amazigh language, partly by introducing it in schools and universities.
There are two main types of civil society organisations that not only informed these changes, but also made sure they actually happened. The first type provides public services, filling the gaps left by the state in social and economic development. These NGOs provide education, health and economic development by building schools and health centres in rural areas and villages.
The second type, featuring mostly human rights groups, focuses on advocacy and lobbying in order to strengthen democratic culture in Morocco. They have gone from a defensive role, denouncing human rights abuses under King Hassan II's regime, to a proactive one, promoting democratic values and the rule of law. Some of these leading NGOs - such as the Moroccan Organisation of Human Rights, the similarly named Moroccan Association of Human Rights and the Berber advocacy organisation Tamaynout - even adopt both roles: they provide legal advice to victims of human rights violations while lobbying for legislative change to ensure better protection of these rights.
Civil society in Morocco is promoting active civic participation, social mobilisation, good governance and a culture of responsible citizens instead of one of passive subjects. Civil society organisations have become real schools of democracy by training youth to be more engaged in community work and collective action in pursuit of the common good.
The challenge facing these organisations is to establish themselves as forces for innovation and to encourage the state to change policies that are detrimental to Moroccans and their democracy. Indeed, the state in Morocco relies on these organisations to implement policy and help meet the needs of the public. Giving them the space to operate independently would help civil society have a genuine partnership with the state.
Global Arab Network
* Moha Ennaji is an author, international consultant, Professor of Cultural and Gender Studies at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University and President of the South North Centre for Intercultural Dialogue in Fez, Morocco. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Morocco, Model of Good Practices in Quality Education in MENA Region – UNICEF.
Marrakech - Morocco is an example of good practices in quality education in the MENA region, UNICEF Regional Education Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa Malak Zaalouk said, on Monday in Marrakech.
Zaalouk made the remark, while presenting a report about reforms and innovations in the Moroccan educational system, during the opening of the third meeting on the quality of education in the MENA region.
The report highlights Morocco's efforts to promote quality education, she said, adding that education is a key element of the Kingdom's development strategy. In a an address, on the same occasion, secretary of state in charge of primary education Latifa Labida underlined that the education reform should be geared towards improving the quality of education, providing wide opportunities to learners and reinforcing their capacities.
By putting the human element at the core of its educational system, Morocco forges ahead on the path of meeting the Millennium Goals, achieving sustainable development and building a democratic and modern society, she said.
The Moroccan official underlined that the school is a place for promoting the values of citizenship and human rights, recalling the integration of the Amazigh language in national schools, since 2003. The meeting, held by the UNICEF office in the MENA region in partnership with Morocco's education ministry, brought together experts and participants from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Djibouti, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Oman.
During the same event, Moroccan comedian actress Hanane El-Fadili was appointed UNICEF’s goodwill ambassador to the Kingdom.
Morocco is not the problem. By Menachem Z. Rosensaft professor, Cornell Law School June 29, 2010
I take no position on whether countries should prohibit religious proselytizing. Over the centuries, Jews, especially Jewish children, have far too often been the victims of proselytization. During the years of the Holocaust, desperate Jewish parents in Poland smuggled their children out of the ghetto for safekeeping by Christians only to discover after the war - I am speaking, of course, of those who were fortunate enough to survive the death camps - that the children had been baptized and indoctrinated to reject their Jewish faith and identity.
I am far more concerned, therefore, with the presence or absence of the freedom of different faith groups to worship according to their respective beliefs.
The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, "during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco ." Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.
Anti-proselytizing laws are common in Muslim countries. Proselytizing is illegal in Afghanistan, as is conversion from Islam. Earlier this year, a Christian shopkeeper in Pakistan was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly desecrating the Qur'an. Last year, nine Christians were arrested in Malaysia for attempting to convert some Muslim students at a university near the capital of Kuala Lumpur . In Saudi Arabia , according to the U.S. State Department's 2009 International Freedom Report, "Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) and proselytizing by non-Muslims are punishable by death under the Islamic laws adopted by the country, but there have been no confirmed reports of executions for either crime in recent years."
In 2006, according to the Catholic AsiaNews.it, A Catholic Indian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia after he "was discovered by the religious police as he organized a prayer meeting in the lead-up to Easter. . . . On 5 April, Fr George had just celebrated mass in a private house when seven religious policemen (muttawa) broke into the house together with two ordinary policemen. The police arrested the priest and another person. The Saudi religious police are well known for their ruthlessness; they often torture believers of other religions who are arrested."
It is in this context that one must consider the Moroccan government's essentially benign expulsion earlier this year of five American Christians accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage. The Moroccan Penal Code specifically prohibits the "seduction in the aim of undermining a Muslim's faith or of converting him/her to another religion, either by exploiting his weaknesses or needs, or through the use, to this end, of health or educational establishments, as well as shelters or orphanages."
A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a hearing at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.
At the hearing, some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980's. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to "some of the tactics used by the Nazis."
These comparisons are over the top and betray either an ignorance or a disregard of history. Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.
As His Excellency, Aziz Mekouar, Morocco's Ambassador to the United States, emphasized, "The repatriation measures were taken against the concerned parties not because of their Christian faith but because they committed criminal offenses, proven by an investigation conducted by the Crown Prosecution Office, following formal complaints by parents and close relatives of the children concerned."
Once again, we should all refrain from making Nazi or Cold War analogies for rhetorical effect. The above-cited comments by Reps. Wolf and Pitts were as unfortunate and out of place as Newt Gingrich's recent claim that the Obama administration's policies represent "as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did."
Someone should remind Reps. Wolf and Pitts that our government regularly deports foreign nationals who are deemed to have violated U.S. laws.
Representative Pitts' comments are also in stark contrast with his praise for far more repressive Muslim countries. Back in 2004, he commended Saudi Arabia for "working closely with the U.S. to root out al-Qaeda" and Pakistani forces for "rounding up terrorists on their border."
In fairness, it should be noted that earlier this year, Reps. Wolf, Pitts, Frank, Smith and Cao appealed to the President of Uganda to reject legislation that subjects homosexuals to life imprisonment.
Proselytizing is a complex issue which deserves serious consideration. In December 2009, for example, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a Milwaukee , Wisconsin , sheriff was constitutionally prohibited from proselytizing his fundamentalist Christian beliefs to his deputies at official staff meetings. Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. had brought members of the Fellowship of Christian Centurions to address his deputies, and indicated that he would base promotions on the whether or not the candidates were "people of faith." Specifically, the Court held that Clarke's proselytizing had violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
I assume that Reps. Wolf and Pitts would not compare the 7th Circuit ruling to Nazi or Communist oppression, however much they might disagree with it. They and others who take up the cause of the American missionaries who were expelled from Morocco would be well advised to similarly refrain from introducing such inappropriate analogies into a dispute with a valued ally.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is Adjunct Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at the Syracuse University College of Law, and Vice President of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
Assessing Democracy Assistance in Morocco. Monday, June 28 2010 Anna Khakee
Morocco is one of the most liberal states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As such, it has been a main target of Western democracy promotion in recent years. The European Union (EU) is the largest provider of such assistance; other players include the US, individual EU countries such as Spain and Germany (through its political foundations, the Stiftungen) and, to a lesser extent, Canada, UN agencies, and Western NGOs.
Morocco is a monarchy where the king and the elite surrounding him – the so-called makhzen – enjoy vast power. The king effectively controls the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature. He is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As one of the richer monarchs of the world, he has control of vast swaths of the Moroccan economy. Considered a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, he is moreover Commander of the Faithful. Criticism of the king and the royal family is one of the "lignes rouges" that cannot be crossed in Moroccan politics.
The reason why Morocco is nevertheless often considered the most liberal country of the MENA is the series of reforms which has been enacted over the last decades. Some of these were introduced towards the end of the reign of the late King Hassan II: the constitutional reforms of 1996 creating a Chamber of Representatives directly elected by universal suffrage, the prohibition of torture and the beginnings of the gouvernement d’alternance, which meant that, for the first time, opposition parties formed part of the government. The new king, Mohammad VI, ordered the so-called Equity and Reconciliation Commission to investigate repression during his father’s reign. He pushed through the reform of the Mudawana, the personal status code, to strengthen the position of Moroccan women in matters of guardianship, marriage, divorce, etc. Other reforms have included easing controls on the written press, the integration of moderate Islamists into the official political arena, increased recognition of Amazigh (Berber) rights, and decentralization.
Reforms have at times been tentative and backsliding is common. The parliament is toothless vis-à-vis the makhzen and the party system has been dysfunctional. As a consequence, elections – apart from not being fully free and fair – are held under conditions of relative apathy and cynicism is widespread.3 Constitutional reform, widely seen as necessary, has not so far materialized. Corruption is a serious problem.4 Human rights abuses, in particular against groups who find themselves in opposition to the state (such as Sahrawi nationalists and militant Islamists) still occur and impunity remains an issue, according to human rights groups. The recommendations of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission in this respect have not been heeded for the most part. Freedom of expression and media freedom (especially in its electronic forms) also remain restricted and the written press is subject to serious and, some observers would argue, increasing harassment including politically motivated trials and exorbitant fines, leading to journal closures and even the exile of some journalists.5 Al-Adl wal-Ihsan (Justice and Charity), a non-violent Islamist organization, remains prohibited and its members harassed by the authorities.6 Since 2005, its spokesperson, Nadia Yassine, stands accused of defaming the monarchy for stating her preference for a republican form of rule (although the authorities continuously postpone the trial). Even the showpiece of Moroccan reforms, the new Mudawana, is not yet fully implemented on the ground: for instance, it has not yet had any effect with regard to the numbers of marriages involving minors.7
Most international governance assessments indicate that the situation in Morocco is stagnating.8 The European Commission, which regularly assesses the progress of EU–Moroccan relations, summarises the current mood: ‘reforms in the areas of democracy and human rights remain relatively un-ambitious’.9 At the same time, interviewees for this study (Moroccan journalists, academics, parliamentarians, representatives of NGOs, political parties and of the justice sector as well as international democracy promoting actors) do not believe that democracy assistance has had no impact at all. As noted above, there have been some notable changes in Morocco over the last ten years in certain key areas, and it is agreed that the international community has had a modest role in accompanying this reform process. International support for reforms of women’s status, the development of civil society, and to a more limited extent, electoral procedures are examples of areas where international democracy promoters have had the most impact. In other areas, where the domestic impetus for reform has been weak such as, for example, judicial reform, anti-corruption, and the effectiveness of political parties, this is much less the case. In yet other areas, there have, for various reasons, been relatively few democracy promotion activities to date. For example, there are relatively few democracy promotion projects targeting economic actors such as the Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc (CGEM).10 Other neglected areas identified by interviewees for this study include labour rights, media/journalism, democracy and education, and the defence of socio-economic rights.
Overview of donor activities
Morocco receives democracy assistance from the European Union and, to a lesser extent, from individual European states. The United States and Canada also provide Morocco with democracy support as do
Western NGOs. Democracy assistance covers a large number of issue areas, with a particular emphasis (in terms of funds committed) on judicial and administrative reform and decentralisation.11 NGO development, the strengthening of political parties and parliament and electoral support are also important focus areas. In addition to democracy assistance, respect for democratic principles form part of the main agreements and initiatives between Morocco on the one hand and Western states on the other, such as those under the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership and the European Neighborhood Policy. This section provides a brief overview of international democracy promotion in Morocco.
Morocco is the Mediterranean country that traditionally has had the closest ties to the European Union. Today, the EU promotes democracy in the country mainly through the bilateral European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) action plans and its concomitant financial instrument. The action plans include a form of weak positive conditionality: partner states, depending on progress (which is not strictly defined) of political, economic, and institutional reforms, are offered access to the EU’s single market and closer ties with the EU. In addition, Moroccan NGOs receive some EU funding from the European Instrument on Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The EU has stressed democratization in its other dealings with the Mediterranean as well, such as in the founding documents of the recent Union for the Mediterranean and its predecessor the Barcelona Process, European Commission Communications, the European Consensus on Development, and so on.
The EU/Morocco ENP action plan includes some elements on ‘Democracy and the Rule of Law’, mainly focused on administrative capacity, decentralization, corruption and reform in the justice sector. Moreover, under ‘Human rights and fundamental freedoms’, action points regarding the implementation of the law on freedom of association and of assembly and the law liberalizing the audiovisual sector are included.12
According to the National Indicative Program, which translates the action plan into concrete programs, ‘Governance and Human Rights’ receives EUR 28 million for 2007–2010, approximately 4 per cent of the total assistance package. ‘Institutional support’ receives another EUR 65 million. Human rights promotion programs in Morocco include support for community reparation schemes in line with the recommendations of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission, support for the development and implementation of a national action plan on democracy and human rights, the creation of a Moroccan Institute of Contemporary History which shelters, amongst other materials, the documents from the Equity and Reconciliation Commission, support to archives, and a history museum. However reform in two important poles of governance support, prison reform and the training of court staff in the new Mudawana legislation as well as legislation on minors, did not take place as planned. Institutional reforms primarily concern reform of the public administration (as regards budgeting, programming, introduction of internal audits, evaluation and performance control at ministry level, new systems of human-resource management, pay, recruitment and promotion) and improving regulatory capacity.13
Morocco was also one of the first ENP states to receive funding (EUR 28 million) through the ENP Governance Facility in 2007, as a reward for its commitment to political reform. The funds are used to reinforce ongoing reforms of the public administration. Recently, as part of Morocco’s path towards an ‘advanced status’ in relation to the EU, the creation of a mixed Euro-Moroccan parliamentary committee and the reinforcement of exchanges between Moroccan and European political parties was announced.14
Under the separate European Instrument on Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) which targets mainly civil society, allocations to Morocco have amounted to approximately EUR 1 million yearly over the last half-decade and are set to increase somewhat in the years to come.15 Support has gone to NGOs active in a number of areas: judicial reform; human rights (including political rights, labour law, women’s rights and torture victims, awareness raising); election observation; anticorruption; journalists’ training; women in local
governance; reinforcing the Moroccan parliament, youth; etc.16
Morocco has traditionally been rather peripheral to United States interests, but after 9/11 this changed. Today, the US is the largest bilateral donor of democracy assistance in Morocco: democratic governance is one of four priority assistance goals of the US government in the country.17 Funding comes mainly through USAID, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour (DRL), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Important agencies responsible for programmes in Morocco with mainly USAID and NED funding include the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI, present in Morocco since 1998) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).18
USAID has recently worked on technical assistance and training for the Moroccan parliament, with the aim of strengthening the parliament’s capacity to oversee public finances, review legislation and policy and engage in a dialogue with citizens. In view of the 2007 elections, USAID funded NDI and IRI to work with Moroccan political parties, including the moderate Islamist party PJD, to improve their capacity to develop political platforms and to effectively communicate them to voters. NDI also assisted Moroccan civil society to encourage voter participation in the elections, and has conducted a large number of focus groups (a particular type of polling technique) to gauge Moroccan public opinion.19 USAID has also been active on local governance, aiming to increase citizen participation at the local level and enhancing local governments’ transparency, performance, and accountability.
The main US post-9/11 initiative in the MENA region is the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), offering support for political, economic and educational reforms. MEPI’s presence is largest in Morocco,20 where programming has included – apart from a range of region-wide activities notably on the media – parliamentary reforms, support to political parties, and strengthening of local government.21
The Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF) of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) funds some MENA-wide projects (on general democracy issues, media, women etc.) which have included Morocco. It has also funded judicial reform projects in Morocco.
Apart from funding a number of NDI and IRI programs, NED has also funded Moroccan NGOs directly, focusing on issues such as judicial reform, local democracy, youth participation in politics, civil society strengthening, and human rights.
In the context of the troubled US-sponsored Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), the itinerant Forum for the Future was held in Morocco in 2004 and then again in November 2009. The BMENA Foundation for the Future, intended to provide assistance to civil society organizations that work to foster democracy and freedom, started its grant-giving activities in 2007. So far, however, it has only funded a handful of projects in Morocco.22
Some American initiatives have been very high profile, including US work with the Moroccan parliament and political parties, opinion polls which IRI undertook prior to the 2007 elections (polling had not until then been part of the political landscape in Morocco and the polls predicted that PJD had a following of approximately half the electorate, upsetting the traditional Moroccan political landscape), and official support for Al Adl wal- Ihsan spokes-person Nadia Yassine when she was detained in 2005.
The old colonial power France is the largest of all donors (bilateral and multilateral) in Morocco, but does not have a strong tradition of democracy promotion abroad. However, in the Moroccan context, governance – if not democratization – is nevertheless one of four ‘transversal intervention areas’ of the Service de Cooperation et d’Action Culturelle (SCAC).23 The governance dimension encompasses modernization of the civil service, justice, decentralization, and also includes a project on youth participation in public life.24 France also supports NGOs, mainly those working in social areas, but also human rights NGOs.25 EUR 25–30 million have been allocated for governance-related work for 2006-2010. The lion’s share (approximately EUR 22 million) is devoted to institutional support, and another EUR 3.7 million to civil protection and the police. The remaining funds go to NGOs working in the social sector, and to other governance-related projects.26
Like France, Spain has traditionally put rather limited emphasis on democracy promotion in its development policies, in particular in the MENA region. Since the Socialists gained power in 2004, this has changed, however.27 Morocco is one of 23 priority countries for Spanish development assistance, and in relation to Morocco, democratic governance is one of four priority sectors. In 2004–2006, an annual average of EUR 4.5 million was earmarked for ‘government and civil society’ programs in the country.28 Target areas in 2005– 2008 were reinforcement of social dialogue, civil society empowerment, rule of law and decentralization. A large part of assistance is decentralized to the Moroccan regions and channeled through NGOs.29
Germany traditionally leaves the bulk of democracy promotion programming to its political foundations, which are linked to the German political parties and funded through the Bundestag. Four of Germany’s six political foundations are active in Morocco: the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNS), and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS). All have a slightly different focus, reflecting their respective ideological backgrounds: FES centres its work on economic development and the promotion of women’s and human rights NGOs; FNS supports economic development and the training and education of journalists; HSS seeks to promote the rule of law and administrative reform and KAS finally, works on issues such as decentralization, intercultural dialogue and civil society development.30 The German foundations work primarily with Moroccan civil society actors.
Other European states such as the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland have provided support for individual initiatives and projects mostly as part of regional programs or through their embassies in Rabat.
Morocco is the largest recipient of Canadian development assistance in the Maghreb region, and an important focus area of that assistance is governance.31 Thus, one of three priorities for intervention of CIDA, the Canadian development agency, is ‘citizen participation’ (equality between men and women, reinforcing dialogue between the state and civil society, decentralization, and participatory development), and one of three target partners is civil society.32 Projects have included support in decentralizing the education sector and improving local government in the north of Morocco. Many projects have a regional focus (encompassing the Francophonie or the entire Arab world).33 Canadians have mostly worked through Moroccan associations, and targeted smaller, less high-profile NGOs.34
The UNDP’s work on governance in the MENA region through its Arab Human Development Reports has received great attention. Its Programme on Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR), focusing on capacity building, dialogue and policy advice in the areas of rule of law, participation, and transparency and accountability, follows on the analysis in those reports. In Morocco, POGAR is complemented by bilateral work, undertaken jointly with a number of other UN agencies. For the 2007–2011 period, one of the three main focus areas is ‘reinforcing capacities for democratic governance’, focusing on decentralisation. Moreover, the issue of human rights and gender should permeate all programming in the country (UNDP 2006, p. 4). The resources allocated for the entire five-year period amount to USD 5.9 million for gender mainstreaming and USD 14.5 million for decentralisation and public participation.35 The line between Western state and Western NGO-financed democracy assistance is not easy to draw. As we have seen in the American case, for the most part government-funded but independently managed organisations are key to its democracy promotion policies. Similarly, the German foundations, while autonomous from government interference, are almost fully funded by the German state. In other cases, Western states are partial funders, or together provide the bulk of funds for Western NGOs.
NGOs with a sustained presence in Morocco include Oxfam-Novib (Netherlands), which works on a number of projects on what it calls ‘the right to be heard’. Its Morocco programming is fully funded by the Dutch government and involves long-term partnerships with a handful of key Moroccan human rights NGOs.36 One of its sister organisations, Oxfam Québec, is active in human and women’s rights. The American Bar Association has been active in Morocco since 2003, focusing on the rule of law. It is funded mainly through INL and has worked on training and on the development of an ethics charter with the Moroccan judges association. Another US NGO present in Morocco is the Open Budget Initiative. Like the US government, some US civil society actors have also covered Moroccan religious parties in their programming. Thus for example, Nadia Yassine was invited by the University of California in Berkeley on a tour of the US, which included visits to Harvard and other leading universities.
In view of the 2007 elections, the Moroccan authorities invited an international observation mission headed by the NDI to the country. It consisted of a 50-strong delegation, preceded by a pre-election assessment team. The delegates visited polling stations in selected locations.37 Domestic and international observers concurred that the 2007 elections were the most transparent and fair in the history of Morocco, as ‘overall, the voting went smoothly and was characterised by a spirit of transparency and professionalism’. However the mission stressed that ‘The low voter turnout [...] and significant number of protest votes suggest that Moroccan authorities will need to undertake further political reforms in order to encourage widespread engagement in the political process. Those reforms should aim to enhance the power of elected representatives while also increasing the transparency of the system and accountability to the electorate’.38 During the 2009 municipal elections, only Moroccan observers, relying mainly on their own funds, were present.39
Moroccan views on the impact of democracy promotion
What effect has international democracy promotion had in Morocco to date? On the macro level, there is general agreement that ‘the institutional architecture that defines the power in Morocco has not evolved much in the last decade’, as the most influential Moroccan blogger puts it. Power is still vested with the king, and constitutional amendments, although much debated, have not materialized. In that sense, no actor – national nor international – promoting democracy in Morocco has had any influence on the fundamentals of the system. According to a representative of one of the main international democracy promotion agencies in the country, during the last decade in Morocco, ‘momentous moments’ have time and again been turned into mere ‘reconfigurations’ through dilution and cooption (see also introduction to this study).40
At the same time, most actors agree that the situation has evolved on the meso level, although whether the glass is half full or half empty is a question very much at the centre of political debate in the country. Hence, not surprisingly, there is no general agreement on the exact areas where change has been most significant, nor as regards the sustainability of reform, although some themes are recurrent: The expansion of women’s rights is almost universally considered a major achievement, the increased freedom of the written press, the expansion of civil society, the IER, and Amazigh rights are other oft-cited areas of progress (albeit with the caveats discussed in the introductory section to this report).
Few, either among donors or among recipients, would attribute these changes solely or even primarily to international democracy promotion. Instead, they tend to speak of a concurrence of several factors. Donors tend to stress that changes are internal to Moroccan society, but that they hope to act as a ‘catalyst’. As a European Commission representative puts it ‘we support a national will to reform’. Or, as noted by another long-standing international actor in Morocco, ‘Our success is the success of our partners. We chose credible partners that are able to change things’. This is well exemplified with the issue of women’s rights: ‘This is one of the most organized sectors of civil society in Morocco, which attracts donors. The strength of the movement led to the change in the Mudawana. It was a local creation, but supported internationally’. Moroccan actors often take a similar view: ‘the international level will have an impact when there is a local process [of reform]’, according to a leading journalist. However, Moroccan interlocutors tend to stress the home-grown nature of changes more: ‘The movement of resistance didn’t wait for the international agencies in order to fight for democracy. And we have never stopped calling on them to accompany these struggles, but they have been timid’, a leading NGO representative stresses. A political party representative agrees: ‘the international level is very secondary’.
The micro-level is, according to many interviewees, the weak side of international democracy promotion in Morocco to date. ‘The ‘top level’ (ministries, parliamentarians, the walis (regional governors), etc.) works very well, but the work on the ground remains weak. International democracy promoters could do much more in terms of training for the rank and file members of the administration and local political representatives’, according to one international NGO representative based in Morocco. A Moroccan MP agrees: ‘training for political parties should be held in the provinces and the municipalities’. Some people active in the justice sector take a similar view, insisting that they ‘would like to see a more grass-roots approach to justice reform in Morocco, working on issues of access to justice.’
For most actors, these rather modest conclusions as regards effects of democracy promotion to date are not necessarily problematic, as they stress that democracy promotion is by its very nature long-term, with time horizons of 25–30 years or more.
Hardly surprisingly given their emphasis on traditional and Islamic values, religious parties tend to be more critical of the model of democracy supported by Western donors. According to a leading PJD figure, ‘The Europeans want Moroccans to adopt Western values; their aid reflects this [...] Western NGOs and governments are all in the same mode of rejecting Moroccan identity’. Another PJD MP agrees: ‘With foreign financing, the goals of Moroccan NGOs can be, and often are, distorted’. Sensitive issues in this respect encompass homosexuality, freedom of religion and gender, as statements such as ‘Homosexuality will never be accepted by Moroccans’ and ‘Moroccan women’s NGOs repeat what is said elsewhere. It’s Western’ testify. Clashes do not entirely paralyze cooperation, however. With a bit of ingenuity, compromises can at times be found. A leading PJD member explains: ‘the abolition of the death penalty is impossible because it goes against the Koran. However, the suspension of its application is possible. One has to find solutions such as this one’.
Criticism is not confined to the religious parties, however. One Moroccan observer distinguishes between political freedoms which are ‘shared values that don’t pose any problem’ and ‘the rights of homosexuals, the equality of inheritance, the abolition of the death penalty, which are rejected by the Moroccan society and perceived as a Western import’. Others, again, find it hard to judge: ‘democracy promotion is too disparate to conclude whether they correspond to Moroccan values. They are a ‘sum of actions’ that don’t amount to a coherent whole’. Yet others see this as in certain ways a faux debate: ‘I don’t know of a single donor pursuing the issue of homosexuality. Donors will eventually have to adapt to Moroccan values, otherwise, they will not find takers.’
Interviewees mostly agreed that democracy promotion is insufficiently linked to other types of development assistance. Some interviewees stressed the importance of supporting improved education in Morocco (Morocco has among the highest illiteracy rates in the Arab world). ‘With the high levels of illiteracy we have, there cannot be any sharing of values. Reactionary forces will always be strong in such a society’, according to an NGO representative. Also noting the link between education and democracy, a donor representative found that the area was ‘neglected’. NGO representatives also stressed the importance of teaching democratic values to school children. ‘The EU should put pressure on the government so that education becomes based on human rights and tolerance’.Others stressed that ‘often, development aid masks the political dimension of the fight for economic and social rights, which reduces assistance to charitable or purely economic operations’ The structural, economic North-South issues were also mentioned by several Moroccan interlocutors as insufficiently linked to democracy promotion. Linked to this, the political economy aspect of democratic reform was identified by some Moroccan interlocutors as an area where democracy assistance is lacking. ‘There is an oligarchy which prevents democratisation. It is necessary to convince these families that democracy does not threaten them’.
Box 1 - A largely positive experience: NGO development
Most interviewees, Moroccan and foreign, agree that international involvement has been largely positive for the development of civil society in Morocco. It has been so in several respects:
• capacity for mobilization • professionalism • reinforcing internal structures • openness vis-à-vis international values • transfer of values and debates to the national level • participation in the international debate • making NGOs into government interlocutors (although their capacity to negotiate and change public
policies is still low)
Even where democracy promotion has been the most successful, there is sometimes a downside, however: ‘Assistance has played a very important role in the development of civil society. At the same time, assistance has both advantages and disadvantages. It helps an organization but at the same time, the esprit de bénévolat decreases with foreign aid. There is sometimes an opposition between advocacy and financial opportunity’, according to a civil society representative. Support for the National Human Development Initiative (INDH) was also seen as a danger, as INDH has led to the proliferation of new organizations, often created just to tap into INDH funds, which are considered to be insufficiently monitored. Finally, there is the thorny issue of how big an impact NGOs actually have on democratization processes.
Box 2 - ‘Dos’ of democracy promotion in Morocco
Some of the ‘dos’ and the ‘don’ts’ might seem trivial, and it is certainly not the first time that some of them are noted in analyses of democracy promotion worldwide. The fact that they are still very regularly mentioned – by Moroccan and international actors alike – indicate, however, that certain long-standing concerns are still not fully heeded by would-be international partners in the Moroccan process of democratization. International NGOs and Western government agencies thus still have some way to go in this respect.
1.- Work with Moroccan actors in a participatory manner in the different stages of programming and let them be a guide on Moroccan realities. A majority of donors and recipients stress that this is not simply a question of procedure, but will lead to enhanced performance, especially in the medium- term.
2.- Be open about which Moroccan partners you are working with. 3.- Choose partners carefully, accompany them in their work and create dialogue and ways to
strengthen NGOs. ‘The international organization must give something other than money: training, follow-up, exchange, partnership’ and ‘Civil society actors need not only financial support, but moral support as well’ are typical statements
4.- Integrate technically credible evaluation and performance assessments into the collaboration. The importance of evaluation and impact assessments was stressed in particular by Moroccan partners.
5.- Work outside of the Rabat–Casablanca axis. Many NGOs operating only in ‘Casa-Rabat’ are not well implanted in the country as a whole.
6.- As an international NGO, make sure that you have sufficient distance vis-à-vis any state funder, as this is the basis for a relationship grounded on trust and credibility.
Factors limiting the impact of democracy assistance
A main factor limiting the impact of democracy assistance is to be found in the international political context, as discussed in the ‘Diplomacy and Coordination’ section below. In this section, more program/project related factors are discussed. Many of the most important factors limiting the impact of democracy assistance are surprisingly self-evident: they are not discussed in the text below, but appear in Box 3 ‘Don’ts of democracy promotion in Morocco—program level’ (see also Boxes 2 and 4). The text concentrates on the thorny issues that either have no simple solution or require further explanation and illustration.
Funding opportunities and procedures
Regarding the often-debated issue of funding opportunities and procedures for Moroccan NGOs, there is widespread agreement that information about funding possibilities does not reach far enough: ‘one has to know, those that don’t are marginalized’, ‘information is given to those organizations that have already received funds’, ‘one needs a network and time. Local associations etc. do not have the capacity to fundraise internationally’. ‘There is a problem of information and communication on donor programs and how they work’, and ‘Western funding is opaque and personal relations play a role, one must be introduced’ are typical statements. One NGO representative said, laughingly, ‘they have a selective vision, dependent on relations and personalities. They will become corrupt like us’.
The fact that Islamists have been excluded from EU democracy assistance programming also poses a problem as far as impact is concerned.41 According to the spokesperson of the Al-Adl wal-Ihsan, ‘The EU misses the real vectors of society. The people do not benefit from this aid; it goes into the pockets of the elites’. A close observer of Western democracy assistance in Morocco elaborates: ‘The fact that the European Union excludes Islamists is not a problem in the short term. The process indicators will be fine; the non-religious associations are very competent at implementing projects. The problem is more one of the medium term, and it is a problem of interlocutors, of normalisation, of representation. The problem is political and ethical, not technical. It is also a question of real impact: process indicators will be perfect, result-based indicators will be much less so.’
A European Commission representative acknowledged that there is an ‘ongoing internal debate within the EU regarding the appropriate levels of dialogue with political Islam’ At the same time, however, he stressed that ‘there is no formal impediment to working with Islamists. Islamist civil society organizations don’t apply for EU funding. We would certainly consider them. It seems it is not highly regarded for certain organizations to be recipients of EU funds’. This is also a very sensitive issue internally in Morocco: ‘Moroccan human rights NGOs as we know them are mostly left wing and vehemently opposed to Islamists, so there is this local thing going on’, as one observer puts it.
The fact that funding is available only for projects, and that it is very difficult to get core funding for the organization was also stressed as a limitation by some interlocutors: ‘These days, there is basically only project funding available, nothing for the organization, the staff, the office [...]. It’s possible to get funds for a seminar in a five star hotel but not for three staff members of the organization’.
Funding is also constrained by the long-standing issue of administrative demands and constraints. ‘Many western partners are very rigid and bureaucratic, the EU first and foremost [...].EU procedures are not adapted to developing countries’, according to one NGO representative. The administrative and other requirements are such that a number of NGOs, including very resourceful ones, hesitate over, or even entirely rule out, applying for EU money. Several NGO representatives note that associations need to make use of an (often European) paid consultant to prepare an application for EU funds. One NGO representative sighed that applying for money ‘should not be an exam’. The lack of flexibility of funding in the case of a change of realities on the ground was also criticized. Another leading NGO representative, although not referring to EU procedures specifically, tempers complaints about procedures: ‘with international funding, procedures are more difficult, but they also lead to the professionalization of NGOs.’
41 In addition, the exclusion of political actors with their roots in political Islam poses a problem of legitimacy and credibility of democracy assistance (see Anna Khakee et al., op. cit.).
Democracy promotion methods
A number of interlocutors found that training efforts have been misguided, both in terms of the level at which such training is pitched and those doing the training. ‘Moroccan politicians already know a lot, have passed a certain stage and don’t need training of the type ‘what is democracy’. Everyone is welcome as long as the programs are adapted to our needs,’ according to a top representative of a main Moroccan political party. A parliamentary representative of the PJD echoes this view: ‘The programs that international NGOs organize are not very useful. It is as if we had never had any training’. Sending people from Europe or the US to do the training is also criticized: ‘A fundamental point for me is that the EU always sends foreign experts. It is as if they wanted to ‘find jobs for the Europeans’ instead of training and using Moroccans. The training tends to be far removed from Moroccan realities’. An actor in the justice sector agrees: ‘It happens regularly that the donor insists on sending an international expert without any experience’. An NGO representative nuances the criticism: ‘training works if it is large-scale and if there is a long term vision of continuous training’.
Dependency and intrusiveness
Whenever democracy assistance fails to be non-intrusive, it leads to the discrediting of Moroccan NGOs. ‘In view of the World Social Forum in Nairobi, a French trade union financed the trip of some Moroccan NGOs and then made these associations adopt the union’s position’. This of course saps Moroccan NGOs of any remaining authority. ‘Certain organizations are funded almost up to 100 per cent by one foreign donor. In such cases, there is an obvious risk of losing in autonomy and of transmitting others’ agenda [...] My advice is that one donor should not cover more than 40 percent of an NGO’s budget, otherwise it is dangerous’, explains one Moroccan NGO representative. A related problem is noted by a main observer of NGO life in Morocco: ‘There are associations that do not specialize in order to ‘cast the net wide’. For example, many organizations claim to be working on women although they do not have the competence to work on gender issues. Associations then lose their soul and tilt towards what is lucrative. The same problem can occur vis- à-vis the government’. However, such intrusiveness seems to be a relatively limited problem for advocacy NGOs, not least because major Moroccan NGOs jealously guard their independence, including their financial independence.
Most would still like to see a more mixed funding base: ‘It is politically short-sighted of the state not to provide any assistance to NGOs. The best would be a mixed funding-base, with state and foreign money’. ‘Ideal NGO sources would be from the government, mecenats, membership fees and contributions. International assistance creates ‘un assistanat permanent’ and does not lead to the sustainability of organizations’, civil society representatives believe.
Sometimes, perceived intrusiveness is arguably a consequence of more entrenched distrust or perhaps simply cultural misunderstanding (the NDI and the IRI put great emphasis on results reporting and on garnering feedback to enhance programs or better respond to partner needs and have developed extensive data-based indicators for this purpose). According to one interviewee from PAM, ‘the IRI and the NDI collect lots of information for themselves. We don’t know why’. An NGO representative agrees: ‘The Americans, for example USAID, finance democracy assistance projects to extract information. The Peace Corps goes to villages and write reports. They are like the French missionaries. ’
Box 3 - Don’ts of democracy promotion in Morocco: program level
As a donor/democracy promoter:
1.- Do not come with the idea of ‘giving lessons’: 42 this does not go down well in almost any country in the world, and Morocco is no exception. Show sensitivity and modesty. Treat partners as equals.43
2.- Similarly, do not dictate what Moroccan NGOs should do, or which experts they should use. The associations should make the proposals themselves.
3.- Many national and international agencies as well as international NGOs are active in the area of democracy promotion in Morocco. Do not start activities without investigating into what is already being done and what has been done in the past (and how such projects have/have not worked).
4.- Don’t ‘throw money at an organization’ without checking their capacity and without accompanying them in their work.
5.- Don’t lose sight of the core issues of democratic reform and get caught up in ‘technical’ and ‘apolitical’ work. Don’t behave with the political cautiousness of a diplomatic envoy.
6.- In political party related activities, don’t pick and choose among parties, as that is not well perceived in Morocco.
7.- Don’t ‘disconnect’ from Moroccan realities. Keep in mind that existing democracies differ greatly as concerns political party structure, the role of the state, federalism vs. centralism etc., and don’t think from your native perspective when working in Morocco.
Diplomacy and coordination
It is very unlikely that governments in the West will press hard for Morocco to democratize. There are many reasons for this: Morocco is a stable, politically moderate and friendly country in a volatile region. It is already a model of Arab reform, however tentative. European governments, which have the largest influence on Morocco given the many links between the two shores of the Mediterranean, are more interested in cooperation on other issues such as migration, security/anti-terrorism and trade and economic development. Business elites in certain European countries are closely linked to the makhzen. Many European governments are also weary of the PJD – although this could change given that Europe has, after initial misgivings, come to accept their Turkish counterpart, the AK Party. In sum, it seems clear that ‘the real priorities are elsewhere’ as a Moroccan NGO representative puts it.
The new king also presents a more modern face of authoritarian rule and the ugliest excesses of power have become less frequent. As a consequence, if anything, conditionality or overt criticism is now even less likely than a decade ago. As noted by a Moroccan NGO representative ‘there is less and less [Western government criticism] in Morocco’. A blogger notes that ‘reactions by Western states are very rare, even non-existent’. NGO representatives agree: ‘We have the impression that today the internationals are more on the side of the government rather than the people. During the reign of Hassan II, it was the opposite’. Some Moroccan observers believe that the international doctrine is to ‘promote individual freedoms and human rights, but not to do too much regarding the democratization of the country, which remains synonymous with geo- political risk-taking’. In those few instances when official diplomatic moves have been made the reactions have been mixed. The support of the American ambassador (under George W. Bush) for the detained Nadia Yassine was perhaps one factor in the postponement of her trial. However, she herself was unhappy with the connection to the US government: ‘it was a way of discrediting me vis-à-vis people and public opinion in the Arab world’, she stressed in an interview. Moreover, according to a former minister, ‘it was considered as an attack on our sovereignty’. The EU defends itself against the accusation that it leaves criticism to international NGOs only. ‘We are perhaps not in the business of supporting this or that person or party. But on issues of principle, we can be critical’, said an EU representative in Morocco.
42 According to one donor representative, still today ‘surprisingly many internationals do that’. 43 According to a Moroccan observer ‘This national sensitivity and pride is, it seems to me, too often underestimated by Western NGOs that are often mislead by their regular interlocutors: journalists, the francophone elite, and human rights defenders, who make the difference between the support of foreign NGOs and intrusion.The ordinary Moroccan does not necessarily make such a distinction’.
For a number of Moroccan actors, the rarity of international reactions and the prevalence of other interests pose the classical problems of double standards, inconsistency and hypocrisy. ‘Today, few Western states are credible when it comes to human rights’, deplores one NGO representative. A colleague adds: ‘The EU is ambivalent, caught in its own traps [of multiple agendas]’. ‘One can always give funding to NGOs, but that is not the heart of the matter. With a power structure like the Moroccan, decision-making is simple. For European economic interests, it is easier as there is no need to convince several interlocutors’, according to the representatives of a human rights NGO. Others agree, using another example: ‘The enforcement of European migration policies is anti-democratic’, and ‘all sorts of repressive practices have been made possible’ in this context. Many Moroccan actors believe that Europeans on the individual level support democratic ideas, but often stress that ‘people that who share our values should support us more openly’.
They also note that when it is in their own interest, Western governments are much quicker to push for reform. For example, the American government pushed for the criminalization of insider trading in free trade negotiations with Morocco, although ‘this was not even a claim by Moroccan civil society’. The same is true, according to Moroccan actors, when it comes to European priorities for judicial reform. Similarly, when self- interest and values clash – such as for example as regards free trade and balanced economic relations – the former regularly wins out.
There is wide disagreement as to whether the new ‘advanced status’ that Morocco enjoys vis-à-vis the EU will bring any benefits as regards democratization. Disagreement does not necessarily follow the classical political fault-lines in Moroccan politics, and is probably also a result of the still very hazy contours of this new step in the EU-Moroccan relationship: ‘this seems to be something symbolic’, as one observer put it. According to two NGO representatives, ‘We got the advanced status because of the migration issue, it had nothing to do with democracy’. Even an important journalist close to the government stressed that ‘the democracy mechanism [within the advanced status] is hardly visible’. Another journalist close to the PJD stressed that the status is ‘important for Morocco and the EU. It will emphasize the need for democratic reform in Morocco’.
This does not mean that international engagement is absent. The role of international NGOs is widely perceived as positive and effective, given that Mohammed VI is keen on promoting a modern image of the country internationally. Reports by organizations such as Amnesty International, Transparency International (TI), and Human Rights Watch (HR) receive widespread publicity in Morocco and lead to official reactions. ‘International solidarity is a good thing; all reactions from NGOs are very welcome,’ stressed the head of the Moroccan national press union. Others echo his point of view: ‘When you listen to the political prisoners [during the so-called years of lead under Hassan II] they systematically render homage to international human rights organizations which were the only ones that defended them [...] Many Moroccan associations have taken the example of their foreign counterparts, sometimes adopting the same methodology [...] this mechanism works and there are numerous examples’.44 An NGO representative elaborates on this, stressing that the impact is two-fold: ‘international reporting gives additional arguments to those forces [within Morocco] that want change; it also fills in analytical and diagnostic gaps that we have in Morocco’.
However, some stress that such criticism cannot lead to fundamental structural change: ‘This is not what will bring democracy. International NGOs should put more pressure on the EU instead.’ NGO representatives also underline that the government ‘has elaborated a counter-discourse to criticize such reports, claiming that they are anti-Moroccan. That has worked to a certain extent’. The editor in chief of Aujourd’hui le Maroc, a main daily newspaper, said that while TI and HRW were credible, they were not always balanced. Moreover, some international NGOs such as Reporters without Borders ‘spoke like twenty years ago and do not acknowledge the progress which exists’. Another influential journalist, while recognizing that international NGO criticism has an impact, stresses that it becomes more problematic concerning controversial issues such as homosexuality or the right to publicly breach Ramadan. ‘In such cases, a part of society, the regime and the PJD will see this as an intervention, and that is counter-productive. They should focus on issues and values which we have in common’.
44 See also ‘Sonnette d’alarme. Salutaires ONG internationals’, TelQuel http://www.telquel-online.com/138/couverture3_138_1.shtml
Box 4 - Don’ts of democracy promotion in Morocco—political level
As a donor/democracy promoter:
1.- Beware of – and carefully ponder – the pros and cons when moving into sensitive issues such as homosexuality or religious freedoms.
2.- Be transparent regarding financial support, its sources and main recipients. Don’t confuse state and non-state funders, as this could lead to a loss of confidence in the whole process. Moroccan actors have a good understanding of the sometimes complex institutional inter-linkages between international democracy promotion agencies.45
3.- Be cautious when evaluating and comparing progress of reforms in Morocco as this is significant in internal debates. For example, Moroccan actors that are ambitious regarding political reform will often prefer comparisons to neighboring countries such as Spain or Portugal (undemocratic and developing a few decades ago), while those who want to proceed more slowly tend to prefer being juxtaposed to Libya or Tunisia.
4.- Strive for increased policy coherence in policies towards Morocco.
On the level of most major donors, a donor group initiative was launched in 2002, which now in principle includes the World Bank, the International Finance corporation (IFC), the UNDP, USAID, the ADB, the IDB, the European Commission, EU member states, Canada and Japan. The group is structured around several working parties on specific topics. One such group, lead by the UNDP, focuses on governance.46 This working group was never mentioned by interviewees when asked about donor coordination, however.
In practice, donor coordination is, according to most interviewees, comparatively modest in Morocco. The German political foundations coordinate between themselves, as do the American party foundations. Moreover, in specific sectors, coordination is perceived as being very good. An example is local governance where the Direction Générale des Collectivités Locales (DGCL) of the Moroccan government takes an active role in coordination. There are also informal mechanisms to avoid ‘stepping on others’ toes’. Several international NGOs, such as FES and Oxfam-Novib, ask Moroccan partner organizations to specify which other organizations they receive funding from. Donors differ widely in their perceptions of the need for increased coordination. According to a party foundation representative, ‘we need to coordinate a lot more. If you were to ask me who to call at UNDP, I would not know’. Others, such as a KAS representative, take a radically different stance: ‘I would never accept coordination. I have a political approach, and will work with those parties and organizations closest to CDU values’.
Two examples: judicial reform and elections
The rule of law
The Moroccan judiciary has been one of the main target areas of recent Western reform efforts, even though many central issues pertaining to the rule of law have yet to be addressed.47 Emphasis has so far been placed on a variety of issues such as the effective implementation of the new Mudawana, commercial and administrative courts, and infrastructure and equipment for courts.
There is a general agreement that, ‘We are not seeing comprehensive reform in the area of justice yet’, as an EU representative concedes. A professional within the justice sector agrees: ‘A pity that so much money has been spent when the impact is not there’. The verdict of some Moroccan NGOs is harsher: ‘Has [international assistance in the justice sector] led to anything? It’s reinforced the status quo’.
An example of a statement in this respect is ‘MEPI is blatant, it jumps out at you. We are not interested in funding from them. The American Bar Association gets MEPI funds but they are more independent, we can still work with them’. 46 European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Morocco Strategy Paper 2007– 013, pp. 19–20. 47 However, exchanges, in particular with France and the European-level courts, are nothing new but date back to the 1960s
Project Report: Assessing Democracy Assistance May 2010
The reasons for such a paucity of results are several. One factor is that ‘this is a sector which is deeply conservative’, as an EU representative puts it. (For example, the Justice Ministry is the only one to be entirely Arabized. Lawyers who end up prosecuting or on the bench have often followed the Arabic university law stream rather than the French one: they are thus less exposed to a variety of legal doctrines and at times have a more conservative outlook). Another factor is that the system is so thoroughly dysfunctional. Thus, according to Transparency Maroc, there are ‘increasing numbers of corruption cases which are not sanctioned or tried as well as intimidation or sanctions against those who fight corruption’.48 Indeed, a number of recent cases reveal that whistle-blowers, rather than corrupt or outright criminal individuals in the justice sector, tend to be singled out for sanction.49 More fundamentally, ‘the justice sector is part and parcel of a socio- economic-political system’ and there are strong interests at the very top of the Moroccan power pyramid that have no interest in reform, as noted by a Moroccan actor in the justice sector.50 Many Moroccan (and international) interlocutors tend to agree with an exiled journalist when he states that ‘the regime has no wish to thoroughly reform the justice system [...] because it is the justice system that today permits the regime to keep a certain check on [...] unwanted eruptions [sic]’.
However, several interviewees still believe that ‘if the internationals had worked in other ways, they could have obtained results’. There is a general feeling that assistance in this sector has been scattered, badly managed, and poorly coordinated. A close observer of the system outlines the main problems as he sees them: ‘First, there is no prior planning, definition of needs and of what is feasible. Second, project managers don’t strive to create ‘ownership’ among those that will be the day-to-day managers of the new work methods; instead, projects are pre-formatted. Third, when it has become amply clear that a project is not working, it is still not discontinued. The Europeans are corrupted by the Moroccan way of life; they will say that things are working because they want to stay, to keep their jobs. And the Moroccans will not wake them up; they gain materially and in terms of trips etc. from the programs’. To that, another interlocutor added that there is very little follow-up, at least when it comes to some international actors.
The example of the computerization of the courts is often mentioned. ‘They bought the computers but did not train people’, stated one judge. ‘What they did not understand is that IT changes the power structure in an office. It would have been necessary to do a psycho-social grounding of the project with the ‘base’ for the program to be successful’, explains another actor.
International efforts in the area of justice have also been too focused on issues close to Northern interests, according to many Moroccan interlocutors. ‘We don’t get the impression that there has been substantive international implication except in the areas of migration, drug-trafficking, foreign direct investment, and anti- terrorism, that is in areas which directly concern the donors’, according to some NGO representatives. ‘There is a blurring of concepts, whereby justice reform is not separated from the security concerns – migration, anti-terrorism – of northern states’, stressed another.
Some positive aspects were mentioned, nevertheless. ‘There are certainly some small projects that are working, on e-learning for example’, declared one close observer of the system. ‘International financing permits us to prepare studies and to reinforce national expertise’, stresses another. A lawyer interviewed for this study was hopeful that the twinning between the bar of Madrid and that of Rabat would prove a good method for advancing reform: ‘we badly need an exchange of experiences, methods, and tools’.
Justice is perceived by certain donors as a test case for the entire reform project: ‘Reforms in and dialogue on the issue of the administration of justice is going less well [than in other areas of reform]. In fact, the credibility of the whole project of reforms in the country is at stake here’, observed an EU representative in Rabat. This interpretation is reinforced by a recent speech by Mohammed VI, in which he singled out six areas of imminent reform, including issues promoted by civil society such as judicial independence and the enforcement of rules to prevent corruption and abuse of office.51 Reform in the justice sector is also underlined as a key component of democratic reform by a large number of Moroccan actors.
48 Transparency Maroc ‘Rapport moral 2007’, author’s translation. http://www.transparencymaroc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view &id=61&Itemid=88888895 49 See ‘Dossier: Justice contestée, en quête de réforme’ in Transparency News, No. 2, April 2008. 50 See also Transparency News, No 2, April 2008, p.12.
51 Siham Ali, ‘King Mohammed VI calls for overhaul of judicial system’, Magharebia, 24 August 2009. http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2009/08/24/feature-01
Electoral support has come in several forms in Morocco: the international observation mission of the 2007 parliamentary elections, support for national observers, encouragement to participate in elections, training for candidates (in particular female candidates), and campaign training including helping set up national campaign strategies and teams. Separate, but nevertheless related, is the continuous work with political parties, including training, party building, and focus groups to bridge the gap between the parties and the electorates. Although several international actors have been involved in this area, the main actors have been US organizations such as NDI and IRI. The IRI resident representative noted that there is ‘so much work around elections, I’m a fan of that kind of work’.
Electoral participation continues to be a problem in Morocco. After a record-low 37 per cent voter participation in the 2007 parliamentary elections, the participation in the 2009 municipal elections was 52 per cent of registered voters, not least because of strong participation in rural areas where tribal and personal affiliations make people more inclined to vote (participation in Casablanca was only 30 per cent and in Rabat 25 per cent).52 Several interlocutors of varying backgrounds noted, in the words of representatives of an NGO close to the PJD, that ‘Nowadays, it is mostly the poor that vote because they are paid to do so. More educated people, the middle class, they don’t vote anymore’. The very low participation in the 2007 elections seems to indicate that voter turnout encouragement, such as that organized by internationally-funded ‘DABA 2007’, did not have a great effect.
The international observation mission of the 2007 parliamentary elections led by the NDI is perceived to have been relatively ‘light’, with few observers deployed on the ground and a relatively small number of experts present before and after the poll. ‘This was a symbolic mission, with some observers visiting polling stations’, according to one close observer. This has led to some criticism: ‘The control on election day was not good’, according to one PJD representative. Others brush that idea aside: ‘it is a favorite Moroccan tradition to be dissatisfied once the election results are known’. A Moroccan NGO representative noted that the international support ‘permitted us to mobilize and train almost 3200 observers’ and that ‘several of our recommendations were adopted by the government’.
A number of interviewees found that there were great similarities in the analysis and recommendations of national and international observers. The international observation mission, through its first report and the press conference ‘put its finger on crucial problems’, such as the Moroccan constitutional arrangements and the lack of a proper role for parliament. However, subsequent Western national congratulations stating that ‘Morocco is advancing on its path to democracy’ undermined the conclusions of the report, according to NGO observers.
Most interviewees, Moroccan as well as international, agree that elections ‘cannot be macro-manipulated’ any longer, thanks to a combination of internal political will and international efforts. The fact that ‘the administration of elections has improved markedly and [...] there are few hang-ups on the technical level’ means that core systemic problems ‘are laid bare now’, according to an NDI representative. An EU interlocutor agrees: ‘The transparency of the electoral process has improved markedly. Of course this reveals other problems’. A Moroccan NGO representative clarifies ‘there is a move away from elections that are systematically rigged by the territorial administration to fraudulent practices on the part of the candidates, often, however, with the tacit knowledge of the state’. Indeed, Moroccan interlocutors of various political persuasions openly discussed the problem of money in politics and the purchase of votes.
Training for candidates receives a mixed press: ‘I used the NDI method and got zero votes’, laughed one PAM candidate in Casablanca. ‘The theory is good, but perhaps 20 per cent is useful. The program are a bit pre-formatted’. She stressed that the candidate who won had used fraudulent methods. This puts international democracy promoters in a conundrum: in this case, they provided training in more ‘ideal-type’ methods, but the candidate lost as the system rewarded bribes. A colleague and MP from the Istiqlal party (which limits its participation in training activities) agreed on the issue of program design: ‘I always say that USAID and NDI make a huge effort, but that the results are not there. Political parties are not part of elaborating the program and themes are pre-defined. The training does not take into account the specificity of campaigning in Morocco’.
In contrast, the political party training – which is not strictly related to elections – was viewed positively by some of those with a first-hand experience of the work: ‘The focus groups were very good, useful for finding out what voters actually think’. Others regretted the lack of links between the training centers of the political parties and the donor side.
Both Moroccan and international interlocutors clearly felt the limits and frustrations of working on elections and political parties when parliaments and local governments are so powerless in the Moroccan political system: ‘At the end of the day, what are [the political parties] fighting for? I’m not saying that it is not a good thing to support elections, but one should ask oneself the question: what are the possible results? It seems to me that these organizations should not work within the logic of the electoral timetables, but more long- term and on an essential question: how to reinforce political actors in Morocco [...] And in particular help the country to have a political culture, otherwise efforts will be in vain.’ Organizations such as the NDI stress that they try to heed advice such as this, with continuous longer-term activities on party development, and electoral assistance designed to be useful beyond specific electoral deadlines.
Morocco is a country where international democracy promoters almost unanimously find it easy to operate. The political constraints set up by the state are comparatively few and Moroccan partners are of a very high level in most fields. This report shows that even in such a context, which on the surface is relatively favorable, international democracy promotion has had difficulty making a real impression. This is not to say that democracy promotion has not had any effect: in fact, there is relatively wide agreement that international support for reforms of women’s status, electoral procedures, and the development of civil society, for example, has helped reinforce nationally led processes for change (quite partial in the case of electoral procedures). However, this report confirms a few core findings from other studies on the effectiveness of democracy promotion. First, if there is no or little national will to reform (such as, so far, in the areas of judicial reform, anti-corruption, and the effectiveness of political parties) not much of substance will come out of democracy assistance. Second, there are wide variations in the quality of design and implementation of democracy promotion projects in Morocco. Third, the importance of a country such as Morocco to the West is such that there will be little serious pressure put on the government to reform against its will. Fourth, and finally, the West has other, overriding interests in Morocco which sometimes run directly counter to democracy promotion: European counter-terrorist and anti-immigration policies are two of the most illustrative.
It is disheartening that so many interlocutors mentioned ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for international democracy promoters that have been fixtures of the development literature for a number of years now: seeking knowledge about past democracy promotion activities and their success before launching new programs, being open about which partners you are working with, avoiding ‘giving lessons’ and making sure to treat partners as equals, working with national actors in a participatory manner, integrating evaluation and performance assessments into programming, and keeping in mind that existing democracies differ greatly as concerns political structure.
A problematic aspect on the Moroccan side is a sometimes contradictory stance towards democracy promotion: on the one hand, there are demands for increased international action, but on the other, Moroccan actors – of all stripes – are quick to criticize specific actions of which they disapproved as ‘undue intervention’. The line between the two seems blurred and thus presents a serious challenge for democracy promoting agencies.
Another interesting finding is that there have been relatively few democracy promotion projects targeting economic actors, such as the CGEM or actors closer to the heart of power (the makhzen). This is no doubt due to the reluctance of such actors to get involved; but ingenious ways of targeting them would be a novel development in democracy assistance in Morocco.
1This report is part of a joint project entitled ‘Assessing Democracy Assistance’ that is being carried out by FRIDE and the World Movement for Democracy. The project is supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund, the UK Department for International Development, the Arab Democracy Foundation, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Smith Richardson Foundation. The research methodology for this report is explained in the appendix at the end of the main text. Responsibility for this report and the views expressed are solely those of the author(s), and do not necessarily represent the positions of either the project partners or funders. 2 The author would like to thank all those who kindly contributed to this report with their time and comments. A full list of acknowledgements is annexed at the end of this report.
This report is one of 14 undertaken under the rubric of a project assessing the views of stakeholders in the target countries on the effectiveness of democracy assistance. The project aims to gather views on how democracy support can be re-legitimized and its impact enhanced. Other case studies and a synthesis report can be found www.fride.org.
3 Mohamed Tozy (2008). “Islamists, Technocrats, and the Palace” Journal of Democracy January 14:1, pp.34-41 4 For a detailed discussion, see Transparency Maroc (2010). “La corruption au Maroc: Synthèse des résultats des enquêtes d’intégrité”. 5 For details, see annual World Press Freedom Review by the International Press Institute , annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, and reporting of the Committee to Protect Journalists. 6 Amnesty International Report. ‘Morocco/Western Sahara’ (2009). 7 “Moudawana: Les mentalités résistent encore” L’Economiste magazine 10 Ocotber 2009, “Moroccans assess Moudawana progress “by Siham Ali Magharebia 9 October 2009. 8 Kaufmann D., A. Kraay, and M. Mastruzzi 2009: Governance Matters 2009: Governance Indicators for 1998-2008, section on Morocco http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/sc_chart.asp, Freedom House 2010: Freedom in the World Washington: Freedom House (comparisons made with 2002-2009 editions of the report), Bertelsmann Stiftung (2008). “Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2008 — Morocco Country Report” Gütersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung. 9 European Commission Rapport de suivi Maroc SEC (2009) 520/2 23 April 2009, p. 1. a 10 It must be noted that the CGEM has not been entirely absent from democracy promotion efforts (contrary to perceptions of some interview- ees): there have been some projects, for example by USAID, involving the organisation.
11 Some of the latter has been purely technical in nature, however (see for example the French Programme d’accompagnement du processus de décentralisation, http://www.padmaroc.org/). 12 European Union/Morocco, ‘EU/Morocco Action Plan under European Neighbourhood Policy’ (2005). 13 European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Morocco 2007–2010, National Indicative Programme, sections 3.2 and 3.3, Maroc Programme Indicatif National 2007-2010 Tableau révisé des engagements, octobre 2007, ; information obtained from Louis Dey, Programme Manager Justice, Migration and Human Rights, European Commission Delegation in Rabat.
14 EU/Morocco 2008. ‘Document conjoint UE-Maroc sur le renforcement des relations bilatérales/ Statut Avancé’ DG E V 13653/08.sections 3.2 and 3.3. 15 Programmes en cours dans le domaine de la démocratie et les droits humains financés par l’Union Européenne au Maroc – 2009’, obtained from the EC Delegation in Rabat .
16 Ibid. 17 USAID. ‘Morocco Country Assistance Strategy’,12 December 2008, p .4. Available at http://www.usaid.gov/ma/policy/Morocco-CAS.pdf 18 In 2007, Morocco was granted a five-year USD 697.5 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) economic aid package. In contrast to some other MENA countries, support from the MCC has not targeted governance, but rather economic components of development. 19 USAID Morocco Democracy and Governance Programme: Activities http://www.usaid.gov/ma/programs/dg_activities.html, NDI Worldwide Morocco http://www.ndi.org/worldwide/mena/morocco/morocco.asp, Amel Boubekeur and Samir Aghar (2006). ‘Islamist Parties in the Maghreb and their Links with the EU: Mutual Influences and the Dynamics of Democratization’, EuroMeSCo Paper No. 55, October. 20 Haim Malka and Jon B. Alterman, ‘Arab Reform and Foreign Aid: Lessons from Morocco’, CSIS Significant Issues Series (Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 2006), footnote 2, p. 40. 21 US Department of State, Middle East Partnership Initiative / Countries / Morocco, 2007. 22 Foundation for the Future Grants Program/Our grantees/Morocco http://www.foundationforfuture.org/?q=en/node/337 23 Royaume du Maroc et République Française (2006). Document Cadre de Partenariat Maroc – France 2006-2010, http://www.ambafrance- ma.org/cooperation/doc/DCP200306final.pdf, section 4.2.
24 Ibid. See also http://www.ambafrance-ma.org/cooperation/index_developpement.cfm?view=dev_adg 25 http://www.ambafrance-ma.org/cooperation/index_developpement.cfm?view=dev_aa 26 Royaume du Maroc et République Française (2006), Annex 3. 27 Kimana Zulueta Fülscher, ‘Democracy promotion during Zapatero’s government 2004–2008’, FRIDE Democracy Backgrounder 13, February 2008, pp.2–3.
28 Zulueta Fülscher opt cit, pp.8–9; Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (n.d.) ‘Documentos Estrategia País Marruecos’, p. 9. 29 Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (n.d.) ‘Documento de Estrategia País 2005–2008 Cooperación Española Marruecos’. 30 German Embassy, ‘Les acteurs du système allemand de la coopération au développement’ http://www.rabat.diplo.de/Vertretung/rabat/fr/05/ Wirtschaftliche__Zusammenarbeit/akteure.html. For more details, see http://www.fes.org.ma/accueil.html, http://www.hssma.org/index.htm., http://www.kas.de/proj/home/home/25/3/about_us-1/index.html 31 http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/morocco 32 CIDA, ‘Mise à jour—Stratégie de coopération 2003–2010’ (Ottawa: CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency, 2002)), section 3.3. 33 CIDA Project Browser Search result for Morocco. 34 Khakee, Anna et al., ‘Pragmatism Rather than Backlash: Moroccan Perceptions of Western Democracy Promotion’, EuroMeSCo Paper 73, November 2008. 35 United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] (2006). UNDP country programme document for the Kingdom of Morocco (2007–2011), Annexe 2.
36 Information obtained from Tessa Kollen, Programme Officer for the Middle East and Maghreb, Oxfam-Novib, 28 August 2009. 37 National Democratic Institute, ‘Preliminary Statement of the International Observer Delegation to Morocco’s 2007 Legislative Elections’ (Rabat: September 2007). 38 Ibid. 39 Le Collectif Associatif pour l’Observation des Elections, ‘Rapport préliminaire d’observation des Elections communales du 12 juin 2009’, p. 2. 40 The issue of cooption is far from new. See for example Naciri, Rabia, Mohamed Sghir Janjar and Mohamed Mouaquit (2004). Développement démocratique et action associative au Maroc Montreal: Rights & Democracy, 2004, http://www.dd-rd.ca, p.126ff.
The author wishes to thank first and foremost the Moroccan professionals interviewed for this study who so generously shared their time and insights. My special gratitude also goes to Naïma Baba for so generously helping me get in touch with some of my Moroccan interlocutors. Fouad M. Ammor, Jeff England, Larbi El Hilali, Gregory Houel, Marit Flø Jørgensen, David Lowe and François Ramsay were also very helpful in this respect. Finally, many thanks to Richard Youngs for reading earlier versions of this manuscript, and to Kate Turner for thorough copy-editing. The analysis in this report, as well as any errors, are solely the author’s. The author gratefully acknowledges her debt to all the following interviewees: Mohammed Akdime, Ordre des Avocats de Rabat, Abdelilah Benabdesselam, Vice-President, Association marocaine des droits de l’homme, Lahcen Bensassi, councillor at the House of Representatives (Istiqlal party), Jérôme Cassiers Head of Section, European Commission’s Delegation to Morocco, Jamal Chahdi, president, Centre des Droits des Gens, Louis Dey, Programme Manager Justice, Migration and Human Rights, European Commission Delegation in Rabat, Jeffrey England, Resident Country Director, National Democratic Institute, Mohamed Hassine and Jawad Skalli, Forum Marocain Vérité et Justice, Larbi El Hilali, blogger, Khalil Hachimi Idrissi, Editor in Chief, Aujourd’hui le Maroc, Mustapha Khalfi, Editor-in-chief, Attajdid, Tessa Kollen, Programme Officer for the Middle East and Maghreb, Oxfam-Novib, Kamal Lahbib, Secretary General of the Forum des Alternatives Maroc, Ted Lawrence, Democracy and Governance Team Leader USAID/Morocco, Ali Lmrabet, journalist, Rachid Filali Meknassi, Secretary General, Transparency Maroc, Mohamed Nouhi, Vice- President, Khalid Rahel, Responsible Communication, and L. Yassin, Member, Centre Marocain des Droits Humains, Aissa Ouardighi, member of the national council of the USFP, Abdallah Saaf, Director of the Center for Studies and Research in Social Sciences of Morocco and former Minister of Education, Fatima Sadiqi Professor and Director of the Isis Center for Women and Development, Jamila Sayouri, Vice-President Adala, Thomas Schiller Resident Representative, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Ulrich Storck, Resident Representative Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Said Tbel, Co-ordinator, Espace Associatif, Jamie Tronnes, Resident Country Director International Republican Institute, Azeddine Akesbi, former Secretary-General, Transparency Maroc, Naima Benwakrim, former President, Espace associative, Latifa El Bouhsini, then Chef de service de la division étude et de la promotion sociale, Ministry for Social Development, the Family and Solidarity, Lahcen Daoudi, Vice-Secretary-General PJD, Bassima Hakkaoui, MP, PJD, and President Organisation du renouveau de la prise de conscience feminine, Driss Khrouz, Professor , Mohamed V University Rabat and Secretary-General GERM, Jamila El Mossalli, member of parliament, PJD, Nadir El Moumni, Professor of political science, Mohamed V University, Rabat, Mustafa Ramid, PJD MP, Nadia Yassine, Head, Women’s section, Justice and Spirituality Association, Younes M’Jahed Younous, Secretary-General, Syndicat national de la presse marocaine, Ahmed Zaidi, President of the USFP parliamentary group (the latter 12 interviewed in 2008), as well as representatives from the judicial sector, political parties, and the international donor community who preferred to remain anonymous.
Project Report: Assessing Democracy Assistance May 2010
The project on ‘Assessing Democracy Assistance’ was initiated by the Steering Committee of the World Movement for Democracy following its Fifth Assembly in Kyiv, Ukraine, in April 2008. The World Movement for Democracy is a global network of democrats, including activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, who have come together to cooperate in the promotion of democracy.
More information can be found at: www.wmd.org.
Morocco Anna Khakee
Appendix: Country Report Methodology
Scope and aims of this report
This report assesses external democracy assistance in one country according to the views of local democracy stakeholders.
The report does not aspire to provide an exhaustive record of external democracy assistance to the country in question. Neither does it aspire to be a representative survey among local civil society at large. The scope of this project allows reports to provide only a rough sketch of external democracy assistance to the country assessed, and of the tendencies of local civil society activists’ views on the latter.
Sample of interviews
The report’s findings are based on a set of personal interviews that were carried out by the author between spring and autumn 2009.
For each country report, between 40 and 60 in-country interviews were carried out. The mix of interviewees aimed to include, on the one hand, the most important international donors (governmental and non- governmental, from a wide range of geographic origins), and on the other hand, a broad sample of local democracy stakeholders that included human rights defenders, democracy activists, journalists, lawyers, political party representatives, women’s rights activists, union leaders and other stakeholders substantially engaged in the promotion of democratic values and practices in their country. Wherever possible, the sample of interviewees included representatives from both urban and rural communities and a selection of stakeholders from a broad range of sectors. While governmental stakeholders were included in many of the samples, the focus was on non-governmental actors. Both actual and potential recipients of external democracy support were interviewed.
The term ‘donor’ is here understood as including governmental and non-governmental external actors providing financial and/or technical assistance in the fields of democracy, human rights, governance and related fields. Among all the donors active in the country, authors approached those governmental and non- governmental donors with the strongest presence in this sector, or which were referred to by recipients as particularly relevant actors in this regard. An exhaustive audit of all the donors active in this field/country is not aspired to as this exceeds the scope of this study. While many donors were very open and collaborative in granting interviews and providing and confirming information, others did not reply to our request or were not available for an interview within the timeframe of this study. While we sought to reconfirm all major factual affirmations on donor activities with the donors in question, not all donors responded to our request.
We do not work to a narrow or rigid definition of ‘democracy support’, but rather reflect donors’, foundations’ and recipients’ own views of what counts and does not count as democracy assistance. The fact that this is contentious is part of the issues discussed in each report.
External democracy assistance to local activists is a delicate matter in all the countries assessed under this project. It is part of the nature of external democracy assistance that local non-governmental recipients, especially when openly opposed to the ruling establishment, fear for their reputation and safety when providing information on external assistance received to any outlet that will make these remarks public. In a similar vein, many donor representatives critical of their own or other donors’ programmes will fear personal consequences when these critical attitudes are made public on a personal basis. In the interest of gathering a maximum of useful information from our interviewees and safeguarding their privacy and, indeed, security, we have ensured that all interviewees who requested to remain anonymous on a personal and/or institutional basis have done so.
Project Report: Assessing Democracy Assistance May 2010
In order to carry out field work, authors were provided with a detailed research template that specified 7 areas of focus:
1. A brief historical background and the state of democracy in the country; 2. A short overview of donor activities; 3. A general overview of local views on impact of democracy aid projects on the micro, meso and macro
levels (including best practices and variations of the local and international understandings of the concept
of ‘democracy’); 4. Local views on specific factors that have weakened the impact of democracy aid; 5. Local views on diplomatic back-up to aid programmes (including conditionality; diplomatic engagement;
donor coordination; relevance, quality, quantity and implementation of programmes, etc); 6. An illustration of the above dynamics in one or two key sectors of support; 7. A conclusion outlining the main tendencies of local views on external democracy assistance.
Along these lines, semi-structured one-on-one interviews were carried out by the authors in the country between spring and autumn of 2009.
Key sectors of support
Transitions to democracy are highly complex political, economic and social processes. No study of this scope could aspire to fully justice to them, or to external assistance to these processes. Aware of the limitations of our approach, we have encouraged authors to let their general assessment of local views on external democracy support be followed by a closer, slightly more detailed assessment of the dynamics in one or two key sectors of support. These were chosen by the respective authors according to their estimated relevance (positively or negatively) in the current democracy assistance panorama. In none of the cases does the choice of the illustrative key sectors suggest that there may not be other sectors that are equally important.
| || |
By Hind Al Subai Al Idrissi Tuesday, 29 June 2010
According to its website, the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music "represents the spiritual heart of Islam - peaceful, pluralistic, generous and cheerful. It honours all the world's spiritual traditions and it dissolves musical boundaries." The festival provides people with a place to meet and discuss music, poetry and Sufism at well-known historic locations throughout the city - as well as listen to amazing music.
Some of today's most popular spiritual and religious music groups from around the world came together in Fez for the festival's 16th annual celebration. Performances by musicians of different religions and nationalities accentuated the potential for openness and dialogue between people.
The Fez Festival was begun by the Moroccan anthropologist Faouzi Skali in the aftermath of the first Gulf War to help people from different spiritual traditions learn from each other without prejudice. Today, it is considered one of the most significant festivals aimed at instilling peace, security and dialogue between civilisations, according to the United Nations. It is organised primarily by the Message of Fez, an organisation which provides the festival with financial and material support.
This year's theme was "Perfection in Purging the Soul", coined by Ibn Arabi, a 13th century Arab philosopher. According to organisers, Ibn Arabi's work represents the will to rid oneself from rigid, exclusive dogmatic beliefs and instead instil the principles of tolerance and mutual respect among civilisations, which the festival aims to do through music.
This spirit of coexistence is evident, with the musical traditions of different religious communities and nationalities highlighted throughout. This year, the festival celebrated Jerusalem as the city of three faiths. The audience listened to a live music performance, "Jerusalem, the City of Two Peaces: Heavenly Peace and Peace on Earth", which presented the history of this diverse city through music played by Spanish, Iraqi, Armenian, Moroccan and Greek musicians, highlighting different musical genres to showcase different eras of the city's history.
The audience enjoyed a mixture of musical rhythms and compositions inspired by religion, the poetry of wisdom, African religious songs and religious folk music from Anatolia, Cambodia, Asia and America, as well as spiritual performances by major musicians, such as Jordi Savall, a Spanish Catalan viol player, composer and conductor, who presented the audience with a musical composition particular to the former Jewish community in Baghdad.
Festival-goers were also treated to Persian classical music by icon Shahram Nazeri, a contemporary Iranian Kurdish tenor. In addition, the festival featured Sufi music from Zanzibar and Christian gospel music by US African Americans, as well as a classical acrobatic troupe of boys, the "Young Gotipuas Dancers", from the Hindu temples of Orissa in eastern India.
Several Moroccan Sufi musical groups also performed at the festival, including Gnawa Click, a very popular Gnawa band from Essaouira in southern Morocco. Gnawa is a musical genre from North Africa, particularly Morocco, and is a unique mix of sub-Saharan African, Berber and Arabic religious songs and rhythms, played with various drums and flutes. There were also other Sufi musical groups that performed, inspired by Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, a Sufi imam in 12th century Baghdad who taught his followers to lead spiritual lives and promote goodness in their communities.
The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music has become part of the core identity for Fez, always considered by intellectuals, poets, writers and musicians as a major cultural capital of the world. And the festival has helped shape Morocco's image as a country that not only supports but actively encourages friendship and coexistence between people of all backgrounds and spiritual beliefs.
Global Arab Network
* Hind Al-Subai Al-Idrisi is a Moroccan blogger (hindapress.canalblog.com) and journalist who participated in a Rabat-based workshop for bloggers organised by the international conflict transformation organisation Search for Common Ground. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service
Zid Zid Kids attends Obama summit.
GDA Staff -- Kids Today, 6/14/2010
WASHINGTON, DC - In April Moulay Essakalli, president of children's product manufacturer Zid Zid Kids, was chosen as one of eight entrepreneurs from Morocco to attend President Barack Obama's Summit on Entrepreneurship. Some 250 delegates from 50 countries were invited to discuss how individual action can expand opportunity to address ties between the Muslim world and American business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs.
"We are trying to show aspects of Morocco in our work while also integrating our Western and American sense of design," Essakalli told America.gov.
"We basically looked at what we can do that is true to us while building bridges in constructive ways between Morocco and the United States, as well as with the rest of the world," he said.
A portion of Zid Zid Kid's profits go to Education for All, which builds dorms for Moroccan girls in rural areas so they can access education, and the Darna Center, which shelters and educates young men and women from the street.
"I effectively was brought up in a Muslim country, and doing charity is one of the Five Pillars of the religion," Essakalli said. "On the other hand, I learned a great deal in America about supporting not-for-profit organizations. When you put the two together, it makes all the sense in the world to want to give back and be involved with your community.
"I am very happy to support President Obama's initiative to start working on enhancing the relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world," he continued. "To the extent that I can be an actor in supporting this initiative, it would be an honor."
'How I became a leading voice for Moroccan women'.
Saundra Satterlee / Guardian Weekly, Friday 4 January 2008
Fatima Sadiqi overcame the prejudice of her mostly male peers to become one of Morocco's leading academic linguists. As well as languages, she has written extensively on gender and Islam, and in 1998 founded Morocco's pioneering postgraduate unit of gender studies, based at the University of Fez. Nominated by the UN secretary general as one of eight female members of the Committee for Development Policy and appointed by King Mohamed VI to the board of the Royal Institute for Berber Culture, Sadiqi's motto is: 'Think globally and act locally', she tells Saundra Satterlee.
Climbing the academic ladder in a male-dominated Islamic country has had its challenges. Although I am now accepted, nothing was given to me or could be taken for granted. Patriarchy and glass ceilings come to mind. I started at the lower end of the social scale, and from there I learned to navigate the whole spectrum – possibly better than someone born to a more privileged position who might see only her environment. I consider it empowering that I started at almost zero.
Originating from a rural Berber village in the region of Azilal, Morocco, I became multi-lingual (Moroccan Arabic, written Arabic, French, English and some Spanish) through hard study and also moving to the city. My mother is illiterate. She was 14 when she married, and as I'm the eldest of her nine children she is more of a sister to me.
The big figure in my life was my father. He was a military officer who, prior to marriage, was based in France and Germany. My mother never travelled abroad – except once to Mecca. My open-minded father wanted me to have an education and would tell me time and again: "I know that you are smarter than your brother, but we will pretend that he is smarter." I took the point and followed his advice.
Following undergraduate studies at the university in Rabat, I went to England for my PhD. The experience had a profound impact on my life. There were very few Muslims at Essex University at the time and when I discovered that my supervisor – a world-renowned professor of linguistics – was Jewish I almost fainted. We were supposed to be "enemies" and I thought he would fail me.
My initial and misplaced reaction to having a Jewish supervisor had nothing to do with Moroccan culture. In the Berber village where I come from we had many Berber Jews with whom we interacted in our daily lives. The 1967 Middle East Arab-Israeli crises had had an enormous impact on me as a young student, and I thought at the time that I needed to be Arabic.
It was during my first year at university that I started to change deep down. For me, it was the beginning of something new, something that later allowed me to work hard to bridge understanding between different cultures.
My Jewish supervisor, David Kilby, died of leukaemia shortly after I finished my PhD. I keep in touch with his family and still visit his grave to pray and read the Qur'an. He taught me to cross a religious border that hitherto I had not thought possible and transformed my thinking. I dedicated some of my earlier works to his memory.
By the age of 28 I was back in Morocco teaching postgraduate students who were often my age or older. In that period I remember someone who came from another city looking for Dr Sadiqi. It never occurred to him that I was a woman. When he opened my office door and saw me, he apologised and left. It took some time for male doctoral students to accept me as a supervisor. Now they have, but at the beginning I had this problem that I couldn't understand. My husband used to say: "You work harder than me", but early on students would prefer to be taught by him, even though we had the same academic trajectory. It took me almost six years to be accepted as a fully-fledged academic.
I encountered another glass ceiling in the 1990s when I first broached the subject of establishing Morocco's first ever centre for studies and research on women. Although I was a well-established professor, those inclined towards patriarchy opposed the idea – at least initially. I submitted my application in 1993 and was only accredited in 1998. Older male teachers in the Arabic department saw women and gender studies as an unnecessary import from the west.
I had to think of things like democratising higher education in Morocco to include women from the Islamic world. It helped that I described my gender study courses as rooted in Muslim and Arabic scholarship, and not feminist theory.
I introduced the grammarian Ibn Al-Anbari, for example, whose 13th-century writings made non-typical references to women. He also wrote a book called The Masculine and the Feminine, which was something special at the time: his pioneering views gave voice to the feminine. That's how I started building up the centre, greatly helped by the students themselves wanting to know more about western feminist theories.
With all modesty (empowered by English, French and standard Arabic), I consider myself the first female linguist in the Arab world and the first to tackle the issue of women from a gender and language perspective in Morocco. Linguistic "space" has been of particular significance for me as a rebellion against patriarchy. The moment you gain languages you also gain access to the language of the media, the government, the mosque – and you start speaking the language of authority.
I am not saying that Moroccan women don't have power. They have great power. What they don't have is authority, which is power sanctioned by society. But they have great power inside the home, inside their private space – who marries whom, for example, or who divorces whom. But to date you have to be a man to be vocal in the public sphere.
Finally, I do not wear the veil, although I have no problem with the younger generation doing so. We think the same thing. For men it means obedience, but for women you can be a feminist and veiled at the same time. My veiled students adore education and worship knowledge – and many are much more vocal that I ever was.
• Fatima Sadiqi was talking to Saundra Satterlee.
Refugee Women Visit Moroccan Cooperative to Enhance Skills
UNHCR initiative to improve livelihood opportunities
Rabat, Morocco, 27 March 2010 - As part of their support for a refugee women's cooperative, two of UNHCR’s implementing partners in Morocco, AMAPPE (Moroccan Association for the Promotion of Small Enterprises) and the Fondation Orient Occident (Moroccan NGO for social and educational support to inter alia refugees and migrants)” organized a visit on Saturday, March 20 to the women crafts cooperative “Tallassamtane” of Chefchaouen, a village in Northern Morocco.
In a unique synergy of activities of two partners, some 20 refugee women originating from sub-Saharan African countries were given an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the work and management of a Moroccan arts and crafts cooperative.
The refugee women are actively engaged in developing their tailoring and jewelry cooperative at the premises of the Fondation, which provides for space and equipment, whereas AMAPPE accompanies them in the management of their initiative with a view to rendering it profitable and financially independent. The visit was conceived for both women groups to meet up and share experiences and information on improving the quality of products and discuss marketing techniques.
Upon arrival in Chefchaouen, set in the Moroccon Rif Mountains, the group was welcomed by Mrs. Hassania of AMAPPE who accompanied the refugee women to the cooperative “Tallassamtane”. The refugees toured the cooperative and enjoyed looking at the beautiful textiles. They also tried their hands on some of the traditional textile producing equipment used by their Moroccan counterparts.
The chairwoman of the Moroccan cooperative explained that their cooperative was formed in 2001 by twenty women. The Moroccan women had received training and financial support from a Spanish NGO to pay for rent and raw materials, before they ultimately became financially independent in the course of their activity.
Today, the members of the cooperative work six hours per day, six days a week, producing four to five large blankets a week and ten to twenty smaller fabrics daily. During the meeting, the refugee women asked various questions about the functioning of the cooperative, its management and the acquisition of equipment. One refugee woman asked how the Moroccan cooperative managed its profits. It was explained that, to encourage workers to put more effort in their work, profit was distributed to the cooperative’s members based on hours worked and revenue earned.
Refugee women were very pleased with the experience of meeting vulnerable Moroccan women who had succeeded in raising their living standards and becoming financially independent, hence increasing their coping mechanisms. The visit was also a great opportunity for the refugee women to enjoy some of the culture and heritage of their new country of asylum.
According to UNHCR figures end of February 2010, the active refugee population consists of 807 recognized refugees/551 cases. Among them are 205 children who make up some 25 percent of the population, and 139 adult women comprising 17 percent of the refugee population. They originate mainly from the Ivory Coast (36 percent), DRC (26 percent), and Iraq (21 percent).
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. In more than five decades, the agency has helped an estimated 50 million people restart their lives. Today, a staff of around 6,689 people in 116 countries continues to help 20.8 million persons. For more information, visit www.unhcr.org
For further information, please contact:
Akram Tarfaoui Ziadi, email@example.com or + 212 537 76 76 06
AMAPPE, Rachid Hsine, firstname.lastname@example.org or + 212 537 70 75 02
Morocco Bac pass rate soars. Siham Ali 2010-06-24
Ministry of Education statistics for 2010 show a much higher bac pass rate than in 2009, but 44% of Morocco's candidates still have to re-take the exam to pass.
Morocco's 2010 baccalaureate pass rate is 34.75% higher than last year, according to Ministry of Education data released along with exam results on Tuesday (June 22nd).
Secondary schools throughout Morocco posted the bac marks, ending days of anxious waiting for students and their parents.
While there were scenes of delight for some students and their families, there were also tears and sadness for those who failed to make the grade in their first attempt. Of the students who took the bac, 44% must take the re-test if they hope to pass.
Malika S. was unable to hold back tears of disappointment when she saw her son's name on the list of pupils who have to resit their exams; he earned an average grade of 9.94/20.
"My son is hard-working and prepared for his exams," she told Magharebia. "He'll be shocked when he hears the bad news, especially since he was just 0.04 points away from passing. He has another chance with the resit session. I hope with all my heart that he'll get through the resits."
Even some students who passed the bac were disappointed with the grades they received.
One of them was Safae, who would have preferred a mark of "good" to "fair".
"Studying medicine was my dream, but my mark will not allow me to realise my childhood dream," she said. "I think I gave good answers to the questions, which weren't very difficult. I no longer feel optimistic about my future. My parents will be so disappointed."
Some 35.1% of the 335,680 candidates who took the exam passed the test in the first sitting, the Education Ministry said. Nearly half (43.78%) of those candidates enrolled in schools passed the exam, while 52% of those who passed were girls.
Sciences, maths and technical students saw the highest pass rate of all candidates: 48.67%, five percentage points higher than in 2009. For literary and creative subjects, the pass rate rose to 30.81%, compared to 24.43% last year.
The pass rate will rise after students re-take the exams on July 5th-7th. More than 125,000 pupils will participate in this second round.
The final results of the 2010 baccalaureate exams will be published after exams from the re-tests are graded. The grading session is scheduled for July 15th-16th, and 32,000 teachers have been drafted to mark exams for both bac sessions.
This year, the Ministry of Education vowed to crack down on cheating, and netted 495 suspected cheaters through an awareness campaign aimed at pupils and new measures to curb the practice.
Mobile hospital begins treating patients in Morocco.
The mobile hospital has been launched under the directives of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the Red Crescent Authority (RCA),
Abu Dhabi: The Emirates World Humanitarian Mobile Hospital yesterday began treating patients in the Moroccan city of Missour.
The mobile hospital has been launched under the directives of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the Red Crescent Authority (RCA),
Shaikh Hamdan said the launch of the mobile hospital was in line with the directives of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The directives were for the UAE to provide humanitarian programmes, especially affordable medical services, around the world.
Shaikh Hamdan said the mobile hospital would deliver medical care for six months. The hospital staff consists of Emirati cadres, Moroccans, and international doctors. It would provide specialised medical services such as surgery at affordable prices, and deliver awareness and preventive health care programmes.
He added that the medical hospital was equipped with the most advanced and modern medical equipment.
Shaikh Hamdan also said the Emirates mobile hospital in Morocco was proof of the two countries' strong bonds.
Khadim Al Derei, the team leader of the mobile hospital, said the Emirates World Humanitarian Mobile Hospital in Missour included 25 beds, primary healthcare, emergency care, a surgery section and internal medicine services. It also includes cardiac catheterisation units, a dental clinic, equipments for sterilising medical instruments, intensive care units, intermediate care unit, minimal care unit, pharmacy, laboratory, x-ray section, maintenance section and power generation units
The launching of the mobile hospital was attended by Moroccan senior officials, various UAE doctors, as well the mobile hospital medical team.
World class: Medical expertise
Team leader Khadim Al Derei said the Emirates World Humanitarian Mobile Hospital in Missour included 25 beds, primary healthcare and emergency care sections, a surgery section and internal medicine services.
It also included cardiac catheterisation units, a dental clinic, equipment for sterilising medical instruments, intensive care units, an intermediate care unit, a minimal care unit, pharmacy, laboratory, x-ray section, maintenance section and power generation units.
The launch of the mobile hospital was attended by Moroccan officials, UAE doctors, as well the mobile hospital medical team.
Morocco sanitation receives World Bank support.2010-06-17
Morocco will receive $175 million from the World Bank to increase access to potable water supply in the Nador, Driouch, Safi, Youssoufia, Sidi Bennour and Errachidia provinces , Working With Water reported on Thursday (June 16th). According to the World Bank, the project also aims to reduce water-borne disease infection in children.
Another $43 million was allocated for wastewater treatment in the Oum Er Rbia basin.
Child labour blights Morocco development. 2010-06-16 By Naoufel Cherkaoui
Advocacy groups and working children are contesting government claims that child labour rates have fallen.
To mark World Day against Child Labour, Morocco's High Commission for Planning (HCP) released a study claiming that the number of working children aged 7 to 15 hovers around 171,000.
According to the HCP report, released Sunday (June 12th), rural children account for 151,000 of the under-age workers. Among working children, 16.6% work while attending school, 56.1% have left school to work and 27.3% have never set foot in a classroom. An overwhelming number (93.5%) of child labourers work in agriculture, tree-cutting and fishing.
The study says the new figures represent a 9.7% drop from 1999 child labour rates.
Many Moroccans see a very different reality.
Houcine, 14, toils in a car repair garage to help his family with the cost of living, he told Magharebia.
"That was the main reason why I had to drop out of school. Plus, I could not catch up since some of the subjects were rather tough, such as mathematics," he said.
Mourad, a seasonal agricultural worker from Tensift-El Haouz, said his two children have to work.
"I don't have any other solutions," he said. "If they don't work, they often wouldn't have enough to eat, because I'm unemployed. I would have loved for them to be in school, so they could be assured of a better future than I had."
His son Hamza, with tears in his eyes, said he would have liked to become a doctor, but he had to leave school five years ago.
"I never had the opportunity to go after my dream. I didn't even have the chance to play with other children my age," he said. "At the same time, I feel responsible for my family."
"The rates released by the HCP are inaccurate because their methodology...is totally unrealistic. It's enough to walk by marginalised districts to spot the enormous numbers of working children," said Abdelali Rami, who heads the children's rights organisation Forum de l'Enfance.
"The reality of child labour does not live up to our expectations, since they are still living under tough conditions on account of poverty, which is why they drop out of school," Rami said.
"The problem can't be solved without providing reasonable living conditions for parents of those children," he added. "The answer doesn't lie in passing laws, but in ensuring they are applied."
Children's rights groups launched their own campaigns on June 12th to call attention to the problem.
The Collective for the Eradication of Child Labour collected signatures on a petition calling for the abolition of under-age maids and other household servants.
"This initiative aims to break the silence of [this phenomenon]… and create a legal framework that conforms to international law and conventions adopted by Morocco," said organiser Meriem Kamal, adding that 60,000 girls under the age of 16 serve as domestic help in Morocco.
The National Observatory of Children's Rights (ONDE) also spotlighted children working on the domestic front and launched the third stage of its campaign against child labour.
"The first was devoted to the need to treat children well, the second targeted parents, intermediaries and employers, and the third [stage] that we just launched is intended to put an end to the phenomenon," said ONDE executive director Said Raji.
The campaign promotes "the concept that a young girl's place is school, rather than serving as maids in homes", Raji said. His organisation has already put a programme in place to help young girls return to school.
"We will target families with candidates for household maids, offering them help in the form of profit-generating projects. Also, those girls will be given a chance to be re-integrated in society through education or vocational training," he said.
Morocco is committed to eradicating child labour, Employment and Vocational Training Minister Jamal Rhmani told delegates in at the 99th International Labour Organisation session in Geneva on June 15th.
He said the Tayssir programme provides aid to families to cut down on school dropout rates. Rhmani also promised to help children working in the worst occupations to return to school.
Cancer plagues Moroccan town.
John Thorne, Foreign Correspondent/June 05. 2010
FIGUIG, MOROCCO // For more than three decades a small bird-like man called Dr Abdelhak Hamouditou has cared for the people of Figuig, a Moroccan oasis town on the Algerian border. Increasingly – and mysteriously – they are getting cancer.
“There are too many cases for a town this size,” said Dr Hamouditou. “I know of at least 20 at present; there should be three to five.”
The cancer rate among Figuig’s 12,000 inhabitants has climbed rapidly in recent years, fuelling speculation that French nuclear tests carried out a half-century ago in Algeria may be to blame. Meanwhile, local taboos and Figuig’s isolation are complicating efforts to treat patients.
Figuig consists of seven adjoined villages for seven tribes of Amazigh, or Berbers, an ancient people who have inhabited North Africa since before recorded history. In recent decades, border closures by Algeria have helped make the former trading centre a dead-end.
Dr Hamouditou was born in Figuig 77 years ago. After studying medicine in Yugoslavia, he returned in 1977 and today directs the town’s Red Crescent clinic, where most locals go for medical care.
Fifteen years ago, Dr Hamouditou noticed a rise in cases of cancer. Today, he is among them.
“Three years ago I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen,” he said, peeling back the foil from a packet of large pink pills in his office. “They found a ball the size of a fist in my liver. These things are my chemotherapy.”
He put the packet on his desk and an assistant brought him a glass a water. Then he slipped a pill between his lips, drank and threw back his head.
“They’re supposed to attack the virus that caused my cancer, but so far I haven’t seen an effect.”
He rose to return to work. In the corridor, nomad children from the surrounding desert were lined up awaiting their yearly inspection by dentists visiting from Rabat, the capital.
“I’m tired,” Dr Hamoutidou said. “But I prefer to die in my job, not in my bed.”
Dr Hamouditou is unsure what is causing the spike in cancer. But he and others in Figuig say the answer may lie in explosions that rang across the Algerian desert 50 years ago. From 1960 to 1966, France conducted 17 nuclear tests in Algeria as part of its search for a bomb to make it a major player in the Cold War. While most were underground, four aerial explosions were set off near the town of Reggane, about 650km from Figuig.
In theory, winds could have carried radioactive particles to Figuig, said Ray Guilmette, the director of the Center for Countermeasures against Radiation at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“One test was over 20 kilotons,” he said. “That’s plenty of energy to inject material into the stratosphere.”
Nuclear explosions throw up dust clouds loaded with unstable atoms called radionuclides, Mr Guilmette said. If inhaled, radionuclides can bombard human cells with subatomic particles that may cause mutation and cancer.
“One feature of local fallout patterns is that they come and go fairly quickly,” Mr Guilmette said. “The people at risk have to be there at the time.”
That happened near test sites in Algeria, according to local victims’ rights groups and former French soldiers who say they developed cancer and other health problems as a result.
In February, France’s Le Parisien newspaper, citing classified documents, reported that French soldiers in Algeria were deliberately exposed to radiation from tests to study its effects. The report came two months after France passed a law allowing people irradiated and given cancer by its nuclear tests to claim state compensation.
According to Figuig’s mayor, Omar Abou, no study has yet been done to determine whether nuclear fallout is a factor in cancer there.
The initial question is whether the wind blew towards Figuig at the time of the Reggane tests, said Mr Guilmette. “If the cloud didn’t go that way, you can rule it out as a possible cause.”
For now, Dr Hamouditou is struggling to coax timid cancer patients to come to see him.
“Many people are afraid to admit they have cancer because they think it shows weakness,” he said. “When they finally come for treatment they’re in the final stages.”
One exception was Boualem Moussaoui, a date farmer who awoke one morning two years ago to discover a lump under his left jaw. “First it was the size of a chicken egg, then a turkey egg, then a second lump appeared.”
Mr Moussaoui promptly told Dr Hamouditou, who after preliminary consultation sent him for cancer tests to the city of Oujda, a seven-hour bus trip from Figuig and home to the nearest hospital equipped to treat the illness.
Confirmed by a biopsy at Oujda’s hospital, Mr Moussaoui’s cancer is today under control, he said. But he had to sell belongings and rely on friends and family to cover a medical bill of 170,000 Moroccan dirhams (Dh69,700).
Not all cancer patients find that kind of money, said Dr Hamouditou. “All I can give them are painkillers.”
Gateway to train students in Morocco June 16, 2010
Gateway Technical College will have some long-distance commuters in the near future.
The school was awarded a grant, along with Snap-on Incorporated, to teach automotive diagnostics to students in Morocco. The "train the trainers" program was initiated at Gateway’s Horizon Center for Transportation Technology, where instructors from across the country have been trained to deliver the training to their own students and career professionals. It's part of an ongoing push at Gateway to offer courses internationally.
Gateway was awarded the grant under the Broader Middle East and North Africa – U.S. Community College Small Grants Initiative. Higher Education for Development announced the grant this week in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, the US Agency for International Development and the US Department of Education.
Gateway was one of four grant recipients.
“We are all proud that our partnership with Snap-on Incorporated is recognized internationally,” said Gateway Technical College President Bryan Albrecht. “Working with HED and colleges in the BMENA Region increases our knowledge and skills and will better prepare our students for the global economy.”
Gateway and project partners will deliver training to instructors in Morocco to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to train students and current automotive technicians on Snap-on vehicle diagnostic equipment.
The Gateway partnership, along with the three other grant recipients, were chosen by a peer review panel and selected because they “promote capacity building in education.”
The BMENA initiative began at a June 2009 symposium – participated in by Albrecht and other educational leaders – on the challenges to the quality and relevance of education for workforce development throughout the BMENA region.
The symposium was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Education.
Students in Morocco: Lending a helping hand abroad.
by Jo Beth Stoddard, June 23, 2010
Helping others while visiting a foreign country is an opportunity some Elon University students took advantage of at the end of May.
Eight students and two faculty advisers traveled to Morocco for an 11-day service trip.
A service trip to Morocco "was a fantastic opportunity to explore and be immersed in a culture that is wholly separate from our own," junior Grant De Roo said.
The students and the advisers, Cheryl Borden and Tim Wardle, participated in several service activities that included teaching English lessons and playing and singing with children at local schools. Some manual labor was performed on the trip when students cleared fields so the children would have a larger area in which to play.
Participants stayed with host families in the cities of Sale and Azrou. De Roo said he really appreciated "the times in which we truly felt welcomed ... we were all genuinely welcomed by our Moroccan hosts and their incredible generosity and hospitality is something that none of us will forget."
One of the highlights of the trip, students said, was when they had the opportunity to meet the vice president of Moroccan Parliament and the mayor of Sale. Several days of the trip were spent engaging with United Nation representatives, Peace Corps volunteers and local university students. Borden said she will always remember when Elon students got to have "an honest and open dialogue with Moroccan university students about different cultural differences."
Senior Kristin Feeney worked with Lotfi Lamrani, the director of the students' partner organization Bridge of Cultures. Feeney said she enjoyed working with him.
"(Lamrani is) a really incredible guy and extremely motivated to making his community better," she said. "His work has even been recognized by the local community, and he's received many awards for his community improvement efforts."
The students also spent some time visiting local historical sites, meeting with local artisans who make handmade crafts and spending quality time with their host families.
"The best aspects of the trip for me was how well the whole group got along with each other," Wardle said. "And the way in which they embraced the opportunity to learn about a new culture."
Jobs in Morocco on a High! June 13th, 2010
Moroco, located in North African, is a country bordered by Spain, Algeria and Mauritania. The capital of Morocco is Rabat and the largest city is Casablanca. It is enriched with culture and civilization while Moroccan cuisine is considered to be one of the most diversified cuisines in the world. The name ‘Morocco’ literally means ‘The Western Kingdom’ and is one of the important economies of the Middle East even though it is located very far from the region. Morocco is one the wealthiest nations of Africa and has an extremely powerful economy. This makes it one of the most stable nations of Africa that takes up about 7% of the continent. Moroccan economy is based on phosphorus mining industries as it is the third largest producer of phosphorous in the world.
The price fluctuations of phosphates on the international market greatly influence the economy of Morocco. The service sector and the industrial sector that comprises of mining, construction and manufacturing together account for over half the GDP of the city. Other sectors growing rapidly include tourism, telecoms, information technology and textiles. The rehabilitation of agriculture sector is also being carried out with full vigor as Morocco economy still depends on it to an inordinate degree. Though it accounts for only around 14% of GDP, it employs nearly 45% of the country’s population.
The tourism sector of Morocco is well developed and investments from overseas nationals keep the nation’s economy thriving. Some industries of Morocco deal with Leather Goods, Textiles, Handicrafts and Food Products in cities like Casablanca, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat. Some high-tech Software Firms as well as Semi-Conductor Companies can also be found in Morocco. Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school even though literacy rate in girls is terribly low. With sectors related to tourism, education, manufacturing and services in full swing, jobs in Morocco are available in aplenty. Moroccan jobs are the favorite among professionals willing to relocate, away from their home countries. Morocco offers considerable number of career opportunities to expatriates across various fields.
Jobs in Morocco are available throughout all management levels-top, middle and lower i.e. from managerial to assistant to executive levels. These Moroccan jobs are generated majorly by the economic law of demand and supply. It offers employment in service sectors mainly along with manufacturing industries and agricultural units. Leisure (tourism) industry includes hotel jobs, aviation jobs, jobs in restaurants, bars, etc. Jobs in Morocco do not only pay better salaries but also extend a comfortable and relaxing lifestyle to the expats. Morocco is an ethnically diverse country where the production of Moroccan literature has continued to grow and diversify.
Inspirations from Middle Eastern and Western literary models have been added to the traditional genres like poetry, essays, and historiography. This becomes a significant recreation source for the art and literary lovers who migrate to the country in search of work. One can enjoy higher savings by way of better remuneration as well as explore the literary and cultural richness of this North African country. Moroccan jobs are advertised in newspapers and on company websites.
One can apply for jobs in Morocco with the help of recruitment agencies or on online portals like naukrigulf.com that list down all the jobs available with various employers in the country. One may also create personal contacts with expatriates already working and living in Morocco as references are always given more preference. Networking sites and communities online are a great help to get familiarized with the ways of living and working in the country. As popularly known, networking is always the best option to lay hands on a job in Morocco.
WB Loans Morocco $211.5m to Support Education Reform, Rural Roads Programme.
Rabat - Morocco and the World Bank (WB) signed, on Thursday in Rabat, agreements under which the Bank grants the kingdom three loans of $211.5 million to support education reform and rural roads programme and optimise farming irrigation in the Oum Errabii basin.
The first loan of $60 million is intended to support the implementation of the Education Emergency Programme 2009-12, which aims to accelerate the education reform process, drawing on lessons learned from the previous decade’s programs.
The second, worth $70 million, aims at modernising farming irrigation in the Oum Errabii basin.
As to the third loan ($81.5 million), it is designed to support the implementation of the Second National Rural Roads Project, which covers the period 2005-2012.
Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccan Economy and Finance Minister, who signed the first two agreements along with Françoise Clottes, the Bank’s resident representative in Morocco, voiced satisfaction with cooperation ties between Morocco and the WB.
He added that these relations, which have been boosted over the past years, have made the Bank one of the major donors supporting the Kingdom’s efforts to promote economic growth and combat poverty.
For her part, Clottes hailed the partnership relationships between the two parties.
These relations, the two officials said at the signing ceremony, are governed by a strategic partnership framework (Country Partnership Strategy -CPS 2010-2013) under which the Bank’s Board of Directors approved seven loans of $729 million covering reform programmes and investment projects.
The Bank has recently said, in a statement carried by its website, that the education development policy loan falls in line with the new CPS 2010-2013 for Morocco “which spells out the education sector reform as a key priority as part of its two strategic objectives”.
Hassan Samrhouni: Leading the Moroccan-American community.
Alison Lake is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
On May 19, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Morocco pleaded guilty to funneling money and material support to al-Qaeda. Many Moroccan-Americans living in Washington, D.C. are outraged that Khalid Ouazzani would align himself with a terrorist group and cast a shadow over hard-working Moroccan and Muslim-Americans.
It's time to highlight a positive example of a Moroccan-American activist who has captured the attention and respect of leaders in Washington and Morocco for over two decades. Since first arriving in the Washington area, Hassan Samrhouni has operated as a goodwill ambassador between the U.S. and Morocco. Hassan is president and founder of the Washington Moroccan Club, and CEO of Casablanca Travel and Tours, a full-service travel agency with offices in Casablanca, Morocco and D.C.
Hassan has worked for 20 years to promote the interests of Moroccan-Americans and to create a bridge for relations between the two countries. His overriding goal has been to "explain Morocco to Americans"and help newcomers acclimate to American society. "We Moroccans are some of the best [examples of] Americans today," he said in an interview. "We are Muslim, Arab and African: people with three different diverse traits, and we can be ambassadors for the U.S. around the world."
Hassan is called upon regularly as an "ambassador of goodwill" between the countries. He personally met with Presidents Clinton and Bush Sr., Hillary Clinton and secretaries of state during visits of American delegations to Morocco. King Hassan II of Morocco recognized Hassan's efforts by awarding him the highest honor a Moroccan citizen can receive--the Wissam of National Merit--in 1995.
Before emigrating to the U.S. in 1982, Hassan traveled the world for 15 years, playing soccer for Morocco's wildly popular national team. He joined Wydad Athletic Club in 1966 at age 16, and was deeply imprinted by the club's leadership and influence in Morocco. Established in the 1930s, the club was a pivotal force in the drive for Morocco's independence in 1956, and operated not only as a sports organization but also as impetus for social and cultural change. Wydad ("Love") remains influential in Morocco and was Hassan's inspiration for creating a similar organization here.
Hassan founded a "football" (soccer) club here in Washington, D.C., hoping to transfer the same values of leadership and community development. "I created the Washington Moroccan Club, a community organization, with the same principles of that group of fighters who defined Morocco's independence. Here we defend our culture and place in both American and Moroccan societies." Washington Athletic Club, an extension of the Moroccan Club, competes in the Washington International Soccer League and has a 10-year roster of more than 150 licensed players.
King Hassan II's son, King Mohammed VI, is supportive of Hassan Samrhouni's efforts to assist Moroccans and Americans in both countries. Hassan often voices opinions on political and policy issues in his native country. Affectionately known as "Blue Eyes" back home, Hassan is approachable, modest and friendly. His dual passion for Morocco and the U.S. is evident both in conversation and in how he spends his time.
In March 2010, Hassan's 20 years of leadership in the Washington area culminated in an anniversary celebration and event series attended by many professionals from Morocco and the U.S.: D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, educators and students, journalists, university professors, representatives from think tanks and development organizations, musicians and artists, and, according to Hassan, "Many strong Moroccan and American women--they ran the event!" George Washington, George Mason, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities also participated, as did the World Bank. The event will soon evolve into a "caravan," traveling to major U.S. cities with the same plan but on a grander scale.
Hassan and the WMC target both newcomers to the U.S. and established Americans who emigrated from Morocco a generation or two ago. "As Moroccan-Americans move from the service sector to higher education and positions of leadership, we are trying to reach key decision-makers,"Hassan said. The club sponsored political fundraising efforts for both presidential candidates in 2008, and encourages participation in government, with the aim to one day elect a Moroccan-American to higher office.
Hassan loves promoting Morocco and America as a job. "We try to empower our community and teach them they can do anything." This involves assisting and inspiring newcomers to the U.S. "When I spend time talking with someone," he said, "I never ever feel that I am wasting my time. I often see the positive results of a conversation 10 years later, and I know that seeds are planted along the way."
‘Grilled Fish’ Depicts Life On Morocco’s Mean Streets.
Outskirts Press, Inc.
79 pages, paperback
The prospects for impoverished, unschooled, unskilled young men the world over have not changed much since 1651, when English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes in The Leviathan termed their lives “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. With the exception of the modern anodyne presented by a readily available and relatively inexpensive supply of hashish, the lives of young Moroccan men in the 1970s as depicted in Abel Azrali’s Grilled Fish match Hobbes’ grim description-prediction exactly.
Grilled Fish, a fictionalized account of a young man’s attempts to escape his and his friends’ perceived destinies, takes the reader on a path as convoluted as any of the alleys that wind through the section of Casablanca, Morocco known as the Medina where grinding poverty offers the teenage protagonist, Saed, and his friends little hope and no encouragement for finding a way out of their dead-end existences.
Saed, pulled out of school and forced to work in his father’s fish shop when the 79-page novella opens, tries desperately to escape his miserable environment. He has heard from friends and relatives that “the North”, i.e., Europe, offers the chance for a better life. Seeking to be a good citizen and emigrate legally, he tries to obtain a passport, but finds that doing so will enmesh him in a bureaucracy as nightmarish as any devised by Kafka. His attempts to find work on the port’s docks first offer another possibility: stowing away on a ship bound for Europe, but this plan, too, comes to nothing.
In the course of his wanderings, Saed meets an old man who describes the sort of nightmare suffered by many under the world’s totalitarian regimes: arrest and imprisonment on unspecified charges and beatings and torture for refusing to “confess” to an unspecified crime and the Grilled Fish from whom the novel takes its title, a decrepit old man serving as an example of what Saed and his friends will grow up to be–if they aren’t killed on the street, die of alcohol or drugs or vanish into one of the government’s prisons. Meanwhile, Saed’s friends and acquaintances congregate on doorsteps and in tea shops, spending what little money they are able to beg, borrow, steal or earn on drugs and alcohol. By the end of the novel, Saed’s options have become even more limited. “He’d already made up his mind to leave, unaware he was about to slide into an endless darkness, through a world of fear, hatred and distress, not knowing he was stepping into an area made, not for him, but for hyenas, wolves and human pit bulls.”
Like his creation Saed, Abel Azrali, in real life A. Azzam-Rehali, grew up in the old section of Casablanca known as the Medina. He received his early education at local elementary schools, junior highs, and Lycee Moulay Idriss 1st where he obtained his Baccalaureate Degree in 1981. In September 1981, he joined Hassan 2nd University, School of Arts and Human Sciences, majoring in English Language and Literature. While in college, he wrote, directed and co-produced two plays. In the early 1980s, he came to the United States. He attended a CUNY college in New York City, then joined TCI College of Technology where he obtained a degree in electronic engineering. In addition to this book, he has other yet-to-be-published writings in French, English and Arabic, mainly poems and short stories. He is currently a resident of Astoria.