Monday, November 8, 2010

Morocco In the News: Nov 1-6

Gender-based violence persists in Morocco.
By Hassan Benmehdi -31/10/10
According to a just-released report, Morocco has yet to achieve its goal of protecting women.

Despite efforts by civil society and the government, violence against women remains an ever-present problem in Morocco, a women's rights NGO announced on Wednesday (October 27th).
To reach its conclusions, the Chama Centre for Refuge, Counselling and Legal Advice documented 302 cases of gender abuse over the period 2009-2010.
"In the absence of an institutional help framework backed up by the law – even in hospitals and police stations – women who have suffered violence find counselling centres to be a refuge, hoping to find a solution to their situation there," Touria Omri, chief of the Women's Development Organisation, told Magharebia.
She added that counselling centres have been following developments since 1995 and trying to find solutions at legal and institutional levels. Omri concluded that the law and, particularly the administrative procedures needed to prove the degree and nature of gender-based violence are still falling short of the mark, complicating efforts to provide greater protection for women.
According to the Chama Centre, around 50% of women who have been attacked are aged between 25 and 40. Thirty-two per cent suffered legal or economic violence, with 19% affected by physical violence and 16% mental abuse. Spouses top the list of perpetrators at 71%, followed by former spouses at 17%.

All forms of violence carry a cost, the report said. Women end up paying between 1,000 and 5,000 dinars (88 to 444 euros) of their own money to deal with the consequences of abuse, namely stress, nervous breakdown or chronic illness.
Samira, from the Chama Centre, said that the organisation is particularly restrained when it comes to responding to the requests of affected women.
"This is where we encounter huge problems inherent in the system, and particularly the lack of coordination between the centre and the units dealing with the problem in the police, hospitals and other institutions," she said.
"When you look at the habits and traditions in Moroccan society today, you can see that this problem has not changed; we still lack the legal resources and tools," said Bouchra Moulay H'med, a journalist who specialises in the Moroccan Civil Status Code, adding that while counselling centres are doing what they can, the essential task is to provide legal protection.
According to H'med, sexual harassment at the workplace is another worrying trend that necessitates an appropriate solution.
The Chama report provoked a unanimous reaction that there is an urgent need to introduce legal punishment for those who commit violence against women and to spread a human rights culture.

Morocco (Agadir) - The National Initiative for Human Development, launched by HM King Mohammed VI in Mid-2005, has become a model to follow in terms of sustainable development, said, Monday in Agadir, Fadela Amara, Secretary of State in charge of urban policy in France.

This initiative is an exemplary project of economic development and of the fight against poverty, applauded around the world, said Amara during a discussion on "what role can regions play in the fight against poverty and vulnerability?", held as part the Forum on human development.

Bringing all stakeholders together at all levels, this dynamism is based on a participatory, partnership-based approach which puts man at the centre, she said.

She hailed the regionalisation process launched by Morocco, which will make Moroccan regions "the engine of economic and social development" of both urban and rural areas.

Held under the chairmanship of King Mohammed VI, the two-day forum brings together politicians as well as representatives of specialised international and community organisations to discuss issues of human development.
- Ahmed Rashid    Tuesday, 02 November 2010

USA (Washington) - Morocco's tourism revenues will "more than double" in 2010, reports the US Businessweek in its websites quoting Tourism and Handicrafts Minister Yassir Znagui.

Ten million tourists are expected to visit Morocco this year, which represents a 14% growth of the tourism sector, compared to 6% in 2009, explained the minister, underlining the resiliency of the sector in the face of the global economic crisis.

Citing figures released by the tourism ministry, the Businessweek said tourism revenues would reach 56 billion dirhams this year, adding that the sector’s contribution to the GDP amounts to 10%.

Tuesday, 02 November 2010
New York  / Morocco Board News Service -   In a hypothetical genuine democratic Morocco, I would have switched political loyalties to Amazigh regionalist groups. First because I have an irrational antipathy towards the representatives of the Master Race  – a mafia-like group of families, mostly from fes, that just got by before, during and after the protectorate with minimal damage and an increased span of wealth, power and notoriety. And second, because it is high time we ditched the hegemonic pan-Arab ideology that disfigured our national identities (if those were really existing) and exerted a positively dangerous influence over the Moroccan minds, so that even blood-related Amazighs tend to ignore their roots and just get swayed by Western or Arabian alluring culture. And last, because I’d say I took a fancy on my forefathers’ origin, a high-pitched village in the eternal snows of the Atlas chain.
And I would very much like their culture to be valued and accepted as an autonomous part of Morocco’s heritage.

One of the most prestigious scholars that studied pre-modern Morocco was Ernest Gellner, who, in his famous -to those that like to discuss politics with pondered minds- book “Saints Of the Atlas” (1969). Ernest Gellner was a Professor of Sociology & Anthoropology at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. His Moroccan studies are marginal compared to other fields he was interested in, but his book about the High-Atlas population is worth reading.

It has been a general observation among those foreigners that started discovering Morocco in the late years of the 19th century, at a time when Morocco -Bled Siba and Makhzen alike- was at the center of growing interest from imperialst western powers. Anthropologists like De Foucauld, pointed out that the mountain tribes, those that were most likely to rebel against the Makhzen central authority (and occasionally referred to as Bled Siba) developed ruling mechanisms that were close to western democracies. Maxwell Gavin, in his account, mentioned a more liberal society in the high mountains than in the plains.

There was much literature about possible European features in these regions and the subsequent more liberal institutions there compared to the despotic and arbitrary Sultan reign. Gellner actually describes these institutions, and they do strike the observer how different they are from the discretionary and Ivan the terrible-like manners in the Imperial court.

Amusingly enough, Gellner starts off by asking a core question: “What is a Berber?” as indeed he needed to define the areas where he should had focused his study, he then goes on defining the characteristics of such population: “From the outside, one can only define a Berber by his speech. Even then, one must exclude the Jewish, Negroid (sic) and the Ibadi Berber-speaker [...] This however, leaves the overwhelming majority of Berber-speakers. How they see themselves. They are, without serious exceptions, either tribesmen, or men who are but recently tribalised. [...] Hence, basically the Berber-speaker is a tribesman. This provides the crucial clue to his own vision of himself, the concepts available to him for identification with wider groups. He is, of course, a member of the nested series of kin units which constitute his tribe“. [p. 14-15] Why the tedious introduction? (and I have given but a digested excerpts of it) Because there was a need to specify the essential feature of the Amazigh -I shall use the modern word for Berber- is their tie to the tribe, i.e. the small society where they evolve. The fact  individuals are part of a specific tribes also raises the question of the nature of interactions between themselves, namely the question of equality.Before elaborating on that, Gellner goes on about the nature of segmentary societies, i.e. when families regulate their internal affairs either by means of autonomous self-regulated mechanisms or by using tribal arbitrage of tools to deal with different matters. Gellner summons E. Pritchard on tribal systems: “typical of segmentary structures everywhere, [the tribal system] is a system of balanced opposition … and there cannot therefore  be any single authority in a tribe. Authority is distributed at every point of the tribal structure and political leadership is limited to situations in which a tribe or segment acts corporately… There cannot obviously be any absolute authority vested in a single Shaikh of a tribe when the fundamental principle of tribal structure is opposition between segments ” (p. 59) This means that, even though complete equality is not achieved, nor considered as such, tribe segments -usually not individuals- are considered to be effective balancing powers to tribal leadership, and thus provide a relative plurality as well as effective barriers to absolute rules, something that tribes in the plains failed to implement against Makhzen-appointed Caids, Pachas and so on.

These are the starting points of Gellner’s account of the very specific “Mountain Democracy”: a conscious knowledge of space and/or population frame of reference, as well as intrinsic mechanisms preventing power monopoly by means of relative equality.

in Chapter 4: “Holy & Lay”, Gellner mentions the kind nature Igurramen (the Igurram fulfils the state or public duties. The position can only be defined through what it does, or rather, with the task it is given to fulfil) maintain with the ordinary tribesmen. Indeed, the various duties an Igurram is bound to undertake cannot be performed without the support of a substantial part of the tribe they are supposed to manage. It goes even further, on the way elections are held:  “Suppose a tribe to consist of 3 sub-clans, A, B and C. If this year it is the turn of Q to provide the chief for the tribe as a whole, then the electors will be the men of B and C. Next year, the chief will be chosen from B, and it will be A and C who provide the electors; and so on. You can be part of the pool of candidates, or have the vote, but not both. This is complementarity.” This is crucial, as indeed Chiefs-Igurramen are chosen by the tribesmen -on whatever fashion they fancy- and are not imposed by the central authority. In addition, Igurramen position does not carry with it special privileges or any perks of the office as one might say. Indeed, it is more of a status rather than sub-tribal belonging, and cannot therefore derive any further authority than what the tribe allows for. the Chief is therefore constrained by the wishes of the clans.  There is a sense of self-government that is actually very close to local democracy and decentralization of power, as well as a wide-base popular legitimacy. One wouldn’t go as far as boast about primitive democratic settings, but these are certainly and by far more liberal than the traditional institutions of imperial Makhzen. One could almost see a cardinal bifurcation of powers: on the one hand, a bureaucratic, centralizing Makhzen, and on the other, a popular, decentralizing local/tribal democracy. and both had the unfortunate demise of many conflicts throughout the ages, as indeed Makhzen tried with more or less success to establish their control over the mountain tribes (especially by means of enabling Glaoui and Gundafi families to extend their domination in the name of the imperial Sultan over the High Atlas)

I raised the Amazigh question some time before about the Berber Dahir and I had some doubts about the kind of relationship between Arabic heritage and Amazigh identities. While I do agree some Amazigh-born Moroccans rose to prominent places as Islamic scholars (such as Mokhtar Soussi) or writers in Arabic, I  cast much concerns about how hegemonic Arabic culture – using Islam as the uncontested shuttlecock to its aims- perverted pre-Islamic Amazigh culture and managed quite successfully to tone it down and effectively, suppressing it. Arabic is now the national language, our official history firmly tied us to the pan-Arab project (whether because of the regime’s stand or that of prominent opposition parties, like the USFP or the PJD) and much is made about or National Identity. Nonetheless, and despite encouraging signs, little is said about a heritage that has been confined to marginal places by a hegemonic part of the Moroccan identities. Morocco had good -albeit traditional and certainly flawed- local democratic institutions that were destroyed through a patient and vengeful process in the name of Islamic obligation to submit to the ruler of the land.

A couple of pleasant instance to point out how resistant my ancestors were to the Arab oppressors: In Tachelhit, Baghough describes the Fox. another way of refering the the animal is Aliou taleb, which is Ali Ibnou Abi Taleb, the well-known nephew of prophet Muhammad. As for the snake, the usual name is Hlima, a reference to the prophet’s wet-nurse. Who said Amazigh people did not have a good sense of humour?
Morocco (Rabat) - Morocco is "very well placed" in terms of human development, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Director General of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday.

"Morocco is the typical sort of countries that launched an efficient economic development and set up development policies, such as the national initiative for human development (INDH)," Strauss-Kahn told Médi 1 radio.

The INDH is based on the principle that economic growth alone is not sufficient, he said, noting that Morocco attached importance to policies relating to education, health, housing and women empowerment.

These policies "contributed to reducing disparities and redistributing wealth", the IMF head said, commending the launch of INDH in Morocco and the organization of the Forum in Agadir.

"The very decisive element to the success of this sort of initiatives goes through instruments of decentralization, financial resources and infrastructures, which allow for opening up regions to transport, electricity, water, telecommunication and the support of associations,” Strauss-Kahn said.

The IMF Chief is in Morocco to take part in the Forum on Human development, which opened on Monday in Agadir.

Held under the presidency of HM King Mohammed VI, the Forum brings together over 1,700 participants, including 300 foreign figures from Europe, Africa, Asia and America.
(MAP) Global Arab Network
Morocco Q3 jobless rate falls y/y to 9 pct
Wed Nov 3, 2010
RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco's jobless rate fell to 9 percent in the third quarter this year from 9.8 percent in the same period last year mostly on building industry and services employment growth, official figures showed on Wednesday.
Jobs created in services and building activities rose 5.4 percent and 1.9 percent respectively, with a total of 125,000 additional jobs to more than offset 70,000 jobs destroyed in the manufacturing industry, the High Planning Commission added.
Infrastructure upgrades, tourism growth and a plan to improve low-income housing and eradicate slums have led to more jobs in the building industry.
The labour-intensive farming sector, which accounts for up to 17 percent of Morocco's gross domestic product and employs more than the half its work-force, created 40,000 jobs in the third three months of this year.
The government confirmed in August an earlier revision to its forecast of Gross Domestic Product expansion to about 4 percent for this year from 3.5 percent it had projected earlier, citing a growth rebound in the third quarter.

Arab, Jewish cultures meet in Morocco.
by Anouar Hamama 2010-11-05
The Atlantic Andalusia Festival was a chance for Essaouira to highlight its ancient Jewish community.

Jews and Muslims from around the Mediterranean gathered in Essaouira last week for the 7th Atlantic Andalusia Festival, an event that celebrated the multi-religious heritage of Andalusia and Morocco.
The October 28th-31st concert event was organised by the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation and the Essaouira Mogador Foundation, both of which are presided over by André Azoulay, a senior advisor to King Mohammed VI and one of the country's most influential Jews.
"Andalusia is in our minds, it's in the whole world," said Azoulay, explaining why the show takes place far from standard geographical interpretations of Andalusia. He said that the annual festival helps address Moroccan history "with a very capital H", helping to re-contextualise the immense influence Jews have had on the Moroccan character.
The festival featured exhibitions, forums, and a series of concerts in the style of al-matrouz, a form of music that seamlessly blends Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew to the point where the languages are almost indistinguishable. The performances evoked the time between 711 and 1492 AD, when Andalusia was governed under a Muslim caliphate – an era known for peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
Notable participants included Haim Louk, the orchestra of Hadj Abdelkrim Raiss Orchestra and the David Hamelech Hevrat Choir of Strasbourg.
"It's very rare to have a festival like this, that rediscovers things that were covered in a pot," said Hannah Hainounou, a Jewish attendee from Fez. She said that her community has dwindled and become increasingly isolated, as many of her Jewish compatriots have left the country. She said she only recently started learning Hebrew, and events like these allow her to rediscover a heritage she hadn't known. "Before, only intellectuals knew of this history, but here it's open to everyone," she said.
"These exercises that reunite us help us to understand, to continue to look for what we don't want to be taken from us, whatever it may be from our memories: the happy, the sad, the complex," said Azoulay.
The king's advisor presided over discussion forums that allowed people a space to talk about their experiences. Many participants were joyous, talking about Jewish-Muslim co-existence and exalting Morocco for being the only country in North Africa where they felt they could have such a festival.
But juxtaposed with the elation was an awareness that everything was not as peaceful as it could be. As singers intertwined Muslim and Jewish melodies in large tent in the old medina, the grandiose gates were manned by a plethora of police and security guards behind barricades, as though to prevent an attack similar to the bombings of Jewish targets in Casablanca in 2003.
At the forums, Rachid Benmokhtar Benabdellah, President of the National Observatory for Human Development, said that much of the reason some Moroccans speak badly about Jews is that they don't know the history of Jews in Morocco, who had been in the region for thousands of years before Muslims came.
"There's an orchestrated ignorance in education," Benabdellah said, adding that Jews are purposefully not included in textbooks. "There are people who think that Jews came in the luggage of the French."
Part of the misinformation about Jews in Morocco is because there are so few remaining in the country – about 250,000 Jews left after the founding of Israel and only about 4,000 remain. This fact isn't lost on the city of Essaouira, where Jews once comprised about half of the population.
Now, only two Moroccan Jews are left, and the mellah, or Jewish quarter, lies in ruins.
Joseph Sebag, one of the two, tends to a small bookstore right off the main square of the city. While he said he is not observant, he does try to keep kosher and pray, and goes to Casablanca for the high Jewish holidays. Sebag said he didn't attend much of the festival – he said it focused too much on the glorious past, and ignored a future that was much bleaker.
"Judaism is alive and well in Morocco, but there is much anti-Semitism," he said, adding that current developments with Israel were making things harder, as many Moroccans don't distinguish between Israelis and Jews. For example, this year, after the Gaza flotilla raid in May, many Essaouirans protested outside a Jewish-owned hotel in the Essaouira medina.
Even at the festival, discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict repeatedly arose, although Azoulay said that the event was not the place to open such a debate.
Sebag said that while he does not feel in danger, he would prefer to be somewhere else, and is here due to circumstances, not nostalgia.
"Even when I'm here, I'm not here," he said. "Too many Jews here live in the past, looking at what was."
Nevertheless, the Essaouira of the past is a major attraction for Jewish tourists of Moroccan origin, which come all year by the busload to retrace their heritage. Many stop by the centuries-old Synagogue of Rabbi Haïm Pinto, one of the few standing structures in the mellah.
Malika Idarouz is the Muslim caretaker for the synagogue, which was looked after by her father before her. She said about 50 people came for Shabbat services during the festival. This was unique, as the synagogue no longer has a congregation and is now mainly a museum, paid for by foreign donors. Idarouz told Magharebia that there are never any problems with the community, and that the door of the synagogue is always open.
"Before anything else, we are all Moroccans," she said.
WB commends measures taken by Morocco to protect investors
Washington - The World Bank's (WB) "Doing Business 2011" report has commended the measures taken by Morocco to enhance investor protection.
    The report, released on Thursday in Washington by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's financial body, noted that these new measures have further strengthened the rights of investors in Morocco, stressing that the Kingdom has therefore improved its rating index with regard to the publication of detailed information in annual reports of companies.
    It ranks Morocco among countries that have achieved the best performances in terms of financial infrastructure reforms and credits enabling banks to increase loans granted to small and medium-sized enterprises.
   Doing business 2011 noted the reduction of the minimum capital required to set up firms from MAD 30,000 to MAD 1,500, which resulted in a 40% increase in the number of firms created.
INDH, sets 'good example' for entire region, USAID
Agadir - The National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) sets "a good example to follow for the entire region", Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Morocco, John Groarke, underlined on Tuesday in Agadir.
    Speaking to MAP on the sidelines of the Forum on Human Development, Groarke voiced hope to see the Moroccan experience in terms of improving the socio-economic conditions implemented in other countries of the region.

    USAID maintains “privileged relations” with Morocco at the central and local levels, he said, noting that these ties are based on the respect for the programs launched by the Moroccan government, the support and supervision of human development projects, in addition backing the national policies of prime priority.

    He commended the increasing participation of women in decision making, calling for more efforts to be devoted to further empower women and promote the integration of the youth in local development.

    The USAID and the Moroccan government cooperate within the framework of a multisectorial partnership which lasted over five years.

    The Forum on Human Development, held under the presidency of HM King Mohammed VI, opened, on Monday in Agadir, with the attendance of over 1,700 participants, including 300 foreign figures from Europe, Africa, Asia and America.


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