Friday, November 26, 2010

"Morocco and Europe : Six Centuries in the Eye of the Other" Exhibit on Tour

Here is a short piece from the official mouthpiece of the Moroccan government on an Exhibition that has just opened at the national library in Rabat. It is touring several countries and is supposed to make it to New York City eventually.
We are also posting info on the exhibition itself from its website.

Prince Moulay Rachid inaugurates exhibition on six centuries of Moroccan, European history

Rabat - Prince Moulay Rachid inaugurated, on Wednesday, the touring exhibition of "Morocco and Europe, six centuries in the eye of the other", held at Morocco's national library (BNRM) under the patronage of HM King Mohammed VI

On this occasion, Prince Moulay Rachid visited the exhibition's shelves which include documents, books, engravings, paintings, jewelry, and other items relating the history of Morocco with Europe from the end of the 15th century up to now.

Produced by the Moroccan-Jewish Cultural Center (CCJM) and the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME), this exhibition, which achieved much success in Brussels, will be open for the Moroccan public till December 31.

It will later on tour other countries mainly France, Netherlands and Spain.

Last modification 11/26/2010 11:22 AM.
©MAP-All right reserved

The project of organizing an exhibition on relations between Morocco and Europe has been germinating in the Center of Judeo-Moroccan Culture (CCJM) for some years. It has now taken on particular relevance following the agreement signed on October 13 2008 between Morocco and the European Union. Though relating solely to trade, this agreement does provide a starting point for reflecting on the ebb and flow of relations between Europe and Morocco in historical terms.

The project described below supports an approach aimed at sustaining reflection on the processes of exchange and of promoting intercultural dialogue, revealing values shared by Morocco and Europe
Looking back at the deployment in time and space of exchanges and influences between Morocco and Europe enables better understanding of this singular story whereby Morocco is the only Muslim country in partnership with Europe to this day. Through the tracks left by diplomats, travelers, painters, writers, craftsmen and populations overall, the history of relations between Morocco and Europe permits better awareness of the sources of today’s two-way influences and at the same time improving awareness of the realities of emigration and altering perception of it.

The exhibition also provides realization of a Moroccan identity which though open to the world nevertheless retains its specific character. This identity expresses itself today, for example, in the productions of contemporary Moroccan artists and in the Moroccans’ recognized ability in both the commercial and cultural domains.

Through its links with the past, the exhibition aims to eliminate the clichés of the present, thereby developing better awareness of relations between Morocco and Europe so as to encourage mutual respect and dialogue from one shore of the Mediterranean to the other...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Divorced Moroccan Women to Recieve Financial Support from the Government صندوق مغربي يمنح النفقة للمطلقات

This is great news for women and children ( and society as a whole) in Morocco. Hopefully it pulls some women out of the trials and disgrace of desperation. This article from Al-Magharebia reports that the Moroccan government will start providing support for divorced women if their ex-husbands disappear or are unable to provide such support. We post the article in English and Arabic (Please excuse some of the formatting issues).

Moroccan divorcees to receive nafaqa from government fund


A long-awaited financial assistance programme for Moroccan female divorcees begins in 2011.

By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 18/11/10

Seven years after Morocco's Moudawana, or Family Code, authorised financial help for divorced women, the Family Solidarity Fund will finally take effect on January 1st, 2011.

The House of Representatives on Thursday (November 4th) unanimously passed a bill authorising payment of alimony (nafaqa) to women and minor children if the ex-spouse defaults.

Justice Minister Mohamed Naciri told legislators that the fund aims to promote family solidarity and social cohesion. Some 500 million dirhams allocated for 2011 will be available for immediate disbursement.

Moroccan women without income often struggle because judicial decrees on alimony are slow to be enforced. Left on their own and with children in tow, these divorced women have to get by without any help.

Samira R. is 34 years old. Divorced at the age of 22, and left with a newborn daughter, she has been unable to get the courts to enforce the nafaqa ruling.

"My ex-husband has gone into hiding so that he doesn't have to pay anything. The courts haven't been able to track him down, even though he's a trader and can cater to the needs of his only daughter," she said.

For twelve years, Samira has been working as a maid so that her daughter Nora, a first-year secondary school student, can "continue with her studies and extricate herself from the vulnerable position they are living in". In January, Samira will be able to apply for money from the family court that issued the alimony ruling.

Under the new law, destitute divorced mothers and their children will be eligible for support after two months of non-payment, in cases where the alimony decree cannot be enforced, and "where the husband is absent".

Court-ordered alimony must be strictly enforced, because in some cases, the father has the wherewithal to pay but is not "sufficiently" compelled to perform this duty, MP and lawyer Fatima Moustaghfir told Magharebia. She said that the creation of the fund is a brave step, but should not encourage fathers to shirk their obligations.

"The marriage contract must include clear articles concerning the rights of both parties," she said, adding that taking action before marriage avoids needless problems and divorce.

Although there is a reconciliation procedure that spouses can resort to prior to divorce, it is difficult for judges to implement it properly, given the high number of divorce cases that are heard every day, the MP explained.

"The essential requirement for marriage is continuity. If it is dysfunctional from the beginning, the only result can be social problems. Both spouses must be compatible in every respect," she said.

صندوق مغربي يمنح النفقة للمطلقات

يدخل برنامج للمساعدة المالية للمطلقات المغربيات طال انتظاره حيز التنفيذ في 2011.

سهام علي من الرباط لمغاربية – 18/11/10

سبع سنوات بعد سماح المدونة المغربية أو قانون الأسرة بمنح المساعدة المالية لفائدة المطلقات، يدخل صندوق التضامن الأسري حيز التنفيذ في فاتح يناير 2011.

وصادق مجلس النواب الخميس 4 نوفمبر بالإجماع على مشروع قانون يسمح بدفع النفقة للنساء والأطفال القاصرين في حالة تخلّف الزوج السابق عن الدفع.

وزير العدل محمد الناصري قال للمشرعين إن الصندوق يهدف إلى تعزيز التضامن الأسري والتماسك الاجتماعي. وتم رصد حوالي 500 مليون درهم لسنة 2011 ستكون متاحة للصرف الفوري.

وعادة ما تعاني النساء المغربيات بدون دخل لأن الأوامر القضائية حول النفقة تأخذ وقتًا قبل دخول حيز التنفيذ. وفي ضوء هذا الوضع، يكون على المطلقات المتروكات لحالهن مع أطفالهن تدبر أمورهن دون أية مساعدة.

سميرة ر. تبلغ 34 عامًا. وهي تطلقت في سن 22 عامًا وتُركت مع طفلتها الرضيعة، ولم تكن قادرة على دفع المحاكم لتطبيق حكم النفقة.

وقالت "زوجي السابق اختبأ لكي لا يضطر لدفع أي شيء. لم تتمكن المحاكم من تقفي أثره رغم أنه تاجر وبإمكانه تلبية مصاريف ابنته الوحيدة".

وتعمل سميرة طوال اثنتى عشرة سنة كخادمة لكي تتمكن ابنتها نورا، وهي الآن تلميذة في السنة الأولى ثانوي، من "مواصلة تعليمها وإنقاذ نفسها من هذا الوضع الهش الذي تعيشان فيه". وفي يناير، بإمكان سميرة طلب المال من محكمة الأسرة التي أصدرت حكم النفقة.

وبموجب القانون الجديد، فإن المطلقات وأطفالهن مؤهلون للاستفادة من الدعم من شهرين من عدم الأداء، وفي الحالات التي لا يمكن فيها تطبيق أحكام النفقة و"عندما يكون الزوج غائبًا".

ويجب تطبيق أحكام النفقة الصادرة عن المحكمة بحذافيرها لأنه في بعض الحالات يكون الأب قادرًا على دفع النفقة لكن لا يُجبر "بشكل كاف" للقيام بهذا الواجب حسب قول البرلمانية والمحامية فاطمة مستغفر لمغاربية. وقالت إن تأسيس الصندوق خطوة جريئة لكنها لا ينبغي أن تشجع الآباء على التملص من التزاماتهم.

وأوضحت "عقد الزواج يجب أن يتضمن بنودًا صريحة تبين حقوق كلا الطرفين"، مضيفة أن اتخاذ إجراءات قبل الزواج ستحول دون الوقوع في مشاكل غير ضرورية وفي الطلاق.

وبالرغم من وجود مسطرة صلح يمكن أن يلجأ إليها الزوجان قبل الطلاق، يصعب على القضاة تطبيقها بشكل سليم بالنظر إلى الأعداد الكبيرة لقضايا الطلاق التي تبت فيها المحاكم كل يوم حسب البرلمانية.

وختمت بالقول "الشرط الرئيسي للزواج هو الاستمرارية. إذا كان هناك خلل من البداية فإن النتيجة الوحيدة التي قد تنشأ هي المشاكل الاجتماعية. فيجب أن يكون الزوجان متوافقين في كافة الجوانب"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eid Al Adha in A Moroccan Berber Village

In keeping with the times, here is an article on Eid al Adha (3id elKbir) in a Moroccan Village. The article from the Huffington Post is from last year's celebration but worth a read.There are also some nice photos we have embedded in this post.
Eid Mubarak! عواشر مبروكة

Sacrificial Sheep: Eid Al Adha In A Moroccan Berber Village

By Aida Alami
Moroccan Freelance Writer.
Posted: November 29, 2009 03:22 PM

Eid Al Adha Slideshow 1 from aida alami on Vimeo.

This past Saturday, we decided to spend Eid Al Adha, the Muslim holiday where people sacrifice a sheep, in the country side. We visited a little Berber village a few miles south of Marrakesh.

This is a tradition that has existed for centuries and Muslims all over the world celebrate it once a year. According to the Muslim history, the tradition started when God asked the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to prove his full dedication by sacrificing his only son: Ismael. It was extremely hard for Ibrahim to make a choice but he ultimately decided to show his loyalty to God and to kill his son. After he did so, God spoke to him and revealed to him that he instead had a sheep killed and that his son Ismael was alive because the willingness to sacrifice his son was enough of a proof of commitment .

Since then, Muslims commemorate this miracle by killing a sheep. Some of it is given to poor people but most families get together to celebrate and eat.

In Azimime, the village that we picked to spend the holiday, the mood was pretty festive. We arrived there at around 9:30 a.m. Women had woken early to make a delicious breakfast and to start preparing for the day. People were moving around the village, walking into their neighbors' houses to wish them a happy holiday. We received a very warm welcome from the villagers who rarely had outsiders visit them. Omar and his family invited us into their home, made us tea and after we were done, took us around the village so we could see people slaughtering their sheep, following the Muslim tradition.

Everyone was welcoming, offered us tea and wanted us to spend the night. In each home, a butcher came in to help with the slaughtering. Once it was done, the sheep was cut into pieces and every part was used to cook. First, we ate the liver, but did not get a chance to eat the head and other parts because they were going to cook on the fire the entire night.

We tried, in our pictures, to capture the tradition. The following slide-show takes us through a day with the villagers and their families on this holy day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Aminatou Haidar's Opinion on Motives Behind Morocco's Raid on Western Saharan Camp

Everyone has an opinion about what is going on in the Western Sahara. Here is a piece from the BBC with Aminatou Haidar's opinion about the recent violence.

Morocco 'raided Western Sahara camp to sabotage talks'

A prominent human rights campaigner has told the BBC she believes the clearing of a protest camp in Western Sahara by Moroccan forces could be classed as a crime against humanity.

Aminatou Haidar, nicknamed the "Gandhi of Sahara", said Morocco was deliberately escalating the clashes.

It was a tactic to block UN-sponsored talks on the territory, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975, she said.

At least eight people died in the violence on Monday.

Moroccan authorities have not reacted to Ms Haidar's comments - Morocco's London embassy told the BBC it was not entitled to comment on recent events in Western Sahara.

The region's pro-independence movement, the Polisario Front, said 11 people had been killed.

The Gadaym Izik camp was set up about a month ago outside Laayoune, the capital of the disputed territory, as a protest by displaced Sahrawi people about their living conditions. It was home to more than 12,000 people.

Polisario said Moroccan troops used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon against thousands of people at the camp.

It overshadowed the negotiations between the two sides in New York, which ended on Tuesday with no breakthrough.


Ms Haidar, who is in Portugal meeting local supporters of the Sahrawi people's campaign for self-determination, said it was not by chance that the violence had escalated when they did.

"Why is it that Morocco, which sits at the negotiating table, massacres the Sahrawi people on the eve of negotiations?" she told the BBC.

"This was well-studied, planned and calculated because the protest camp was there for already a month."

Polisario says at least 11 people died in the raid and more than 700 people were wounded and many others are missing.

The official Moroccan news agency says eight members of the security forces died.

Last year Ms Haidar came to international prominence when she went on hunger strike at Lanzarote airport after she was expelled to Spain's Canary Islands by the Moroccan authorities.

She had been trying to return to Western Sahara and refused to define herself as Moroccan on an official form.

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is the scene of one of Africa's longest-running territorial disputes.

The phosphate-rich territory was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers left in 1975. Polisario fought a guerrilla war against Morocco until the UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

Rabat now offers to grant it autonomy, while Polisario is demanding a referendum on full independence.

The talks between both sites have been deadlocked for year.

The two sides have now agreed to meet again next month and in the New Year.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Moroccan Forces Raid Protest Camp in Laayoune

Here is an article from National Public Radio about the riots in Laayoune. Is the Sahara Moroccan? Good question.
5 Moroccan Troops, 1 Civilian Killed In W. Sahara

by The Associated Press

RABAT, Morocco November 8, 2010, 06:58 pm ET

Moroccan forces raided a protest camp in the disputed territory of Western Sahara on Monday and unrest spread to a nearby city, with buildings ablaze and rioters roaming the streets. Five Moroccan security officials and one demonstrator were killed, reports said.

Moroccan officials moved into the camp at dawn, reportedly using tear gas and pressure hoses to dismantle it. Once unrest reached the city of Laayoune, Spanish National Television showed black smoke pouring from at least four tall buildings and an explosion that sent flames into the air.

The chaotic scenes capped weeks of simmering tension in Western Sahara, where a local independence movement called the Polisario Front is locked in a conflict with Morocco, which claims the territory.

The unrest also came hours before the reopening of informal U.N.-sponsored talks Monday in Manhasset, New York, between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which long waged a guerrilla war on Morocco in a bid to gain independence for the desert region and its native Saharawi people.

The 35-year conflict over the impoverished territory has dragged on, despite United Nations' attempts to resolve it. Today, thousands of Saharawis live in Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria, forced out of their homeland by the dispute.

The latest tensions started in mid-October, when some residents of Laayoune set up the Gdim Izik tent camp 10 kilometers (six miles) east of the city to protest poor living conditions. Monday's operation to dismantle it took less than an hour, according to Moroccan radio.

"It was a very forceful intervention," Galia Djimi, a Moroccan human rights activist in Laayoune, told The Associated Press. "People have been beaten. There are injured people."

The British charity group Sandblast described the operation as "brutal." It said the camp "reportedly came under a barrage of tear gas, flames and high temperature pressure hoses."

The Moroccan governor of Laayoune, Mohamed Guelmous, told TV Channel 2M that troops were met with a barrage of incendiary devices when they entered the camp to arrest people he called troublemakers.

Morocco annexed the territory after Spain gave it up in 1975. Today, Morocco refers to the Western Sahara, thought to be rich with minerals, as its "southern provinces." In a bid to settle the dispute, Morocco has proposed autonomy for the territory.

Morocco's official MAP news agency said five security officials were killed Monday — four in the operation at the camp, and one stabbed to death elsewhere — and said about two dozen others were hospitalized.

One protester died and hundreds of native Saharawis were allegedly injured, according to a statement by the Western Sahara government in exile carried by the Sahara Press Service. The government in exile is run by the Polisario Front.

Yet Moroccan officials insisted no civilians were killed in the raid, and the exact death toll was unclear.

The spokesman for the group that set up the camp, Brahim Ahmed, claimed camp residents had killed numerous members of the Moroccan security forces — as many as to 16, he said — by stoning them or running them over with cars. He said an unknown number of camp residents were killed.

Such claims have often varied widely in the conflict, and media access was limited. An AP photographer and several other journalists were prevented from boarding a plane to the area by an official of Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc.

Schools and offices in Laayoune were closed Monday, and a cloud of black smoke rose above the city. An official in Laayoune told the AP that the local TV station and an office handling regional investments were set ablaze.

Video of the Laayoune protests on the site of the major Spanish radio station showed streets filled with what appeared to be Saharawi men — many with their faces wrapped in cloth according to local custom. They moved chaotically through a street, some waving a Polisario flag, others carrying sticks and bottles.

There was no evidence in the video to match an account of the Laayoune protests carried by the official Moroccan news agency which said that demonstrators waved Moroccan flags, carried portraits of King Mohammed VI and shouted "The Sahara is Moroccan."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Morocco Increases Pressure on Spain over Disputed Enclave

Here is an feature article from Reuters Africa about Morocco becoming more aggressive in its call for Spain to end its colonization of Melilla.

FEATURE-Morocco ups pressure on Spain over disputed enclave
Wed Nov 3, 2010 2:00pm GMT

* Morocco says centuries-old Spanish rule should end
* Protests,angry rhetoric show growing assertiveness
* Local Moroccans say Spanish presence is their livelihood

By Lamine Ghanmi

BENI ANSAR, Morocco, Nov 3 (Reuters) - When Spanish police with snarling dogs raided the market where she sells aluminium pots and pans, Najia Berbish, a Moroccan mother of five, hurriedly packed up her wares.

"Piety has deserted the hearts of these Christians," she spat while gesticulating towards the police officers who were shouting out orders in Spanish at traders rushing to get away.

About an hour later, the police are gone and business is resuming at the illegal flea market in Melilla, a tiny Spanish enclave on the North African coast that adjoins Moroccan territory.

The drama and disruption of the police raid is something Berbish has learned to live with because she has no choice. "We are earning a decent living with the Spaniards. Does Morocco gives us something better now?" she asked.

This is the ebb and flow of daily life in Melilla, a spot where Europe and Africa, the rich world and the poor, rub up against each other in a way that is vibrant and chaotic and, increasingly, a source of diplomatic friction.
France and Spain used to rule Morocco through colonial protectorates. These ended over 50 years ago but Spain has retained Melilla and a second enclave called Ceuta. Morocco argues they should be under its sovereignty.

Tension flared this year when Morocco angrily accused Spanish police of using violence against Moroccan traders passing through Melilla.

It was their worst row since 2002, when Spain and Morocco had a brief and bloodless military confrontation over a tiny disputed island known to Spaniards as Perejil, or Parsley.

Since then the repaired relationship between Madrid and Rabat has become crucial for the rest of the Europe in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants and containing Islamist militants -- all of which could be jeopardised by a renewed dispute.

But more than that, this year's row appeared to signal a new resolve from Morocco's leaders to, eventually at least, end Spanish sovereignty over the territories.


Morocco's growing confidence plays a role.

Since the reformist king Mohamed VI came to the throne in 1999, gross domestic product has gone up from about $35 billion to $145 billion now, multinational firms have made Morocco their regional base and a trade pact has been signed with Europe.
"Spain controls Morocco's Mediterranean front through its control of Ceuta and Melilla and other isles. This is not acceptable any more," said Mohamed Merabet, head of the Ashourouk Center, a Moroccan think tank.

Spain's argument is that Melilla and Ceuta are not colonial possessions because they were Spanish settlements many centuries before Morocco existed. In any case, Madrid says the row over Melilla has now been smoothed over.

"Relations between the countries are at a good level," then Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters during a visit to the Moroccan city of Marrakesh in October, shortly before he was removed from the post.

Policymakers in Madrid know too that the Spanish presence is an economic lifeline for a poor part of Morocco that the government in Rabat cannot yet afford to cut. That is because Melilla functions like a vast duty free warehouse.

Every day about 30,000 Moroccans file through the nearby Moroccan settlement of Beni Ansar to border checkpoints and into the enclave. Once there, they buy as much as they can carry -- usually clothes, shoes, toilet paper, cleaning products -- and file back out of Melilla.

They then sell the goods at markets and pavement stalls throughout Morocco. It is a profitable business because, with no tax or customs duty to pay, goods in Melilla cost about half the price charged in Morocco.

Spanish customs officers patrolling the border generally let Moroccans through with their goods as long as they are not moving industrial quantities, which is why most of the packages are piled high on bicycles or carried on peoples' backs.

The income from trading with Melilla is badly needed. Gross domestic product per capita in Spain is $33,600. That compares to Morocco, where the figure is $4,700.

The streets of central Melilla look like they could have been transplanted from Madrid or Barcelona. In the Moroccan villages nearby, many people live in hovels built of mud.

"I thank Allah each day for earning some 300 dirhams," said Ahmed Salmouni, who was carrying clothes and other goods out of Melilla on his bicycle. The amount he takes home each day is the equivalent of about $37.

"I prefer that the Spaniards stay. Our conditions with the Nsara are better than they are with Morocco," he said, using an Arabic word for Christians.

But while traders queue daily to get through the barbed wire border fence and into Melilla, a short distance away other Moroccans are pursuing a different agenda.

One day last month in the no-man's land between the enclave and Beni Ansar about 200 anti-Spanish protesters waved Moroccan flags and chanted: "Melilla is Moroccan."

The demonstration, to mark the 513th anniversary of Spanish rule, was just one of a series of protests in the past few months outside Melilla which reveal the growing assertiveness of those in Morocco who want Spain to leave.

Though Moroccan officials, in public at least, keep a distance, it is clear where the government's sympathies lie.

"We can mobilise hundreds of thousands of demonstrators for this anniversary," a senior Moroccan police officer, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters at the demonstration.
"But the protest was small because we do not want to frighten the Spaniards at this stage," he said.

Back in Morocco's capital, those politicians who back the protests also acknowledge the need to give people living around Melilla a better livelihood.

They point to a government plan to invest $17 billion over the next 12 years in the development of Morocco's north, including the areas around Melilla and Ceuta.

Chebel Malainine, a senior official from Prime Minister Abass el Fassi's Istiqlal party, said this kind of development is the beginning of the end for Spanish rule.

"Morocco has begun ... to prepare the conditions for freeing the territories," he said. (Editing by Giles Elgood)

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