Friday, December 21, 2012

What the Passing of Shaykh Abdessalam Yassine means for Morocco

Here is a piece from the Guardian about the role of almarhum, Sh. Abdessalam Yassine the founding leader of the Adl wa Ihsan Party and what it could mean for Morocco. 

What does Abdessalam Yassine's death mean for Morocco?

The Justice and Spirituality leader was a consistent opponent of the monarchy, combining Sufi piety and politics to powerful effect, Thursday 20 December 2012 14.05 GMT

Islamism is often thought to be antithetical to Sufism, but in Morocco, a Sufi-inspired Islamist movement has represented the most potent opposition to the monarchy since the 1980s. The death of its mystical leader, Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, last Thursday has left many asking what direction Morocco's informal opposition will take.

Tens of thousands of people converged on Morocco's capital, Rabat, to mourn the passing of Yassine, 84, the founder and spiritual leader of Morocco's largest Islamic opposition movement, Justice and Spirituality (al Adl wal Ihsan), a nonviolent group committed to the peaceful overthrow of the monarchy.

The sheikh's age and ill health had meant his public appearances had grown increasingly infrequent. Some even speculated that he may have died earlier and his death kept a secret from his devoted followers. According to Michael Willis, fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean studies at Oxford University, Yassine's death is a pivotal moment in the evolution of the movement: "The movement grew around him, all members read his key writings, he was at the centre of things – but the movement had been preparing for his death for the last decade or so – there are structures in place."
The central ideologue and spiritual guide, Yassine's appeal combined religious and political leadership, something the movement will struggle to replace. Whether his successor's legitimacy is premised on political or religious credentials could affect the nature of the movement and its popular appeal. In recent years, Yassine's daughter Nadia, a media regular and French-educated author, has grown in public prominence. Like her father, her public defiance of the monarchy, including a 2005 statement that Morocco would be better off as a republic, saw her prosecuted and kept under surveillance. However, despite her popular appeal and charisma, it is unlikely she will take the helm in a deeply conservative country, where female leadership remains contentious. An interim successor has been appointed in the shape of Mohamed Abbadi, current head of the movement's guidance council and No 2 in the movement.

The burning question for observers is whether the movement will reconsider a cornerstone of Yassine's thinking – the rejection of the monarchy's religious and political legitimacy. Such a move, favoured by younger members, would allow the movement to enter the political fray, but could ultimately undermine its oppositional appeal.

As for the monarch, the passing of such an inveterate opponent will be regarded with muted glee. For decades, the sheikh represented the face of popular dissidence, refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the monarchy and sending a succession of impudent letters to the successive kings, accusing them of squandering the people's wealth and calling on them to return to the path of God. One such letter saw Yassine imprisoned in a psychiatric ward because it is alleged former king Hassan II could not conceive that any sane man would challenge his authority so brazenly. On Mohammed VI's ascension in 1999, Yassine advised him to use his personal wealth, currently estimated at $2.5bn (£1.5bn), to eradicate the national debt. In a country with over 40% illiteracy and where more than a fifth of the population live in extreme poverty, the fact the king's 12 palaces reportedly cost $1m a day to operate provides some fodder to Yassine's call for social justice.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

UNESCO names Sefrou's Cherry Festival a part of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Morocco's  Cherry Festival in Sefrou has been declared a part of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Here is some info from the UNESCO website and here is a link to a detailed site on the festival.

Sixteen new elements inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting at UNESCO Headquarters until 7 December, inscribed new elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The new elements are from Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Republic of Korea.

The following new elements were inscribed during today’s afternoon session: 

For three days in June each year, the local population of Sefrou celebrates the natural and cultural beauty of the region, symbolized by the cherry fruit and that year’s newly chosen Cherry Queen. The highlight of the festival is a parade with performing troupes, rural and urban music, majorettes and bands, and floats featuring local producers. The cherry festival provides an opportunity for the entire city to present its activities and achievements.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Some Rappers Promoting Conservatism,Talk Politics

Here is an article from alBawaba about rappers in Morocco using their art-form to take political sides and to promote social and religious policies.

'Halal rap': Morocco's MC's preach politics and conservatism

Published November 11th, 2012 - 06:04 GMT via
By Mohammad al-Khudairi
Some of Morocco’s young rappers are using their music to show support for the country’s ruling party, espouse family values, and encourage female modesty. It’s called “Halal rap,” but can it even be considered rap at all?

Sheikh Sar (known as Chekh Sar in Morocco) is a rising star among religious youth here.
But Chekh Sar isn’t an upcoming Salafi preacher on one of the religious satellite channels proliferating throughout the Arab world. He is just a young rapper from the city of al-Rashidiya in east Morocco who used to be called Elias Lakhrifi.
His mix of religious advice and conservative values has turned Chekh Sar into a symbol of “halal” music for an Islamist audience. Chekh Sar is credited with inventing a new style of Moroccan rap called “Halal rap.” He uses it to defend the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and call for building a conservative society.

Although Chekh Sar has denied links to the PJD in various statements, he rose to fame by performing at party rallies and later rode the wave of the party’s success when they took parliament in November 2011.
He recently released a song defending the achievements of the Islamist party and criticizing its partners in government for supposedly obstructing the PJD’s work.

In this song, he re-appropriates the phrase “Do you understand me or not?” which was originally spoken by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane when asked to explain the rise in prices of basic goods during a television interview, but later seized on by Moroccans to mock him. Chekh Sar turns it around to attack PJD’s detractors and defend Benkirane.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Morocco Setting up Field Hospital in Gaza

Here is an article from the AFP regarding Morocco's decision to set up a field hospital in Gaza to help the innocent people being killed and injured as Israel bombs  Palestinian civilians  in order to "defend itself. "  See link for article in its entirety.

Also, for realistic news ( not whats on your TV or even your public radio if you live in America)  on the situation in Gaza check out  or follow the hashtag  #Gazaunderattack  on twitter .
Gaza photo courtesy of :

Morocco says setting up Gaza field hospital

(AFP) – 34 minutes ago

RABAT — Morocco announced on Sunday it will set up a field hospital in the Gaza Strip to help Palestinians injured in Israeli air strikes, which the king described as "military aggression" in a statement.

Mohammed VI "ordered the immediate setting up of a Moroccan field hospital in the Gaza Strip," which will include medical staff from "the armed forces as well as Moroccan civilian doctors and paramedics," the statement from the royal palace said.

The hospital was designed to "reinforce existing medical capabilities" in the territory, it added.

"Through this humanitarian initiative... in coordination with the Palestinian authorities," Morocco will "help alleviate the suffering of a population victim to several days of military aggression which the kingdom strongly condemns."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moroccans Leave Spain (and its Economic Troubles) for Home

Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor on the wave of Moroccans returning to their homeland due to the increasingly bleak economic situation in Spain. The first portion of the article is pasted below.

Spain loses title as Moroccans' land of opportunity 

Moroccans seeking economic opportunity used to flock to Spain, but with its economy tanking, Spain has less and less to offer them. 

By John Thorne, Correspondent / October 22, 2012
Tangier, Morocco

“I saw my friends losing their jobs,” he says. “And I knew that eventually the same thing could happen to me.”
Mr. Benhima, like an increasing number of Moroccan migrants, is giving up on his northern neighbor. For years Spain beckoned as a land of opportunity, but that image is now shattered by an economic crisis that has pushed unemployment there to nearly 25 percent.

For Morocco, Spain’s woes are part of larger troubles among European trading partners that have dented the Moroccan economy, too, as remittances and tourism revenue have sagged. For Spain, fading luster as a source of jobs underlines how deep its malaise has become.

Unemployment among Spain’s estimated 783,000 Moroccan workers is just over 50 percent – roughly twice the national rate, according to a report released in May on the effect of Spain’s crisis on Moroccan workers by Colectivo Ioé, a Spanish social affairs research institute. Data from Spain’s central bank indicates that remittances to Morocco fell by a third between 2007 and 2010.

Increasingly, Moroccans are giving Spain a pass. While illegal migration makes exact numbers murky, a net loss of Moroccan immigrants was registered in 2010. Last year that loss was nearly 22,000, according to Spain’s national statistics institute.

Coming full circle

Change is felt acutely in Moroccan cities like Tangier, where Spanish headlands are visible across the Strait of Gibraltar. For years Morocco’s north, a region formerly colonized by Spain, has relied on sending migrants there to help feed families at home.

Benhima grew up in Tetouan, once Spain’s colonial capital, where his father worked as a customs official. He went to Barcelona to study textile engineering in 1998, but financial concerns led him to dive into the job market instead.
“At first you work to pay for studies, but then you forget studies and just work,” he says.

He drove a golf cart by day and tossed pizzas at night, supporting himself while also helping cover medical bills for his father. He stayed in Spain for two uninterrupted years, until he got legal residency. Then, in 2000, he surprised his parents with a visit. His father died four days later.

Benhima’s mother and three siblings moved to Tangier, while he settled in Madrid. Using his ability to speak Spanish, French, English, and Arabic, he found work in 2001 handling overseas clients for an insurance company. The job put him in the top tier of Moroccans drawn by an economic boom in Spain. Moroccan arrivals peaked in 2005 at about 75,000, according to the Colectivo Ioé report.

Meanwhile in Tangier, Benhima’s mother, Badia Amrani, founded BAYSIM, a goods transit company, in 2006.

Read continuation of article here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Being a Black Person in Morocco

Its hearbreaking to witness  Morocco go backwards with regards to racism,  but here is an article from France 24 about a recent article in  the Moroccan media on the "Black Peril, "  i.e. migrants from Subsaharan Africa.  Part xenophobia, part white-skin supremacy, the rising distaste for black people  is palpable in the big cities like Casa and Rabat ( especially if its aimed at you!).  

Being black in Morocco: 'I get called a slave'

 The latest cover of Maroc Hebdo magazine—seen as racist by some, defended by others—has launched a national debate on the struggles faced by sub-Saharan Africans living in Morocco.
“The Black Peril.” That's the controversial headline that the Moroccan weekly ran on its cover last week to tease to an article about the rise in the number of immigrants from sub-Saharan African, many of whom come to Morocco in the hopes of making it to Europe. Many are turned back and end up staying in Morocco, where they live in poverty. Some end up taking part in illegal activities to make a living. According to Morocco’s Interior ministry, there are about 10,000 illegal immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa living in the country. Human rights organisations estimate this number higher as closer to 15,000.
Headline: "The Black Peril."
Moroccan authorities are taking an increasingly strict approach to immigration from sub-Saharan Africa. Immigrants without residency permits are quickly expelled. The European Union’s ambassador to Morocco, Eneko Landaburu, recently called the treatment of these immigrants “problematic”, a sentiment echoed by the Moroccan Human Rights Organisation. Meanwhile, the Moroccan labour minister, Abdelouahed Souhail, accused sub-Saharan African immigrants of being in part responsible for the country’s employment crisis.
The International Organisation for Migration recently launched a campaign to raise 620,000 euros to help send some 1,000 illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa home.

"Young Moroccans have physically assaulted me on several occasions, for no reason"

Joseph (not his real name) is from Guinea. He lives in Casablanca, where he studies computing at a local university. He is a legal resident.

"I came here to study computing thanks to a grant from my country. I’ve been here for four years, and for four years I’ve been a victim of racism. It happens all the time, everywhere.
The most awful incident took place at the airport. I was with my aunt, who was heading back to Guinea and had a lot of luggage. Other passengers from sub-Saharan countries, seeing her struggle to carry it, came to help her get it onto the plane, but an airline employee stopped them, saying she had to deal with it on her own because she was black. I replied in Arabic, and he replied by hitting me in the head. I told him I was going to file a complaint, and he said, sarcastically: “That’s right, go complain to the king!” I never did file a complaint.
Often, when I’m just walking down the street, people will call me a “dirty black man” or call me a slave. Young Moroccans have physically assaulted me on several occasions, for no reason, and passers-by who saw this didn’t lift a finger to help me. All my friends are black and they have all had similar experiences. Even the girls get insulted in the street. To avoid getting hurt, I now try to ignore the insults. But if someone starts to hit me, what can I do? I have to defend myself...
In two years, I’ll be done with my studies, and I certainly don’t intend to stay in Morocco to look for work. Even if someone were to offer me a job here, I would rather go home to Guinea."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Moroccan Villagers Battle to End Local Prostitution

Here is an article from the New York Times about people in Ain Leuh taking a stand to end prostitution in their town.
 Villagers in Morocco Drive Out Prostitutes

By SUZANNE DALEY   Published: October 29, 2012

AIN LEUH, Morocco — For years, this mountain village with its crumbling whitewashed walls was known locally as the place to go for sex. Women — some dressed in tight jogging suits, some in dressing gowns — dallied in the tiled doorways off the main square, offering a Moroccan version of Amsterdam’s red-light district. 

The village in the mountains east of Rabat was long known as a place to find prostitutes.
But no more. A band of men here, known as the Islamists, took matters into their own hands last fall. 

The men deny that they were on a religious campaign, or that they are fanatics. They were tired, they said, of living side by side with drunken, brawling clients, tired of having their daughters propositioned as they headed home from school, tired of being embarrassed about where they lived. 

“It reached a point after Ramadan,” said Mohammed Aberbach, 41, who helped organize the campaign to drive the prostitutes out of town, “that men were actually waiting in lines. It was crazy.” 

These days the side streets are quiet. The doors, painted green and yellow, are mostly shut, though a few prostitutes remain, now trying to sell candy instead of sex. In the square, the pace has slowed, fresh chickens and slabs of meat hang for sale on hooks, and villagers take their time over displays of vegetables. Nearby, women are bent over looms making traditional Berber rugs. 

The changes in Ain Leuh are being held up by some in Morocco as another triumph of the Arab Spring — testament to what can happen when ordinary citizens stand up for change and make life better for themselves. 

For others, however, the events of the past year show how the more fundamentalist Islamists, though continuing to be shut out of power in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, nonetheless manage to promote their conservative agendas — often taking the law into their own hands, and in this case threatening the prostitutes and their customers and driving away the only industry in these parts. 

“The economy is in free fall here,” said Ali Adnane, who works for a rural development agency. “The girls rented. They had cash. They bought things. Some people here are really happy about the changes. But some people are not.” 

Morocco has avoided much of the violence that has gripped Arab countries in the last few years. In the face of mounting protests, Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, offered to curb his own powers and in 2011 pledged a variety of reforms. Since then, the country has adopted a new Constitution and elected a new government, led by a moderate Islamist party. 

The new prime minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, who has refused many of the perks of his office, has a flair for mingling with the average man. But many remain frustrated over the pace of change in a country plagued by high unemployment and corruption. Ain Leuh is hardly the only village to have seen the emergence of a local committee, known as a comité, pushing for reforms of various sorts. 

Exactly what happened in this village of 5,000 in the Middle Atlas Mountains, about a two-hour drive from Rabat, the capital, is in dispute. Mr. Aberbach says the Islamists never did anything illegal. The campaign, he said, largely involved demonstrations in the main square. No one threatened anybody or used violence or stood at the entrances to the village demanding identification from men who wanted to enter. 

“That would be against the law,” said Mr. Aberbach, a friendly man who owns several shops here and has big plans for the future of Ain Leuh.
But others, including Haddou Zaydi, a member of the town council, say all those things, and more, took place. Sometimes, he said, the Islamists used padlocks to imprison the prostitutes in their houses after a customer had gone in. Then, they called the police. 

In the past, many here say, the prostitutes would pay off the police to look the other way. Now, though, the authorities, still getting the feel for a newly elected government led by a moderate Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party, let the Islamists have their way. 

Mourad Boufala, 32, who runs a cigarette and candy shop in the main square, said he was not in favor of prostitution. But he was offended by the Islamists’ methods. “The way they did it was really rough,” he said. “They hit girls and scared them. And the problem is that they offered them no alternatives.” 

Mr. Boufala worries that the country is adrift, easily prey to self-appointed militias like the Islamists.
“No one is governing,” Mr. Boufala said. “The militias exist like they are the authorities.”
Repeated phone calls to local police officials were not returned. 

Curiously, few people here see the campaign against the prostitutes as particularly religious. Mr. Aberbach and several other members of the Islamists frame the campaign in moral terms — and business ones. They say the name “Islamists” was attached to them because they are members of various Islamic parties, including the governing one. 

They say that they consider the prostitutes victims of criminal gangs that brought drugs and human trafficking to their village. And they are determined to end the corruption that allowed such crimes to flourish in their streets. 

“What we did is related to the Arab Spring because it brought the culture of speaking out,” Mr. Aberbach said. 

“We could have tourism,” he added. “But we have no good roads or hotels or restaurants here. There are beautiful things around here. Waterfalls, a lot of things. But who is going to come to a village known for prostitution? It got to the point where if you were a woman you could not say you were from here.” 

For the prostitutes who remain, the last year has brought hard times.
“I won’t even make 10 cents today,” said Khadija, 34, who has tried to earn a living selling cigarettes, candy bars and small toys displayed on a round table outside her door. “My neighbors are feeding me.”
“They are watching us all the time,” she added, referring to the Islamists. 

Up the street, Arbia Oulaaskri, 64, said her family has been living in terror since the Islamists’ campaign began. Her house is luxurious compared with others in the village. Her living room easily seats 30, and more than 50 tea glasses are arranged on various coffee tables. She says she was never involved in prostitution and obtained her money from her family and from her daughters who live abroad and send her checks. But, she said, the Islamists carrying chains arrived at her doorstep night after night, telling her to leave. 

Her son, wearing a gold lamé jacket, exhibits a room nearby that shows signs of a fire and says the Islamists did that, too. But, Mrs. Oulaaskri says, the authorities would not listen. She is facing charges related to running a house of prostitution.
“We filed a lot of complaints,” Mrs. Oulaaskri said, “but no one followed up.” 

Aida Alami contributed reporting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Judges in Morocco Lead Sit-in for Autonomy

The sit-in of 1,000 judges in Morocco calling for autonomy, freedom to not have decisions be "bought" by prestige or money is worth noting.  Here is the Associate Press article via The New York Times. 

Judges in Morocco Lead Sit-In Calling for Autonomous Judiciary

Published: October 6, 2012
Morocco’s courts have historically been weak and under the control of the king and his Justice Ministry, which determines judges’ salaries and appointments so that they will often rule as instructed for the sake of their careers. 

“We have no protection, no rights, we have a miserable salary, we work in catastrophic conditions,” said Nazik Bekkal, a judge from Sidi Kacem in northern Morocco, at the demonstration. “Above all we are not autonomous, very simply, and that’s what is most important. It’s the autonomy, the independence of the judiciary, that’s what we really are looking for.”
Yassine Mkhelli, a judge from Taounate in northern Morocco and founder of the club, said more than 2,200 judges — about two-thirds of the country’s total — had signed a petition calling for reforms. 

In May, judges across the country wore red armbands to protest official interference in the judiciary in another action organized by the club. Morocco’s new Constitution, passed last year, does give the judicial branch greater powers and independence but has yet to be implemented. 

The justice system is one of the most sensitive issues in Morocco, a North African country of 33 million. Many Moroccans believe that it serves the highest bidder.
Critics say verdicts in civil trials can be bought for just $5,000, while a phone call from a high official is enough to seal a guilty verdict in the case of terrorism or political trials. 

The Justice and Development Party, an Islamist group which won last year’s elections, made battling corruption and creating a truly independent judiciary a main plank of its campaign, but judges say little has changed.
“This issue concerns all the Moroccan people who deserve a truly independent judiciary,” said Judge Mohammed Anbar of the Supreme Court, the vice president of the club.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Second Tale: a Poem by Moroccan Poet Rachida Madani

Here is a poem by Moroccan poet Rachida Madani  that has been translated and  published in Guernica magazine. Thanks to one our readers, R.C. for calling it to our attention. A collection of Madani's poems has been published in English by Yale Press if  you would like to read more of her work.

The Second Tale: XV, from Tales of a Severed Head 

By Rachida Madani, translated by Marilyn Hacker 
October 1, 2012

It was a tale for disfigured women
for children unable to laugh.
A tale crashing in the glass garden
after centuries of patrol
centuries of silence
in Shehriyar’s palace.

It was the sobbing tale of a shattered woman
the bloody tale of a head severed
on the way to revolt…
And without a tear, in the glass garden,
the blackest owl
took its turn to stand guard.

Rachida Madani, a native of Morocco, has published several volumes of poetry in French, a language she taught for thirty years. She lives in Tangiers.
Marilyn Hacker is a poet, translator, and critic. For her work she has received a National Book Award, a PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and a PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, among other prizes. She lives in Paris.

Monday, October 1, 2012

From the King's Mouth: Transcript of M6's Speech at the United Nations

The Moroccan National News Agency, MAP has posted a copy of the speech Muhammad VI  had his brother Moulay Rachid deliver in his name at the UN on the 28th of September. Its interesting to see what topics he chose to discuss.______________

New York (UN)
Praise be to God 
May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet,his Kith and Kin

Your Majesties,
Your Highnesses,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I should like to congratulate you most warmly, Mr President, on your election as President of this session of the United Nations General Assembly. Your election is a mark of esteem for your country as much as a recognition of your vast diplomatic experience.

I also want to commend your predecessor, Mr. Nassir Al-Nasser, on his efforts and achievements during the past year.

Similarly, I would like to praise His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of our Organization, for his untiring action and his keen desire to tackle crises. I applaud his initiatives to enable the United Nations to rise to the growing challenges facing our world.

Mr. President,

Sweeping changes are affecting today’s international arena. They include, in particular, a protracted global economic crisis - which has various implications and consequences - and a growing number of hotbeds of tension, political disputes and armed conflicts, as well as complex global challenges which exceed the capabilities of individual states, such as the achievement of sustainable development, the protection of the environment, respect for human rights, and the fight against the growing scourge of international terrorism and all forms of organized crime.

Given current changes in the world, we, the Member States, ought to provide the United Nations Organization with the means it needs to tackle challenges. To this end, we have to expand the scope of the Organization’s action and revitalize its approach while preserving its principles and objectives, so as to make it an active player in effective political governance and an instrument for equitable economic governance.

Mr. President,

The Kingdom of Morocco fully backs your decision to give special importance to resolving disputes by peaceful means. My country applauds the General Assembly’s decision to make the consolidation of this foremost principle in the United Nations Charter the key objective of the current session.

Achieving international peace and security remains the core mission entrusted to the United Nations. The tens of thousands of UN peacekeepers serving across the world to protect civilians and bring about the right conditions for political dialogue between the parties concerned clearly attest to the vital role played by our Organization in this domain.

The Kingdom of Morocco takes pride in being one of the first States to have contributed to peacekeeping operations under the UN banner. So far, my country has sent more than 50,000 members of the Royal Armed Forces around the world to serve the lofty objectives of the United Nations.

Morocco pledges to pursue its contributions to crisis management and will support efforts to promote preventive diplomacy.

The experience gained by the United Nations in conflict-affected countries points to the importance of securing smooth, systematic transition from peace restoration to peace consolidation. This requires, above all, that the pressing needs of the current crucial juncture be met. Otherwise, the threat of a return of violence and partition will continue to hang over the countries - even the regions - concerned.

Mr. President,

During the past year, the situation has seriously deteriorated in Africa, and more particularly in the Sahel and Sahara region, due to criminal, terrorist and separatist activism which now threatens the stability of the countries concerned.

The sister nation, the Republic of Mali, is confronted with a situation which threatens the country as well as its national unity and territorial integrity. Despite the sincere efforts exerted by countries in the region, including Morocco and the Economic Community of West African States, the contribution of the United Nations is needed in order to achieve national consensus, overcome the political crisis and confront separatist activism in the north. Only an independent, focused effort on the part of the United Nations can help achieve those objectives.

I should like, in this respect, to reiterate to our brothers in Mali Morocco’s commitment to continue to provide them with aid and active support for the success of the political process, and the preservation of their country’s national unity and territorial integrity.

On the other hand, the Kingdom of Morocco commends the notable progress made in several parts of Africa, especially in the sister nations Côte d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, towards the promotion of national reconciliation and a return to political normalcy.

Moreover, Morocco reiterates its firm commitment to pursuing cooperation and solidarity programs with various African sister nations, using efficient, dynamic approaches to South-South cooperation for the benefit of African citizens.

Mr. President,

The changes witnessed in the Arab region reflect the will of the peoples involved to build democratic societies where human rights are respected, and where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and a dignified life.

The peoples in the sister nations Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen have ushered in a new era and made much headway towards democratic transition, despite a complex, troubled political environment, a fact which makes it incumbent on the international community to provide support and assistance to these countries to lift the constraints they face.

On the other hand, it is most regrettable that the Syrian people are each day paying the blood price for their freedom. They yearn for the kind of democratic change that would enable each component of the Syrian population to contribute to achieving the desired change.

Morocco which, as the only Arab country sitting on the Security Council, has significantly contributed to mobilizing international support for the Arab League’s initiatives and resolutions, calls for concerted efforts and decisive action to compel the Syrian regime to put an end to the violence. It also calls for a political transition process which would allow for the full spectrum of opinions to be heard, the aspirations of the Syrian people to be fulfilled, and Syria’s national unity and territorial integrity as well as stability in the entire region to be guaranteed.

At the same time, it is necessary to raise the financial resources required to meet the needs of refugees in neighboring countries and those of internally displaced persons, as well as to ease the suffering of our Syrian brothers and put an end to their tragedy. In this regard, Morocco continues to show its solidarity by providing medical services on a daily basis to Syrian refugees in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

These rapid developments in the Arab region must not distract us from the fundamental, longstanding challenge of resolving the Palestinian issue.

In this regard, the Kingdom of Morocco calls for the mobilization of international support to back the steps taken by the Palestinian National Authority so as to secure non-Member State status. At the same time, my country is of the view that negotiation is the best way for the Palestinian people to regain their legitimate national rights, and to set up an independent, fully viable and geographically contiguous Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel, in peace and security.

I therefore look forward to seeing the international community change its approach to resolving this crisis by reconsidering its intervention mechanisms and work methods to make sure direct negotiations are resumed very soon and in the best possible circumstances, under the auspices of the influential powers and with their commitment.

This cannot be achieved if the fait accompli policy is allowed to continue. In this regard, and in my capacity as President of the Al-Quds Committee, I have strongly condemned the Israeli scheme for the Judaization of occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the designs to wipe out the city’s spiritual and cultural identity and to change its demographic and urban features. Let me reaffirm, in this respect, that there will be no peace without East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

Mr. President,

Being convinced of the importance and effectiveness of joint regional action, the Kingdom of Morocco has undertaken initiatives and bilateral contacts to inject fresh momentum into the Arab Maghreb Union. Indeed, my country believes such a strategic, inclusive regional bloc is needed. Not only does it meet the legitimate aspirations of our peoples, but it is also necessitated by the security and development challenges facing the five Maghreb states.

In a bid to overcome obstacles that might hinder the fulfillment of this Maghreb ambition, the Kingdom of Morocco has contributed in a sincere, dedicated manner to negotiations aimed at finding a realistic, mutually acceptable political solution to the regional artificial dispute over the Moroccan Sahara – a solution that guarantees the Kingdom’s national unity and territorial integrity, allows for reunification to take place and respects the characteristics of the region’s populations.

Morocco remains committed and willing to negotiate on the basis of the principles set and repeatedly confirmed by the Security Council, as well as on that of the Autonomy Initiative which the international community has deemed serious, realistic and credible. Morocco will also pursue its constructive cooperation with MINURSO, on the basis of the mandate entrusted to it by the Security Council – a mandate which will not change in any way, neither in form nor substance.

Your Majesties,
Your Highnesses,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I cannot conclude without referring to the need for collective, efficient and concerted action against all forms of extremism and hatred, as well as rejection and provocation of the other, and the undermining of his beliefs, whatever the reason and in whichever form.

Given the increase in such appalling acts - often with tragic consequences - I believe national efforts to confront them must be part of a concerted international strategy. The latter should take into account the constructive initiatives launched, build on the mobilization of all United Nations organs, be based on clear commitments, and encourage lawmaking and the dissemination of national and regional best practices in this area.

As Member States, we have to provide the necessary means and reiterate our political will to support the Organization and reform its structures and intervention mechanisms. The aim is to enhance its efficiency in terms of achieving peace and security and promoting cooperation, while enabling it to fulfill its indispensable mission of furthering tolerance and coexistence, for the benefit of mankind.

Thank you.

Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Plight of the People in Northern Morocco's Rif Region

Here is an interesting opinion piece/historical overview from Aljazeera English on the distressed situation facing the Rifians (riyafa)  in Morocco's most Northern Region.
The plight of the Rif: Morocco's restive northern periphery:
The unrest in the Rif is based in the tumultuous history of Rifians as a battered people on Morocco's northern periphery

by Akbar Ahmed  with Harrison Akins
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2012 09:20
The Moroccan journalist, Hamid Naimi, has received a number of ominous and mysterious death threats in the last few weeks. Based out of the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast, Naimi's blistering reports on the corruption of the Moroccan central government and its treatment of the Berber periphery have become a thorn in the side of the administration.
Naimi, originally from Morocco's northern region, the Rif, has been in exile since 2005, when his newspaper Kawaliss Rif  ("Stories from the Rif") was shut down by the government.

The travails of Naimi expose the challenge of Morocco in dealing effectively with its Berber periphery, particularly the Rifian Berbers in the north. The Arab Spring protests across the country have led to new constitutional reforms for the nation, yet more must be done to account for and alleviate the problems of the Rif and its Berber tribes who have felt neglected by the central government for decades.
Over the past year, protests in the Rif pointed to the issues which plague the region - high rates of poverty, unemployment, a media blockade and brutal tactics employed by the police to crush any unrest. To understand the current relationship between Morocco and its northern periphery, we must look into the history of the Rif with its Berber tribes and its interactions with the centre. 

Resisting encroachment
The largely unknown mountainous region of the Rif, meaning "the edge of cultivated land", in northern Morocco has struggled with central authority for the past century. The Rifian Berbers, ensconced in their mountains, have lived according to a code of honour, hospitality and revenge within their system of clans and kinship networks, allowing them to regulate justice and social order without the presence of state institutions for centuries. The Rifian Berbers, distinct from the Atlas Berbers in central Morocco, have their own Berber dialect, Tarifit. 

Sean Connery depicted the importance of dignity and honour among the Rifians with empathy in the 1975 film The Wind and the Lion. Connery, himself a Scotsman, played the Rifian tribal chief Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli with flair. The film recounts the historic events surrounding el Rasiuli's kidnapping of an American expatriate, Ion Perdicaris (portrayed in the film as a woman played by a glamorous Candice Bergen), and his son for a ransom and control of two government districts from the Moroccan Sultan. 

Connery's acting accurately displays el Raisuli's reputation of treating his hostages with respect and hospitality, even going so far as protecting them from harm. Perdicaris would later write of el Raisuli, "He is not a bandit, not a murderer, but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny".  
The Rifians with their sense of honour and fierce independence resisted the encroachment of central authority. Beginning in the late 19th century, Spain made a number of military incursions into the Rif region, clashing with the Berber tribes. With the establishment of the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco in 1912 over the north of the country, the Spanish military attempted to bring the mountainous area under central rule. 

By 1921, Abd-el-Krim, a Rifian tribal leader, declared independence from Spain. Abd-el-Krim caught the attention of international media, appearing on the cover of TIME Magazine in August 1925. To defeat Abd-el-Krim and his allied tribes, Spain relied on overwhelming military force and the extensive use of early forms of air power and chemical weapons to subjugate the rebellious tribes.
King Alfonso XIII of Spain captured the mood of the country when he stated that the aerial gas campaign was for "the extermination, like that of malicious beasts, of the Beni Urriaguels [Abd-el-Krim's tribe] and the tribes who are closest to Abdel Karim". The resulting war which ended in 1926 proved devastating for both: the Spanish lost as many as 50,000 men and the Rifians had roughly 30,000 casualties. 
With the Rif's inclusion into independent Morocco in 1956, the Rifians felt sidelined with Arabs, who represented the dominant culture, and others from Francophone Morocco favoured for administrative posts within the newly centralised government. 

Violence erupted in the Rif in October 1958 when tribesmen attacked markets and local offices of the nationalist Istiqlal Party and, then, escaped into the mountains. Despite these attacks against the state, the Rifians were quick to express their traditional loyalty to King Mohammed V due to his holy lineage, separating his religious authority from his political authority. 
This has been how Berbers have viewed central authority throughout history. During lulls in battles between government forces and Berber tribes of the Atlas Mountains in the late 19th century, for example, Berber women would kiss the Sultan's cannons and ask them for benediction in order to defeat the Sultan's forces, as the cannons carried the Baraka, or blessing of the Sultan and thus the Prophet. 

'Cruel punishment'
In January 1958, the government responded to the Rifians' overtures of violence with 20,000 troops of the newly formed Forces Armees Royales (FAR), over two-thirds of the entire army, led by Crown Prince Hassan, to carry out what the King called a "cruel punishment". 

When the Crown Prince's plane was landing in the Rif Mountains, he was greeted by gunfire from Rifian sharpshooters hiding in the brush at the edge of the landing strip. The FAR responded by indiscriminately bombing entire villages and raping Rifian women. The uprising came to an end in the following month with casualties for the tribesmen exceeding 10,000.  

After King Hassan ascended the throne in 1961, the Rif remained largely neglected by the central government and as a result, suffered from some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. In the Rif in the 1960s, for example, the infant mortality rate within one week of birth was over 50 per cent. 
With very little development from the centre and lacking economic opportunities, its people were forced to resort to widespread hash cultivation and smuggling merely to survive. Many Rifians chose to settle in slums surrounding Casablanca and other major Moroccan cities or travelled to Europe as migrant labourers with the majority of Moroccan immigrants in Europe from the Rif. 

The bread riots in the Rif in the 1980s, sparked by rising food prices, were quickly suppressed by the government with King Hassan describing the Rifians in a nationally televised speech as "savages and thieves". 
The unrest in the Rif is based in their tumultuous history as a battered people on Morocco's northern periphery. Understanding their history, the people of the Rif need to be treated with compassion and sympathy. This presents not only a dilemma for dealing with the Rif, but also an opportunity. 

For the Moroccan centre, King Mohammed VI is almost unique in the Muslim world as a ruler with a holy lineage. The King, with the compassion and Baraka of the Prophet, should act to help these beleaguered people while respecting their culture and understanding their history.
The Rifians only want the rights and opportunities of full citizens of a modern and inclusive Morocco. Only then can peace and stability be brought to the troubled northern periphery of an important Muslim nation.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Morocco (Temporarily) Eliminates Import Tax on Wheat

This is important because in Morocco bread is water. Here is an article from Reuters on the temporary freeze of import taxes on soft wheat in order to stabilize supplies of wheat in the country.

 Morocco freezes import duty on soft wheat

Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:17pm EDT
By Souhail Karam

(Reuters) - Morocco will eliminate a 17-percent import duty on soft wheat from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, to ensure a regular supply of the commodity to the domestic market through imports expected to be the biggest in 30 years, according to state run radio.

Bad weather slashed Morocco's soft wheat harvest to 2.74 million tonnes. Based on demand of 7.1 million tonnes last year, Morocco will need to import in excess of 4.3 million tonnes of soft wheat to fill the shortfall this year, excluding stock variations.

Yet, the state grains agency ONICL has yet to make its first foreign purchase under the current import program that started in June.
Last month, two soft wheat tenders of 300,000 tonnes each, under preferential trade agreements with the European Union and the United States, received no bids.

Local importers said high international prices, coupled with the 17-percent import duty and other charges, left too thin a margin, while domestic supplies could still provide for immediate milling needs.

But domestic supplies, considering the 450,000 tonne monthly milling needs, will be disappearing fast, especially when a little over half the soft wheat harvest ends in the formal distribution chain.

The remainder, 46 percent last year, is either consumed by farmers or goes to unorganized traditional milling.
In August, the state extended by a month the payment to local farmers of 2,900 dirhams ($340) for a tonne of their milling soft wheat, in an apparent bid to lure more sales.

When the price of wheat costs more than the price the state pays for the domestic milling soft wheat, authorities compensate licensed importers.

Traders in Casablanca said ONICL may need to launch its first tenders during the first week of October.
"Stocks will fall sharply by end-September, to less than a million tonnes. It's an unbearable position for ONICL. They will need to replenish them through imports to keep the minimum three months of needs covered," a trader said.

Morocco's soft wheat stocks should have stood at 1.75 million tonnes by end-August from 2.35 million tonnes by end-July, according to agriculture ministry estimates published in August. ($1 = 8.5757 Moroccan dirhams) (Editing by Carol Bishopric)

Monday, September 17, 2012

UN Human Rights Expert Visits Morocco

The United Nations'  (UN) human rights expert Juan E. Méndez   is in Morocco now  to " assess improvements and identify remaining challenges." He will be there until the 22nd of September 2012 .  Human Rights Watch is asking him to look into the torture of protesters. The official UN announcement about the visit  is pasted below.
___________________      Morocco: First visit by UN Special Rapporteur on torture

GENEVA (12 September 2012) – Independent human rights expert Juan E. Méndez will visit Morocco from 15 to 22 September 2012, to assess improvements and identify remaining challenges regarding torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment, particularly in light of adopting a new Constitution in July 2011.

“My ultimate task is to engage with decision-makers and key actors to help the authorities uphold the rule of law, promote accountability for past abuses and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, fulfill the right of reparations for victims, and to ensure that alleged perpetrators are held responsible in conformity with international law,” Mr. Méndez said.

The Special Rapporteur, who visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will hold meetings with authorities, the judiciary, civil society, the national human rights institution, United Nations agencies, victims and their families. In Morocco, the Special Rapporteur plans to visit Rabat, Salé, Casablanca, Meknès and Skhirat-Témara.

Mr. Méndez will share his preliminary comments and recommendations at a press conference to be held on 22 September 2012, at 15:00, at the Hotel Diwan McGallery (place de l’Unité Africaine, 10005 Rabat). The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the Human Rights Council in 2013.

Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. Mr. Méndez has dedicated his legal career to the defense of human rights, and has a long and distinguished record of advocacy throughout the Americas. Learn more, log on to:

(*) The independent expert will also visit Laâyoune, Western Sahara, on 17 and 18 September 2012.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Cultural and Literary Scene in Morocco

Here is an article from  about the culture of reading,publishing, and the current literary scene  in Morocco. It came out at the end of last year but still seems timely and relevant.  It is  also available in Arabic.

The Cultural and Literary Scene in Morocco: From the Caravan of Books to the Literary Café

Morocco has not bothered to wait for the Arab Spring to revolutionise its cultural scene. It took off in the 1990s and is showing no sign of stopping – Moroccan artists exhibit in beauty salons, tennis clubs become impromptu literary cafés and a hotel sponsors the country's most prestigious literature prize. 

By Regina Keil-Sagawe

It was a glamourous event, and a touch surreal, when Mahi Binebine was awarded the newly established literary prize in the legendary and luxurious "La Mamounia" hotel in Marrakech for his novel "Les étoiles de Sidi Moumen", set in the slums of Casablanca and dealing with the suicide bomb attacks carried out in the city on May 16th in 2003. Rather a bizarre contrast, but not unnusual for Morocco, it has to be said.

Not that anyone begrudges the likeable allrounder Binebine, whose paintings have long been a feature of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, success in his native country. It is rather surprising, however, that practically all of the authors on the "Mamounia" shortlist are published by French publishing houses. And one wonders how the "Mamounia" intends to encourage Moroccan literature if it does not include any Moroccan publishing houses on its list.

A book market without readers?

Moroccan literature from Europe: Most writers awarded in Morocco, as for instance Mahi Binebine, are published by publishers in France
On the other hand, why should the luxury hotel succeed with its prestigious coup where the Moroccan ministry of culture and the French embassy have been failing for years? Although the literary prize of both institutions – the Prix du Maroc du Livre and the French Grand Atlas – traditionally go to authors with Moroccan publishers, it has not been enough to bolster the Moroccan book market with its two thousand or so new publications a year and with diminishing print runs that rarely top a thousand.

Although Tangiers and Casablanca have hosted international book fairs for years, the country's top publishers, Abdelkader Retnani (La Croisée des Chemins), Rachid Chraïbi (Editions Marsam) und Layla Chaouni (Le Fennec), complain of the government's lethargy. There are too few subsidies, too many bookshops closing and no transparent figures available on the book market; all this despite the fact that current Minister of Culture, Bensalem Himmich, is himself a writer.

And then there is the inadequate infrastructure. Instead of the planned four thousand, there are a mere five hundred public libraries. Even in the major cities there are likely to be no more than ten, maybe twelve, bookshops, their owners' usually not even trained booksellers. Until recently, professionally run book shops, such as the Kalima wa Dimna in Rabat or the Carrefour des Livres in Casablanca, seemed heavenly literary oases in a desert of illiteracy.

Back in 2002, the writer Ahmed Bouzfour took Morocco's powerful rulers to task, bemoaning the sense of shame he felt at their incompetent governance and their cultural, social and economic decadance. He then also refused to accept the Prix du Maroc du Livre with its accompanying 7000 dollars prize money. Why bother to award a literary prize for books that do not sell because one in two Moroccans cannot read, in the rural areas the figure rises to nine out of ten.

Campaign for culture
Tremendous efforts have been made since that time to reduce illiteracy. Morocco's media used the occasion of World Literacy Day on September 9 to take stock of the situation. Since 2003 five of the thirty-two million Moroccans have achieved literacy outside the school system, 84% of 15 to 24-year-olds are now able to read and write, and even among the older age groups there is now 68% literacy. It is an achievement that state institutions alone could never have managed and required the efforts of numerous participants from civil society.

 One of those pioneers is Julia Hassoune from Marrakech, who, along with Fatima Mernissi, launched the "Caravane Civique" (citizens' caravan) in 1999, and the "Caravane du Livre" (caravan of books) in 2006. Hassoune undertakes expeditions into remote mountain villages or distant oases in the company of artists, writers and educationists to deliver drama, writing, painting or storytelling workshops.

At the same time as these developments, and practically overnight, a plethora of new literary awards were springing up. Prizes, which are directed primarily at young writers, with TV stations, publishers, cultural institutions, magazines, foundations and banks as sponsors. In 2002, the "House of Poetry" sponsored a newcomer's prize for Arab poetry, in 2005 the magazine "Tel Quel" initiated a short story prize, and in 2006 the 2M TV station came up with its prize for the best new Arab, Francophone and Amazigh literature.

Marsam publishing has already published the fourth volume "Côté Maroc: Nouvelle Noire", the result of a crime writers competition run by the Institut Français in Marrakech since 2007. In 2010 the "Magazine littéraire du Maroc": created two new prizes: a francophone short story prize and a major prize for literature in the French, Arabic and Berber languages, which is due to be presented by Tahar Ben Jelloun in the elegant new national library in Rabat on 14 October.
The Moroccans already have a name for this dynamic cultural energy that has long been part of the country's young art scene – "movida" or "moufida", also known as "nayda" (from the standard Arabic "nahda" – renaissance) and is now sweeping into the literary world also.

Literature festivals and literary salons are everywhere, and the latest manifestation is the literary café. Literature programmes in the media may be in short supply, but there are plenty of opportunities for 'live' encounters with books and authors – and the latest innovation, the new "Magazine littéraire du Maroc" founded by historian Abdesselam Cheddadi in 2009, and initially published only in French, is now about to add an Arabic edition, with a Berber edition in the Amazigh language also planned.
Back in the 1990s, when support for the Berber language meant facing a possible prison sentence, the idea that Amazigh might one day be accepted as one of the official national languages seemed impossible. But on October 17 2001, the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) was set up, and in 2005 it announced its first prize for Amazigh literature. Now it is cool to be Berber, and since the referendum of July 1, 2011, the language that is the mother tongue of around half the people of Morocco has been constitutionally recognised as an official language. It now enjoys the same status as standard Arabic.

A hot potato
This is not to say that the other half of the population speaks standard Arabic. Most speak a Moroccan Arabic dialect known as "Darija", a mix of Arab and Berber with traces of French and Spanish, which horrifies the purists, but is so much a part of the soul of the people and everywhere in the media – internet forums, rap music, and advertising slogans.
In 2006, the American Elena Prentice, publisher of the free weekly "Khbar Bladna" (the latest news from our country) in Tangiers, a very popular paper that tries to close the gap between the educated and the semi-literate, was the first and only (so far) to offer a prize for Darija literature. It was the adventurous General Secretary of the Moroccan PEN, Youssef Amine Elalamy, who published the first literary text in Darija with Elena Prentice in 2006 – "Tqarqib Ennab" (gossip), a collection of portraits.

On 2 October, the second "Mamounia" literature prize was awarded. And, once again, the authors are almost exclusively with French publishers, including Fouad Laroui, whose essay "Le drame linguistique marocain" is a plea for more recognition for Darija. It will be interesting to see whether in the exclusive setting of the "Mamounia" the jury, with its diverse representatives of the French-speaking world from Senegal and Morocca to Quebec, will dare to pick up this hottest of Arab hot potatoes.

Regina Keil-Sagawe
© 2011

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Morocco's (Illegal) Mussel Pickers and the Marine Ecosystem

This article from Radio Netherlands clarified a lot of what I would see in Rabat along the Ocean - men in the water at all times of  day and night with buckets and flashlights. Mussels  are apparently worth such effort , especially if you are unemployed.

Morocco's illegal mussel pickers ply non-eco trade

Published on 29 August 2012 - 7:33pm

Thousands of Morocco's unemployed slum-dwellers head to the Atlantic coast every morning to scrape a living as illegal mussel pickers. But experts say they threaten the health of the marine ecosystem.

The stretch of coast between Rabat and Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital renowned for its sprawling slums, or "bidonvilles," is the most popular destination for these unlicensed fishermen, who flock to the area at low tide.

The mussels that line the rocky sections of the coast are highly sought after in Morocco, where they are served up in tajines, or cooked with onions and lemons, and are particularly in demand during the holy month of Ramadan.

So when the tide is out, the poachers scour the rocks with iron bars they use to catch the black-shelled mollusks, and with the full knowledge of the authorities, who are supposed to help protect the shoreline but instead turn a blind eye.

Unemployment is a major problem in Morocco -- tens of thousands demonstrated in Casablanca in May demanding jobs -- so the unauthorised mussel-pickers are tolerated, as an official in Harhoura, a seaside resort near Rabat, explained.

"We can't stop this informal activity because we have nothing to offer the fishermen as an alternative," he told AFP.
More importantly, from an ecological point of view, the government has never passed a law to encourage the conservation of the mussels, which play an important role in preserving the marine environment.

They act as filters for microbes found along the coast, including bacteria and algae, excreting nutrients that stimulate the growth of plant plankton, which in turn benefit the fish.

Their shells are also able to absorb metal pollutants, adding to concerns among environmentalists about their disappearance.
The sides of the rocks south of Rabat are scoured by the mussel pickers on a daily basis "and left bare," according to a Moroccan development NGO.

The poachers have much to gain from this activity. One person may collect 200 kilos of mussels per day, which when shelled would yield about 3-4 kilos of meat, sold to buyers for around 50 dirhams (4.5 euros) per kilo and potentially earning the poachers between 100 and 150 dirhams per day.

There are no official figures on the number of poachers plying the trade along the heavily urbanised shoreline south of the capital, but an official in the Rabat prefecture estimated there are more than 2,000 during peak season.

At other times, the number drops by half.
During the summer months, they work in small groups down on the coast, and are also seen seated at the roadside, selling their mussels in the sweltering heat, which brings problems of its own.

"Exposing mussels to the sun for too long can make them a health hazard to the consumer," said Abdelaziz Ben Ameur, a doctor in Rabat.

But for all the risks involved, Moroccans are still happy to fork out for a bag of fresh mussels, and the poaching business helps many of the area's unemployed to support their families.
Brahim Touil, a seasoned poacher at Temara, south of Rabat, strongly defends his line of work, which he says enables him to feed seven people.

"If they tried to stop me from collecting mussels, I would beat myself to death," he told AFP.
For the moment it appears unlikely that anyone will try and stop him, but the National Institute for Fish Resources insists the exploitation of coastal resources is subject to regulations that must be adhered to.

"The rules for gathering mussels must be respected," institute director Mustapha Faik told AFP, adding that unfortunately "that is not the case."

Faik admitted that getting a permit to collect mussels can involve lengthy bureaucratic procedures at the ministry of fisheries.

"But the ministry provides information on this. If they want authorisation, of course they can get it."

Rachid Choukri, who heads marine studies at the environment ministry, laments that research on the environmental impact of mussel collecting in Morocco did not take into account the large informal sector.

"No authority is managing this, and it is time that the government opened this file, for the benefit of our fish resources," he said.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moroccan Photographer Captures Readers on NYC's Subway

Here is an article from Fast Company about a website  Underground New York Public Library  where Ourit Ben- Haim , a Moroccan  photographer collects photos of people reading on the Subway along with information on the books they are reading. It's worth a visit.


Portraits From NYC’s Most Popular Reading Room: The Subway

Street photographer Ourit Ben-Haïm captures thousands of New Yorkers immersed in books of all sorts.

Reading on the subway is something of an art in New York, where elbows and inquisitive eyes--not to mention all manner of hijinks--can make reading in peace a challenge. Moroccan photographer and artist Ourit Ben-Haïm has made a sport out of watching subway-bound readers, collecting candid snapshots of commuters immersed in their books on her website, The Underground New York Public Library.

Ben-Haïm, who works under the handle She Said Unprintable Things (a phrase borrowed from Lolita), posts new images to the UNYPL on a daily basis. Along with each image, she includes the name of the book being read and the author. If she can’t identify the book, she’ll ask her Tumblr followers for help. “I’m an artist and a storyteller,” she says. “The NYC subway provides a constant metaphorical suggestion of the relationship between our stories and our journey.” Her subjects are old and young, couples and groups of readers whose relationships are ambiguous. Because she has over 10,000 followers, there’s an unusual feedback loop that often occurs with her postings--people will respond not only to help identify the books being read, but also to identify the subjects themselves.

Ben-Haïm studied comparative literature and history in college, but has always taken photographs. She shoots with a Canon 5D Mark II, a conspicuously large camera that doesn’t allow very much subtlety in a subway car. But the 29-year-old says that interacting with her subjects is one of the reasons she loves street photography. “Reactions tend to be curious or puzzled when I shoot, and in general very accepting and encouraging once I explain why I’m taking the photographs,” she explains over email. “I love the process of making these photographs in part because of the amazingly pleasant engagement with people.”

Given the growing prevalence of digital readers, UNPYL is a kind of ad hoc memorial to the increasingly rare printed word. “There is loss and gain with all change, and the shift to eReaders is no exception,” says Ben-Haïm. “An eReader is less visually vulnerable, and my perspective is that this is a social loss.” At the same time, she adds that she loves her own tablet, and wants to portray the shift between paper and reader, too. “I love when the shift is visually visible in my photographs, in the cases where there are people with print books and eReaders within the same frame.”
Above all, says the young photographer, the images are about "all aspects of Story"--capitalization intended. “I’m fascinated by how we apply ourselves to stories and discourse,” she explains on UNYPL. “This library freely lends out a reminder that we’re capable of traveling to great depths within ourselves and as a whole.”