Friday, June 29, 2012

Rabat, Morocco named UNESCO World Heritage SIte

UNESCO has just announced on its website that Rabat, Morocco  has been named a World Heritage Site along side such places as the Church of the Nativity and the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon in Palau. 
While understanding the important role  historic Rabat had in Moroccan history and in the history of the Western Mediterranean,  one wonders if the UNESCO people  have seen the city  since the recent strike by garbage collectors.  The mounds of rotting trash are quite a sight in themselves.
Friday, June 29, 2012
New sites have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine); Site of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot/Wadi el-Mughara Caves (Israel), Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau), and The Cultural Landscape of Bali: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy (Indonesia), Rabat, modern capital and historic City: a shared heritage (Morocco). 

Rabat, modern capital and historic City (Morocco): a shared heritage, on Atlantic coast in the northwest of the country, is the product of a fertile exchange between the Arabo-Muslim past and Western modernism. The inscribed city encompasses the new town conceived and built under the French Protectorate from 1912 to the 1930s, including royal and administrative areas, residential and commercial developments and the Jardins d’Essais botanical and pleasure gardens. It also encompasses older parts of the city dating back to the he 12th century. The new town is one of the largest and most ambitious modern urban projects built in Africa in the 20th century and probably the most complete. The older parts include Hassan Mosque (started in 1184) and the Almohad ramparts and gates, the only surviving parts of the project for a great capital city of the Almohad caliphate as well as remains from the Moorish, or Andalusian, principality of the 17th century.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Algerian Book Festival Marks Independence Celebrations

Here is an article from al-Magharebia about a festival of books that just took place in Algeria, Morocco's neighbor and cousin to the east. Moroccan author Mohamed Achaari was in attendance.

Algiers book festival marks independence anniversary

By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 25/06/12

Writers from all corners of the world converged on Algiers last week for the fifth International Literature and Book Festival for Youth (FELIV). The ten-day event, which concluded on Saturday (June 23rd), featured both experienced writers and rising talent.

"We've got different people involved this year and each of them, whether from Algeria or abroad, ran workshops and introduced our youngsters to the marvellous world of literature, drawing, visual arts and crafts to develop their imaginations," festival organiser Azzeddine Guerfi told Magharebia.

The main goal is to explore a new approach to books and bring them to the public, he said. This year's event honoured ten late Algerian writers, considered the founders of modern Algerian literature. They included Mouloud Feraoun, Mohamed Dib, Kateb Yacine, Mouloud Mammeri, Malek Haddad, Abdelhamid Benhadouga, Reda Houhou and Moufdi Zakaria.
Sixty Algerian publishers displayed their works for visitors. The festival also offered drawing studios and visual arts exhibitions. But the real hit of the event was a story-telling section.

"It's a real delight to be here with children and share with them stories that carried tales of wisdom from our ancestors," Algerian story-teller H'nifa Hammouche told Magharebia. Narrators took turns to relay stories that taught lessons about tolerance, love of studying and respect for Algerian heritage.

Moroccan writer and 2010 Booker Prize winner Mohamed Achaari and French author Alexis Jenni, recipient of last year's Prix Goncourt, attended the event. Among other participants were Congolese-born Alain Mabanckou, Karla Suarez from Cuba and Franco-Algerian author Anouar Benmalek.

Artists Magyd Cherfi, a former member of the Zebda band, Houria Aichi, Cheikh Sidi Bemol and Palestinian band Le Trio Joubran lit up the festival.

Authors delved into discussions about "the literary adventure" and independence in post-colonial literature to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria's statehood. They evoked the concept of "Authors in Dialogue", whereby an Algerian author engaged in a dialogue with a foreign writer.

In a press release, Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi said that the festival would give people a chance to experience books and praised the exhibitions devoted to ten Algerian writers on the Algiers underground network, which is used by scores of people every day. This, she said, would guarantee that the names of major Algerian literary figures will be known by a large number of people.

The visitors who wandered through the festival tents praised the organisation of activities, which enabled children to develop and free their imagination and inspired adults to partake in discussions with important literary figures.
"I think the festival has been quite well organised. Just now I was listening to songs for children, and I can tell you that they plunged me back into my own childhood," public-sector worker Amel Benchenni told Magharebia.
But some visitors complained that love of books remains a costly hobby in Algeria.
"It's just a shame that books are too expensive," said student Mourad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Migrant Tensions in Morocco : Morocco as a Refuge for other Africans

Here is an article that originally appeared in Le Soir in French but was translated into English and made available on World News Australia.  It seems that migrants from other parts of Africa are counting on the notorious Moroccan trait of  hospitality .

By Saad A. Tazi

LE SOIR/Worldcrunch

RABAT- Tensions are growing between Moroccans and immigrants from the rest of Africa. In May, Abdelhadi Khayrat, a Member of Parliament, described immigrants as “Libyan-trained terrorists conspiring to unhinge Morocco.”
From local populations who are quick to throw stones to elected representatives who overstep their prerogatives, the question of immigration is something that needs to be addressed. In the cities of Taourirt, Casablanca and Rabat, local authorities recently organized wide scale raids, arresting hundreds of illegal sub-Saharan immigrants.
Stuck between a Europe that feels besieged by immigrants and the African continent where people would risk almost anything for a chance at a better life, Morocco is changing before our eyes. For immigrants, it used to be a stopover on the way to Europe, but it is slowly becoming a new El Dorado in itself. Unfortunately, the country’s legal and social framework hasn’t adapted to this new context.

Illegal expulsions
Stephane Julinet, in charge of legal issues at the GADEM (Anti-racist Group for Accompaniment and Defense of Foreigners and Migrants), believes the recent raids against sub-Saharan immigrants were against the law. Article 23 states that “foreigners who have been notified of their expulsion have 48 hours to ask for an annulment by the president of the administrative court.” Given the fact that these arrests aren’t made on a case-by-case basis and that “it is the prosecutor who decides to expel foreigners despite the law requiring an administrative decision,” there is clear disregard for the legal process, says Julinet.

Article 29 specifies that a foreigner being expelled must be sent back to his country of citizenship, unless he has been granted refugee status or an asylum request is pending. Despite the clear options determined by the law, all illegal immigrants are currently being parked by the Algerian border – a border which is officially closed since 1994 – without taking into account their country of origin, how they entered Morocco -- and without the help of a translator or lawyer.
This makes the whole process, from beginning to end, illegal. Given the highly sensitive context, following the law should guarantee that the rights and dignity of all the people involved are respected. For Julinet, “Morocco must apply its own laws and stop treating the immigration issue as a mere security problem. It is time for Morocco to implement a real policy for integration.”

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Banning Alcohol and Alcohol Related Advertising in Morocco

Here is an article from BikyaMasr on the PJD's attempt to "preserve Moroccan identity and its religion" through the banning of alcohol related advertising.

Morocco using religion to battle alcohol

| 7 June 2012 | 

CAIRO: The Moroccan government’s main party, the PJD, has announced a new draft law prohibiting all forms of advertising for alcohol-related beverages, using religion and culture as a means of garnering support in the North African country.

“In order to preserve Moroccan identity and its religion,” was the reason given by the PJD in introducing the new bill.
According to reports, the draft law calls for a ban on any form of “direct” or “indirect” advertising.
Ironically, PJD deputy Mohamed Zouiten admitted that this will create new forms of censorship in the country, which has already shown its willingness in recent years to crackdown on freedom of speech.

“At times we are seeing indirect advertising through, for example, televisions series which incite people to drink alcohol. In these cases it would be better to ensure checks to cut out these scenes. Both the television and the radio have a key role in raising awareness against alcohol consumption,” he was quoted as saying.

Les Soir Echos has reported that the PJD is also targetting exhibitions and fairs, as well as food and wine tasting events and promotional activities to curtail all forms of alcohol promotion.
“Our draft law cannot be called an attack on individual freedom or on press freedom. Our aim is only that of putting into practice the Constitution,” said Zouiten. “We have decided to submit this draft law with eight articles within it to accompany the application of the government and parliament programme as part of the mission to apply the fundamental constitutional principles,” he added.

If the draft law passes, the consequences – on a sector which has an annual turnover of 4.5 billion dirhams (over 400 million euros) – will be immediate.

“If the law is adopted and published in the official gazette, the suppression of the advertising will have to come into effect within the following 30 days. Should there be repeat offenders, the law calls for a sentence of between three months and 2 years in prison and a fine of between 10,000 and 25,000 dirhams,” said the deputy.

“The contracts signed by the company for this type of advertising will be rendered null and void as soon as the law comes into force.”
Courts will also be able to shut down the businesses which granted the space for the exhibition or the advertising for alcoholic beverages for between 20 days and 3 months.

The PJD, which says it is “moderate Islamic” party, argues that this first step will be followed by others, gradually banning anything which could be considered an attack on religion. Alcohol has long been targeted by the PJD. A general increase in the internal consumption tax (TIC) had previously been proposed from 800 to 900 dirhams (over 80 euros) per hectoliter of beer, from 10,500 to 15,000 dirhams (over 1,300 euros) for liquors and for 450 to 500 (about 45 euros) for wine.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Moroccan Armed Forces Given Legal Immunity

Here is an article from Al-Arabiya about a recent law that holds Moroccan Armed Forces unaccountable for actions carried out inside the country.









Legal immunity for Morocco’s armed forces rings alarm bells

A Moroccan draft law that seeks to grant members of the armed forces legal immunity for “military operations” carried out inside the kingdom has sparked criticism by human rights organizations who say it violates the principle of equal justice under law.

The “basic guarantees for the military” draft law states that “criminal investigation shall not be applied to members of the Royal Armed Forces who are executing the orders of their commanders…during an operation inside the national territories.”
The proposed legislation also states that military members will be “entitled to state protection … against threats, prosecution, or abuse during or after their duty.”

The participation of military forces in the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in some Arab Spring countries like Libya, Yemen and currently Syria, has left many people in the region increasingly suspicious about their armed forces.

The Egyptian army, for instance, had noticeably sided with protesters in the early days of the country’s anti-regime uprising, but was later accused of violently cracking down on protests and of committing extra-judicial killings and imprisoning revolutionaries.

A coalition of 18 human rights organizations in Morocco last week sounded alarm bells by warning that the proposed legislation would “legitimize the rules of impunity” if passed.

In a joint statement, the rights groups dismissed the draft law – prepared and submitted by the minister delegate for defense in the Islamist-led government – as a “dangerous step that would jeopardize freedoms and threaten the safety and the lives of the citizens.”

The Moroccan Coalition for Human Rights Groups urged the parliament not to approve the draft legislation, which it said needed “substantial amendments to conform to basic principles of human rights and the state of law.”

“Issuing and executing military orders has to be in accordance with the rules of professionalism and responsibility attached to members of the armed forces in protecting civilians during states of war and peace,” the rights groups added.

The groups also said that the government should not allow human rights violations to take place under the pretexts of military discipline.

Families of victims who died in the Western Sahara War during 1975 -1991 also criticized the proposed legal immunity for members of the army, saying it “goes against the spirit of the new constitution and the recommendation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission with regards to the questioning of security services and international treaties signed by Morocco.”

Ibrahim Asaidi, Arab world defense policies analyst, told Al Arabiya that Article 7 of the proposed legislation “clearly” violates Morocco’s new constitution, which states that all citizens, including members of the armed forces, are equal under the law.

Asaidi said the legislation is designed to protect high-ranking military officials, including powerful generals, from being questioned in high profile corruption cases nationally and internationally.

In February, Morocco’s King Mohammed pledged to improve the conditions of the serving and retired military personnel following small-scale protests by veterans and a few cases of soldiers burning themselves to death.