Standoff Over Imider Silver Mine

“The Imider mine, on the eastern slopes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, is the world’s seventh biggest producer of silver,” according to a feature article on reuters.com. “Instead of welcoming the mine, many local people resent it as a symbol of how Morocco’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a privileged few while the rest of the population live in poverty.”

Hundreds of Imider villagers participated in cutting off the flow of water to the mine from a local well, and are now camped around the well to make sure it stays off. The decrease in the mine’s water supply has significantly impacted its productivity, which means that the people’s protest around the well cannot be ignored.

The protesters say that the presence of the mine has done more harm than good by creating pollution, depleting the local water supply and neglecting to help with development in an area of awful poverty. The mining company denies the pollution and water depletion allegations and contends that it has spent between 1 and 2 million dirhams each year to fund development in the region.

The fact that Morocco’s royal family is a major stakeholder in the mining company (and the Moroccan monarchy is the largest private shareholder in the country’s whole economy) does not help matters. The people are frustrated by the private network of court officials, businessmen and advisors who can do whatever they want because they are in cahoots with the royal court.

The conflict over the silver mine in Imider is symbolic of wide unrest due to wealth disparity between Morocco’s ruling elite and the people it governs.

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“My Land Knows Me” vs ‘‘The Lost Land’’: An Interview with Filmmaker Rabii El Jaouhari

I found this interview of Rabii El Jaouhari on the Morocco World News site. Rabii El Jaouhari is the director of a new documentary film titled My Land Knows Me which is a response to The Lost Land by the French director Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd. Vandeweerd depicted the Moroccan Sahara issue in a very biased way in his film. This helped to generate many false ideas about Morocco’s history in Europe. As the name suggests, The Lost Land depicted a land that native inhabitants are struggling desperately to try to regain. This is the distorted European view of Sahara conflict. El Jaouhari worked to portray the North African view of the conflict in his new documentary. I found the interview of of the film maker particularly interesting and illustrative of the current situation in the Sahara. It also nicely highlights differences in European and North African thought. Here it is for all Eyes on Morocco readers.

Those who have seen both films noticed that you have not rewritten only the title but stylistic and aesthetic aspects of the French film. How can you explain this?

In his film, Yves Vandeweed constructs the security zone established by Morocco as the wall that separates Sahrawis from their lands and families which urged me in my film to refer more than once to the crimes of the Polisario, particularly those of kidnapping, with the complicity of Algeria the and Spanish media. Through my film, I want to tell the viewers that the security belt came to stop these crimes that were extensively practiced during the seventies and eighties under the European media blackout.

So, I rewrote the film of Yves Vandeweed by giving a voice to the activist Mustafa Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, to explicitly reveal many sensitive issues that were ignored by the Spanish and European media, such as the recruitment of children, the violations of human rights, and the involvement of Boumedienne and Gadhafi in these abuses. Through the story of Mustapha, I pointed out to the issue of freedom of expression within the camps; an issue raised by Mustapha was kidnapped and tortured due to his public support to the Moroccan resolution.

The movie ‘The Lost Land‘ separates the sound from the image, silencing its voice, as it does with the identity of the land through testimonies of people whose names are unknown, which leads us to question the credibility of the film’s content. We do not even see those people while speaking, which form an obstacle between the viewer and the theme. Such fallacy was justified by an aesthetic choice of the filmmaker, which he explained to European journalists. But, this approach was not robust and only resulted in forming a gap in the film. In my film, however, my main concern was to give voice to Mustapha Salma, producing an image to break all the barriers set up by the French filmmaker.

What are the main difficulties you faced while shooting your film?

First, I would like to mention that it was too difficult for me to enter Mauritania with my camera and professional equipment, so I had to use my mobile phone. Besides, I did not get the shooting license from the Moroccan Film Centre (CCM) on time. However, my mobile recording gave credibility and realism to the film, demystifying all the prejudices in the French film ’The Lost Land‘. Apart from some shots taken from Youtube, others were shot with a small 3ccd camera with the absence of lighting and sound equipment due to the refusal of Moroccan Cinema Center to fund my project about Mustapha Salma. These difficulties do categorize my film within the trend of “Imperfect Cinema”. It also has something to do with “Third Cinema,” which is characterized as works filmed with modest equipment and which tackle the marginalized themes.

Who are ‘My Land Knows Me’ interviewees?

My film traces the story of Mustapha Salma through interviews with Spanish, Polisario, and Moroccan interviewees. The points of view of Bouchraya Byoun, the Polisario representative in Spain and their former minister, the Spanish former minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, and the journalist Ignacio Samprero, (who is known for his articles supporting the Polisario stance) are all presented in the film to provide different and contradicted attitudes to the viewers. These interviews reveal the complicity of Spanish media and journalists as illustrated by Ignacio Samprero’s words.

Don’t you fear criticizing the Moroccan Film Center?

No, simply because the CCM has already stripped me of any support. This, by the way, made people in charge at the CCM think that I might stop working on my documentary, which definitely wasn’t the case. I can use my knowledge about cinema trends that struggle against the odds and use modest equipment and ways to depict reality. The proof is what’s now happening regarding the Arab Spring and how the mobile videos compensate the professional camera that requires permissions and expensive equipment.

Interview of the Director Rabii El Jaouhari

Interview was conducted by Yassmine Zerrouki and editing done by Benjamin Villanti

Morocco’s trailblazing female golfer is going for Olympic gold

In early February of 2012, CNN published an article about Maha Haddioui, the first Arab woman to compete in a professional golf tournament. Maha Haddioui was born in Morocco and desires to pursue Olympic gold in Brazil. Golf will return as an Olympic sport in 2016 after an absence of more than century from the Olympic line-up. Haddioui’s life ambition is to follow in the footsteps of Morocco’s legendary middle-distance track and field athletes and bring Olympic glory back to her home nation. In an interview with CNN she stated

We have had some great Moroccan athletes like Hicham El Guerrouj that have made the country proud, and my dream is to follow in their footsteps.

Maha Haddioui is the first Arab woman to play golf in a professional tour event. She aims to earn her card on the Ladies' European Tour and LPGA in the United States.

Haddioui described her upbringing in the interview and stated that she was fortunate to be raised by a liberal family who did not insist on the traditional dress code. She was able to practice on a local golf course near their home in Agadir. Haddioui’s aptitude earned her support from Morocco’s ministry of sport. She then spent four years playing golf at Lynn University in Florida and earned accolades as a top-ranked NCAA Division II women’s golfer.

Her graduation from college in the United Stated coincided with the events of the Arab Spring last year. Haddioui stated her opinions about the events in Morocco stating

I am a big supporter for freedom and peaceful change. We had a couple of peaceful protests in Morocco which have led to major changes in the constitution of the country, but we have enjoyed our freedoms in Morocco for decades.

As a teenager, Haddioui would spend up to 10 hours per day practicing on her home course in Agadir.

I think that Maha Haddioui is a great role model for Arab women. She represents an empowered generation of women able to work hard to pursue their dreams. Haddioui’s success also indicates the freedom that women possess in Morocco. King Mohammad VI has addressed women’s rights throughout his reign and has helped to decrease gender inequalities. Many of the gender divides and inequalities in Morocco continue out of tradition. Haddioui stated that she was lucky to be raised by a liberal family. Her family’s supported allowed her to practice her sport and enter avenues where women had been historically restricted. One hurdle that remains for Morocco women is to overcome family traditions and deep-seeded societal practices. The King supports increased rights for women but now it is time for society to embrace these ideas. Strong female figures like Maha Haddioui will certainly facilitate this process of acceptance.

To read more: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/07/sport/golf/golf-morocco-haddioui-olympics/index.html

Fostering ties with Asia is a top Diplomatic Priority

Moroccan Minister delegate to the Foreign Minister, Youssef Amrani, stated today in Rabat that strengthening ties with Asia is  one of Morocco’s top priorities in terms of foreign relations. Amrani’s statement came after a meeting with the Vietnamese deputy foreign minister Nguyen Thanh Son. The Chinese deputy foreign minister also made a recent trip to Morocco and Morocco’s foreign minister Saad Dine El Otmani just returned from a trip to Japan.

Meeting between Vietnamese and Moroccan officials in Rabat.

Morocco’s interest in increasing diplomatic relations with Asian nations reflects the platform of the Justice and Development Party to increase international relations. In the past Morocco, has profited from strong ties to Europe and the United States but has had little ties with Asian countries. Economic troubles in Europe and the emergence of China as an economic powerhouse has prompted Morocco’s shift in diplomatic priorities.

Amrani and the Vietnamese deputy foreign minister discussed the latest developments in the Moroccan Sahara conflict and the efforts taken by Morocco to settle the dispute. Amrani stated that, “Vietnam supports the political resolution and dialogue at the UN on our national cause, the Moroccan Sahara.”

I feel that Morocco’s move to increase relations with Asian nations will enhance the country’s sphere of influence and strengthen its global standing. In the past, Morocco has been highly dependent upon European countries such as France and Spain. With European economies struggling, I am glad to see that Morocco is being proactive and working to foster relations with Asian nations with rapidly growing economies. I also feel that Morocco’s stance on building ties with Asia speaks to the growing power of the Justice and Development Party. This suggests that recent political reforms are moving Morocco in the right direction in terms of international affairs.

To read more: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/03/fostering-ties-with-asia-tops-moroccan-diplomacys-priorities-official/30109

Morocco for all inclusive approach of anti-piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a huge problem, responsible annually for about a two billion dollar loss. The West African countries as well as the U.S, Spain, Brazil and a few others including Morocco are teaming up to help strengthen maritime defense mechanisms. Money is being poured into the training of naval personnel in Nigeria as well as strengthening the relationships between the countries in order to better prepare themselves to fight maritime crime.

In a Morocco World news article, Mohamed Loulichki, Morocco’s permanent representative to the UN said at a UN Security Council meeting, that it was “essential that any anti-piracy strategy incorporate aspects related to strengthening institutions in charge of law enforcement and fighting transnational organized crime”.

Because the Gulf of Guinea is surrounded by many different counties it is going to take all of them or at least most of them working together to really make a difference in the piracy and maritime crime that has been greatly effecting the area. In the past certain countries have tried to battle it alone with no long term effect. It seems as if Morocco’s Mohamed Loulichki opinion on creating a comprehensive and all inclusive approach is shared by almost everybody at this point in order to stop the economic repercussions that are a result of piracy.

 

Sources

Morocco World News

All Africa.com

 

February 20th Movement in Videos

February 20th, 2012 marked the one year anniversary of the democratic movement in Morocco. Global Voices put together a compilation of the 20 most popular videos that were made and used by the youth movement. These powerful videos have played a vital role in spreading the beliefs and desires of the movement and show first hand what has really been going on in Morocco.

Check out the VIDEOS here!

 

 

Moroccan Court Sentences 27 People on Counts of Terrorism

On February 23rd, 2012, The Moroccan Court decided on the sentences for 27 men who were arrested last year. The group was arrested on January 4, 2011. Each of these 27 ended up with a prison sentence of 1 to 6 years. These sentences were established for allegedly planning terrorist attacks.

http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/moroccan-court-jails-27-on-terrorism-charges/28784

The authorities found this stock pile of weapons

The court in Sale, Morocco, found Hicham El Ba, a 40 year old Moroccan, to be the leader of this operation. The court accused Hicham El Ba and other Moroccan men of collectively planning terrorist attacks in order to do serious harm to public order, steal, and profit. The interior ministry and the court also discovered that one of these men is a member of AQIM, or Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This organization said that they want to make Morocco “a base for preparing terrorist acts.” The AQIM is thought to be based in the surrounding countries of Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

Man jailed for flying Israeli flag

A Moroccan man has been sentenced to six months in jail for flying the Israeli flag over his home. According to an Al-Arabiya report, Mohammed Jadidi, 42, raised the flag over his home in Nador, a predominantly Amazigh town, to protest the local authorities after electricity and water were disconnected to his home. Jadidi was arrested last Monday and charged with sacrilege by undermining the Moroccan national flag.

Jadidi’s mother is currently protesting his arrest stating that he only raised the Israeli flag to attract the attention of the senior government officials to the compromised conditions of his family. The local Rif Association for Human Rights also slammed the court’s ruling as baseless. The human rights organization affirmed that flying a foreign flag over one’s home cannot be deemed as undermining the Moroccan flag.

The following video has circulated on Moroccan websites in which Jadidi’s mother appeals to King Mohammad VI to release her son.

I feel that the arrest of Mohammed Jadidi reflects two deep seeded conflicts: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Amazigh-Arab identity conflict in Morocco. Jadidi is from a predominately Amazigh town were anti-Moroccan sentiments are likely to percolate. The Amazighs in Morocco have become increasing vocal demanding recognition of their rights as a minority. They want the Amazigh language to be recognized as an official language and want increased development in impoverished Amazigh regions. Although the article does not identify Jadidi as Amazigh, the video suggests that he lives in one of the impoverished Amazigh communities where anti-Moroccan sentiments are common. This suggests one of the reasons for his decision to actively protest Moroccan authorities by flying the Israeli flag.

It is extremely upsetting that flying the Israeli flag would precipitate such a fierce response. Anti-Israeli sentiment is commonly expressed throughout the Arab world; however, Morocco has historically possessed a certain level of religious freedom within its borders. In the past Jews and Christians have been allowed to freely practice their respective religions in Morocco. I think that the Moroccan court went too far in sentencing Mohammed Jadidi to six months in prison. Perhaps it was an ill-fated choice to display such a politically charged symbol, but in this case the punishment far exceeds the crime.

To read more check out http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/02/198200.html


Secret Political and Economic Agreement between Spain and Morocco

Morocco World News has just published an article that details a currently developing secret agreement between the Spanish and Moroccan governments.

According to the article, during the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs Saâdedine El Othmani’s last visit to Madrid (purported to be sometime around February 1st, 2012), the two countries agreed to cultivate the deal. This agreement reportedly revolves around the concept of mutual assistance: due to their proximity and intertwined history, both countries would aid each other within their respective regions of influence. Morocco would aid Spain with its economic and political affairs in Africa, as countries such as France and the United Kingdom have almost always surpassed the country’s presence in the continent. Furthermore, Morocco is in a prime position in the African continent, according to the article, “…Where it could build amicable and economic relations with many countries.”

In return, Spain will use its deep-rooted relations with Latin America to give Morocco an economic entrance to the region.  Historically, according to MWN, Morocco has had trouble entering the region, thus it could benefit greatly from Spainish intervention.

Considering the historical tensions between the countries, this new agreement sounds like a step in the positive direction for relations between the countries.  On one hand, the deal also sounds like more of a one-sided situation, as Spain’s proximity to Africa definitely makes its relations with the continent more essential the than Morocco’s with the Latin American world. Yet, Morocco’s entrance into the Latin American world could also signify great economic success for the country, as the South American region is a large consumer in the phosphate market. According to Businessweek Magazine, Morocco is the world’s third largest producer of phosphates, and although phosphates are being produced in Latin America, there is a much larger reserve in Africa than in South America (the agriculture industry there is much larger than its phosphates industry); furthermore, King Muhammad VI owns more than half of the world’s phosphate reserves. (Article here: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_46/b4203080895976.htm)  The results of this agreement cannot be predicted until it has actually been reached, but it is clear that if such an agreement is reached, it could be mean a MAJOR increase in economic stability and job availability for Moroccans.

For further reading:  http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/details-of-the-secret-agreement-between-spain-and-morocco/29172