No More Silence

No More Silence is the English translation of the popular Moroccan rapper El Haqed’s controversial song. The song (lyrics which can be viewed below) which openly encourages Moroccans to stand up for their rights against the government and stay silent no longer is just one of many anthems that has been inspired by the February 20th movement for Democracy.

NO MORE SILENCE

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
This is for all Moroccans.
To the free and to those who refuse to be humiliated.
To those living in misery and injustice.

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
Wake up! Look at the Egyptian people
and the people of Tunisia. They’re lying to you, those who say,
« Morocco, you’re an exception. » Okay, living is a luxury.
Their political brainwashing is calculated.
Debauchery and reality television, among other things, are there to distract us.
We have no choice but to fight for our rights.
Silence won’t benefit us. I am the child of the people and I’m not scared!

Those who suffered in silence and were dragged
through the streets are fed up with going around in circles
while our brother [the king] convenes his team to amend the constitution.
There’s something to go crazy over! Do they want us
to take up arms to seize our rights?
It’s for me to choose whom I want to sanctify.
And if you understand us, come live with us.
« God, the Homeland, and Freedom » [NOT “God, the Homeland, and the King”]

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

L7a9ed:
It’s a problem. It’s a problem. We must reformulate the equation.
We want a leader whom we can hold to account
and not an infallible, sanctified entity.
We are told: they’ll make you disappear.
I shout it loud and clear: they’ll make me disappear.
Give me my rights or give me death.

You speculate on our banks.
You sell us at auctions and you did it to us again and again.
You share in the spoils and you kiss [the king’s] hand.
Long live my father [the king],
He seized our wealth
and as long as I’ve lived, his children [the people] have not inherited it.

You erased our history and you want to bury it with
sequins and glitter again.
Our king is kind and generous to us,
but to whom is he truly generous? Most of our budget
is spent on him and his palace entourage.

CHORUS (Jihane)
If the people want life,
then they’ll stand up to defend their rights. No more silence!
They exploit our wealth and leave the crumbs for us
while so many freedom fighters died on our behalf.

Translated by Revolutionary Arab Rap

El Haqed whos real name is Mouad Belrhouat often preforms his songs at rallies for the February 20th movement but made headlines last January when he was arrested for alleged assault and denied bail while awaiting trial. The New York Times had a great article on why his arrest was so controversial and relates directly to the February 20th movement.

Mouad Belrhouat’s arrest shows something much bigger going on in Morocco. The constitutional reforms put in place by King Muhammad VI are not turning out to be what people thought they were when they voted for them. The constitutional reforms seem like more of a ploy to distract the Moroccan people than an actual attempt at making changes within the government. It has become clear over the past year that the few changes that were made are not going to be enough to satisfy the Moroccan people. Through events like Mr. Belrhouat’s arrest you can see that the government is not giving the Moroccan people the rights they deserve.

Agricultural season in Morocco under threat

This article was written by Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat. Magharebia is an AFRICOM sponsored online news website dedicated to coverage of North Africa.  Since Oct 2004, Magharebia is the only regional website that publishes content identically in three languages: Arabic, English and French.

”]This article is about the recent cold snap in Morocco which is likely to reduce this year’s harvest. According to the Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhennouch, Morocco has seen temperatures as low as 6°C (42°F)  which has slowed crop growth around the country. In addition, rainfall levels are 60% below normal which has greatly affected sugarcane and potato production. The Moroccan government has allocated 110 million dirhams to support the struggling agricultural sector.

Economist Moha Zerouali reported to Magharebia that agriculture contributes to 20% of Morocco’s GDP and employs 40% of the national workforce. Poor agricultural yields will cause large perturbations in the Moroccan economy. The government had already revised its growth forecast from 5% to 4.3% for 2012 because of the projected reduced harvest. I hope that trouble within the agricultural sector does not lead to heightened unrest and continued protests throughout the country. With many farmers struggling this year, disillusionment with the King and government is likely to continue. This is unfortunate because Morocco needs time for the recent Constitutional reforms to take root and the affects to percolate throughout society. Reduced crop yields are likely to inflame farmers and prevent them from seeing any positive affects from the new reforms. Farmers’ feelings towards the government will be contingent upon the government’s ability to cover their losses and support the struggling economic sector.

To read more: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2012/02/29/feature-03

Proposal to have “National Chastity Day”

About “Chastitiy Day initiative stirs controversy in Morocco”- from Morocco World News: http://moroccoworldnews.com/2012/02/chastity-day-initiative-stirs-controversy-in-morocco/29364

Recently, a prominent Moroccan religious leader has called for the Moroccan government to support a new initiative aimed at cultural reform. Sheikh al-Idrisi Abu Zeid, Qur’an expert and leading member of the Islamist-oriented “Justice and Development” party and the al-Tawhid wa al Islah (“Monotheism and Reformation”) organization, calls for one day out of the year to be dedicated to the promotion of chastity.  According to Idrisi, this day will aim to counteract all the “unchaste phenomena” that has allegedly been invading Moroccan society lately/

Some researchers, such as sociology researcher Mohammad Boulouse, believe that one day out of the year will not be enough, stating that “we need campaigns that would last for weeks and months in order for chastity to become part of our society again and to counter all phenomena that are stranger to all society,” to Al Arabiya news channel.  Boulouse then went on to cite various examples within Moroccan society, such as films, TV channels and programs, festivals, and artistic expressions that are aimed at “sexual arousal” and indecency.

He also stated that “there should be a focus on curbing sexual desire and abstaining from all lustful actions,” according to Al Arabiya.

However, Islamic studies researcher Saeid Lakhal argues that the Tawhid and other movements advocating for the establishment of a “National Chastity Day” are interfering with the burgeoning cultural and artistic scene in Morocco, directly following a new electoral victory for the Justice and Development party.

He recently told Al Arabiya: “The movement and the party have always objected to festivals and cultural activities to no avail. Now they think they can do what they haven’t been able to do for years.”

According to Lakhal, the statements made by Idrisi and other party members, are intended to investigate how the Moroccan people and civil society might react.

In my opinion, the movement and the statements made by Idrisi are intended to examine exactly how Moroccan society will react; it is almost at if Idrisi and his movement’s supporters are far they can go until Moroccan society becomes privy to their deception.  Idrisi is party of the Justice and Development party, the same party that Prime Minister Benkirane is part of.  There is no doubt that his recent electoral victory, indicated to the party that the Moroccan public would endorse and accept the party that promised to completely fix the recent wave of unemployment.  Benkirane, his party, and the government have failed to do this, slipping away with a mere 1 percent point reduction in unemployment since the September 2011 election.  Still, now that his party has taken the Executive Branch, Idrisi, is taking advantage of its position in Moroccan Politics and advocating for a law that is clearly intended to infringe on the artistic rights of Moroccans.  Idrisi, much like his newly elected party, is well aware that the recent electoral victory could indicate a willingness by the Moroccan public to follow the party back in time.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Incites Debate

The Moroccan Foreign Minister, Saad Eddine El Othmani’s, unexpected proposal to rename the “Arab Maghreb Union” as “”the Maghreb Union”  has re-energized the debate over the social, linguistic and political status of the Amazigh people in “post-Arab Spring” North Africa. Currently five nations make up the Arab Maghreb Union: Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Mauritania. Delegates from Tunisian and Algerian immediately rebuked the Moroccan Foreign Minister’s proposal.

Saad Eddine El Othmani's current proposal to rename the Arab Maghreb Union has sparked debate across the Maghreb

El Othmani believes that the removal of the word “Arab” from the name will better reflect the populations of five union states where a sizable number of citizens are not of Arab descent.  The Amazigh language and culture has been seriously diminished in North Africa countries. These countries have long been identified as Arab and Arabic speaking. El Othmani and the Amazign people believe that dropping Arab from the name will better reflect the Amazigh character and personality of North Africa. Algerian and Tunisian Foreign ministers oppose El Othmani’s proposal and argue that the word Arab refers to the geographical location of the five nations that compose the Union rather than describe the racial makeup of its inhabitants. Amazigh groups consider the Algerian refusal to change the name an attempt by the Algerians to keep the demands of its sizable local Amazigh populations at bay.

Emblem of the Arab Maghreb Union

Emblem of the Arab Maghreb Union

Even though it was the Moroccan Foreign Minister who proposed dropping the term Arab, there is still a great deal of opposition among Moroccans. Moroccan religious organizations are not in favor of the move as they believe the current name accurately reflects the Muslim heritage of the North African societies. In addition, some Moroccans are weary of the mounting activism of  Amazigh groups in Morocco. These groups are especially prevalent in the North and have been displaying anti-Moroccan slogans and sentiments.
I believe that having Maghred in the name of the trade organization illustrates the Arab influence in the region. I agree with El Othmani that dropping Arab from the name will make it more inclusive and acceptable to both Arabs and non-Arabs in North Africa. I believe it is a good compromise between the Arab elite who desire to cling to their beloved Mashreq and radical Berbers who want to return to pre-Arab Tamazgha.

Arab Art as an Early Indicator of Revolution

The New York Times published an article on October 5, 2011, about how looking back on Moroccan art and other Arabic art from the last decade can show the unrest that the people have been feeling. The works of art leading up to the Arab Spring revolution are truly moving and full of meaning. These works of art from the 2000s are great predictors of what was to come in 2011. The article goes on to discuss the depictions of true emotions in these works of art and how they indicate the future of revolution.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/06/world/africa/arab-art-as-an-early-indicator-of-revolution.html?ref=morocco

The article focuses on the Marrakech Art Fair, held in September and October of last year in Morocco. At this fair, the work of Moroccan photographer, Hicham Benohoud, was featured prominently. Here is the photograph that the article is centered around:

photograph of a child, physically tied to and trapped in his environment

Benohoud’s photography, along with the other works of art at the fair, capture the  yearning and longing that Moroccans have been developing over the past decade. Benohoud features children tied to their surroundings in his works; he is representing the entrapment that Moroccans experience in their society.

another photograph by Hicham Benohoud, featured at the Marrakech Art Fair

Here is another photograph from the show, featuring a Moroccan man and woman filled with yearning. The Marrakech Art Fair was a great predictor and indicator of the revolution that followed.

The works on show position Arab artists, whose desire for freedom was strongly reflected in their works, as visionaries of the changes these countries were to undergo.

“Clinton Should Urge Legal Reform,” says Human Rights Watch

Despite Morocco’s 2011 constitutional reforms, which signaled a move towards a more democratic and liberal society, there are still significant limits on freedom of speech for Moroccan citizens. There are still laws on the books that call for prison terms of up to five years for individuals who offend the government or Islam through speech. Human Rights Watch argues that these laws are not in harmony with Morocco’s revised constitution, and that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should push for change of these laws during her current visit to Morocco.

“Having praised Morocco’s 2011 constitution, Secretary Clinton should now urge authorities to revise both laws and practices so that they are in harmony with that constitution.” –Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch

Article 25 of the new constitution says that “freedom of thought, opinion and expression in all its forms is guaranteed”; and article 28 says “Press freedom is guaranteed and cannot be restricted by any form of prior censorship.”

However, article 41 of Morocco’s press code provides prison terms of up to five years for speech that “undermines the Islamic religion, the monarchical regime, or [Morocco’s] territorial integrity,” or that is offensive toward “His Majesty the King, and the royal princes and princesses.” Article 263 of Morocco’s penal code “provides prison terms for “gravely offending” public officials. Article 266 provides prison terms for “insulting” the judiciary or discrediting its rulings or attempting to influence the courts.”

It appears that the lofty commitments of the new constitution are not being matched by Morocco’s legal codes and authorities.

Source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/24/usmorocco-clinton-should-urge-legal-reform


Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane Supports Changing Abortion Laws

On January 11,2012, the New York Times published an article about the possible change of Morocco’s severe laws and limitations on abortion. The article focuses on the newly elected Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, who has been in power since November of 2011. The Prime Minister is the Islamic leader of the Justice and Development Party.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/12/world/africa/new-prime-minister-surprises-moroccans-with-support-for-abortion.html?ref=morocco

Women at a political rally in Casablanca. The prime minister, who comes from a moderate Islamic party, would support an initiative to allow abortion in cases of incest and rape, one of his aides said.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane is pushing for change in regards to the laws surrounding abortion. He believes that in some cases, abortion is a viable option. The laws that are currently in place are too strict and do not provide Morrocan women with options.

The Prime Minister would like to change this so that in extreme cases, involving incest or rape, women would be allowed to have an abortion. The newly elected Prime Minister is already trying to make changes for the betterment of Moroccan society, just a few months into his new post. The Prime Minister would also like to address and attempt to remedy the issue of illegal, unsafe abortions that are taking place in Morocco. Many Moroccan women support the new Prime Minister and the changes to Moroccan society that he is trying to induce.

Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) Reproves King of Morocco for Jailing Satirist

I found this letter addressed to the King of Morocco posted on the website of the Moroccan Times. The letter was written by two members of the Freedom of Press Committee. The letter criticisms the King’s recent actions that infringed upon Moroccan citizens’ freedom of speech. I thought the letter was an interesting compliment to early posts about the imprisonment of Moroccan protesters for criticizing the king.

February 22, 2012

H.M. King Mohamed VI

c/o Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

1601 Twenty First Street, NW‎

Washington, DC 20009‎‎

Fax: (202) 265.0161

Your Majesty:

Over the last several years, you have punished journalists for writing about your health and in one case, publishing an offending cartoon about the wedding of a relative.  So perhaps, we at the Overseas Press Club of America, along with journalistic organizations around the world, should not be entirely surprised that your government sent an 18-year-old juvenile to jail for a Facebook post that offended you.

Maybe, we should not be surprised either that you have sentenced to jail a 25-year-old for uploading a satire of you to You Tube.  But while there is precedent for your sensitivity to criticism in print; until recently, Morocco has had a reputation for fairly free exchanges on the Internet, the mark of an enlightened leader.

According to international media and Internet freedom groups, Walid Bahomane, 18, is being held for “defaming Morocco’s sacred values” with a satirical Facebook post.  We understand also that 25-year-old Abdelsamad Haydour has been jailed in the city of Taza for a You Tube video that gave you offense.  These actions are depressing and reactionary.

Your government seems to be reviving the bad old days of 2009 when you prosecuted three journalists for “criminal defamation” for writing about your health.  Since then, it has seemed that Morocco had modernized.  You permitted those three journalists to be released after brief incarcerations.  In one case, a year-long sentence was suspended.

Then, after massive national protests last year coinciding with the Arab Spring uprisings, your government amended your Constitution to guarantee significantly more freedom of speech. Defaming the monarchy can still be a criminal offense, but in practice, is a You Tube satire of you so damaging as to be criminal?  If so, that suggests your leadership may be more fragile than the world realizes.

We urge you to halt this descent down the road to repression and suggest that instead, you re-affirm your constitutional values. That includes dropping the charges against the juvenile Bahomane, freeing Haydour and recognizing that prosecuting journalists will in no way seal off your regime from the openness of the Internet.  All it will do is call world-wide attention to weakness.

Respectfully yours,

Robert Dowling                                                                                   Larry Martz

Freedom of the Press Committee

Source:

http://www.moroccotimes.cn.ma/

UN to Hold Talks Between Morocco and Rebel Group

United Nations spokesman Eduardo del Buey announced today that the UN plans to host negotiations between Western Sahara rebels, the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government from March 11 through March 13. Representatives from Algeria and Mauritania will also be present at the talks which are scheduled to be held at the Greentree estate on Long Island.

The Polisario Front  is a Sahrawi rebel group whose main goal is to achieve independence for the Western Sahara. Conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front began in 1975 when Morocco moved into the Western Sahara after the Spanish colonisers left. After Spain’s withdrawal, Morocco took over Saguia El Hamra while Mauritania took control of Rio De Oro. The Algeria-backed Polisario Front then proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 27, 1976, and waged a guerrilla war against both Morocco and Mauritania.

Disputed Region of the Western Sahara

For the next two years, the Polisario Front movement grew tremendously as Sahrawi refugees continued flocking to the camps and Algeria and Libya supplied arms and funding. The rebel army expanded to several thousand armed fighters.  The rebel army began to acquire more advanced weapons and increase their firepower. Camels where replaced by modern Jeeps and 19th-century muskets were replaced by assault weapons. The reorganized army was able to inflict severe damage through guerilla-style hit-and-run attacks against opposing forces in Western Sahara and in Morocco and Mauritania.

Coat of arms of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

In 1991 the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front agreed to a ceasefire but still have not resolved their differences. In April 2007, the government of Morocco suggested that a self-governing entity, the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs take control and govern the area with some degree of autonomy from the Moroccan State. The Polisario front desiring full independence, drafted their own proposal to the United Nations. The stalemate caused the UN Security Council to request that both parties enter in direct negotiations to reach, “a mutually acceptable political situation.” The two sides are yet to resolve their differences with Morocco continuing to offer autonomy while the Polisario Front calls for full independence. Hopefully, renewed talks will allow the two sides to come to an agreement about the status of the Western Sahara. I believe, however, that it is unlikely that either side will be eager to make concessions. No progress has been made in 20 years so I feel that it is unlikely that the coming debates will drastically change the current situation in the region.

Separated families meet up again during a family visit in Western Sahara. Photo: UNHCR/S.Hopper

A Sahrawi woman walks in the desert near the Western Sahara refugee camp in Tindouf, Algeria (AFP/File, Dominique Faget)

Sources

New EU – Morocco Trade Deal

The European Union approved a bilateral trade agreement with Morocco on Thursday, February 16th, a deal that will expand the duty-free exchange of agricultural goods between the two parties. Starting this spring, 70% of the EU’s agricultural exports will enter Morocco duty-free, while 55% of Morocco’s agricultural exports will enter the EU duty-free. There was controversy over this deal because of concerns that it would negatively impact small-scale farmers in both Europe and Morocco.

According to reports from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), fruits and vegetables currently account for 80 percent of total EU imports from Morocco, and farming accounts for 13 percent of Morocco’s gross domestic output.